Friday, August 15, 2014

For the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

The Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy explains the importance of today's feast day, which is a holy day of obligation:
Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

180. The Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary clearly stands out in Ordinary Time because of its theological importance. This is an ancient memorial of the Mother of God, which signifies and synthesises many of the truths of the faith. Our Lady assumed into Heaven:

  • is "the highest fruit of the redemption"196, and a supreme testimony to the breath and efficacy of Christ's salvific work (soteriological significance);
  • is a pledge of the future participation of the members of the mystical Body of Christ in the paschal glory of the Risen Christ (Christological aspect);
  • is for all mankind "the consoling assurance of the coming of our final hope: that full glorification which is Christ's will also be that of his brethren, since He is of the "same flesh and blood" (Heb 2, 14; cf. Gal 4,49)197 (anthropological aspect);
  • is the eschatological icon in which the Church joyfully contemplates "that which she herself desires and hopes wholly to be"198 (ecclesiological aspect);
  • is the guarantee of the Lord's fidelity to his promise: he reserves a munificent reward for his humble Servant because of her faithful cooperation with the divine plan, which is a destiny of fulness, happiness, glorification of her immaculate soul, her virginal body, perfect configuration to her Risen Son (mariological aspect)199.

181. The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (15 August) is deeply imbedded in popular piety. In many places the feast is synonymous with the person of Our Lady, and is simply referred to as "Our Lady's Day" or as the "Immacolada" in Spain and Latin America.

In the Germanic countries, the custom of blessing herbs is associated with 15 August. This custom, received into the Rituale Romanum200, represents a clear example of the genuine evangelization of pre-Christian rites and beliefs: one must turn to God, through whose word "the earth produced vegetation: plants bearing seeds in their several kinds, and trees bearing fruit with their seed inside in their several kinds"(Gen 1, 12) in order to obtain what was formerly obtained by magic rites; to stem the damages deriving from poisonous herbs, and benefit from the efficacy of curative herbs.

This ancient use came to be associated with the Blessed Virgin Mary, in part because of the biblical images applied to her such as vine, lavender, cypress and lily, partly from seeing her in terms of a sweet smelling flower because of her virtue, and most of all because of Isaiah 11, 1, and his reference to the "shoot springing from the side of Jesse", which would bear the blessed fruit of Jesus.

This is really a wonderful feast day, but the dogma of the Assumption can be somewhat difficult to defend if you don't know where to look. See my debate on the Assumption of Mary, in three Parts: Part 1 -- Part 2 -- Part 3. I hope it helps.

What a lot of people don't realize is that the Assumption of Mary, like all of the Marian dogmas, is Christocentric. In other words, at the heart of each Marian dogma is a statement of faith about Christ. The Marian dogmas glorify Christ. Just as Mary, throughout her life, did and continues to do nothing but draw people to her Son, so do the Church's teachings on Mary draw us to some profound truth about Christ.

The Assumption of Mary is Christocentric in the following ways:
  1. The fact that we use the word "assumption" instead of "ascension" is important. "Ascension" implies raising by one's own power, as Jesus did. However, to be "assumed" is to be raised by the power of someone else. This is what happened to Mary. And so we see that it is because Jesus ascended into heaven first and willed that Mary be with Him that she was assumed into heaven. The Assumption implies belief in the Ascension.
  2. The Assumption is also the fruit of a life of grace. Mary did not die (or, at least, her body was not allowed to decay in the ground) because she was preserved from the stain of original sin and committed no sins throughout her life. She rose, body and soul, into heavenly glory. We will too, when Jesus comes again ... but only if we persevere in grace. The Assumption of Mary is the fulfillment, the first fruits, of the promise made to every man so long as he cleaves to Christ and dies in righteous relationship with Him. The Assumption compels us to turn towards the Lord, and it strengthens our belief and hope in the Resurrection.
  3. Finally, one of the effects of the Assumption is the crowning of Mary as the Queen of Heaven. Yet, there can be no Queen without a King. It is only because Jesus is the King of heaven and earth that Mary now reigns as Queen. The Assumption and subsequent Queenship of Mary implies belief in the Kingship of Christ. We will learn more about this next week, on the Memorial of the Queenship of Mary.
There are probably other Christocentric elements of the dogma of the Assumption as well, but that should suffice. If anyone says that the Marian dogmas of the Church somehow take our focus away from Christ, you can be sure that he really doesn't understand our beliefs about Mary as well as he should.

For more on the Assumption of Mary, see the following articles:
Still don't know what to think? I'll let Scott Hahn tell it:



Pax Christi,
phatcatholic

Monday, June 30, 2014

The Truth of the Bible and the Gospel Message


Do you know what a Catholic evangelist is? It is someone who has committed himself to proclaiming the gospel, the message of who Jesus is and what He has done for us. A Catholic evangelist probably gave you this very pamphlet! In the course of sharing his message, he most likely referred to the Bible. This is to be expected, since the Bible is where Catholics find the content for any gospel proclamation.

Now, the evangelist had the boldness to proclaim this message because he held the firm conviction that what the Bible reveals in its Old and New Testaments is true. But, perhaps you are not so sure. You may have heard arguments from non-Christians that attempt to discredit the truth of the Bible, or read things in it that you did not understand. You can’t very well accept the gospel message with much confidence if the source for this message is potentially filled with errors!

It is necessary then, before anyone can seriously consider the gospel, to answer this fundamental question: Is the Bible true? Catholics believe that the Bible is true for three reasons: it is reliable, it is historical, and it is inspired. As such, it is a trustworthy source for the gospel message we proclaim.

The Bible Is Reliable

When we say that the Bible is reliable, we mean that it is highly attested. The original works (or “autographs”) by the biblical authors are no longer with us, but the wealth of manuscript evidence and other source material is such that we have an extraordinarily clear picture of what the authors originally penned.

The manuscript evidence is indeed truly remarkable. A “manuscript” is a handwritten copy of a text, either in whole or in part. Biblical scholars count around 12,000 Old Testament manuscripts. For the New Testament, there are 5,800 Greek manuscripts, 10,000 Latin manuscripts and 9,300 manuscripts in various other ancient languages. Add to this the approximately one million quotations of Scripture in the works of the Church Fathers (150 – 1300 AD) and you have something that is quite simply unparalleled. There is no other ancient document that has such corroboration.

Not only do we have an extraordinary number of manuscripts, but they are in agreement on the vast majority of their content. By comparing the various manuscripts and versions of the Bible, scholars have concluded that, of the approximately 138,000 words in the New Testament, only about 1,400 remain in doubt. The text of the New Testament is thus about 99% established, and the remaining 1% includes words and phrases that are incidental to Christian faith or practice.

Also adding to the reliability of the Bible, or at least to the New Testament, is the fact that the originals as well as many of our manuscripts can be dated within close proximity to the events they describe. The latest works of the Bible, the three letters of John, were written in 100 AD, only around 70 years after the death of Christ. The earliest work of the New Testament, Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians, was written in 50 AD! This means that when the New Testament was written, there would have been people alive at the time who were contemporaries of Christ and who could discredit any historical inaccuracies. This made it all the more necessary that the authors get it right the first time.

Like I said, we have many early manuscripts, and source material as well. For example, P52, the “John Rylands Fragment” of Jn 18:31-33, 37-38 dates to 125 AD, only 35 years after the Gospel of John was written! P46, the “Chester Beaty Papyrus” includes the bulk of Paul’s letters and dates to around 200 AD. In all, we have 90 or so manuscripts from the first four centuries after the death of Jesus. Many of the works from the Church Fathers of even the first and second centuries contain quotations from Scripture as well.

When you have a large number of manuscripts and other source material in textual agreement on the vast majority of what they contain, then you have a rather solid witness to the autographs. Note that just because the Bible is highly attested, that does not necessarily mean that it is true. But, when we sit down to establish the truth of the Bible, its reliability ensures that we are analyzing the actual works of the Bible, and not distorted or incomplete versions of them.

The Bible Is Historical

When we say that the Bible is historical, we mean that it provides an accurate account of real events. While the Old Testament provides valuable historical information, when the question of the historicity of the Bible is raised, it is most often in reference to the Gospels. The Gospels are the books by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John that give us an account of the lives of Jesus and the apostles. Since the gospel message is very much about what Jesus came to do for us, this message really lives or dies based on the historicity of the Gospels.

While some scholars insist that the Gospel writers sat down to devise fictional stories with theological meaning, or to defend their faith by investing ordinary events with supernatural import, many of the New Testament writers themselves tell us that their intentions were different. For example:
"For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty" (2 Pet 1:16).

“Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things which have been accomplished among us, just as they were delivered to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may know the truth concerning the things of which you have been informed.” (Lk 1:1-4)

“This is the disciple who is bearing witness to these things, and who has written these things; and we know that his testimony is true. But there are also many other things which Jesus did; were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.” (Jn 21:24-25)
We see from this that the New Testament writers intended to record real events as they actually occurred, not cleverly-devised myths. We should always keep the intentions of the authors in mind whenever we consider the historical reliability of what they have written.

Furthermore, scholars have established various criteria for discerning whether or not a person, place, or event in Scripture is grounded in history. Of course, there is always debate on such things, but the following list is representative of scholarship in this area:
  1. Historical congruence – Does the event coincide with known facts about history at that time?
  2. Independent and early attestation – Do multiple sources close to the event corroborate it?
  3. Embarrassment – If an event would be embarrassing to the author, it is unlikely to be fictional.
  4. Dissimilarity – If an event challenges popular belief or practice, it is also unlikely to be fictional.
  5. Semitisms – Does the event coincide with popular ways of speaking in Jesus day?
  6. Coherence – Is the event consistent with already-established facts about Jesus?
When we utilize these criteria, we find that a great deal of what the Gospels report about the lives of Jesus and the apostles truly transpired as the authors indicated.

For example, take the words of Jesus at the Last Supper, with which He prophesied that Peter would deny Him three times before the cock crowed. These words have historical congruence, the “cockcrow” referring to what ancient Romans called the bugle call for the third watch. His words have independent and early attestation, appearing as they do in all four Gospels (cf. Mt 26:33-35; Mk 14:29-31; Lk 22:33-34; Jn 13:36-38). They would certainly be an embarrassment, especially to Mark, who was a disciple of Peter. It is very unlikely that the Gospel writers would just make up the fact that the apostle who held the place of primacy among them actually denied that he even knew Jesus, let alone was a follower of His. Finally, the episode has coherence, since it was typical of Jesus to prophesy in this way.

The field of biblical archaeology has provided a wealth of discoveries that substantiate events and peoples from the Bible, even the Old Testament. For example, the Hittites were thought to be a figment of the biblical imagination, unknown outside of the Hebrew Bible, until 1906, when archaeologists digging east of Ankara, Turkey, discovered the ruins of Hattusas, the ancient capital of the Hittites. The Philistines were also historically verified, by an inscription on the Temple of Rameses III at Thebes, which is dated around 1150 BC. Dozens of biblical cities have been excavated, at least in part. Israel’s entrance into the Promised Land, the burial of King Uzziah, King Hezekiah’s water tunnel, and even the return of the Jews from the Babylonian Captivity have all been confirmed by archaeological discoveries. There are other examples that are too numerous to mention.

What this means is that, via a wealth of both internal and external evidence, we have good reason to believe that, whenever the biblical authors intended to provide a historical account of peoples, places, and events, their intentions were largely realized.

The Bible Is Inspired

When we say that the Bible is inspired, we mean that it is revealed by God, it has God as its author. Specifically, in the act of biblical inspiration, God worked with the human author in such a way that He ensured that the human author wrote what God wanted to be written, while at the same time respecting the human author’s own intellect, will, and writing style.

This means that the human author was not merely a stenographer, mindlessly putting to paper whatever was dictated by God. Instead, the divine author and the human author were, in a sense, co-workers in the act of writing a book of the Bible. Since God inspired the works of the Bible, and God is perfect Truth, it follows that the Bible is true.

Catholics believe that the bible is inspired based on the authority of the Church whose faith it records. Why should you take the Church’s word for it? Well, if we approach the Bible not yet as an inspired work, but as a historical and reliable account of what Jesus and the apostles said and did, then we see from this that Jesus founded the Catholic Church and endowed it with a very special authority to teach in His name.

For example, Jesus promised the Apostles, who represent the Church, that the Spirit would be with them forever (Jn 14:16), teaching them everything (Jn 14:26) and guiding them into all the truth (Jn 16:13). It is through this Church that the wisdom of God in all of its richness is made known (Eph 3:10). This Church, which Jesus founded on Peter (Mt 16:16-18), is the pillar and bulwark of the truth (1 Tim 3:15). It is by listening to the apostles, who represent the Church, that we know the spirit of truth from the spirit of error (1 Jn 4:6).

We know this church was the Catholic Church, and no other, because only the Catholic Church shares unity of faith with the very earliest Christians, the very fruit of the great missionary work of the apostles themselves. Documents from the first, second, third, and fourth centuries after Jesus died give us a picture of a Church doing very Catholic things: celebrating the Mass, seeking the intercession of the saints, acknowledging the authority of the pope and the bishops, professing the sinlessness of Mary, etc.

The works of the New Testament are in fact written expressions of the faith of this Christian community. It just make sense that this community, this Church, would know better than anyone else which works are authentically from her and which are not, which ones are inspired and which are not. And this Church has declared that, not only is the Bible reliable and historical, it is also inspired. And so, what began as a matter of the historical record ends as an item of faith.

Conclusion

Of course, there are other reasons that we could marshal in support of the truth of Scripture, but its reliability, its historicity, and its inspiration are sufficient to prove that it is true. If Scripture is true, then the gospel message is true. If the message is true, then only one question remains: Will you accept the truth that Jesus Christ is God and He died on the Cross and rose from the dead to save you from your sins?

Pax Christi,
phatcatholic

Sunday, June 22, 2014

For the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ

In honor of today's Solemnity, I have decided to repost the portion from the "Sacraments" Topical Index Page on the Eucharist and the Sacrifice of the Mass.

Jesus, Living Bread which came down from heaven ... have mercy on us.

Holy Eucharist and the Sacrifice of the Mass

Pax Christi,
phatcatholic

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Happy Father's Day, Priests!

On this day when we thank God for our earthly fathers and grandfathers, let us not forget to also thank Him for our priests! They are our spiritual fathers, participating in the supreme Fatherhood of God. Let's also pray for our priests, that God will give them the grace and strength to be faithful to their calling to be great shepherds for His people.

As I'm sure you know, some Protestants have great disdain for our priests. They think we shouldn't have a ministerial priesthood, we shouldn't call priests "father," and these priests certainly shouldn't be celibate! In honor of our priests on Father's Day, I offer the following resources in response to those claims.

"And I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding" (Jer 3:15).

Praise be to God!

Pax Christi,
phatcatholic
- - - - - - - - - -
Celibacy
Ministerial Priesthood
Priest As Spiritual Father
I also have several blog posts on holy orders and the priesthood:

Father's Day Q&A

Since today is Father’s Day, I have provided the following collection of Q&A’s on fathers and fatherhood. Do you have a question about Catholicism? If so, send me an email and I will try my best to answer it.

Why do we call God our “father”?

We call God “father” first of all because He was revealed to us as such. When Jesus taught His disciples how to pray, He told them to begin by saying, “Our Father, who art in heaven …”. The Catechism gives us other reasons: “By calling God ‘Father’, the language of faith indicates two main things: that God is the first origin of everything and transcendent authority; and that he is at the same time goodness and loving care for all his children” (no. 239).

But, this does not mean that God is a man. The same paragraph in the Catechism goes on to clarify: “We ought therefore to recall that God transcends the human distinction between the sexes. He is neither man nor woman: he is God. He also transcends human fatherhood and motherhood, although he is their origin and standard: no one is father as God is Father.”

Are there any patron saints for fathers?

For the fathers themselves, there are only two: St. Joachim, the father of Mary; and St. Joseph, Mary’s most chaste spouse and Jesus’ foster-father. For those who have lost a father, there are 33 different patron saints. Some of the more popular among these are St. Angelica Merici, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, St. Maria Goretti, St. Teresa of Avila, and St. Therese of Lisieux.

How come we don’t know more about St. Joseph?

That is a very good question, and all we can really do to provide an answer is speculate. There is a tradition which says that Joseph was an elderly widower when he took Mary to be his wife. If this is true, then he likely died when Jesus was very young and so not much would be known about him by the followers of Jesus.

The last we see of St. Joseph in Scripture is at the temple, where he and Mary finally find Jesus, who had become separated from their traveling party. After this, there is a 12-year silence about the life of Christ. Joseph resides within this silence. Perhaps this is fitting. After all, the little information we have about Jesus’ earthly father causes his Heavenly
Father to come into greater view. Scripture tells us a great many things about that Father!

Pax Christi,
phatcatholic

St. Joseph for Father's Day

Since today is Father’s Day, it seemed fitting to provide for you a quick biographical sketch of St. Joseph, one of the greatest fathers who ever lived.

The most reliable sources of information on the life of Joseph come from the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. There we read that Joseph was a descendant of David (cf. Lk 2:4), from the tribe of Judah. He was probably born in Bethlehem, since he had to go there for the census (cf. Lk 2:1-5). At some point he moved to Nazareth in Galilee, where he was betrothed to Mary. He was a “carpenter” by trade (cf. Mt 13:55); the Greek word describes a craftsman skilled in all kinds of woodwork and masonry. Jesus was later referred to as a carpenter as well (cf. Mk 6:3), which means that Joseph must have passed on his trade to his son.

While Joseph and Mary were betrothed, Mary was found to be with child (cf. Mt 1:18). At first Joseph decided to quietly break off the engagement, so as not to subject Mary to ridicule. But, then he had a dream of an angel who told him that the child was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and not to fear to take Mary as his wife (cf. Mt 1:20-21). He did as the angel of the Lord commanded him (cf. Mt 1:24).

Later, because of the census, Joseph took Mary with him to Bethlehem and it was there where Jesus was born. After the visit of the Magi, Joseph was warned in a dream that Herod sought to kill the child. He fled with his family to Egypt and remained there until Herod’s death (cf. Mt 2:13-15). After this, Joseph settled his family back in Nazareth (cf. Mt 2:23).

Many years later, when Jesus was twelve, Joseph and Mary “looked for Him anxiously” when they lost Jesus on the trip home from Jerusalem, where they were celebrating the Passover. Eventually they found him in the Jerusalem Temple (cf. Lk 2:41-50). When they returned to Nazareth, Jesus was obedient to both his parents, and “increased in wisdom and in stature” under their care (cf. Lk 2:51-52).

What can we learn about Joseph’s character based on all of this? Well, Matthew describes him as a “just man” (Mt 1:19). From his immediate obedience to his many dreams (four in all; cf. Mt 1:20-21; 2:13, 19-20, 22), we can see that Joseph was a man of great faith who possessed a heart open to the slightest promptings of the Lord. In the gospels, Joseph thinks and acts but never speaks. We can take from this that Joseph leads more by example than by words. Also, to guide and protect his family through their various travels must have taken great strength and courage. In anxious moments, Joseph never faltered. Finally, from our belief in Mary’s perpetual virginity, we can deduce that Joseph was a chaste man and a master over his sexual impulses.

On this Father’s Day, let us pray that more fathers will heed the example of St. Joseph. He is everything that every man and father could ever hope to be.

Pax Christi,
phatcatholic

Short Introduction to the Trinity

For Trinity Sunday, my answer to a difficult question:

Can you please explain the Trinity?

I always cringe a little when I get this one. First of all, there's so many different ways to go about it. My head always swims with the many possible ways I could approach the question. Secondly, how do I explain this simply? When someone asks you to explain the Trinity, they're typically not looking for an elaborate treatise on the subject. They just want the gist of it. But how do you give the gist of an inexhaustible mystery?

Since I became a DRE in 2008, the RCIA process has given several opportunities to hone my skill at explaining the unexplainable. I guess I'll have to devote the rest of my life to trying to get down to "the gist of it." For now, here is the approach that I take.

I think it's important to begin by looking at what a “mystery” is. In a theological context, a “mystery” is something revealed by God that is beyond full comprehension.

It is revealed by God: this means that it is God’s own self-discloser to us. God desired to share this aspect of Himself with us so that we might know Him better!

It is beyond full comprehension: this means that we will never completely understand the Trinity. We can definitely know certain things about it, but not everything.

At first this seems like a source of frustration, but think about it: In a world full of empty pleasures and fleeting joys, isn’t it reassuring to know that we have a God who our minds can never fully consume? We can plum the depths of our Trinitarian Lord forever and ever! He is like a bottomless wellspring, or a banquet table without end.

With that in mind, the doctrine of the Trinity is basically this: God is 3 Persons equally and fully possessive of a single divine nature. 3 Persons in 1 God. But, how can that be? 3 does not equal 1, and it’s not enough for the inquiring mind to simply “take it on faith.” There must be some way to understand this better. For me, it helps to know more about the categories involved. Notice, we are talking about “person” and “nature.” If the teaching was that God was 3 persons in 1 person, or 3 natures in 1 nature, that would be absurd. But that’s not what we’re saying. There are two different categories involved -- person and nature -- and so the interplay between them is going to be different.

Okay, but what does “person” and “nature” mean? Nature answers the question “What?”. What kind of a being am I? I am a human being. This means I have a human nature. This also means that I can only do things that are in accordance with a human nature. I can think and love and read a book ... but I can’t breathe underwater. That would be in accordance with a fish nature, and I am not a fish!

Person answers the question “Who?”. When you see an animal walking by, you don’t say, “Who is that?” because animals are not persons. “Who?” is a question that can only be answered by human beings and by God. Your personhood is also the source of what you do. That “you” inside of you, the “I” inside of me, that is my personhood. I am not the color of my skin, I am me. My human nature does not do things, I do them.

Now, we only experience nature and personhood at a 1:1 ratio. I am my own person, and I have my own unique manifestation of the human nature. This means that you can’t think with my mind, and I can’t love with your heart. But, within God, personhood and nature exist at a 3:1 ratio. If me, and you, and a third person all thought with the same mind or loved with the same heart ... that would sort of be like how the Trinity works.

When you think of it that way, then I think the Trinity begins to make a little more sense. At least, I hope it does! Note that this is only the briefest introduction. But, it is important groundwork that must be laid before one can begin a study of what God has revealed about Himself.

For more from me on the Trinity, see the following blog posts:
I also highly suggest F. J. Sheed's explanations of the Trinity. He was a master of granting the average layman access to the great mysteries of the faith, and I must admit that I have borrowed much of my approach to the Trinity from him. See the following works, which are available online:
Pax Christi,
phatcatholic

Sunday, June 08, 2014

The Significance of Pentecost

Most people only know Pentecost as a Christian holiday, one that commemorates the day when the Holy Spirit fell on the apostles and disciples of Christ as they gathered in the Upper Room after the Ascension. While the apostles and disciples remained in Jerusalem out of obedience to Christ (cf. Acts 1:4-5), Scripture tells us that Jews from many different nations were also present in Jerusalem (cf. Acts 2:5, 9-11). They were present for a different reason: The Jewish Feast of Pentecost.

Pentecost is originally a Jewish holiday. Along with Passover and Tabernacles, it is one of the three Great Feasts of the Jewish calendar. The word “Pentecost” comes from the Greek word which means “fiftieth.” The feast takes this name because it occurs fifty days after the second day of the Passover.

To the Jewish people, Pentecost has historical and agricultural significance. Historically, Pentecost commemorates the giving of the Torah to Moses on Mt. Sinai. Since God accommodated his Law to an agricultural people, it enjoins upon the Jews various grain offerings. So, agriculturally, Pentecost also commemorates the time when the first fruits of the wheat harvest were harvested and brought to the temple in the form of two cakes of leavened bread (cf. Lev 23:17).

As Christians, we may ask ourselves what significance there is to the fact that Jesus decided to pour out His Holy Spirit upon the Church on this Jewish Feast. I think there are many instances in which the Christian celebration of Pentecost proves to be a sort of fulfillment of the Jewish Feast.

The Jewish Feast celebrates the beginning of the wheat harvest by offering the first of the harvested wheat to the Lord. In the Christian Feast, we celebrate the beginning of the Christian Church, when Jesus harvested 3000 souls who were cut to the heart by Peter’s teaching and were baptized. Jesus Christ Himself is the first fruit (“of those who have fallen asleep,” cf. 1 Cor 15:20), and we too are a kind of first fruits by the grace He has given us (cf. Jas 1:18). Finally, the Spirit that the Church received on that day guides us into all truth and knowledge of God’s Will in a way that far surpasses what was given in the Torah.

So, in many ways, the Jewish feast of Pentecost was the perfect day to set in motion the Church that God had in mind from the very beginning.

For more information about the Jewish Feast of Pentecost, see the following resources:Dr. Bergsma's three posts on the readings for Pentecost are also excellent:Pax Christi,
phatcatholic

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Who Was Responsible for the Ascension of Jesus?

Or, to put it another way:

Did Jesus ascend into heaven by His own power or did the Father raise Jesus into heaven?

Before we can answer this question, we need to define some terms, because sometimes people get the Ascension confused with the Resurrection. The “Resurrection” is when the human soul of Jesus returned from Hades and brought His body in the tomb back to life again. The “Ascension” occurred 40 days later when Jesus rose, body and soul, into heavenly glory.

Now, there are some passages in Scripture that portray the Ascension as something that happened to Jesus. In other words, He is the passive recipient of what is taking place. For example:
  • Mk 16:19 “The Lord Jesus … was taken up into heaven”
  • Lk 24:51 “he … was carried up into heaven”
  • Acts 1:9 “he was lifted up, and a cloud took him”
  • Phil 2:9 “God has highly exalted him”
  • 1 Tim 3:16 “He was … taken up in glory”
  • 1 Pet 1:21 “God raised him from the dead and gave him glory”
  • Rev 12:5 “was caught up to God and to his throne”

However, there are other passages that portray Jesus as the actor, as the one doing the ascending Himself:
  • Eph 4:8 “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives”
  • Eph 4:10 “he … ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things”
  • Heb 9:12 “he entered once for all into the holy place”
  • Heb 9:24 “Christ has entered … into heaven itself”
  • 1 Pet 3:21-22 “Jesus Christ ... has gone into heaven”
  • Rev 3:21 “I myself conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne”

This means that we cannot give an “either / or” answer to the question of who is responsible for the Ascension. This was the work of our trinitarian God. All three Persons of the Trinity were involved.

Happy Solemnity of the Ascension!

Pax Christi,
phatcatholic

Thursday, May 01, 2014

St. Joseph the Worker

May 1st is the optional memorial of St. Joseph the Worker. It is interesting that the "most chaste spouse" of Mary is distinguished from the many other "St. Joseph's" by his reputation as a worker. He is the symbol of the "hard-working man," the man who does his job well and with diligence because he hopes to serve the Lord and to support his family with it. Pope Pius XII created this feast day for the very purpose of emphasizing this noble purpose of work and to place all who labor under the patronage of St. Joseph.

For more on St. Joseph and this feast day, see the Catholic Culture Liturgical Calendar for May 1st, or see my previous post, In the Hands of St. Joseph, which is an extensive compilation of articles on this wonderful husband, father, and saint.

Also, check out the following video. It's a homily by Fr. Liam Cary, Pastor of Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Medord, OR:

St. Joseph: Devoted Father, Man of Pure Faith


St. Joseph the Worker and Mary's Most Chaste Spouse ... ora pro nobis.

Pax Christi,
phatcatholic
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