Monday, August 31, 2009

What Is a Prophet?

In the Old Testament, a prophet was someone who brought the word of God to the people by the power of the Holy Spirit. “He has spoken through the prophets,” as we say in the Nicene Creed.

Sixteen books in the Old Testament (the “prophetic books”) are by or about these prophets. The four “major prophets” are Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel. The 12 “minor prophets” are Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi. Of course, Moses, the greatest Old Testament prophet, is traditionally regarded as the author of the first five books of the Bible. There are also many noteworthy prophets who did not contribute to the canon of the Bible, such as Samuel, Nathan, and Elisha. There were female prophets too: Miriam, Deborah, Huldah, Anna, and Philip’s four daughters.

Sometimes, in speaking for God, a prophet would foretell the future, and the legitimacy of his prophetic office was confirmed when his prophecies came true. Often his role was to convict the Israelites of their sin and to implore them to return to the Lord and remember the covenants He established with them. A prophet would also interpret current events in light of God’s plan for his people and warn them of His impending judgment (which usually came by way of the Israelites being conquered by their enemies). After the exile, when all the nations of Israel were scattered, the prophetic message was one of accepting the justice of God’s punishments and preparing for the coming Messiah.

A genuine Old Testament prophet was always directly called by God Himself, and he received the message he was to deliver by way of visions, dreams, and audible encounters. The prophets always spoke the “hard truths” that no one wanted to hear, and as a result they were often persecuted by their own people. The last and greatest of the prophets was John the Baptist, who was the immediate precursor of the Messiah and paved the way for Him with his message of repentance.

Jesus, of course, is the Priest, Prophet, and King par excellence, and in Baptism we are empowered to participate in that three-fold ministry of Christ. We are prophets today whenever we speak the truth with boldness, convict people of their sin, bring people to Christ, or share the teachings of His Church with others. Such actions often require sacrifice, just as they did in Old Testament times, but it is a calling that we all have been given and that we must undertake.

I hope that helps.

Pax Christi,

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Mozart's Sonata in C Major .... on Two Guitars!

This is easily one of the coolest things I've ever seen. My mouth literally dropped open when I saw it. Wanna know what mad skillz is? Exhibit A:

Monday, August 24, 2009

New Content Coming Soon!

Over the next couple of days I will be back-dating a bunch of posts and spreading them out over the last two months in order to provide content that I wrote but did not have the time to post on my blog. So, check back often -- and scroll down! -- to read those posts as they appear. Some of them are short, others are long, but I think they are all helpful and instructive.

Pax Christi,

Poll-Release Monday #67: The Final Poll

I have decided that this will be my last poll. As you have undoubtedly noticed, I no longer have the time to update the poll as often as I would like. So, I feel that it would be best to just conclude that feature of my blog, instead of leaving people wondering when the next poll will come.

Here is your final poll question:
  • True or False?: In the celebration of the Eucharist with the apostles and his commandment to them to celebrate it until His return, Jesus constitutes the apostles as priests of the New Testament.
What say you? I'll keep this poll in the sidebar for a month. If you want to vote after that, see the poll archives. The answer to the poll question is here.

The majority of the polls that I have featured here over the years are still open. So, you may be interested in voting in them as well. The poll archive is interesting because, in a way, it provides a sort of snapshot of my readership: what they like or don't like, how well they know their faith, what interests them, etc. The number of you who visit my blog and read it on a regular basis has waxed and waned over the years (depending, I think, on how much time I am able to devote to my blog), but I have always appreciated you nonetheless.

As for the previous poll, here are the results:
  • True or False? The Eucharist is also called Holy Mass because it concludes with the sending forth of the faithful to fulfill God's will in their lives.
    • True: 35 (61%)
    • False: 22 (39%)
The correct answer is:
  • TRUE, cf. CCC, no. 1332: [It is called] Holy Mass (Missa), because the liturgy in which the mystery of salvation is accomplished concludes with the sending forth (missio) of the faithful, so that they may fulfill God's will in their daily lives.
I would imagine that the reason many of you voted "False" was not so much the last part of the statement (the "sending forth"), but the first part, where the Eucharist is called "Holy Mass." Personally, I'm not used to calling the Eucharist "Holy Mass." As I understand it, the Mass is where we receive the Eucharist. There is more to the Holy Mass than the Eucharist, although the Eucharist is certainly central to the Mass. So, the identification of "Eucharist" with "Holy Mass" is odd to me. What do you think? Leave a comment and let me know.

Pax Christi,

Thursday, August 06, 2009

What Is Purgatory?

People tend to think of Purgatory in a variety of ways:
  • “Purgatory is a place where souls who don’t deserve heaven get a second chance to be with God”;
  • “Purgatory is the best that I can hope for in the afterlife, since heaven is only for really holy people”;
  • “Purgatory is a place where souls work their own way into heaven, since God’s grace is not enough.”
Purgatory is in fact none of those things. Instead, it is simply the final act of purification, or “purging,” that God performs for us after we die in order to make us worthy for entrance into heaven.

We can die in unity with God but still have imperfections on our soul. These include things like venial sins, concupiscence (the inclination or propensity to sin), attachments to sin (the state of finding certain sins attractive or appealing), and insufficient reparation (the state of not having adequately made up for the negative effects of one’s sin). Since heaven is a place where no unclean thing shall enter (cf. Rev 21:27), God desires to purge these things from the persons who die in union with Him.

The first description is a misconception because Purgatory is only for souls that are already in a state of grace or friendship with God. These souls have persevered to the end. The divine life in them remains. If a soul is not fit for heaven, then it is not fit for Purgatory. There are no “second-chances” in the afterlife.

The second description is a misconception, first of all, because Purgatory is not a final destination. Souls don’t go to Purgatory and stay there forever. Eventually, they move on to heaven. Secondly, Jesus Christ did not die on the Cross for a select few. No, He died for all mankind (even you!). Our hope should be in heaven, and in the power of God’s grace to actually get us there.

The third description is a misconception because it attributes a soul’s release from Purgatory to his own suffering, instead of to the work and suffering of Christ. Yes, there is suffering in Purgatory. After all, it is a state of being refined in the furnace that is the burning fire of God’s love (cf. 1 Cor 3:12-15; Heb 12:29, Songs 8:6). We certainly can’t expect that to be pleasant! But, our suffering only has meaning and is only meritorious (or, worthy of receiving grace) because of the grace of God. Purgatory is a final application of the grace that He won for us on the Cross. So, it is ridiculous to say that Purgatory is somehow a belittling or a contradiction of that work.

I hope that helps you to understand Purgatory better. For more on Purgatory, see the Eschatology and the Last Things Topical Index Page.

Pax Christi,

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

What Is the Difference Between Mortal and Venial Sin?

The “Glossary” in the back of the Catechism of the Catholic Church defines mortal sin as:
  • A grave infraction of the law of God that destroys the divine life (or “sanctifying grace”) in the soul of the sinner, constituting a turn away from God. For a sin to be mortal, three conditions must be present: grave matter, full knowledge of the evil of the act, and full consent of the will.

On the other hand, venial sin is:
  • Sin which does not destroy the divine life in the soul, as does mortal sin, though it diminishes and wounds it. Venial sin is the failure to observe necessary moderation, in lesser matters of the moral law, or in grave matters acting without full knowledge or complete consent.

See the difference? Mortal sins are always very serious in nature. Typically, any sin that directly breaks one of the Ten Commandments is a serious sin. If you commit such a sin with full knowledge that what you are doing is sinful and if you freely choose it (as in, nothing is forcing you to do it), then you commit a mortal sin. If the act is sinful but it doesn’t fulfill all three of the above requirements, then it is a venial sin.

Most of the sins that we commit every day are venial sins. These can be forgiven through an Act of Contrition (or some other prayer that shows God we are sorry for our sin and we desire His forgiveness) or by going to Confession. Venial sins are also forgiven whenever we receive the Eucharist. If we die with venial sins on our soul, we can still go to heaven because venial sins do not destroy the divine life within us, they simply wound it. However, that does not mean that we should have a cavalier attitude towards it. We should strive to avoid all sin, including the lesser ones. Venial sins too can be dangerous because the more we sin venially, the more likely we are to commit more serious sins. We know that sin leads to death; it is better to not even go down that road.

When a person does commit a mortal sin, then the divine life in him is destroyed. He no longer has God’s saving grace. If he were to die in this state, then he could not go to heaven. His only recourse is the Sacrament of Confession. If you have a mortal sin on your soul, then you cannot receive the Eucharist until you go to Confession.

Some people deny that there is even a difference between mortal and venial sin. They say that all sins are equal in the eyes of God. Scripture clearly refutes this (cf. 1 Jn 5:16-17) as does common sense. After all, I think we all intuitively know that killing someone is not quite the same as picking on your brother.

I hope that helps. For more on mortal and venial sin, see "Is All Sin Equal in God's Eyes?".

Pax Christi,

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Did St. Paul Really Mean to Say that Bishops Must Be Married?

In one of Paul’s letters, he wrote, “Now a bishop must be above reproach, the husband of one wife” (1 Tim 3:2). Some non-Catholic Christians try to use this as proof that bishops should be married. However, that is not in fact what Paul is trying to say. Here is the passage again, this time in context:

1 Tim 3:1-5 The saying is sure: If any one aspires to the office of bishop, he desires a noble task. 2 Now a bishop must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, sensible, dignified, hospitable, an apt teacher, 3 no drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, and no lover of money. 4 He must manage his own household well, keeping his children submissive and respectful in every way; 5 for if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how can he care for God's church?

Now, this passage is not saying that a bishop must be married. Instead, it is saying that if he is married, he must be married only once. In other words, he can't have multiple wives, or divorce his current wife and marry someone else.

It really would not make sense for Paul to say that all the bishops must be married. For one, Paul himself is a bishop and he was never married! He would be disqualifying himself if he said such a thing. Secondly, if "the husband of one wife" (vs. 2) means that he must be married, then by the same logic, "keeping his children submissive and respectful" (vs. 4) would mean that he must have children. Are non-Catholic Christians really willing to go so far as to exclude from the ministry men who don't have children yet or who had children that are now dead? What about men who only have one child (after all, Paul says "children")? Many people would no longer be able to pastor their churches if these Christians were consistent in their logic.

The main point of the passage is found in the last verse: “if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how can he care for God's church?” All Paul is trying to say is that a bishop must be someone who has all of his affairs in order, who is a good steward of everything in his care. In the first generation of the Church, the priests came from men who already had families. But, over the years, the Church came to discern that men who were called by God to be celibate were better equipped to handle the demands of being a priest and shepherd of God’s flock.

I hope that helps.

Pax Christi,
Related Posts with Thumbnails