Who is Jesus?
Part II - Jesus in the Old Testament
September 19, 2023
As children we learn that the Old Testament is about the time before Jesus, and the New Testament is all about Jesus. However, as we shall see, the Old Testament is all about Jesus too.
After His resurrection, when Jesus met up with two disciples on their way to Emmaus, He admonished their doubts about what the Old Testament prophets wrote about the Messiah.
“‘O foolish men, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?’ And beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.” -Luke 24:25-27
What could Jesus’ amazing explanation of Himself in the Old Testament been about? Here are some ideas.
The First Gospel
The Fathers of the Church called Genesis 3:15 the first Gospel – the Good News of a Savior. After Adam and Eve sinned, God explains to Satan how He will save them, and all of us, from sin.
“I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”
Enmity here means that God is going to separate Satan and his seed (sin) from Eve and her seed (the human race). God is going to save mankind from Satan and sin. But God is also foretelling how He will do this.
The woman not only refers Eve, but points to a future woman, who will also be separated from Satan and sin. She will be immaculate. Her Seed will also be without sin – a Son. The Son will suffer, “you shall bruise his heel.” However, He will be victorious over Satan and sin, “he shall bruise your head.” The woman is Mary and the Son is Jesus, Who will be victorious over Satan (and suffer) on the cross.
From this point on, the Old Testament is rich with prophesy and foreshadowings about the coming of the Savior – the Anointed One (“Messiah” in Hebrew and “Christ” in Greek).
In Genesis 12 and following we begin to read about a man named Abram, who’s name God changed to Abraham. He is promised that his descendants will be a great nation and will have a land of their own and will be a blessing to all of the world.
“Now the LORD said to Abram, ‘Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing… and by you all the families of the earth shall bless themselves.’”
The “great nation” that came from Abrham is Israel. They were given the land along the east coast of the Mediterranean Sea. From them came the Savior, Jesus Christ, a blessing to “all the families of the earth.”
However, that is not the only thing foreshadowed in God’s promise to Abraham. The descendants of Abraham are also a kingdom: the Church. The Church is a blessing for everyone. And the land which God “will show” us is the Kingdom of Heaven.
Sacrifice of the Only Son
When Abraham’s son Isaac was still a young man, God told Abraham to sacrifice his son to God. This was Abraham’s only son, upon whom all of God’s promises to Abraham rested. But Abraham obeyed - out of faith in God and His commands.
"Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering upon one of the mountains of which I shall tell you." And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering, and laid it on Isaac his son; and he took in his hand the fire and the knife. So they went both of them together. And Isaac said to his father Abraham, "My father!" And he said, "Here am I, my son." He said, "Behold, the fire and the wood; but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?" Abraham said, "God will provide himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son." So they went both of them together. When they came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham built an altar there, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar, upon the wood. Then Abraham put forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son. But the angel of the LORD called to him from heaven, and said, "Abraham, Abraham!" And he said, "Here am I." He said, "Do not lay your hand on the lad or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me." -Genesis 22:2, 6-12
This story is not only about Abraham’s great faith, but is a foreshadowing of the sacrifice of Jesus.
Jesus is also His Father’s “only son… whom [He] love(s).” Like Isaac, Jesus carries the wood, that He would be sacrificed on, up a hill. Mount Moriah, which Abraham and Isaac climb, is located in (what would later be) Jerusalem. It was the same mountain where King Solomon built the first Temple. Most scholars believe Moriah and Golgotha (where Jesus was crucified) are the same mountain.
Abraham tells Isaac that “God will provide himself the lamb” for the sacrifice. Indeed, God the Father gave His Son, the Lamb of God, as a sacrifice for us.
“My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”
The cry of Jesus from the cross often causes Christians to believe that Jesus thought His Father abandoned Him on the Cross, or that the Father actually did abandon Him.
But God is a loving Father Who never abandons us or His Son. Jesus was actually praying Psalm 22. The Jews present at the cross, and the Jews reading the Gospel accounts of the crucifixion of Jesus, would have recognized this as easily as we recognize the first few words of a popular song.
As many Psalms do, Psalm 22 begins with lamenting, but concludes with faith and trust in God. Psalm 22 was also well known among the Jews to be about the Messiah. As we read it, we can see how it is not just about the Messiah, but about His death. Here are some key verses:
All who see me mock at me, they make mouths at me, they wag their heads; "He committed his cause to the LORD; let him deliver him, let him rescue him, for he delights in him!" Yea, dogs are round about me; a company of evildoers encircle me; they have pierced my hands and feet-- I can count all my bones-- they stare and gloat over me; they divide my garments among them, and for my raiment they cast lots. I will tell of thy name to my brethren; in the midst of the congregation I will praise thee: For he has not despised or abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; and he has not hid his face from him, but has heard, when he cried to him. From thee comes my praise in the great congregation; my vows I will pay before those who fear him. The afflicted shall eat and be satisfied; those who seek him shall praise the LORD! May your hearts live for ever! All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the LORD; and all the families of the nations shall worship before him. Posterity shall serve him; men shall tell of the Lord to the coming generation, and proclaim his deliverance to a people yet unborn, that he has wrought it.
-Psalm 22:7-8, 16-18, 22, 24-27, 30-31
The Psalm foretells how Jesus was mocked for claiming He was of God. The piercing of the crucifixion and what was done with His clothes is foretold. Instead of being abandoned by God the Father, we see that the exact opposite is true. In the underlined portion above, Jesus is the “afflicted,” Who is “not despised or abhorred.” God “has not hid his face from him, but has heard, when he cried to him.”
The last quoted verses above tell of how the Messiah will “be satisfied” and cause “all the ends of the earth to remember” the Christ and “turn to the LORD.” Through the affliction of the Messiah the Lord has “wrought” “deliverance to a people yet unborn.” Deliverance from their sins.
There is so much more about Jesus in the Old Testament, but we shall move on in Part III and instead explore the Mystery of the Incarnation. How did the Son of God take on a human nature?
Who is Jesus?
Part I: God the Son – The Word of God
August 29, 2023
In the beginning…
To begin to understand who Jesus Christ is we have to go back to the beginning, just like St. John did in his gospel.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
He was in the beginning with God; all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made.” -John 1:1-3
When St. John wrote about the “Word” he was referring to the Son of God. He tells us that the Word was in the beginning, and the Word was both “with” God and “was” God. The Son of God is both with God (the Father and the Holy Spirit) and is God.
St. John goes on to say that it was “through” the Word that “all things were made” and “without him” nothing was made.
St. John’s description of God the Son, “In the beginning” is done purposely to draw us to the first line of Genesis. It is these first few verses that John is describing for us:
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters.”
The Gospel of John is a description of the Trinity - as found here in the first chapter of Genesis. In these opening verses of Genesis, we see God the Father referred to simply as “God”. The Holy Spirit is “the Spirit of God”. But where is the Son – the Word? We find Him when we read on:
And God said, "Let there be light…”
And God said, "Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters…”
And God said, "Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place…”
And God said, "Let the earth put forth vegetation…”
And God said, "Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens …”
And God said, "Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures…”
And God said, "Let the earth bring forth living creatures…”
Then God said, "Let us make man in our image…”
-Genesis 1:3, 6, 9, 11, 14, 20, 24, 26
God spoke and His Word is revealed. This is God’s Son. We now see (and hear) God the Son, represented as the voice or Word of God, Who is both with God and is God, and through Whom everything was made. God spoke and creation was made.
This is why St. John calls God the Son the “Word of God”. When the Father speaks, He reveals His Son. There is much more to say about this beautiful image.
Before the beginning…
Before creation there was only God. God the Father, in all His eternal glory, is Truth, Beauty and Goodness. All of God’s attributes are perfect. God is not just truthful, but Truth itself. He is not just beautiful or good, but Beauty and Goodness itself.
God the Father is infinite. There is no limit to Him. He is omnipotent (all powerful), omniscient (all knowing), omnipresent (always everywhere). God is perfection. This means His words and ideas are also perfect.
Our ideas are finite and imperfect. They have limits and lack reality. I may have an idea of a cookie, but that doesn’t mean I have a real cookie. My ideas lack existence.
My words too are limited and lack a certain reality. I can say “cookie” but that does not produce a cookie into existence.
When God had ideas (and spoke these ideas in Genesis 1), they were created – they were given existence.
But what about God’s idea of Himself? What if God expresses Himself in a Word? When we ask God to reveal Himself to us, He does this perfectly in one Word.
This Word is the Son of God.
In a free and eternal act of complete and total self-giving love, God the Father pours all of Himself out to His Son. “Begotten, not made”, the Son is “God from God, Light from Light, Ture God from true God” as we proclaim in the Creed.
This perfect love is returned by the Son to the Father in another free and eternal act of complete and total self-giving love. There never was a time when this exchange of love was not taking place. It isn’t even contained in time (remember, we are talking about “before the beginning”). From all eternity, God the Son has been fully and completely accepting all the Father’s love and returning all this love back to the Father. This is the life of God – Love. So much so that this love between the Father and the Son is the Third Person of the Divine Family – the Holy Spirit.
God is three persons (not people like humans, but divine identities, or “who”). All three divine persons completely possess the one divine nature or spirit. This is why the Creed states that God is “consubstantial”, which means that the Three Divine Persons are of the same substance (the prefix “con” means with or together). In God’s case the substance is spirit.
It is the Son of God Who took on a human nature and became a man. This was foreshadowed throughout the entire Old Testament. We will explore some of these Old Testament foreshadowings in Part II.
Part VI: Take, Bless, Break, Give
August 9, 2023
Jesus instituted the Eucharist during the Last Supper. The Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke recorded the event.
- Jesus took bread, and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, "Take, eat; this is my body.”
- And as they were eating, he took bread, and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to them, and said, "Take; this is my body."
- And he took bread, and when he had given thanks he broke it and gave it to them, saying, "This is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me." -Luke 19:22
In each account, when Jesus gives the Apostles the most precious gift He would ever give, we are told that Jesus took the bread, blessed the bread, broke the bread and gave the bread. Throughout the gospels Jesus alludes to the Eucharist by doing the same four actions with bread on different occasions.
When He multiplied loaves and fish:
- He took the seven loaves and the fish, and having given thanks he broke them and gave them to the disciples. -Matthew 15:36
- And taking the five loaves and the two fish he looked up to heaven, and blessed, and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples to set before the people. -Mark 6:41
- And he commanded the crowd to sit down on the ground; and he took the seven loaves, and having given thanks he broke them and gave them to his disciples to set before the people. -Mark 8:6
- And taking the five loaves and the two fish he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke them, and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd. -Luke 9:16
On the road to Emmaus, after His resurrection, with the two disciples:
- When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to them. -Luke 24:30
These four actions: taking, blessing (or giving thanks), breaking and giving, are almost always mentioned as something Jesus did with bread when He wanted to allude to - or institute - the Eucharist.
The word “company” comes from the Latin words “com”, meaning “together” or “with”, and “panis”, meaning “bread”. When you have friends and family over for a meal, they are those whom you have “bread with” – your “company”.
You are also likely to pray a blessing, or give thanks before you eat the meal. Eucharist comes from a Greek word “eucharistia” meaning “thanksgiving”.
Eating a meal like this with someone had significance in the first century and still does today in some cultures. Eating of the same loaf with another is seen as an intimate act of friendship, because you would consume the same loaf of bread, which had to be broken so it would be in small enough pieces to be consumed by many. This is one reason why the religious leaders complained when Jesus ate with sinners. This is where we get phrase “breaking bread” with friends and family when you eat a meal together.
It is often customary to bring something to the meal to share or “give” to the others at the meal. When we say we are “sharing” a meal in its fullest sense, it means everyone contributed to the meal and everyone receives something from the meal.
Jesus’ Passion was foreshadowed by the Passover instituted over 1400 years earlier. In the Passover the Israelites were commanded to take and sacrifice an unblemished lamb, eat it, and put the lambs blood on the doors of their houses to save them from the angel of death (Exodus 12). Beginning the night of Holy Thursday, which was also Passover, Jesus instituted a sacrificial meal that would replace the Passover celebration. Later that night Jesus was “taken” by the temple guards. Already being the “Blessed” of the Father, Jesus was then “broken” on the Cross. Jesus “gave” Himself for the forgiveness of our sins.
During Mass, just as during the multiplication of loves which foreshadowed the Mass, the priest “takes” bread when it is brought up during the offertory. During the Eucharistic Prayer the priest “gives thanks” (eucharistia) and “blesses” the bread, so it may become the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.
Then, similar to when we break bread with family, the priest literally “breaks” the bread in what is called the “Fraction Rite” during the “Lamb of God” at Mass. This is not only to make the host smaller so it can be eaten. The breaking of bread in Mass represents how Jesus’ body was broken, so it can offered to many for the forgiveness of sins. While breaking bread makes it smaller or easily edible, Jesus’ body being broken made His flesh nourishing for Eternal Life.
In the Acts of the Apostles the earliest Christians described Mass as “Breaking Bread”:
"And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And fear came upon every soul; and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common; and they sold their possessions and goods and distributed them to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they partook of food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people.” -Acts 2:42-47
And to “break bread” on Sunday was a tradition early on for Christians, “On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread…” (Acts 7:20)
The priest then “gives” the Eucharist to the people, as the first priests – the apostles, gave the multiplied bread to the thousands. And we all share in, and are united by, the one Body of Christ.
The Body of Christ – the Church
St. Paul writes that the Church is the Mystical Body of Christ. Jesus it the “head over all things for the church, which is his body” (Ephesians 1:22-23). “Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior” (Ephesians 5:23).
As members of His Church, through the Sacrament of Baptism, we have given ourselves to Jesus. Jesus has in effect “taken” us and “blessed” us. Just as the words of the priest transform simple bread into the Body of Christ, the water’s of baptism transform us into members of the Body of Christ – His Church. Over our lives, with the grace of the other sacraments, prayer, and the continued giving of ourselves to Jesus in love, He continues to “take” and “bless” us.
Then there is something else. Jesus has to “break” us from sin. He spoke of this symbolically when He taught:
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch of mine that bears no fruit, he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” -John 15:1-2
When you prune a plant you remove the parts of the plant that take nutrients away from the production of fruit. As is done often in Scripture, Jesus is using fruit as a symbol of love. Just like a grape vine takes all its sunshine, nutrients and water to produce fruit for others, we are to take all that Jesus gives us and produce love for others. God sometimes allows us to experience obstacles, struggles, disappointments, pain and humiliation to help us remove sinful vices from our lives – vices that take away from our ability to love well. He “breaks” us down, “prunes us”, so we “may bear more fruit.”
The giving of this fruit is the final act of Jesus. He “gives” us, as loving fruit, to others and to His Father. Just as St. Paul said, “it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Galatians 2:20). Just so, it is Jesus who loves through us – having given us sacramental grace to love supernaturally. Therefore, it can be said that He gives us to others. Like a vine to the branches and on to the fruit, Jesus’ love flows through us and out to others.
"I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. " -John 15:5
Part V: “I will not leave you desolate”
July 28, 2023
Let’s begin Part V with a close look at what may be the most amazing statement Jesus makes about the Eucharist:
“As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me.” -John 6:57
When we look at that verse closely, Jesus, most incredibly, seems to put no limits on the life of God that He wants to give us in the Eucharist.
In the life of the Blessed Trinity, God the Father pours Himself out in a complete self-giving act of love to His Son, holding nothing back. This means that all of God is given to the Son. This is why the Son of God is equal in every way to the Father. Both are all loving, all knowing, all powerful, Truth, Beauty and Goodness.
In verse 57 Jesus refers to His relationship with the Father when He says, “the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father.” Jesus is reminding His disciples that the Father has given ALL of Himself to the Son. Jesus follows this up by saying that just as the Father pours His life out to the Son, so that the Son may live, “so he who eats me will live because of me.”
In other words, God the Son pours Himself out in a complete self-giving act of love to those who eat the Eucharist. Now, we are not God, so we can’t receive all of God’s divine life exactly like the Son does from the Father. However, Jesus is pouring out all we can handle. Additionally, Jesus wants us to open ourselves to Him, more and more – to trust Him more. In doing so we give Jesus permission to transform us, making us capable of receiving more and more of His love.
Jesus wants to give all of Himself to us, which is everything He received from the Father. This is what the father says in the parable of the Prodigal Son from chapter 15 of St. Luke’s Gospel. Representing God the Father, the father in the parable says to his son, “Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours” (Luke 15:31). God the Father gave us all that is His – His Son.
A few last words on why we know Jesus was speaking literally.
- Jesus left His Church with the infallible ability to pass on the truths of God without error. The Catholic Church has always infallibly taught that the bread and wine at Mass are not just a symbols, but are really the body and blood of Jesus Christ. “In the most blessed sacrament of the Eucharist ‘the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ and, therefore, the whole Christ is truly, really, and substantially contained’” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1374).
- In John 6:5, when Jesus was speaking about regular bread, he said, "How are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?" When John quoted Jesus saying this he used the Greek word “esthio” for “eat.” However, when Jesus spoke of eating His flesh, Jesus uses the word “trogo”, which means to gnaw or chew, which one would use to describe eating meat. Jesus wanted to be sure everyone who heard Him understood He was being quite literal.
- The expression “to eat the flesh and drink the blood” of another human being already had a specific meaning to first century Jews. It meant to persecute, assault and destroy a person. We see this symbolic use of eating a man’s flesh in Psalm 27:2, “When evildoers come at me to devour my flesh.” By stating that the evildoers are going to “devour my flesh” the Psalm is saying that the evildoers are going to persecute, assault and destroy the person. Jesus said we needed to eat His flesh for eternal life. It would make no sense for Jesus to be saying we had to persecute or assault Him so we could have eternal life.
- When Jesus explained the need to “eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood…” (John 6:63) “Many of his disciples, when they heard it, said, ‘This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?’ But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples murmured at it, said to them, ‘Do you take offense at this?’… After this many of his disciples drew back and no longer went about with him” (John 6:61, 66). And Jesus let them go. He knew they understood Him to mean they literally had to eat His flesh and drink His blood. Jesus did not correct them, because that is what He meant. If they would not believe Him, they had to go.
During the Last Supper Jesus revealed to His apostles more about this truly astounding gift, which is the gift of Himself in Holy Communion under the appearance of bread and wine.
“And he took bread, and when he had given thanks he broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ And likewise the cup after supper, saying, ‘This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood’” (Luke 22:19-20).
The apostles – who are the first bishops and priests of the Church – are commanded to “Do this in remembrance of me.” This shows that they too are to say the words Jesus said and that is what the bread would become – the Body of Christ.
The Eucharist is described by the Catholic Church as the very source of our Christian life. This is because the Eucharist IS Jesus and Jesus is the source of our life. In St. John’s gospel account of the Last Supper we read some beautiful imagery Jesus used, alluding to the Eucharist.
"I will not leave you desolate; I will come to you.” -John 14:18
Jesus will come to us in the Eucharist.
“Yet a little while, and the world will see me no more, but you will see me;” -John 14:19
The world does not believe in the Eucharist, but Christians who believe will see Him in the Eucharist at Mass and adoration.
“because I live, you will live also.” -John 14:19
Jesus refers back to John 6:57, “I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me.”
“In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.” -John 14:20
Jesus refers to the relationship of the Trinity and back to John 6:56, “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.”
“He who has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me; and he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him." -John 14:21
Jesus tells us that to be His disciples we need to return His love by keeping His commandments. This alludes to the need to be free of mortal sin before reception of the Eucharist.
“Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, ‘Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?’ Jesus answered him, ‘If a man loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.’” -John 14:22-23
If we love Jesus we will keep His word and Jesus will make His home in our body and souls when we consume the Eucharist.
I encourage you to read John 6 in front of the Eucharist. Which verses or phrases really stand out to you? Read those over a few times and ask Jesus what He wants you to take away from His Word.
The Eucharist: Part IV
Not a something, but a Someone
july 18, 2023
Last time we looked at Jesus’ seven fold declaration exclaiming exactly what He means about Him being the bread from Heaven.
- “I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh." The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?"
- "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.”
- “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.”
- “For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed.”
- “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.”
- “As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me.”
- “This is the bread which came down from heaven, not such as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live for ever."
St. Hilary of Poitiers, who lived all the way back in the 4th century (315-368), is a Doctor of the Church. He commented on these verses from St. John when he wrote:
“For as to what we say concerning the reality of Christ’s nature [divine life] within us, unless we have been taught by Him, our words are foolish and impious. For He says Himself, My flesh is meat indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. He that eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. (Jn. 6:55-56) As to the reality of the flesh and blood there is no room left for doubt. For now, both from the declaration of the Lord Himself and our own faith [Church teaching], it is truly flesh and truly blood. And these when eaten and drunk, bring it to pass that both we are in Christ and Christ in us.”
St. Hilary leaves no doubt that Jesus is speaking literally. That what we receive in the Eucharist is the flesh and blood of Jesus Christ.
The Eucharist is called the “real presence”, which means that the Eucharist is no longer bread and wine (although it has the appearance of such) but is in its substance Jesus Christ, wholly and completely.
But St. Hilary was almost 300 years after Jesus. What about those who lived in the first century? What about those who knew the apostles?
Enter St. Ignatius of Antioch. He is known as an Apostolic Father of the Church because he was taught by an apostle, St. John – the very John who witnessed Jesus teach about the Bread of Life and wrote about it in his gospel. Before St. Ignatius was martyred in the year 110, he wrote about the real presence of the Eucharist:
“I have no taste for corruptible food nor for the pleasures of this life. I desire the bread of God, which is the flesh of Jesus Christ, who was of the seed of David; and for drink I desire his blood, which is love incorruptible.”
“Take note of those who hold heterodox opinions on the grace of Jesus Christ which has come to us, and see how contrary their opinions are to the mind of God. . . . They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer because they do not confess that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, flesh which suffered for our sins and which that Father, in his goodness, raised up again. They who deny the gift of God are perishing in their disputes.”
St. Ignatius was dealing with unbelief in the Eucharist less that 70 years after Jesus rose from the dead! St. John wrote his gospel about 15 years earlier. No wonder the Holy Spirit inspired St. John to recall the great teaching of Jesus on the Bread of Life! Still, over 1900 years later, many Catholics still don’t believe.
St. Justin Martyr, who lived in the early second century (he was born around the same time St. Ignatius was martyred) also wrote about the real presence of the Eucharist:
“And this food is called among us Eucharistia [the Eucharist], of which no one is allowed to partake but the man who believes that the things which we teach are true, and who has been washed with the washing that is for the remission of sins, and unto regeneration, and who is so living as Christ has enjoined.
St. Justin explains that baptism and belief in the teaching of the Church was a requirement for reception of the Eucharist in the second century just as it is today.
“For not as common bread and common drink do we receive these; but in like manner as Jesus Christ our Savior, having been made flesh by the Word of God, had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so likewise have we been taught that the food which is blessed by the prayer of His word, and from which our blood and flesh by transmutation are nourished, is the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh.”
That last part from St. Justin is a mouthful! What he is saying is that the bread and drink are not common bread and drink. He goes on to say that the Word of God (another title for the Son of God – Jesus) made Himself flesh to save us with that very same flesh on the Cross. Likewise, the words of Jesus, when spoken by the priest over the bread and wine, are transformed into “the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh.”
Next time well look more at John 6 as well as other times when Jesus taught about the Eucharist.
Until then, pray for this: that the next time you are at Mass, may God will deepen your love and devotion for the Eucharist.
The Eucharist Part III
The Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ
July 10, 2023
Last time in Part II we began to look at what Jesus did and taught in the Gospel of St. John, chapter 6. We start Part III just past the half point of this chapter - which is all about the Eucharist - the Bread of Life. The people were murmuring about their unbelief in Jesus, thinking He was just a regular man and not God.
Jesus answered them, "Do not murmur among yourselves. No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the prophets, 'And they shall all be taught by God.' Every one who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me.
When Jesus refers to Isaiah 54:13, “All your sons shall be taught by the LORD” He is referring to His own divinity – as He is at that moment teaching them! Jesus also tells them the Father must draw them. As mentioned in Part II, grace from God the Father must penetrate their hearts – must “draw” them. We need God to give us the grace to believe in Jesus. However, not all accept the grace. Holding on to our sinful lives blocks this grace. If you are seeking God who is Truth, Beauty and Goodness, then you will be “drawn” by Him. If God the Father, in His Truth, Beauty and Goodness, is attractive to you – draws you – then you will be drawn to Jesus because He is God’s Son – He is God. Therefore, Jesus can say, “Every one who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me.”
Not that any one has seen the Father except him who is from God; he has seen the Father. Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that a man may eat of it and not die. -John 6:46-50
Jesus is the only way to God the Father. He “has seen the Father” which is a way of saying He knows the Father perfectly and is the only one who can reveal Him. Jesus also says once again that faith in Him is crucial, for anyone “who believes has eternal life.” And spiritual life – eternal life – is what Jesus has been stressing. Their “fathers ate the manna in the wilderness and they died”, but “the bread which comes down from heaven… (which is Jesus) a man may eat of it and not die.” When Jesus talks about not dying, He is talking about spiritual life - eternal life in heaven.
Now, Jesus is about to begin a seven-fold declaration exclaiming exactly what He means about Him being the bread from Heaven. He will now establish that, as He is God, He can and will give us His flesh and blood to eat and drink.
- “I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh." The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?"
- "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.”
- “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.”
- “For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed.”
- “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.”
- “As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me.”
- “This is the bread which came down from heaven, not such as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live for ever."
Jesus is clear. We are to eat His flesh and drink His blood. The Bread of Life, which would become known as Holy Communion and the Eucharist, is really His body and blood. After Jesus first declares that He is giving us His flesh as bread, the Jews said, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” They knew Jesus was speaking literally, but they did not believe He was God, so they did not believe He could do it.
Jesus declares above that eternal life and the resurrection at the end of the world are intrinsically linked to the Eucharist. He says His flesh and blood are real food and real drink – “food indeed” and “drink indeed”.
Next time we’ll look at what some of the earliest saints had to say about the Eucharist.
Until then, pray in the adoration chapel at church and ask Jesus to renew and strengthen your belief in the Eucharist as really the Body and Blood of Jesus.
The Eucharist: Part II
The New Manna
July 1, 2023
In Part I we looked at how a survey of Catholics discovered that 69% of them believe that the Eucharist is a symbol. We then looked at how the manna (what is it?) God gave the Israelites in the desert also confused the people at first. Finally we looked at how fulfillments in the New Testament are always greater that what foreshadowed them in the Old Testament.
Now, let us look at the day Jesus first talked about the Eucharist. He called it, “The Bread of Life” and we call His teaching, “The Bread of Life Discourse.” This event is relayed in the Gospel of St. John, chapter 6.
One day Jesus fed over 10,000 men, women and children with bread and fish that He miraculously multiplied from only 5 loaves and 2 fish. The next day some of the disciples he fed caught up with Him. We’ll pick things up there at verse 26.
“Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of man will give to you.”
Jesus does not want His disciples following Him just to be physically fed. He wants to spiritually feed them. It is part of our fallen human nature to seek out our physical needs before our spiritual ones. Jesus wants to change that for us. Jesus said, “Seek first his kingdom” in Matthew 6:33 when referring to the Kingdom of God. This seeking of heaven first is what Jesus is trying to teach here.
Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”
This is a big step. To do the “works of God” Jesus’s disciples need to believe that He IS God. Jesus is about to reveal the Eucharist to them. The Eucharist will only make sense if Jesus is God.
So they said to him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see, and believe you? What work do you perform? Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”
The Messiah (in Greek, the Christ) who the Jews were waiting for was prophesied to bring everlasting manna to the people of Israel. The Messiah was predicted to be a prophet like Moses (Deuteronomy 18:15-18). From this prophesy was the idea that the Messiah would feed the people like Moses did with the manna. This time with an everlasting manna. They are asking Jesus to do this if He is the Messiah – feed them like Moses. However, they have yet to understand that He is more than just the Messiah. His is God.
Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven; my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven, and gives life to the world.”
Jesus tells them that the manna was from God and that “the true bread” which was coming next is also from heaven and this bread will give “life to the world.”
They said to him, “Lord, give us this bread always.” Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst.
The people said they wanted this bread, but they do not yet understand it because they do not believe in Jesus. Jesus tells them that He Himself is the Bread of Life, but Jesus knows they don’t believe in Him.
But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives me will come to me; and him who comes to me I will not cast out.
The people saw Jesus and heard Jesus, but the grace coming from Jesus did not penetrate their hearts. Those who’s hearts are penetrated are described by Jesus as those “the Father gives me”, because the grace of God – which came through seeing and hearing Jesus – is from the Father.
For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me; and this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up at the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that every one who sees the Son and believes in him should have eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.”
All that believe in and follow the Son of God will be saved and raised from the dead to eternal life at the end of time. However, the people here get hung up on Jesus saying, “I have come down from heaven”, because they don’t believe He is God.
The Jews then murmured at him, because he said, “I am the bread which came down from heaven.” They said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?”
Because they knew His earthly father, Joseph and His mother Mary, they don’t think He can be from heaven.
Jesus is just beginning to show them what the Bread of Life really is! What Jesus says next blew them away! We’ll take a look at that in Part III!
Until then, spend some time in prayer considering Who Jesus is and how great is His love for you. This love is fulfilled in the gift of the Eucharist.
The Eucharist: Part I - “What is it?”
June 22, 2023
A 2019 Pew Research Center survey found that 69% of Catholics believe that Holy Communion is a just symbol. The 69% is broken down as follows:
- 22% believe that the Catholic Church teaches that the Eucharist is actually Jesus Christ, but they personally believe it’s just a symbol.
- 43% think the Church teaches that the Eucharist is a symbol and personally believe it’s just a symbol.
- The remaining 4% are not sure what the Church teaches, but personally believe it’s just a symbol.
What do you believe? Who is correct? What is the Eucharist? What does the Church teach? The truth about what the Eucharist really is, is obviously an important question. If the Eucharist is just a symbol, that’s one thing. However, if it’s actually Jesus, then it’s the most important gift God has given us – and Catholics need to know.
This is not the first time the faithful have been confused about holy bread. And I’m not referring to the Eucharist, but to another bread from heaven that came thousands of years before.
After the people of Israel escaped Egypt and crossed the Red Sea with Moses, they found themselves hungry. God provided food for them. God said,
"I have heard the murmurings of the people of Israel; say to them, 'At twilight you shall eat flesh, and in the morning you shall be filled with bread; then you shall know that I am the LORD your God.'" In the evening quails came up and covered the camp; and in the morning dew lay round about the camp. And when the dew had gone up, there was on the face of the wilderness a fine, flake-like thing, fine as hoarfrost on the ground. When the people of Israel saw it, they said to one another, "What is it?" For they did not know what it was. And Moses said to them, "It is the bread which the LORD has given you to eat. Now the house of Israel called its name manna.
-Exodus 16:12-15, 31
When the people first saw the manna, they asked, “What is it?” in Hebrew, “man hu” This also led to the name of the bread: man hu: manna. Like many Catholics today, the Israelites also did not know what their bread really was.
Much of what we read in the Old Testament is a foreshadowing of Jesus, the Church, the Sacraments, Mary and more. The “what is it?” bread – manna – is a foreshadowing of the Eucharist (or Holy Communion). An important fact about Biblical foreshadowing is this: The New Testament fulfillment is always greater than what foreshadowed it in the Old Testament. For example, Moses is a foreshadowing of Jesus and Jesus is greater than Moses. This means that the bread that Jesus gave is far superior to the manna which came down from heaven in the desert.
But if it’s just a symbol, how is it greater? I’ll give you a hint… it’s not just a symbol.
Next time we will look at what Jesus Himself taught about the Eucharist. Until then, go to Jesus in prayer and ask Him to help you deepen your understanding of the Eucharist.
The Secret of Authority
May 12th, 2022
Authority has become a dirty word. Anyone with authority is either lording it over the weak and innocent or answering for its neglectful misuse. In America we question authority. We usually don’t like authority, and often dislike those who have it over us.
The problem is… we don’t understand what authority is.
where does authority come from?
All authority comes from God.
Why? Because anyone who has legitimate authority is allowed to have it by God’s permissive will and in the end, any human being who legitimately has authority over another human being has to answer to God for how they used it. No one would have any legitimate authority unless God allowed it.
Authority comes from the Latin auctoritas, or auctor, which means “originator”. It is also where we get the word “author”. And the first “originator”, the “author” of all that is good, is the also the originator and author of authority.
Jesus acknowledged Pilate’s authority, but only because God had given it to him:
He entered the praetorium again and said to Jesus, “Where are you from?” But Jesus gave no answer. Pilate therefore said to him, “You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have power to release you, and power to crucify you?” Jesus answered him, “You would have no power over me unless it had been given you from above.”
Jesus acknowledged that His own authority also came from God the Father:
“For I have not spoken on my own authority; the Father who sent me has himself given me commandment what to say and what to speak.”
OK, so authority comes from God… but what is the secret to exercising authority?
it's all about love!
The secret to authority is love.
When God gives authority, He commands it be used with love. To be properly used, authority MUST be used with love. To understand this better, we need to see how love flips the popular idea of authority on it’s head.
God gives authority as a means to serve others, not as a means to be served. In order to serve authority must be used in conjunction with love. If not, it’s tyranny.
Father’s have authority to take care of their children. A police officer has authority to protect the innocent. A governor has authority to execute the laws of the state to safeguard the welfare of the citizens. These are all forms of service.
Let’s say a police officer tells people to stand back from a dangerous situation in a public street. He has authority to do this not because he’s better or smarter or earned some right to be bossy at the police academy. He has authority to serve those people by keeping them out of harms way.
Even though Jesus acknowledged His authority came from His Father, the authority was also His authority, as He is God the Son, equal to the Father. The crowds were amazed because Jesus taught like one who HAD authority.
“And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes.”
Other rabbis would quote another great rabbi, like the one who taught them, but Jesus would say, “Truly, I say to you…” taking all the authority upon Himself.
As well, Jesus demonstrated His authority by deeds:
“And they were all amazed and said to one another, ‘What is this word? For with authority and power he commands the unclean spirits, and they come out.‘”
Now, Jesus did everything with love, including using His authority. One individual, a centurion, had been watching Jesus. As a soldier, he understood authority and recognized that Jesus had great authority, and also great love.
“As he entered Caperna-um, a centurion came forward to him, beseeching him and saying, “Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, in terrible distress.” And he said to him, “I will come and heal him.” But the centurion answered him, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; but only say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” When Jesus heard him, he marveled, and said to those who followed him, “Truly, I say to you, not even in Israel have I found such faith. I tell you, many will come from east and west and sit at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness; there men will weep and gnash their teeth.” And to the centurion Jesus said, “Go; be it done for you as you have believed.” And the servant was healed at that very moment.”
Interesting that Jesus acknowledged this man for his great faith after he demonstrated his understanding for Jesus’ authority. And this man was blessed with his words being repeated everyday at Mass: “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”
Jesus gave His authority to the 12 Apostles, the first pope and bishops of the Church:
“And he called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every infirmity. The names of the twelve apostles are these: first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.”
Jesus concluded His lesson of authority and love at the Last Supper, when He washed the Apostles feet:
"When he had washed their feet, and taken his garments, and resumed his place, he said to them, "Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you."
Before Jesus ascended into Heaven, He gave His Apostles His authority once again and instructed them to teach, with His Authority, and baptize, indeed to dispense all the sacraments, until the end of time:
“And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you, and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.‘”
When the Church teaches, she does so with the authority of God. When the Church baptizes, confirms, forgives sins, exorcises demons and gives us the Eucharist, she does so with the Authority of God… and with love.
March 30th, 2022
As your Godfather, I’d like to tell you some things about God and the Catholic Church that I wish someone had taught me when I was your age (or younger). Some of this you may know, some you may not. I thought I’d save the time it’d take to interview you and just tell you all of it.
I’m going to present you with cut and dry, tell it like it is, straight forward facts.
#1: God exists
First, God exists. No one can prove otherwise and the universe could not exist without a God to design and create it. We live in a fine-tuned universe, otherwise known as the Anthropic Principle. This principle, which is conventional wisdom in physics, refers to how our universe operates according to a set of specific numeric values and how our existence in this universe depends on these values being precisely what they are. For example, in order for life to exist, the energy density of empty space must be perfectly accurate to a number with over 100 decimal places. Precise measurements like this point to a grand designer of the universe. Because of this, statisticians have stated that it is statistically impossible for the universe to have randomly come into being. It is more likely for you to randomly cut five hundred trillion pieces of wood and have them perfectly fit together to build a huge mansion than for the universe to have randomly come into being without God. The chances are better for me to buy one lottery ticket in all 50 states and win them all. Someone designed and created the universe. This Someone is God.
#2: JEsus is god
Second, Jesus Christ is God. We know He existed, historical records all agree on this. We know He is reported to have taught about God, to have worked miracles, been crucified and on the third day rise from the dead. The Bible is an undisputed historical record of all this. We also know the He Himself claimed to BE GOD. We also know that hundreds of people who claim to have seen Him after He rose from the dead allowed themselves to be killed rather than deny Jesus. This includes 10 of the apostles, who knew for sure if Jesus really rose or if it was a lie. Over the next 250 years the life expectancy of a Christian was quite low (if one became a Christian you were likely to end up nailed to a cross, in a lion’s mouth or without one’s head)… Despite all this – people kept joining up. It got to the point where the largest empire of the era, Rome, declared Christianity as the official religion of the empire 350 years after it had crucified it’s Founder, Jesus Christ. It went from one Jewish carpenter/preacher with 12 lower middle class friends/followers to the most dominant religion in the world. How is this possible?… unless…
Jesus had to be God. Too many people who saw Him work miracles and who heard Him speak would have been alive to dispute the claims of the apostles if they were not true. And why would so many go to their deaths for something they knew was a lie? And how, with no electronic means and against the power of Rome, did Christianity become so wide spread so fast? Nothing like this has ever happened before or sense in the history of the world. The power of God is the only explanation.
#3: jesus created the catholic church
Third, Jesus created the Catholic Church. This is the one and sole reason for being Catholic. If this is not the reason that you’re Catholic, then you need to think about why you would want to be in any religion at all. Maybe you’re Catholic because the teaching is good, or because your family is Catholic, or because the pope is cool… but none of these reasons - or any other reason - not one - is as important as this one fact: God created the Catholic Church. What else do you need? Who’s religion would you rather be in? I’ll be in God’s clubhouse if you need me, thank you very much.
How do we know that Jesus created the Catholic Church? History. As recorded in the Gospel of Matthew (chapter 16) Jesus gave St. Peter the Keys to Heaven. Jesus said the He was going to build a Church and use Peter as its foundation and that whatever Peter decided would be held up in Heaven. Later in chapter 18, and other parts of the four Gospels, Jesus Gave the 12 apostles the authority to pass on not only the teachings He gave them, but also teachings that the Holy Spirit would reveal to them after Jesus ascended into Heaven. This authority to teach the truth about faith and morals, because it comes from God, is infallible. It has been passed on to all the popes and bishops up to this day. This is why we know the pope is right whenever he officially teaches on faith or morals. The best place to find a compilation of Church teaching is the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
Jesus also created the Church to pass on the saving grace, or sanctifying grace, He earned for us on the cross. The Church does this through the seven sacraments. Deacons, priests and bishops have the authority to dispense God’s saving grace in the sacraments, so we can be transformed and made holy from the inside out. If we respond to this grace with love for God and others, according to the teaching of the Church, then we are in effect choosing to enter Heaven when we die.
#4: it's all about jesus
Forth and lastly, our Catholic Faith is all about one thing, a relationship with Jesus. Everything else, Mass, morals, sacraments, prayer, the Bible… everything – is there to point to or help – this relationship. If you don’t have a real relationship with Jesus, if you don’t strive to know and love Him, then everything else is in vain.
How do I have a relationship with Jesus, you ask? I’m glad you did. Here are the top ten ways to have a good relationship with Jesus (in no particular order):
- Set aside 15 minutes to pray, every day; no matter what.
- Make learning and following what Jesus teaches through His Church your top priority in life.
- Go to Mass each Sunday and holy day of obligation and learn what is going on during Mass and what you are really supposed to be doing there (besides standing, kneeling and sitting).
- Go to confession once a month.
- Get the Catechism of the Catholic Church and read about one page every weekend.
- Read one chapter of a gospel each week until you’ve read all four gospels. Then start all over again.
- Sign up for an hour of Eucharistic Adoration each week, or at least go once a month.
- Find a young adult Catholic group in your area and join it.
- When you find yourself thinking about what you want and what you need, think instead about what your family and friends want and need – then act on it.
- Remember that God loves you more that you can fathom, that God is interested in every facet of your life, and that no matter what happens God is there with you and will always forgive you.
Let me know if you have any questions.
What is Truth?
February 28th, 2022
Today people seem to have lost an understanding of objective truth.
The powers of the world around us are subtlety, and sometimes not so subtlety, nudging and pushing people to believe that everything is subjective – that there is no objective truth, or that we can make or define our own truth...that what is true depends on an individual’s thoughts and feelings on the subject.
Basic philosophy and common sense tell us this wrong, and it is important that we understand why.
Objective truth and subjective truth
In examining truth we have:
- A subject – the person observing the truth.
- An object – the thing being observed.
Subjective truth refers to truth that comes from the subject – the person observing. Objective truth refers to the truth coming from the object – the thing being observed.
Let’s use an example to demonstrate. Ryan has an apple. From Ryan’s point of view, which is subjective truth, apples are delicious. Ryan also likes the way this apple looks, because it is red, and he likes the color red. These two truths, that Ryan likes the taste and appearance of the apple are subjective truths, because they come from Ryan, the subject. When Trisha takes a look at the apple, she is reminded that she does not like the taste of apples. As well, she prefers the color green, and does not find the appearance of red things pleasing to her. All of these truths are correct, even though they are different, contradictory even, because they come from two different subjects, not from the object itself.
Next Ryan sees that besides being red, the apple is missing its stem. These two truths, that the apple is red and is missing it’s stem, come from the object, the apple, so they are objective truths. No matter how many people look at the apple, it will always be red and always be missing it’s stem. Trisha can observe that she does not like the red color of the apple, but she cannot deny that it IS RED. This truth comes from the apple – the object. The subject, the person looking at the apple, cannot change that.
let my people go
Now, lets look at another object – a moral object - the Ten Commandments. Let’s say that when Ryan looks at the Ten Commandments and he does not like them. He does not like being told what to do. This is a subjective truth. How Ryan feels about the Ten Commandments comes from Ryan. However, when Ryan observes the Ten Commandments, when he studies them, he sees that they come from God.
Not only that, but they actually ARE GOD, because the 10 Commandments are Divine Revelation – God revealed, which means the attributes of God are where the 10 Commandments come from.
Let me demonstrate this further by asking you a question:
“Does God will something because it is good, or is something good because God wills it?
What answer did you come up with? Most people go with the second option, that “something is good because God wills it?” But that is not correct. God did not arbitrarily pick and choose some things to be good by willing them and some things to be evil by not willing them.
The correct answer is that “God wills something because it is good.” The trick here is the word good. We immediately think that some list of “good things” cannot exist outside of God, forcing God to will them. But that’s just it – the “good things” are NOT outside of God.
Jesus said in Mark 10:18 “No one is good but God alone.” The “good” in our questions above IS GOD. God is not just a “good God”, He is Goodness itself. All that is good comes from the very attributes of God. So, when God wills the good, He wills himself.
God is Truth. God is Love. God is Life.
The Ten Commandments command us to Love, to respect life and to be truthful. The truth of the Ten Commandments do not depend on how Ryan feels about them, but on the Ten Commandments themselves. And the Ten Commandments not only come from God – they are God. All of divine revelation, moral truths and other truths of our Faith, are truths about God. Once again, that is what divine revelation means – God revealed.
So when you or someone else says that they don’t think or feel that a moral teaching of God is true for them, remember this – what someone thinks or feels about the teachings of God does not affect the objective truth of these teachings. For they have as their object God Himself.
The Difficulty of Sharing the Faith
February 10th, 2022
One of the difficulties we have as Catholics is trying to explain our Faith to those outside the Catholic Church.
Why does the Church teach what it does about things like artificial birth control, same sex attraction or Communion to those who are not Catholic. We get uncomfortable trying to explain these kind of things to our non-Catholic friends.
We are made to feel judgmental, old fashioned or just plain stupid.
Why is this?
we don't know
Well, one reason is we don’t always know why the Church teaches what it does. We simply know that the Church teaches “such and such”. But when challenged as to why the Church teaches something, we are left shrugging our shoulders.
Another reason, closely connected to the reason above, is that we forget that the teachings of the Church are not some arbitrary rules that were voted on by a group of theologians, or decided upon by some pope 1000 years ago. The teachings of the Church on truths and morals are from God – they reveal God.
We believe that God exists as three persons in one God, the Blessed Trinity. We believe that the second person of the Trinity, the Son of God, became a human being. We believe that the Son of God, Jesus, died in reparation for our sins so we could be forgiven and be in Heaven with God. We believe that Jesus taught us about God and God’s plan for mankind. We believe that Jesus created the Church, His Kingdom, to preserve and pass on the truths He taught and dispense the graces He earned on the Cross through the Sacraments.
We proclaim belief in all this every weekend when we recite the Creed. But when it comes time to live the Creed… to stand up for that belief… we often fall short.
But if we hold firm to the beliefs above, and learn to explain to others what we believe, we can often help people understand the Catholic Faith. I spend a lot of time teaching and writing about how to do this. However, this blog post is not about how to explain the Catholic Faith. What I would like to do he help you understand why, sometimes, no matter how we explain things, some people don’t seem to hear us.
we don't understand
Jesus is recorded explaining this in different passages of the Gospels.
Here in Matthew, Jesus is asked why He has started teaching in parables:
“Then the disciples came and said to him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” And he answered them, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For to him who has will more be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who has not, even what he has will be taken away. This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. With them indeed is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah which says: ‘You shall indeed hear but never understand, and you shall indeed see but never perceive. For this people’s heart has grown dull, and their ears are heavy of hearing, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should perceive with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and turn for me to heal them.’ But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. Truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous men longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it”. (Matthew 13:10-17)
Jesus explained to His disciples that some people are not able to understand the truth because their will is not God’s will. They have chosen sinful lives over God’s commandments. This leads to a darkness that can not be overcome unless they repent and turn away from their sin. They need to respond to God’s call in their hearts, and God will change their hearts. This is a work of the Holy Spirit. Just hearing the teachings of God will fall on deaf ears unless they allow God to change their hearts.
Jesus knew who was ready to turn away from sin and who came to see Him just to be entertained by a miracle, or fed because they heard about the multiplication of the fishes and loaves. So, Jesus would tell parables. He knew those who were ready would understand it, maybe not fully, but at least enough to draw them closer to God and the truth.
Read the following passage from St. John’s Gospel:
"So Jesus answered them, “My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me; if any man’s will is to do his will, he shall know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority."
Jesus is saying that if your will is to do the will of God, you will recognize the truth and recognize Him. Now read from just a few verses later. See how some of the people believe in Jesus and some do not, even though they are all witnessing the same thing.
Jesus stood up and proclaimed, “If any one thirst, let him come to me and drink. He who believes in me, as the scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water.’” Now this he said about the Spirit, which those who believed in him were to receive; for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. When they heard these words, some of the people said, “This is really the prophet.” Others said, “This is the Christ.” But some said, “Is the Christ to come from Galilee? Has not the scripture said that the Christ is descended from David, and comes from Bethlehem, the village where David was?” So there was a division among the people over him. Some of them wanted to arrest him, but no one laid hands on him. The officers then went back to the chief priests and Pharisees, who said to them, “Why did you not bring him?” The officers answered, “No man ever spoke like this man!”
In another passage, this time from the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus teaches directly against trying to teach deep truths to unbelievers:
“Do not give dogs what is holy; and do not throw your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under foot and turn to attack you.”
Jesus was explaining that if you take the holy treasures of the Faith, the truths we hold dear, and tell someone who is far from God, then they will degrade what you have said and attack you for saying it. We know this all too well when we try to explain the truths of abortion or same sex attraction to someone who has no interest in following Jesus.
it's all about relationship
What this really comes down to is a relationship with Jesus. If you love Him you will want to do His will and you will grow to accept and understand His teachings.
So, what do we do?
Again, listen to Jesus. The first thing He said as he began His public ministry is, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15). Translation: “The time is now! God has awesome plans for us. He not only wants to fill our lives with His love right now, but also invites us to live forever with Him in the next life, in eternal joy! What do we need to do? Repent and believe that Jesus Christ has saved us!” In other words, we need to introduce Jesus to them. Share Jesus and His Gospel (Good News) with them. This is evangelization. This is how it must begin. It may take a day or several years, but it is where it begins for everyone.
So, in review:
- We need to know the basics of our Faith and why we believe that the Church teaches the truth.
- We need to know how to explain some of the common questions people have about the Faith, in particular the moral questions that our society has so much trouble with.
- We need to understand that often people will not listen or understand. There is nothing we can do about that. It does not mean they are lost for good, but we need to be more patient with some people. God is patient with us and them, and we need to be also.
- We need to recognise that a relationship with Jesus begins with an introduction – evangelization. Not everyone we encounter knows Jesus. We may have to provide the introductions.
JANUARY 27TH, 2022
“While he was still speaking, there came from the ruler’s house some who said, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Teacher any further?” But ignoring what they said, Jesus said to the ruler of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.” And he allowed no one to follow him except Peter and James and John the brother of James. When they came to the house of the ruler of the synagogue, he saw a tumult, and people weeping and wailing loudly. And when he had entered, he said to them, “Why do you make a tumult and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping.” And they laughed at him. But he put them all outside, and took the child’s father and mother and those who were with him, and went in where the child was. Taking her by the hand he said to her, “Talitha cumi”; which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise.” And immediately the girl got up and walked (she was twelve years of age), and they were immediately overcome with amazement. And he strictly charged them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.” (Mark 5:35-43)
Jesus tells us not to fear, but to believe. In the midst of the worst of suffering, the loss of a child, Jesus tells us not to fear. Jesus is trusted by the father of the little girl, even when others laughed at Him.
Death and taxes
Now I know what some of you are thinking, “Jesus raised his daughter, but he did not raise my daughter, son, mother, father, friend.”
Yes, that is true, but don’t get blinded by that. The father believed in Jesus before his daughter was raised, not after. We know how the story ends, but the little girl’s father did not know. Everyone was telling him she was dead. Everyone was making fun of Jesus and the man’s faith in Jesus, but he still believed.
However, the truth embedded in this miracle of Jesus runs deeper. It involves a truth we don’t like thinking about: death.
Our lives here on earth are temporary. Everyone dies. And everyone goes on to live forever… somewhere. Often our problem is that we make choices which don’t take this fact into account.
The world we live in doesn’t look at life through the lens of this truth. We tend to limit our thinking to just our life on earth. The world views death as an ultimate end. This life is seen as a time we need to make the most of… in terms of money and pleasure. We have sayings like, “You only live once”.
We fear the unknown, and in this case, we fear the thing not yet experienced. We have never been to Heaven, Hell or Purgatory. God has told us about them, but we doubt God, and we get influenced by the way the world thinks, though not intentionally, and maybe even unconsciously. Then we fail to carry our belief in God’s promises into our day to day lives. This comes to light most of all when we have to face death.
For example, let’s say a person loses their spouse. This is indeed a most difficult thing to deal with. The sadness of missing ones spouse is very difficult to go through. However, what if the surviving spouse despairs because of all the things their spouse never got to do? What if they lament that they will never see their spouse again? Is this not a kind of denial of the reality of Heaven? I’m not trying to be insensitive. I say this with compassion and love.
i know the plans i have for you
You see, everyone dies. We may be ninety seconds old or ninety years old, but we all will die. Those we leave behind will be sad, but they will all die too. I know this all sounds quite morbid, but here is my point. We are all striving for Heaven, so we can be happy with God and our loved ones forever. And while our physical life on earth is sacred and should be protected, we need to act more like Catholic Christians who understand that – ultimately – we are all trying to get to Heaven.
“He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there shall my servant be also.” (John 12:25-26)
Like all things, prayer will help us be better at this. We can pray to God and ask him to open our eyes to spiritual realities and help us to be mindful of them and allow them to guide our thoughts and actions. Pray for the grace to remember that this life is not the end, but only a drop in the ocean of God’s love for us.
Remember, the little girl in St. Mark’s Gospel died, but Jesus had other plans for her… and He has great plans for us as well.
January 20th, 2022
Love is an often misunderstood word. We use it to mean so many different things. I love pizza. I love my wife. The word “love” is used in the two previous sentences in two very different ways. When I do things for my wife in hopes that she has what is good, it means I put her needs over mine so she may have what is good. When I do things for pizza in hopes that pizza has what is good, it just means I put lots of cheese and pepperoni on the pizza. The love we give another human person (not pizza) is what the meaning of life is all about.
Love is to will what is best for the other. What is best for the other is God. So, we want what God wants for the other. For me this sometimes means taking the trash out for my wife. What does taking the trash out have to do with God? It is an act of service to my wife, an act that says, “I will do this unpleasant thing so you don’t have to do it.” This is what Jesus commanded us to do when He washed His disciples feet. When I perform acts of service for my wife, just as God does for us, I treat her like God would treat her. I bring the love of God, through me, to her, because it is God who commanded me to love. But I must choose it myself, I could not truly love do it without God’s help. Love is impossible for us without God’s grace.
While God can give anyone the grace to love at any time, it is in His wonderful plan of salvation God empowers us to love. It is through the power of the sacraments that we are transformed into the image of Jesus when we love.
The sacraments graft us into the Body of Christ – His Church. After we receive a sacrament we must then make use of it. We have not made use of a sacrament until we take the divine love grafted into us by the Holy Spirit… and give it away – to both God and each other.
God is love
"He who does not love does not know God; for God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him." (1 John 4:8-9)
St. John tells us that “God is love.” This is because the Holy Spirit is the perfect love between the Father and the Son. The Holy Spirit is God, so God is Love. God is three divine persons in one divine nature – and God’s nature is to love.
Two important things to remember…
- Sometimes love is not welcomed like we wish. Loving my daughter may mean me telling her to take out the trash. I am responsible for teaching my daughter how to love like God loves. By doing this I am loving her and helping her be closer to God. Love wants what is good for the other, but the good may not be what the other wants or realizes is good.
- Love is an action. It is an act of the will. We have to choose to love. I am not talking about the emotion of love. The emotion of love is an attraction to someone. Over time the emotion can develop into strong feelings we hold dear, but we cannot depend on them. While they can help us to love, we also must love when there is no emotion. Or even more difficult, when the emotion is negative.
A little more on that second one. Jesus taught:
"You have heard that it was said, `You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you salute only your brethren, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?" (Matthew 5:43-47)
Jesus was not telling us to have warm and fuzzy feelings about our enemies. Indeed He understands that we don’t. Rather, Jesus is telling us that loving those we have good feelings for is not as great as loving those we have no feelings for or negative feelings for. He wants us to pray for them and do what is best for them as far as possible. When Jesus commanded love, He was commanding us to make a choice – to put the other first so they may have what is good.
more than a feeling
The mistake of believing that love is primarily a feeling has been disastrous for many relationships, particularly marriages. So many couples get divorced because they, “fell out of love.” I challenge you to find a couple married for more than 5 years who have felt “in love” the entire time. Marriage is not something we are compelled to do because our emotions are in charge, and neither is divorce. Marriage is a choice to commit yourself to love someone, to “promise to be faithful to you, in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, to love you and to honor you all the days of my life.” You’re not promising warm feelings all the time, and you should not expect them. Yes, sometimes separating from your spouse is the only thing you can do, because of very difficult situations, but not because your feelings have changed. And like the teaching Jesus gives above about loving our enemies, when we love without the help of positive emotions, it is a greater kind of love.
So, love is a choice we make. Regardless of how we feel, we should love. And when we love, we are patient and kind; not jealous or boastful; not arrogant or rude. When we love we do not insist on our own way; and are not irritable or resentful. When we love we do not rejoice at wrong, but rejoice in the right. When we love, we bear all things, believe all things, hope all things and endure all things. (Adapted from 1 Corinthians 13:4-7)
"As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you." (John 15:9-12)
How Christmas Brought Peace
December 29th, 2021
This is a popular word people associate with Jesus – often at this holy time of Christmas. St. Luke tells of the angels visit to the shepherds on the night of Christ’s birth.
After the angel announces the birth of Jesus to the shepherds, a multitude of angles appear and sing:
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased!” -Luke 2:14
“Peace among men with whom he is pleased’? What does that mean exactly?
the prince of peace
This particular verse is from a translation of the Bible called the “Revised Standard Version”. It is a Catholic translation and is considered by many to be the most accurate English translation we have.
Let’s look at some other Catholic Bible translations of this verse:
- “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” is from the New American Bible.
- “Glory to God in the highest; and on earth peace to men of good will.” is from the Douay-Rheims Bible.
There is a theme here. Peace is dependent on something else. It is for men with whom God is pleased, on whom God’s favor rests… people the Douay-Rheims Bible calls “men of good will”.
“Men of good will” means that your will is good, or in other words, your will is to do God’s will. This is the most descriptive and helpful of the translations above, because it doesn’t just tell us that peace comes to those who have God’s favor or to those God is pleased with. “Men of good will” tells us what we need to do to have peace:
We need to follow God’s will.
This is why the “Gloria” at Mass was changed a few years ago, from “Glory to God in the highest. And peace to His people on earth” to “Glory to God in the highest. And on earth peace to men of good will.”
By the way, many of us are very used to another translation of this verse that is, well… not quite accurate… and may be another reason for people’s confusion about “peace” and “men of good will”. In the Peanut’s Christmas Special, which has aired annually for over 50 years, Linus quotes Luke’s Gospel using this translation, which is the King James Version of the Bible. It’s the Protestant translation used by most non-Catholic Christians. It reads, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”
Anyway, back to the Catholic verse. What is peace then? Surely, it doesn’t mean that war never comes to those who do God’s will. It doesn’t mean you will not have enemies or have people who don’t like you. Jesus Himself had enemies and still does today.
It may help to look at what Jesus said about the peace He brings… after all, He is the “Prince of Peace”
“Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s foes will be those of his own household. He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and he who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake will find it. -Matthew 10:32-39
Well… that doesn’t sound very peaceful, does it? The peace we so often think about is not what Jesus is bringing. He makes it very plain. Following Him will cause division in our lives, right up to losing our lives if need be, because many people will not agree with our choice to follow Jesus, and those people will often be in our own household.
OK, so Jesus does not bring the kind of peace where everyone gets along with everyone else. So what kind of peace does He bring?
“If a man loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. He who does not love me does not keep my words; and the word which you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me. These things I have spoken to you, while I am still with you. But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” -John 14:23-27
Jesus gives the kind of peace that comes with knowing you love Him, because you do His will… you keep His word… and the Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) come and make Their home with you. So that no matter how much craziness is going on around you, you have God with you, so your heart is not troubled and is not afraid…
You are at peace with God
All baptized Christians who struggle to do God’s will have this peace… to a point, but there is so much more! Truly living in God’s peace takes time. Sin, anxiety and fear get in the way. To have this kind of peace more fully we need to pray every day. We need to frequent Mass, adoration of the Eucharist and confession. We need to do God’s will more faithfully… every day.
An excellent book on peace was written by a French priest and spiritual master named Father Jacques Philippe. It is titled, “Searching for and Maintaining Peace”. You can purchase it online by clicking HERE. I highly recommend this book, as well as the many other excellent books written by Father Philippe.
So, Christmas brought us Jesus and Jesus showed us the path to true peace.
Authority, Power and Holiness
December 8th, 2021
These three attributes all come from God, but not in the same way.
Those in authority, with the power to do great things, often have it thrust upon them, like a mother or father. As well, a man or woman, when elected to a high office, go from having no authority or power to all at once having a lot.
Authority and power are good, and should be used to love and serve others, but we know that is all too often not the case. Unfortunately, people often think they deserve the authority and power God has allowed them to have, and don’t look at it as a gift and responsibility.
Then there is holiness.
This can come with earthly authority and power, but its real authority and power is far greater, much different and often unnoticed by the world.
What child is this?
When we read the Christmas story in the Gospel of St. Luke, there is an interesting list of people:
"In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be
enrolled. This was the first enrollment, when Quirinius was governor of Syria.
And all went to be enrolled, each to his own city. And Joseph also went up from
Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called
Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be enrolled with
Mary, his betrothed, who was with child."
We are told of the following people in order:
- Caesar Augustus – ruler of the entire Roman Empire. Thought of as a god by Romans.
- Quirinius – Governor under Caesar with authority over the region of Israel.
- Joseph – head of his family with authority over Mary and her Child.
- Mary – Wife of Joseph and mother of her unborn Child.
- The Child – an unborn baby under the authority and protection of Mary and Joseph. He is completely dependent on them.
This is Christ the King
This is how the world sees these people at the time Mary and Joseph traveled to Bethlehem with their unborn Child.
However, that is not what God sees. In God’s eyes, the entire list is reversed:
- The Child – The Son of God – the Second Person of the Holy Trinity – all powerful, eternal and creator of all things. He has complete authority and power over all.
- Mary – The Mother of God – immaculate – full of grace – She is holier than any other created person and the most powerful saint in heaven.
- Joseph – The Foster Father of the Son of God – righteous and good, Joseph is second only to Mary in holiness.
- Quirinius – just a man.
- Caesar Augustus – just a man, not a god.
Let loving hearts enthrone Him
Now, the authority given to Caesar Augustus and Quirinius is real.
God allowed them to have authority over the Holy Family.
But the true authority, the real power and the holiness we all seek – came from the Child – and those close to Him received His grace.