Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Faith in Medication

Am I showing a lack of faith if I take medication?

I don’t think that there is anything inherently “anti-faith” about taking medication. Wine, oil, balm, figs, leaves, salt, bandages, salve, and similar things are all utilized in Scripture to cure various ailments, and such use is laudable and encouraged:

  • 2 Kings 20:7 And Isaiah said, "Bring a cake of figs. And let them take and lay it on the boil, that he may recover."
  • Isa 1:6 From the sole of the foot even to the head, there is no soundness in it, but bruises and sores and bleeding wounds; they are not pressed out, or bound up, or softened with oil.
  • Jer 8:22 Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then has the health of the daughter of my people not been restored?
  • Jer 51:8 Suddenly Babylon has fallen and been broken; wail for her! Take balm for her pain; perhaps she may be healed.
  • Ezek 16:4 And as for your birth, on the day you were born your navel string was not cut, nor were you washed with water to cleanse you, nor rubbed with salt, nor swathed with bands.
  • Ezek 47:12 And on the banks, on both sides of the river, there will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither nor their fruit fail, but they will bear fresh fruit every month, because the water for them flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for healing."
  • Lk 10:33-34 But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was; and when he saw him, he had compassion, 34 and went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; then he set him on his own beast and brought him to an inn, and took care of him.
  • 1 Tim 5:23 No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments.
  • Rev 3:18 Therefore I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, that you may be rich, and white garments to clothe you and to keep the shame of your nakedness from being seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, that you may see.

The fact is, God can use the things of this world and the advances that man has made in science and medicine to heal us. It does not imply a lack of faith to take medicine anymore than it does to go to a doctor or a dentist. We also have the responsibility, as good stewards, to take care of our bodies and provide for their vitality. Taking medicine and going to the doctor is one way that we do that.

The important thing is to keep the Lord involved as well. We don't want to be like King Asa and only consult physicians (cf. 2 Chron 16:12). We want to also seek the Lord. So, pray to Him daily for healing. Acknowledge the "Great Physician" working through the human physician. The amazing accomplishments that mankind has been able to achieve in science and medicine often lull us into thinking that we can do just fine without God. We must never forget that He is at work in all that is good, and we depend on Him for everything.

Pax Christi,

ps: "japhy" alerted me to Sirach 38, and it perfectly addresses this topic:
1 Honor the physician with the honor due him, according to your need of him, for the Lord created him; 2 for healing comes from the Most High, and he will receive a gift from the king. 3 The skill of the physician lifts up his head, and in the presence of great men he is admired. 4 The Lord created medicines from the earth, and a sensible man will not despise them. 5 Was not water made sweet with a tree in order that his power might be known? 6 And he gave skill to men that he might be glorified in his marvelous works. 7 By them he heals and takes away pain; 8 the pharmacist makes of them a compound. His works will never be finished; and from him health is upon the face of the earth. 9 My son, when you are sick do not be negligent, but pray to the Lord, and he will heal you. 10 Give up your faults and direct your hands aright, and cleanse your heart from all sin. 11 Offer a sweet-smelling sacrifice, and a memorial portion of fine flour, and pour oil on your offering, as much as you can afford. 12 And give the physician his place, for the Lord created him; let him not leave you, for there is need of him. 13 There is a time when success lies in the hands of physicians, 14 for they too will pray to the Lord that he should grant them success in diagnosis and in healing, for the sake of preserving life. 15 He who sins before his Maker, may he fall into the care of a physician.
Thanks japhy!

Friday, March 27, 2009

The Brothers of Jesus Don't Scare Me

Why does the Bible say that Jesus had brothers if Mary was a virgin her whole life?

There are several verses in Scripture that refer to the “brothers” of Jesus (cf. Mt 12:46; 13:55-56; Mk 3:31; Lk 8:19; Jn 7:1-10; Acts 1:14; Gal 1:19). However, it is not necessary to believe that these “brothers” were actually His siblings.

Remember, the New Testament was written in Greek. The Greek word for “brother” in these verses is adelphos. This word can mean “sibling,” but it is also used in Scripture to refer to those of the same nationality; any man, or neighbor; persons with like interests; distant descendants of the same parents; persons united by a common calling; mankind; the disciples; and all believers.

Considering the broad meaning of the word, we can just as easily say that the “brothers” of Jesus were not Jesus’ siblings but instead were related to Him in some other way. Scripture tells us that at least four of them – James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas – were actually Jesus’ cousins, since their mother was Mary’s sister (cf. Mt 27:56,61; 28:1; Mk 15:47; Jn 19:25). That fact alone is reason to give us pause, instead of jumping to the conclusion that every brother of Jesus mention in the NT is an actual sibling of Jesus.

The customs of the day are helpful here as well. For one, Jesus was the first born of the family, so these brothers would be younger than Him. In Jn 7:1-10 we see them giving Jesus orders and practically reprimanding Him. Yet, in Jesus' day, no younger brother would dare speak to the eldest the way these brothers speak to Jesus.

Also, it was Jewish custom for the eldest son to take care of his mother once his father died. Once the eldest son died, this responsibility fell on the next son, and so on. Yet, Jesus gave his mother to the Apostle John, not to any of His brothers (cf. Jn 19:26-27).

Furthermore, there are a couple of places where one would expect to see these siblings of Jesus, but they are conspicuously absent. For example, if Jesus had siblings, where were they when Mary and Joseph lost Jesus on the way back from celebrating the Passover in Jerusalem? These siblings certainly would have been traveling with them. Yet, there is no mention of them at all in the account of what happened. Note also that, when Mary and Joseph realized that Jesus was gone, they didn’t go to his supposed siblings, which would have been the logical thing to do. Instead, they looked among their “kinfolk and acquaintances” (Lk 2:44).

Where were the siblings of Jesus at the wedding feast at Cana? Mary was invited, Jesus was invited, even Jesus' followers were invited, but we don't read of any invitation for His siblings, for "Jesus and His brothers" or anything like that (cf. Jn 2:1-2). Were they just snubbed? Highly unlikely. Marriages were a whole community affair. Everyone in town would celebrate. The most plausible explanation for why the siblings of Jesus weren't invited is because they did not exist.

Why, if Jesus had other siblings, is He referred to in Scripture as "the" son of Joseph and Mary, instead of "a" son (cf. Mk 6:3; Jn 1:45; 6:42). Maybe there's nothing there, but it seems to me that if Mary had multiple sons, "a son" would have been the more appropriate phrase.

So, we can see from the underlying Greek, from the customs of the day, and from other peculiarities in Scripture, that it's quite reasonable to conclude that Mary did not have other children.

We even have reason to believe that she never intended to. How else do we explain the confusion that Mary expressed when the angel told her she would conceive and bear a son? From Lk 1:34, "How shall this be, seeing I know not a man" (KJV), "since I have no relations with a man" (NABRE). If she intended to have children, there would be no confusion. She would have just assumed that once she entered into Joseph's house, they would have marital relations and she would conceive a son. But, she's confused. She doesn't understand how this can happen.

Does she not know how babies are made? I think she's confused because she intended to be a virgin dedicated to the Lord. The angel relieves her anxiety and concern by basically saying, "Don't worry, you will remain a virgin, the child will be conceived not in the usual way, but by the power of the Holy Spirit" (cf. Lk 1:35)

All of this explains why Catholics have nothing to fear when they read of the “brothers of Jesus” in Scripture.

Peace of Christ to you,

Monday, March 23, 2009

Bowing During the Creed

In Mass recently, I noticed that some people bow during the Creed. Why do they do that?

Well, the first reason is because that is what we are supposed to do.

There is a Church document called the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (or “GIRM”) that outlines the basic structure of the Mass. In para. 137 we read:
  • “The Creed is sung or recited by the priest together with the people with everyone standing. At the words et incarnatus est (by the power of the Holy Spirit . . . became man) all make a profound bow; but on the Solemnities of the Annunciation and of the Nativity of the Lord, all genuflect.”

So, just to refresh your memory, here is the Nicene Creed as it is said in Mass, up to the part where we are supposed to make a profound bow:
  • We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, and of all that is, seen and unseen.
    We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, one in Being with the Father.
    Through him all things were made.
    For us men and for our salvation, he came down from heaven:
    by the power of the Holy Spirit he was born of the Virgin Mary, and became man.

You begin the bow at the words “by the power ...” and rise once you have said “became man.” Note that a “profound bow” is a bow at the waist, in the manner of the Japanese when they greet people. This is more demonstrative then the simple head nod.

The reason the GIRM calls us to bow at that point in the Creed is because it is at that point when we express our belief in the most fundamental mystery of Christianity: That in Jesus Christ, God actually became man, born of a woman by the power of the Holy Spirit. This is the Incarnation, the most sacred moment in all of human history. Therefore, we bow in honor of that event.

In the Mass, our gestures and postures should always reflect what we believe at each moment in the Mass. Since the Incarnation is so central to what we believe as Christians, the profound bow becomes an important way of outwardly expressing that belief.

Pax Christi,

Monday, March 16, 2009

"Strong Drink" in the Bible

I recently answered the following question in my parish bulletin:

Does the Bible say anything about drinking alcohol?

Yes, it does, whenever it mentions the consumption of wine or "strong drink."

The responsible consumption of wine is encouraged in the Bible. Jesus and the Apostles all took wine to drink at the Last Supper (cf. Mt 26:27,29). Jesus would not have made Himself sacramentally present in wine if wine was prohibited. The Son of man came “eating and drinking” (Lk 7:33-34) and one of His final acts on the Cross was to drink the “vinegar” or sour wine that the soldiers offered to Him (cf. Jn 19:28-30). Jesus' first miracle was turning water to wine (cf. Jn 2:1-11), and this after the wedding party had already drunk freely. Paul told Timothy to "use a little wine for the sake of your stomach" (1 Tim 5:23).

As for the OT evidence, the prophet Nehemiah commands the people to drink wine (cf. Neh 8:10). The sacrifices that God required often included wine as a drink offering (cf. Exo 29:40; Lev 23:13; Num 15:5,10; 28:7,14). The Psalmist says that God gives man plants so that he may make from them "wine to gladden the heart of man" (Psa 104: 14-15). In Proverbs we receive this counsel: “Give strong drink to him who is perishing, and wine to those in bitter distress” (Prov 31:9). Wine is even used as a symbol of new life and of the fulfillment of God’s promises to mankind (cf. Isa 25:6; Amos 9:14; Zech 10:7).

What we should avoid is drinking to the point of drunkenness, or to the point where we no longer have the same control over our actions that we do when we are sober. Isaiah says, “Woe to those who rise early in the morning, that they may run after strong drink, who tarry late into the evening till wine inflames them!” (Isa 5:11). Paul says to the Ephesians, “Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but be filled with the Spirit” (Eph 5:18). Likewise, he counsels Titus, “Bid the older women likewise to be reverent in behavior, not to be slanderers or slaves to drink; they are to teach what is good” (Tis 2:3). To the Romans he says, “Let us conduct ourselves becomingly as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness” (Rom 13:13), and to the Galatians he counts drunkenness as one of the sins that keeps a person from inheriting the kingdom of God (cf. Gal 5:21).

As the Catechism tells us, “The virtue of temperance disposes us to avoid every kind of excess: the abuse of food, alcohol, tobacco, or medicine” (no. 2290). I hope that helps.

Pax Christi,

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Never Let Go

Check out this video by the youth group at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church in Owensboro, KY. Danny May, the Director of Youth Ministry, just made me cry with this thing .... which means I hate him now.

I have another verse that I would like to add:

"I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us." (Rom 8:18)

Danny and my brother Drew, who is the DRE at Lourdes, do a weekly podcast called Tuesday Mornings that you might be interested in as well.

Pax Christi,

Monday, March 09, 2009

Poll-Release Monday #65

Here is your new poll question:
  • True or False?: In the Eucharist we raise ourselves above concern with the material order of creation in order to maintain a spiritual union with the Father.
What do you think? Vote in the poll in my sidebar.

As for the previous poll, here are the results:
  • T or F?: Because Baptism & Confirmation are not celebrated at the same time, the connection of the two sacraments is expressed by the renewal of baptismal vows.
    • True: 21 (68%)
    • False: 10 (32%)
The correct answer is:
  • TRUE, cf. CCC no. 1321: When Confirmation is celebrated separately from Baptism, its connection with Baptism is expressed, among other ways, by the renewal of baptismal promises. The celebration of Confirmation during the Eucharist helps underline the unity of the sacraments of Christian initiation.
In other words, the purpose of the renewal of baptism vows during the Rite of Confirmation is to emphasize the connection or continuity between Confirmation and Baptism. This is a necessary point of emphasis, considering that, in most cases, Confirmation takes place several years after one is baptized.

For more information on why this separation has taken place in the Latin Rite, and for arguments in defense of celebrating Confirmation at an earlier age, see Sacrament of Confirmation: What Is It All About?, by Tom Sullivan.

Pax Christi,
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