The Last and the First

foot-of-the-cross.jpg

Pope Benedict’s last words of 2007 and his first Wednesday audience two days ago link together nicely:

In his last public appearance of 2007, Pope Benedict XVI reflected on the “the dark evil of modern Western society,” caused by a “deficit of hope and trust in life.” The darkness, he said, can be dispelled only by faith

Then Wednesday:

Pope Benedict suggested that Christians should start out the new year by calling upon Mary’s intercession, asking her to “help us to be true friends of her Son and courageous architects of his Kingdom in the world: a Kingdom of light and truth.”

Courage and faith through Mary, is necessary for those who are to be architects of God’s kingdom in this world. The last and first place to look is at the foot of the Cross.

A “deficit of hope and trust in life” leads men to run from the Cross. We need to stand and fight.

28 thoughts on “The Last and the First

  1. “Pope Benedict suggested that Christians should start out the new year by calling upon Mary’s intercession”

    I do not understand why the words the Pope, a fallible man, would supersede the words of our Savior.

    Matt 6:6 But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.

    When does the Word of God become authoritative in Catholicism? Does it ever?

  2. With all due respect Russ, I don’t see how Mt. 6:6 applies to the issue of praying to the saints.

    I have never heard a Bible Christian object to public prayer on the basis of Mt. 6:6, but I see why they might. In any case, what has that to do with praying to the saints? One might just as well conclude that Pope Benedict is encouraging private prayer to the saints.

    Do you object to public prayer, prayer to the saints or both?

  3. I was objecting to prayer to saints.

    If prayer to saints pleases God, why didn’t Jesus and the apostles pray to the saints of the OT? There were many saints that they could have prayed to. Abraham, Moses, Noah.

    In fact, when looking at the many, many prayers in the Bible, they are, without exception, addressed to God and God alone – Never to any man or woman – dead or alive.

    In addition, we have the clear teaching of Jesus Himself that we should pray “to the Father” as well as the clear instructions from the apostles that there is only one Mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus.

    On top of this we have the clear warning from God not to make an image in any likeness including that of a man or woman and not to bow down to them.

    Even further we have the clear teaching that Jesus alone is our High Priest.

    Heb 4:14 Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.

    Honestly, I am not being contentious here although I can come off that way when I write. But I just do not understand how the words of the Jesus and the apostles can be superseded by the words of those who came later, who never heard the Lord speek for themselves when he was here on earth.

  4. Russ,
    I’d like to take a stab at this even though your question is directed to Fr. Angelo and he will very likely do a better job than I in answering your question. I had a strong evangelical influence years ago and nearly left the Catholic Church so I, too, struggled with this very thing. First, I had to come to an understanding of who the Pope really was and was he indeed who the Church claimed him to be. In studying scripture, I realized that the phrase of passing on the keys was very well understood by the people of that time. In fact, it’s mentioned in Daniel(?? .. oh, I think I’m wrong here) but nonetheless, it’s mentioned in the OT that passing on the keys was very much a successionary thing … it was clear what was meant and the people of that time no doubt understood it exactly. Then, in prayer, I felt like the Lord, in His infinite wisdom, knew quite well what would happen if each of us tried to interpret scripture on our own … we’d have what the Protestant Church currently has … 3000 denominations. This would NOT be the united faith in Christ that He came to set up. Clearly, Christ would need to establish a HUMAN leader to guide His people. This is very truncated, I apologize, but your real question had to do with saints. So, I too needed to come to grips with this afterwards. In prayer, I felt the Lord ask me, “If you were poor and desperate for help and prayed to God and later told a friend about your desperate situation and you suddenly found yourself with money that your friend gave you, WHO GAVE YOU THE MONEY?? Your friend or Me? Or, was it ME through your friend??” So, the Catholic viewpoint is that when we die, if we were in Christ, then we are very much alive. In fact, without our mortal bodies, we’re even MORE alive than we were on earth. If on earth, we can do God’s will and help other people out, how much more will we be able to do His work once dead? Therefore, with saints … those we call cannonized saints since we’re all called to be living saints, we feel the assurance that they are in heaven and thus can help intercede on our behalf. It is God who gets the ultimate glory, of course! We do not WORSHIP these saints … only the one true God in three persons are we to ever worship. But, just as we can greatly respect a human’s teachings and help in spiritual matters and can ask them to pray for us and to help us, we can surely ask those who are even more ‘alive’ (once in heaven) to do the same! It’s our BIG family circle. I sure hope I didn’t confuse you even further.
    Jennifer

  5. Russ,

    Thanks for your comments. I am not at all offended. I will also try not to sound contentious. I certainly do not intend to be; however, we both know we very strongly disagree. I intend for my response to be respectful.

    When does the Word of God become authoritative in Catholicism? Does it ever?

    Well, yes it does, always, as St. Paul says: So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter (2 Thes. 2:14). Our real differences are, of course, far more fundamental than simply the question of the intercession of the saints. Catholics accept both the written word of God and apostolic tradition. Protestants do not. The veneration of the saints is as old as the Church itself. For example the veneration of St. Peter in Rome, goes back to the very beginning as the graffiti on the red wall beneath St. Peter’s basilica indicates. There one will find invocations to both St. Peter and to Mary from the contemporaries of St. Peter.

    In regard to Old Testament saints and the prohibition of images, I think one must remember two things: 1) the preoccupation of Yahweh with keeping his people from falling into idolatry and 2) the fact that the Word had not yet become flesh (the Incarnation). In the Old Testament, necromancy and the making of images were formally acts contrary to the worship of the One God. There can be no confusion about what their intention was and what the acts they committed were.

    However, both the veneration of the saints and the crafting of images of Our Lord and the saints are quite different from necromancy and idolatry. I think very often Protestants, because they have never understood the Catholic Church, measure what appears to them from the outside against what they understand from scripture. Fair enough; however the result is not necessarily accurate.

    The intercession of the saints and the making of images of the saints are practices tied in Christian tradition to the truth of the Incarnation and our adopted filiation.

    The Redemptive Incarnation is the object of all the prophecies of the Old Testament, and it does, in fact, change everything. The prologue of St. John’s gospel is the most eloquent expression of the exalted fact of Incarnation. Aside from the coming of Christ in the flesh, God has no face, but dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has ever seen or can see (1 Tim. 6:16). Apart from the Incarnation of Christ Jesus, no man may utter the name of God; however, in Christ Jesus, God does have a face seen by all who have looked upon him, and a name pronounced by his all his people. It is for this reason that the Christian religion is more “incarnate” than the Old Testament religion. Christians have represented the face of the God-man Christ, because he has a face, whereas God in his divine nature does not. Catholics are not confused. We don’t worship images. We don’t commit the Old Testament sin of idolatry. We profess our faith in the reality of the Incarnation.

    The images of the saints must be seen in the light of that logic, and that which justifies our treating them as friends and family.

    Relative to the veneration of the saints, I think it would be helpful to consider the fact that through the redeeming work of Jesus we become children of God. St. John makes it clear that this is not just a manner of speaking, but a fact: See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are (Jn. 3:1). St. Paul affirms the fact that the whole reason Jesus comes is to make us members of God’s family:

    But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent his Son, made of a woman, made under the law: That he might redeem them who were under the law: that we might receive the adoption of sons (Gal. 4:4-5).

    And

    Just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love. He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will
    (Eph. 1:4-5).

    In the chapter 12 of Letter to the Hebrews we read that the Incarnation has not only made God approachable, having a face and a name, it has also brought us into communion with his friends in heaven. All those who are followers of Christ, in this world or in heaven, are both the children of God and brothers and sisters in Christ.

    For you have not come to what may be touched, a blazing fire, and darkness, and gloom, and a tempest, and the sound of a trumpet, and a voice whose words made the hearers entreat that no further messages be spoken to them. For they could not endure the order that was given, “If even a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned.” Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I tremble with fear.” But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the first-born who are enrolled in heaven, and to a judge who is God of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks more graciously than the blood of Abel.
    (18-24).

    We approach the saints as our brothers and sisters in Christ, as our friends who are close to Our Father. As Patrick Madrid has put it: “Any friend of God is a friend of mine.”

    I know this does not answer your objections as directly as you might like, but it does provide the logic for our veneration of the saints.

    I would be happy to go further with this If you would like.

    God bless.

  6. Fr.

    Thank you for your thoughtful reply.

    You are correct, we strongly disagree. I cannot hold to tradition that is in direct opposition to what the Apostles wrote no matter how long those traditions may have been practiced.

    For example, I do not even see a priesthood in the NT. When God established the Levitical priesthood He detailed every aspect and article required in the tabernacle itself, the robes, the utensils, the sacrifices- – every aspect.

    In the NT we do not see such a priesthood at all. Instead, we Jesus as the High Priest and the mediator of the New Covenant. Another earthly priesthood is not required because there is no longer any more sacrifice to be offered. There is no longer the need for an earthly mediator because all believers have equal access to the throne of grace by faith in Him. In the Old Covenant only the high priest could go into the Holy of Holies, only once a year, and not without the blood of the atonement but in the New Covenant, the veil was ripped from top to bottom, proclaiming to all that all may come by the blood of Jesus which was offered once, for all.

    This is not “Protestant Theology”. It is the clear teaching of the New Testament, written by the Apostles who heard the Lord for themselves.

    Yes, we strongly disagree. This does not mean that I do not respect you or your ministry. I suspect and hope that you are where you are because you love the Lord Jesus and you desire to glorify His name in all the earth. So do it. Stop lifting up and exalting Mary. Yes, she is blessed AMONG all women but she did not pay the price for your sin. She did not go to the cross for you. She could not provide atonement for your sin because she herself is – a sinner, just like the rest of us.

    Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered outside the gate. Therefore let us go forth to Him, outside the camp, bearing His reproach. For here we have no continuing city, but we seek the one to come.

    God bless you also.

  7. Russ,
    There is a great book that I read a few years ago by a Pentacostal minister who converted to Catholicism. He wrote the book for his family and friends who asked very similar questions as yours. He did not try to insult them but truly to explain the Catholic viewpoint which, for most of his life, he completely disagreed with! It’s a very readable book and well worth the read … just for your own edification, if you will.
    It’s by David Currie and it’s called, “Born Fundamentalist, Born Again Catholic”. It’s out on Amazon and I believe it’s under $10. Truly … you would find it very helpful. You could still agree to disagree, of course, but you might get some very meaty, biblical answers that you are seeking. For years, I read many books that my non-Catholic friends challenged me to read but it’s funny how none of them will ever read the books that I’ve recommended to them!! Be that guy, Russ. 🙂
    Jen

  8. Russ,

    I cannot hold to tradition that is in direct opposition to what the Apostles wrote no matter how long those traditions may have been practiced.

    The fact that a tradition is from the beginning universally practiced and unchallenged in the earliest period of the Church is evidence of what the Apostles actually taught. Don’t forget that Our Lord’s mandate to the Apostles was to teach and baptize, not to write. The authority of Sacred Scripture is unique, but even the Bible does not say that only the Bible is the rule of faith.

    Furthermore, evidence of apostolic tradition is the best indication of what the Evangelists and other sacred authors actually meant by what they wrote. For example, there really is nothing in the Bible that contradicts the Church’s position on the veneration of the saints, on the contrary, as I showed earlier, the Bible supports it. The teaching and practice of the early Church helps us to understand how the Apostles and their successors understood the revelation of Jesus, handed on both by writing and oral teaching.

    For example, I do not even see a priesthood in the NT. When God established the Levitical priesthood He detailed every aspect and article required in the tabernacle itself, the robes, the utensils, the sacrifices- – every aspect.

    The Church has never claimed that the NT priesthood is comparable to the Levitical priesthood. This is consistent with the Letter to the Hebrews, relative to Christ’s priesthood according to the order of Melchisdech (Hebrews 7). The Levitical priesthood and Christ’s priesthood are two completely different things, though the former foreshadows and prepares for the latter. That every detail of the Levitical priesthood was regulated was consistent with all the detailed ceremonial laws that underscored the burden of all law apart from the redeeming work of Christ.

    The New Testament priesthood of Christ is the office by which the Our Blessed Lord’s sacrifice on the Cross is offered to the Father in expiation for the sins of men; hence, the St. Paul’s use of the term “High Priest” relative to Jesus Christ.

    Yes the sacrifice is offered “once for all,” as we read in Hebrews 7, but again, we are not talking about the Levitical priesthood–not a priesthood by birth, but one mandated by Christ and incorporated into Him. Do this in memory of me. With these words St. Paul hands on our Lord’s mandate to His apostles to offer sacrifice. In fact the Apostle prefaces the mandate with the statement: For I received from the Lord the teaching that I passed on to you [tradition] (1 Cor. 11:24, 23).

    This sacrificial ministry brings about the forgiveness of sins through the apostles who become real instruments of Our Lord’s saving power: Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained (John 20:22-23).

    We both agree that there is only one priesthood, that of Christ, and one sacrifice, that of Christ, once for all. But that a sacramental priesthood by which the followers of Christ participate in the one sacrifice of Christ is contrary to scripture is not verified by the sacred text or by the apostolic understanding of that text.

    That the Catholic Church’s interpretation of the Bible relative to the priesthood is consistent with the apostolic teaching–again, handed on both, not only by writing, but by the mandate of the Lord, also handed on by oral teaching– you may discover here, by reading some of the earliest successors of the apostles, such as St. Ignatius of Antioch and St. Irenaeus.

    Regarding Mary, the Mother of Jesus, I would ask you this: if you are willing to credit a Catholic priest with loving our Lord and wishing to further His kingdom, then why not credit the Mother of Jesus for cooperating with His plan as She did?

    You see, the two things are consistent. Catholics believe in the one mediation of Christ, but they have not forgotten that St. Paul’s discussion of that unique mediation was by way of distinguishing between the NT priesthood and Judaic practices. Furthermore, that discussion was motivated by the whole question of whether the Old Law was still in force. It did not at all have to do with whether God’s adopted children in Christ are capable in participating in the one mediation.

    Yes there is only one mediator, Christ Jesus, and only He, not the Law will save us, but that does not preclude our participation in the work of Christ. Neither St. Paul nor logic leads to the contrary conclusion.

    Catholics accept the priesthood and we logically accept the role of Mary. Why should not Jesus’ mother have a role in His work?

    Indeed, if St. Paul, why not Mary?

    If so ye continue in the faith, grounded and settled, and immoveable from the hope of the gospel which you have heard, which is preached in all the creation that is under heaven: whereof I Paul am made a minister. 24 Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you and fill up those things that are wanting of the sufferings of Christ, in my flesh, for his body, which is the church: 25 Whereof I am made a minister according to the dispensation of God (col. 1:23-24).

  9. Jennifer,

    Thank you for your kind words. I am familiar with Catholicism from birth. I was baptized, celebrated first communion, attended Catholic school from first grade to the fifth grade, was confirmed and was even married in the Catholic Church. I even met my wife in the youth choir at Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church in La Habra, CA.

    I really had no intention of changing churches. I was not disgruntled with the church at all. But God, by His grace, had other plans.

  10. Fr.

    Wow, small world. Yes, my wife’s parents still live and La Habra. Do you ever visit out this way to see family, etc?

    I do not think we disagree with the validity of traditions or oral teachings but the question must be asked, “What do we do when the written words of the Apostles and the traditions of the Church oppose one other?” Can we trust the oral traditions of the Church to be true if they contradict the Lord’s teachings or any of the Scriptures for that matter?

    The best way to determine if a tradition is indeed what the apostles taught would be to compare that tradition with what the Apostles wrote. God is not the author of confusion. The Apostles would not have written clear teachings and then given oral instructions to the contrary.

    “The Church has never claimed that the NT priesthood is comparable to the Levitical priesthood.”

    A priesthood is that which mediates between God and man. In the OT, the priest was absolutely necessary to offer continually the sacrifices to atone for the sins of the people, ect. Without the priest, one could not have a relationship with God. One could never be forgiven.

    Now with all due respect Father, the Catholic priest serves the same position within Catholicism. Without the Catholic priest, there is no atonement for sin. I cannot “eat of His flesh” or “drink of His blood”, (that which Jesus commanded I must do or I do not have life), without the Catholic priest consecrating the Eucharist. I cannot receive absolution from sin without the priest hearing my confession.

    The Catholic priest then puts himself in the position of mediating the new covenant – a position reserved for Jesus alone for there is ONE mediator between God and man, the Man Christ Jesus.

    I understand that there may be provision for someone stranded on a deserted island, but for the average, able bodied Catholic, the priest is the absolutely necessary mediator of the New Covenant and without him, there are no sacraments that can be obtained – the very sacraments necessary for salvation.

    Yes, there are no longer any lambs or bulls to burn on the altar, but there remains within Catholicism the same old obsolete priesthood that attempts to mediate between God and man through sacrifice and atonement. The free gift of salvation by grace through faith is withdrawn and instead we are told that by our works we will be made perfect. Forgotten is Paul’s exhortation to the Galatians, “Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?

  11. Russ,

    I was just out in November to see my mother. I live in the east now, so it was a welcome break from the cold. A funny thing happened while I was there. On my way to LAX for my return flight, Christmas music was being played on the radio. The DJ commented on how the weather was putting everyone in the Christmas spirit. It was 63 degrees. He needs to spend a winter in Connecticut.

    What do we do when the written words of the Apostles and the traditions of the Church oppose one other?” Can we trust the oral traditions of the Church to be true if they contradict the Lord’s teachings or any of the Scriptures for that matter?

    I think the real question,–and this is at the crux of our disagreement–is by what authority do we determine the meaning of the sacred text, and, consequently, by what authority do we presume the early Christians were wrong in their interpretation, when their practices were taught by the successors of the Apostles and were universally practiced without controversy?

    Consider further that the canon of the Bible was only being determined in the second and third century. The idea that the Bible was the only rule of faith was literally and factually impossible prior to that time. The primary mode of the dissemination of God’s word was oral teaching.

    Now with all due respect Father, the Catholic priest serves the same position within Catholicism. Without the Catholic priest, there is no atonement for sin. I cannot “eat of His flesh” or “drink of His blood”, (that which Jesus commanded I must do or I do not have life), without the Catholic priest consecrating the Eucharist. I cannot receive absolution from sin without the priest hearing my confession.

    Remember, Russ, that you brought up the Levitical priesthood in the context of the detailed code by which it was defined. You said that there is nothing resembling it in the NT. I agreed. In that context, the NT priesthood is fundamentally different.

    Relative to the relationship between atonement and the priesthood, the mandate to celebrate the Mass is scriptural, as I already pointed out (“Do this in memory of me”), and in terms of the mediatorial role of the priest, the other passage I cited ought to be considered as well:

    Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained (John 20:22-23).

    Clearly, this is a mediatorial role, given by Our Lord and Savior to his Apostles. You may disagree, but that is a matter of interpration. I think it is fair to say that the early Church had reason to believe that their priesthood was scriptural and apostolic. The obvious sense of the text is mediatorial, and this is how the text has been understood since Apostolic times.

    Consider also Matthew 9: 1-8, especially verse 5 and 6: “For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’?” But that you may know that the Son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins”–he then said to the Paralytic–“rise, take up your bed and go home.”

    Virtually every Christian excepts the fact that God sometimes uses men to miraculously cure people. That’s mediation. Which is harder to forgive or heal? Our Lord heals in order to prove that he can forgive. He allows men to be his instruments in both healing and forgiving, as John 20:22-23 shows. That’s the priesthood.

    Forgotten is Paul’s exhortation to the Galatians, “Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?

    I think it is often generally assumed that Catholics do not read the Bible, and, therefore, are not familiar with or choose to ignore St. Paul on the topic of the Law vs. Grace. I think a better assessment is this: Catholics read St. Paul as addressing the question of the preaching the Gospel to the Gentiles and what role, if any, the OT religion would have in Christianity. On the other hand, “Bible Christians” read St. Paul as addressing a more introspective question, namely, the relationship between grace and free will.

    Luther struggled with his own conscience and read St. Paul in the light of his own desire to resolve his personal dilemmas. I think a plain reading of St. Paul does not support this approach.

    Read for example the Swedish theologian and New Testament scholar, Lutheran Emeritus Bishop of Stockholm, Krister Stendahl in his monumental essay “The Apostle Paul and the Introspective Conscience of the West.” Commenting on the way in which St. Paul’s original purpose has been bent to other ends, he writes:

    So drastic is the reinterpretation once the original framework of “Jews and Gentiles” is lost, that the Western problems of conscience become its unchallenged and self-evident substitute.

    The question that St. Paul deals with is not whether or not man can participate in the one mediation of Christ, but whether observance of the Mosaic Law is salvific. In fact St. Paul does in passing affirm the fact that we do share in the work of Christ when he writes: Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church (Col. 1:24).

    In the light of St. Paul’s writings on the Gentile question, what could possibly be lacking in the sufferings of Christ? Of course, there is no objective deficit in the work of Christ; however, by His own will, we are to complete His work through our own sacrificial life. This is the teaching of Scripture, and especially St. Paul.

    By all means follow St. Paul, but read him in context.

  12. Hi Russ, how are you?

    I joined the discussion late and the emails migrated from praying to saints to tradition, priesthood, and so on.

    Thus, I wanted to add a degree of practicality to your statement on January 4, 2008 at 3:12 pm, when you stated:

    “I was objecting to prayer to saints.”

    In brief, …. I think praying to the saints is a natural extension of our earthly life.

    Here is an example. Suppose I am looking for a job in XYZ company. I know someone, call him Joe, who works at XYZ Company. I give Joe my resume to pass along to the “right” people. I may even ask him what did to become employed in the company or what suggestions he might have for me to use in order to enhance my resume. But, more importantly, I could ask him to put in a good word for me or to recommend me.

    I know I have found myself asking people to put in a good word for me or there, hand my resume to so and so…. In fact, many of us promote the idea of contacting someone in a company, in a community, at a bank to get a loan, and on and on…I suppose the term networking comes to mind.

    You may even have found yourself making the networking suggestion I discussed above.

    Without elaborating further, praying to saint is a form of networking.

  13. Sonopa,

    “praying to (a) saint is a form of networking.”

    I am sorry, but your words grieve me. Jesus did not die on the cross for His own sins, because he had none. He willing offered Himself on the cross to pay the debt for my sin and your sin. You have been, “bought at a price” and you are no longer your own, but you are His. If you are His, why do you not hear Him?

    Ex 20:4-, “”You shall not make for yourself a carved image–any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.

  14. “…by what authority do we determine the meaning of the sacred text.”

    “…I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and have revealed them to babes. (Matt 11:25)

    According to Jesus, in order to understand the meaning of the “sacred text”, you need humility, not authority.

    Paul also agrees, “But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God.”

    And, “But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one. For “who has known the mind of the LORD that he may instruct Him?” But we have the mind of Christ.”

    “by what authority do we presume the early Christians were wrong in their interpretation, when their practices were taught by the successors of the Apostles and were universally practiced without controversy?”

    Answer: When their tradition directly opposes the clear teaching of the Word of God.

    Even in the times of the Apostles, the truth was under fire so it is not surprising that some early believers were misled by the numerous “wolves” and “tares” in the flock.

    Act 20:29 For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock.

    Jesus also told us that the church age would be a mixture of true and false believers (tares and wheat.)

    And Jude 1:3, “Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God[fn2] and our Lord Jesus Christ.

    So, knowing that the early (and present day) church contained wolves, tares and ungodly men, how can we trust even the earliest traditions if they contradict the Word of God?

    “The mandate to celebrate Mass is scriptural, “Do this in memory of Me””

    The mandate to celebrate communion, not the Catholic Mass, is scriptural.

    “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive…This is a mediatorial role…”

    Obviously, God uses men. In fact, apart from men preaching the gospel, man cannot be saved. But Jesus was speaking in the context of the giving of the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit is given to ALL believers, not just a few. Therefore, all believers are to be seeking to reconcile the world to God.

    More obvious then all of this discussion is the simple fact that the Catholic Priesthood is not necessary for salvation. If it is not necessary for salvation, then it is also not necessary for living the Christian life. If I can be reconciled to God apart from the Catholic Church, then I can continue to be reconciled to God by faith through the one Meadiator, Jesus Christ.

    Now the fact that I can be reconciled to God apart from the Catholic Church is evident for, “Whoever calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved” (Rom 10:13). And, “If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Rom 10:9:10). And, “Now as they went down the road, they came to some water. And the eunuch said, “See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?” Then Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” And he answered and said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” And, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name” (John 1:12). And, “But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident, for “the just shall live by faith.”, And, Etc.

    In fact, the only thing that can undermine my relationship with God other than renouncing the Lord is to try to improve my salvation by adding works to my faith:

    Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage. Indeed I, Paul, say to you that if you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing. And I testify again to every man who becomes circumcised that he is a debtor to keep the whole law. You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace. (Gal 5:1-4)

  15. Russ,

    RUN to the bookstore and get that book I mentioned before! “Born Fundamentalist, Born Again Catholic”. Honestly, it will answer all of your questions with biblical quotes to back them up. You keep mentioning that the Authority within the Catholic Church at times goes against Scripture. When does it do this?? You also mention that as long as we pray to have the Holy Spirit guide us, that is plenty. If that is so, why oh why are there SO many different interpretations of Scripture fromm so many different sects? I believe Christ, in His infinite wisdom, knew quite well what would happen if we all began to decipher/discern His Word on our own! The first few centuries of the early church were dedicated to getting rid of heresies and false interpretations!! That’s why the creeds were written, etc, so that people would understand the correct interpretation. They weren’t going against Scripture, they were backing up what had always been understood as the correct interpretation of Scripture … or word of mouth (tradition) before the Scriptures were even written or compiled into the Book we all know.

    As for the saints that we’ve discussed before, God uses people to do His work! He uses you and I to carry out His work and He uses those who no longer are impeded by their human bodies to do His work as well! So, just like I can ask you to pray with/for me on something and you might decide to help me in some way … all due to your love of the Lord … so, too, can those who have gone before us! It is God who gives you the grace to do His work and it is God who gives the grace to the heavenly saints as well. As I mentioned before, God gets all the glory!! We don’t worship these saints (atleast, we better not!) … we respect them and seek their help just as I might seek your help in something. We’re a big family as I stated before. I agree that this was a stumbling block for me at one point but it’s so simple to me now!! If people who have gone before us cannot continue to serve the Lord and do His will, then we really don’t believe in much of a heaven, now do we? Even in Revelations there were angels and others who were singing and serving the Lord. Again, that book that I mentioned is not a long book and truly, it answered SO many questions for me. Your questions are all so familiar to me … you would be intrigued with this book, I believe. If nothing else, it would give you more food for thought to challenge good ol’ Fr Angelo on. He loves a good challenge, you know!
    Jen.

  16. Jennifer,

    I believe that the Word of God is true. I believe that you can trust God and that His word is perfect. I believe that God is able to communicate to man exactly who He is and also who we are as well.

    The Bible claims to be the Word of God. It claims to be “God breathed”. As a matter of fact, the Bible talks about “itself” more than you think. If I were to take all the scriptures about what the Bible says about itself, this blog would pages and pages of scripture. Hear are a few things the Bible says about itself:

    For the word of the LORD is right, And all His work is done in truth. By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, And all the host of them by the breath of His mouth. (Psalm 33:4,6)

    The law of the LORD [is] perfect, converting the soul; The testimony of the LORD [is] sure, making wise the simple; (Psalm 19:7)

    Jesus said, “For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.”

    And, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.” (Luke 21:33)

    For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. (Heb 4:12)

    Paul told Timothy, “Preach the word!” (2 Tim 4:2)

    Jesus Himself is called the Word or God in the Bible.

    In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (John 1:1)

    With all that and more that the Bible says about itself, I would like to try to answer one of your questions:

    “You keep mentioning that the Authority within the Catholic Church at times goes against Scripture. When does it do this??”

    “You shall not make for yourself a carved image–any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments. (Ex 20:4-6)

    And Jesus said, “And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words.

    Jenifer, how will you be saved? How will you make it to heaven? Do you believe that there are certain things that you must do in order to gain eternal life?

    Let me ask you this question. If you were to die right now and you were to stand before Jesus and He said to you, “Why should I let you into heaven?” What would you say to Him?

  17. Russ,

    From your last comment, initially quoting me:

    “by what authority do we presume the early Christians were wrong in their interpretation, when their practices were taught by the successors of the Apostles and were universally practiced without controversy?”

    Answer: When their tradition directly opposes the clear teaching of the Word of God.

    You make several points in the context of this one answer.

    First, your answer is erroneously applied to the teaching of the Church, as I have shown by locating the traditions of the Church within the biblical text and apostolic teaching. You may disagree with my interpretation but that is not the same as saying there is no basis for our beliefs in the Bible.

    This is a question of both authority and humility. Interpretation of the Bible cannot be a free for all. A humble attitude does not guarantee rectitude of judgment. It helps, but it is no guarantee. Lots of humble people disagree.

    Not only Our Lord and Savior spoke with authority, but also His Apostles, who received their mandate to preach from the Lord. They were humble, but they also had authority. But even if we or an angel from heaven should proclaim to you a gospel contrary to what we proclaimed to you, let that one be accursed! (Gal. 1:8) Notice both the authority expressed, and the fact that St. Paul is speaking about what he preached, not what he wrote.

    BTW the authority given to the Apostles to forgive sins was given directly to them and to them alone. You say: “Therefore, all believers are to be seeking to reconcile the world to God.” Yes, but clearly not all believers are capable of “forgiving sins,” as Lord explicitly empowers the Apostles to do.

    Secondly, you suggest that the early Christian teachings supporting Catholic practices was an anomaly, that is, they were heresies introduced extra-biblically by “wolves.”

    My point earlier was that the teachings you question are found immediately in apostolic times to be held everywhere and without controversy. The passages in the new testament that refer to doctrinal dissension, concern things like Gnosticism. You have shown no evidence that the heresies referred to in the NT have anything to do with the doctrines of the Catholic Church.

    Take for example the Mass in the writings of the early Church fathers such as St. Irenaeus, who education in the faith was once removed from St. John the Evangelist, though St. Polycarp who was a disciple of St. John:

    He took that created thing, bread, and gave thanks and said, ‘This is My Body.’ And the cup likewise, which is part of that creation to which we belong, He confessed to be His Blood, and taught the new oblation of the new covenant, which the Church, receiving from the Apostles, offers to God throughout the world . . . concerning which Malachy, among the twelve prophets, thus spoke beforehand: ‘From the rising of the sun to the going down, My name is glorified among the gentiles, and in every place incense is offered to My name and a pure sacrifice . . . ‘ indicating in the plainest manner that in every place sacrifice shall be offered to Him, and at that a pure one” (Against Heresies 4,17,5; A.D. 170).

    This is unquestionably referring to the Mass, and it is not even the earliest of the references. St. Irenaeus is also basing himself on Sacred Scripture, both OT and NT. You may disagree with his interpretation, but can you reasonably say that this is an instance of something opposing the “clear teaching of the Word of God”? Furthermore, all the evidence shows that this teaching was not an anomaly, but the universally accepted teaching of the Apostles.

    Thirdly, you use the term “Word” or “Word of God” as though it is synonymous with the Bible, which it is not. As you mentioned to Jennifer, the Bible does speak of itself and more generally of that which St. Paul mentions as the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter (2 Thes. 2:14); however, nowhere does the Bible define the Word of God as belonging exclusively to the written Word, nor does it claim that only the written word is the sole rule of faith. Obviously, the Word can be both spoken and written.

  18. Hello Russ,

    Before i answer your questions, I’d like to ask you the question first because I believe I can answer mine more specifically at that point. At your death, how will YOU answer the Lord for your salvation? In other words, what is it that you believe saves you???

    As always, there’s far more that we probably agree upon than disagree … for instance, we both believe that the Scripture was divinely inspired by the HOly Spirit and that it must be followed and that Christ Himself is called the Word!! We both believe that Christ is indeed God incarnate. However, I will say that because the Holy Spirit is infinite, I highly doubt that He’s confined to what was placed in the Bible. As Father Angelo states, nowhere does the Bible state that the Word of God is ONLY the written Scriptures. What is oral cannot contradict the Scriptures but it is not limited to the scriptures … that would be pretty finite of God, don’t you think? As my husband always says, the Holy Spirit continues to write Scripture, in a non-literal way, every minute of every day. Yes, we have Scripture as a specific guideline so that we can discern if some new teaching necessarily goes against scripture or not. And as St. Jerome once stated, “Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ” so indeed all Christian churches best be holding Scripture to the highest esteem. But, I don’t believe Scripture is by any means the end all….. God is the end all and He is infinite!!

    Anyway, we’ll continue after you discuss your thoughts for your salvation.

    Peace in Christ,
    Jen

  19. Father (do you have a first name?),

    “Yes, but clearly not all believers are capable of “forgiving sins,” as Lord explicitly empowers the Apostles to do.”

    Then you are insisting that unless I confess my sins to a Catholic Priest, who is in succession to the Apostles, my sins are not forgiven. This teaching is CLEARLY in direct conflict with the word of God. I showed you from the Bible that, “Whoever calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved” and many other scriptures that clearly teach that I can be reconciled to God APART from the Catholic priest. And if I can be reconciled to God apart from any specific church, then I can continue to have unbroken fellowship with God by the blood of Christ.

    Father, when someone comes to you for confession, you should be proclaiming the gospel, the good news to them, that Jesus is their High Priest and that all believers have direct access to the Father by the blood of His sacrifice and that you are just a man even as they are. He has made a way for even the lowest of sinners to approach the throne of grace. But instead of sharing the good news with your flock, you usurp the position that belongs to Jesus alone as High Priest and you insist that all come to you instead.

    Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, and having a High Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. (Heb 10:20-23)

    Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split… (Matt 27:51)

    The veil was torn and thereby God proclaimed that ALL may come freely into the Holy of Holies by a new and living way, by the blood of Jesus Christ.

    Please answer this question. If I have access to the Father by the blood of Jesus and by His blood I can boldly enter into the Holiest, behind the veil, why would I insult the Spirit of grace by going to an earthy priest instead of the one who loved me and gave Himself for me?

    Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace? (Heb 10:29)

  20. Jen,

    Sure. I am saved by the blood of Jesus Christ. The blood of His sacrifice cleanses me from all my sin and saves me from the wrath of God.

    …knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. (1 Pet 1:19)

    But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:12)

  21. Russ,

    Its Fr. Angelo. Pleased to meet you.

    The plain sense of John 20:22-23 is that Our Lord is giving the apostles the power to forgive men’s sins, and that is precisely the way the early Church understood it. So yes, the priesthood is willed by Christ as the unique instrument of His salvation.

    “Whoever calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved”

    But what does that mean? It always comes back to interpretation and the authority by which such determinations are made. I have argued all my points from Sacred Scripture and have tried to show that the interpretations I have used are consistent with the apostolic understanding of the Word.

    Is your verse to be understood literally or otherwise? For the sake of argument take John 6:53: So Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.” Is this literal or figurative? The statement is clear and unmistakable. When Our Lord’s disciples walk away because this saying is hard, He does not explain Himself, but challenges them to take Him seriously: “Do you also wish to go away?” (67)

    So is Romans 10:13 to be taken in the most narrow literal sense and John 20:22-23 only figuratively, or otherwise? And who decides? And what if in the early Church it was universally accepted that God commanded His people to eat His flesh that He made available through the Sacrifice of the Altar, and that to “call on the name of the Lord” needed to be taken in that context?

  22. Fr. Angelo,

    There remains, therfore, a rest for the people of God. If today you hear His voice, harden not your heart.

    If salvation is by works in addition to faith, tell me, what works did Israel do to earn God’s deliverance from Egypt? They were slaves in Egypt and God saved them by His mercy and love and grace.

    “The LORD did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any other people, for you were the least of all peoples; “but because the LORD loves you, and because He would keep the oath which He swore to your fathers, the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you from the house of bondage, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. (Deu 7:7)

    Or Saul (Paul), for that matter, what work did Saul accomplish to persuade God to save him on the road to Damascus? And he became loudest preacher of salvation by grace through faith that the world has ever heard. Because he knew himself, that he was a sinner, and that all men are sinners and we all stand shoulder to shoulder before a Holy God. For there is none righteous, no, not one.

    Therefore it is of faith that it might be according to grace, so that the promise might be sure to all the seed, not only to those who are of the law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all. (Rom 4:16)

    Paul’s encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus is God’s bold declaration that He gives salvation as a free gift and no one has, or ever will, earn it for Paul, by his own account, was, “the chief of sinners”.

    There remains therefore, a rest for the people of God. If today you hear His voice, harden not your heart.

    Jesus spoke of the “narrow gate” that leads to life. That gate is not found in an institution. It is not found in an organization. It is the gate of simple faith in what God has already accomplished by sacrificing His Son for you.

    I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain.” (Gal 2:21)

  23. Russ,

    I think this discussion is devolving into a thread of dueling Bible verses. What can I say? You claim Catholic beliefs contradict scripture. I have argued from scripture to the contrary, and tried to establish the futility of relying exclusively on an isolated interpretation of scripture for the answers to these questions.

    In good faith I will answer a question you earlier asked, and request that you answer some of the questions I have posed.

    Please answer this question. If I have access to the Father by the blood of Jesus and by His blood I can boldly enter into the Holiest, behind the veil, why would I insult the Spirit of grace by going to an earthy priest instead of the one who loved me and gave Himself for me?

    The priesthood of Jesus Christ was willed by the Lord Himself and not invented by man, as I have shown. No one could rightly presume to undertake such an office. It is not an insult to the Spirit of grace to obey as Jesus obeyed, even unto death (Phil. 2:8). St. Paul became the father of the Children of God by priesthood: I do not write this to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children. For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel (1 Cor. 4: 14-15). We have access to the blood of Christ through the sacrificial ministry of Christ, instituted by Himself in the priesthood.

    I am happy to discuss these issues with you, Russ, even though we have gone far afield from the original post. In fact there is no salvation apart from the means through which God Himself chose to bring us Emmanuel, God With Us. The indisputable fact of Sacred Scripture is that Jesus becomes our salvation through the cooperation of Mary (Lk. 1). Jesus was born under the law to deliver us from the law and make us the adopted children of God. He was born under the law in the first place by observing the 4th commandment, relative to His Mother. He was born of a Woman and so are we (Gal. 4:4-5). Son Behold your Mother! (Jn 19:27).

    You know as well as I do, that the Mother of God would never want any more honor than God willed. Yet Jesus honored Mary more than we can ever imagine by becoming Her Son. He humbled Himself, emptied Himself, taking the form of a slave (cf. Phil 2: 6-8). Think about that. Cooperating with Jesus as the children of God in no way renders the Cross of Christ in vain, but honors the perfection of his redeeming power. Even Martin Luther understood this:

    Mary is the Mother of Jesus and the Mother of all of us even though it was Christ alone who reposed on her knees . . . If he is ours, we ought to be in his situation; there where he is, we ought also to be and all that he has ought to be ours, and his mother is also our mother. (Sermon, Christmas, 1529).

  24. Hello Russ,

    I wasn’t able to check the computer yesterday so I apologize for the delay to your note of a couple of days ago. Like Father Angelo, I think we’re going around in circles here. There are clearly many books that can explain the Catholic beliefs from a biblical perspective, but you have to really want to read them. I meet many (esp ex-Catholics) who just do not want to read them. They have truly sought the truth outside ofthe Catholic Church. I don’t make excuses for our Church … I think during the 70’s and 80’s they didn’t do a very good job AT ALL in instructing most of us in our faith. The biblical basis for our beliefs, atleast in my church and my husband’s, weren’t ever discussed one iota. Yes, we heard Scripture during Mass every week, but no one tied the loose ends together for us. There was never any mention about having some kind of relationship with Jesus and this is all a pity. The church is the people and people are human …. what can I say? Humans don’t always do as they should but it doesn’t make the religion BAD or incorrect … it means that it’s full of people who don’t always do the right thing, if you will. My husband and I almost left the Catholic Church but my husband, I believe in his wisdom, stated that before we left the Catholic Church, we needed to really udnerstand what it was that we would be leaving. Once we started to truly seek, the biblical basis and understandings BLEW US AWAY. We realized at that point that if we weren’t Catholic, we’d be studying to become Catholics. Seek and ye shall find. The information is out there but you need to truly access it. I’ll admit, i didn’t read it with an open mind at first, I was LOOKING to poke holes into all of it but the Lord had a different plan for me.

    You stated that you believe that God’s word is perfect and true. We do not disagree here at all. Where we disagree is that statements that you interpret one way, we may interpret another. Both of us are seeking the guidance of the Holy Spirit on these interpretations and if we believe that God wouldn’t lead us astray and would guide us the truth, then how is it that we can interpret the SAME passages from the SAME translations differently? (Yes, I own an NIV and RSV as well as others.) Don’t you think God knew this would be the case? Even among non-Catholic religions, interpretations differ tremendously at times. There are the ana-Baptists, for instance, who clearly disagree with infant baptism as well as many other disagreements. Who’s right? Who’s wrong? How do you KNOW you’re the one who is right? How do you KNOW? Hmmm. God I believe pre-thought this foregone dilemma out.

    Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to guide us and one of those ways He chose to guide us was through Scripture. Not eveyrone had access to scripture for centuries and there are still parts of this world who have no access to them so clearly it’s not the ONLY way to learn of Him. But, if you have access to a Bible, I think it’s clear you should be trying to learn of it … whether or not you are literate!

    You asked me how I would be saved. I will be saved by God’s grace. And, by God’s grace, He sent a Son to die for my sins and I am called to ACCEPT this forgiveness and to BELIEVE … have faith. He was sent for me to LEARN OF HIM and of HIS ways and expectations and then, ultimately, to die for us. So, we accept this forgiveness and we establish our faith in this One True Lord. But, what does this faith call me to? Unlike some people who believe they can say what we call the *sinner’s prayer* and then be *assured* their salvation, i do not believe this. But, unlike what many think, Catholics do not believe they are saved by their works!! If they believed this, why would priests visit men/women on death-row for a final confession and blessing if they didn’t believe that ‘on this day, you could be with Him in paradise’? It would be a waste of time. Clearly there’s no more opportunity for them to perform any good works. However, when you’re not in that predicament, then your faith calls you to something, right? If you claim to have faith, there best be fruit on your tree! A transformation should be occurring in you. People should be able to tell you’re a Christian not necessarily because you can quote scripture, you said the sinner’s prayer, or because you have a t-shirt proclaiming it but because YOU ARE DIFFERENT. In other words, there are *works* that proclaim your faith. Many atheists can do good works so it’s clearly not the works that save you … it’s the works that BECOME you. The works establish you in Christ, if you will.

    You also speak of graven images and worshipping idols … ahhh, all these questions and more I had, too! WE DO NOT WORSHIP THE POPE. HE IS A MAN!!!! WE ALL SHOULD KNOW THAT. Do some Catholics worship the Pope??? Oh, I suppose … but woe to them! He was placed here, for one, to keep us united in the Faith!! This is very different than the golden lamb that got worshipped while Moses went on the mountain. To them, they doubted God and wanted to go back to their pagan beliefs and thus made a golden lamb to worship. Now, I’ll admit that there are Catholics who truly appear to be worshipping statues and what-not … I don’t want to judge, mind you, but it does look that way. If so, they have been deceived and that is sad. And, of course, the news loves to portray these things over the everyday stuff. So, you cannot make a general judgment on some of these publicized persons.

    Another way I have come to understand some of these *visible* displays of things, came to me during prayer and has given me peace. And that is that God created us with our senses to EXPERIENCE HIM. Now, as individuals, we all have some senses that are more accute than others. A blind person, as an extreme, cannot see but his sense of smell and hearing and touch are far more accute than ours. For me, I really came to experience God in song (because I happen to LOVE music… due to Him, of course) so the music just moved me, and still does, in an incredible way. Music that brings me to tears, however, others say … “Hmm. It’s nice but it doesn’t do anything for me.” Yet, these people can look at a painting and be brought to tears. I say, “Hmmm. The painting is nice but I’ve yet to be moved to tears over a painting!” I can be moved to tears by reading, though, so there are scriptures that have done just that to me. Yet, others I know just don’t *comprehend* or get moved in the same way with written words. They’d rather *hear* them, etc. Do you get my gist? In the Catholic Church, there is something for everyone! Again, I believe God established that on purpose. So, the beautiful stained-glass windows and statues and paintings will do very little for one person in leading them to Christ, but will make all the difference in the world to the next guy! Who are we to judge? I try not to be that shallow here because I know we all experience the world through different lenses at times.

    Again, truly most of our disagreements are over interpretation. I’ve had discussions with Jehovah Witnesses in the past and in that situation, I have to say that until we can agree on the correct BIBLE then we’re wasting our time! In the case with you, we can read the same Bible, but disagree on whose interpretation is correct. I am sorry that your Catholic upbringing did not ultimately lead you to a conversion to Christ and clearly left you very confused about many issues. I apologize on behalf of our whole Church who has maybe failed people in this way. Yet, there are many faith-filled and scripturally brilliant people in the Catholic Church … you are lucky to have come into contact with Fr. Angelo, I can assure you he is one of them! But these people don’t get nearly the publicity as do the whack-a-doos out there. God deals in the whispers, as you well know!

    Thank you for your time and may God continue to bless you on your journey.

    Peace in Christ,
    Jennifer

  25. Jennifer,

    Thank you for your thoughtful response. I was blessed. I hope you don’t mind helping me to understand part of your answer.

    We all agree that when someone turns to the Lord that there should be a change in their life. Some outward change because of what God has already done on the inside. Some evidence of salvation. These works of righteousness are the fruit of the Spirit in the life of the believer. The greatest of these, is love.

    So we both agree on what we need to do after we are saved, but I need to know what I need to do to be saved in the first place. Are there certain things that you must do in order to earn salvation? For example, suppose that you and your husband had chosen to leave the Catholic church instead of staying. Would that be a problem to you because a priest no longer hears your confession or because you no longer have access to the Body and Blood of Christ?

    I know that that is a difficult question to answer but God is very concerned with the answer to that question. God went to great lengths to give us the gospel.

    For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. (Rom 1:16)

    The gospel is of utmost importance because it is the “power of God to salvation”. But, if someone changes the message of the gospel then it no longer has the power to save.

    After the Apostle Paul had left the church in Galatia, some men came into the church and said that unless you were circumcised you were not saved. They were adding “works” to the salvation that Paul had preached. Here is what Paul writes to them:

    “I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. (GAL 1:6)

    The Bible teaches that I am saved by what Jesus did for me on the cross. There is nothing that I can do to improve what God accomplished on the cross. In fact, if I attempt to add my “works” to the saving work of Jesus, according to God, I have change the gospel and a changed gospel cannot save me.

    Paul continues,

    STAND fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage. Indeed I, Paul, say to you that if you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing. And I testify again to every man who becomes circumcised that he is a debtor to keep the whole law. You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace. For we through the Spirit eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness by faith. (Gal 5:1)

    Harsh words. Paul had risked his life for the message of the gospel and he became very upset if someone tried to change it.

    There is nothing you can do to add to the finished work of the cross.

    For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. (Eph 2:8)

    You do not need to respond to me with your answer. I do not need to know your answer. You are the only one who needs to know the answer to this question. Are you truly resting in the finished work of Jesus on the cross or is the something you need to do in addition to what Jesus did for you? A Gospel that tries to add works to the message of the cross cannot save you. But if you are trusting in the finished work of Christ, then truly you are a child of God and no one can snatch you out of His hand. Praise Him!

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