Friday, December 31, 2010

December 31, 2010 – Leviticus 9-10

Congratulations.  If you have been following all year, you are now 1/4 of the way through the Bible and the Catechism.  On one hand it seems like this is a lot, and on the other it feels like we have a long way to go.  If you have joined us somewhere in the middle, remember you can always go back through the archives on the blog.  Nothing gets deleted, so they are all still there.  Tomorrow we start year 2. 

Very similar to this, the priest takes part in the sacrifice before he offers it to the people, the priest in a Mass will consume the body and blood before distributing it to the people.  Here, the priest offers it to cleanse himself and make himself pure so that he can better offer the offering for the community.  Similarly, in receiving the Body and Blood first, a priest is not only has venial sins wiped away but is given God’s Grace to them distribute the Body and Blood to the Community in a more pure manner.  Likewise, Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion also receive before distributing.  If you have the honor to do this, keep this in mind, that you receive first to prepare yourself to distribute.  It may seem like a convenience thing, but in reading this reading, it appears to be purposeful.  A preparation for your task that you will be performing. 

Thursday, December 30, 2010

December 30, 2010 – Catechism 659-667

The first paragraph talks about when Christ Ascended into Heaven it was the irreversible entry of his humanity into divine glory”.  I had never thought about it being an irreversible thing.  I have always read and understood it as Christ doing everything once and for all, but more in a way that because it was done in this way it didn’t have to be done again.  The word irreversible makes me think of it in terms of they only had one shot at getting it all done right.  Once Christ ascended, He could not come back and try to save us again.  The next time He comes will be the end.  That makes it all the more reason to be prepared for that second coming.  It is probably somewhat frustrating for God to look down and watch us when we screw things up.  I wonder if He ever thinks about asking Jesus to take another crack at it.  But Jesus looks at Him and reminds Him that He can’t because He can’t go back until the end.  So, God sends us the Holy Spirit to help us along until that day comes.  And yet, we are constantly struggling and not following through on what Christ taught.  I had just never thought about the Ascension in an “irreversible” type of way before.   

Here is something that this made me think of that isn’t really related.  What happened to those the died during the 40 days Christ was with the Apostles before He Ascended.  More intriguing, what happened to those that died between Christ dying and His Resurrection.  We have read about Christ descending into hell and getting those that were waiting for Heaven, but then He doesn’t go to Heaven.  You would hardly think they would go with out Him.  Did they wait a little longer and go to Heaven at the Ascension.  

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

December 29, 2010 – Mark 11
Well, we have our sudden appearance in the Temple, but there was no one there, so He comes back the next day. If Christ entered the first time on the colt on Sunday, Palm Sunday, then He kicked the “thieves” out on Monday and was questioned by the Scribes about His authority on Tuesday. We are journeying through Holy Week the week after Christmas. I always find it amazing the change in the town from Christ entry to the way the crowds act on Good Friday. I found a great post talking about Jesus and this fig tree. Here is a link to it and some quotes to give you a sense of what it is about.

“Typically, the fig tree blooms before sprouting forth its leaves in the spring, and normally would produce, not one, but two crops of figs each year…. During the first dispersion of Israel, God sent a vision to the old prophet Jeremiah, of two baskets full of figs. One of the baskets had good figs while the other basket contained bad figs… Here, in these verses, God likens the captive exiles of Israel to the those good figs in the basket. The Jewish remnant which was still left in Jerusalem, God likens to the bad, or evil figs retained in the second basket.… So, when Jesus found no figs upon the fig tree, on that afternoon, and cursed the tree; He was displaying to the disciples in a figurative way, that nation of Israel still as yet had not bore any fruit from the branch; by the mere fact that their immediate generation still simply did not recognize the epic "time of visitation" by their Messiah. … The season for Israel's blossoming had arrived, and good figs were anticipated, but although the fig tree had blossomed forth, the time for figs was premature. …Jesus knew there were no figs on the tree even at a great distance away, and indeed everyone of the disciples knew that the season for figs was still early. So, in essence Jesus was exposing the disciples to the fact that their nation of Israel was not yet ready to produce fruit for the Lord either. But alas, remember, a fig tree produces not one harvest, but two harvests in a growing season…. Make no mistake about it though, Gods promises to the prophet Jeremiah concerning the good basket of figs still remains intact. God still intends to glean a second harvest from the fig tree of Israel, but only after that fig tree ( Israel ) has again put forth its leaves; and produces another budding of the fig tree later on in the growing season….The Church does not replace Israel, it was simply included into the productivity or fruitfulness of the tree. Romans 11:21: For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee.”

Some of it was not specifically about this story of the fig tree, but the relationship between Israel and the image of the fig tree, which was pointed out in the footnotes. What I took from the article is the sense that because Israel did not produce fruit by His appointed time, Israel would be destroyed, which came to pass 40 years after Christ. I don’t really know about the whole “second” crop idea. I would think that if the tree was killed down to its roots, it is done. But I have heard that there will be a mass conversion of Jews to Christianity before the end comes, although I have also read that this is a misinterpretation of the Scriptures. Personally I think a mass conversion is something God would want for His chosen people.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

December 28, 2010 – Malachi 3
Sudden appearance at the temple.
This was the first reading for Mass last Thursday. We have the two prophecies, that he will be suddenly in the Temple (which should relate to tomorrow’s reading somehow) and that Elijah would come before the Lord, which Christ confirmed and said had already happened as they came down the mountain at the Transfiguration. But this reading also describes the judgment that comes with the Lord. Being tested by fire and asking if anyone will be able to stand it. It makes you reflect on whether you will or not. It makes me think of the watered down version of Christianity some believe in or that I use to live and the idea that living a Christian life is suppose to be easy or something you can do on the weekends. That is obviously not the type of life that will be able to withstand the light of God.

Monday, December 27, 2010

December 27, 2010 – Leviticus 8
We see here over and over that before the sacrifice is offered, the priest “laid their hands” on the animal. This is a symbol of transferring sin or guilt or whatever the sacrifice was for from the person or community to the animal. That got me thinking about the Passion of Christ and whether that specific language was used when Christ was arrested or given to the Romans. Here is what I found.
Matthew 26:50 - Then stepping forward they laid hands on Jesus and arrested him.
Mark 14:46 - At this they laid hands on him and arrested him
So we see similar language used with Christ before He is sacrificed. I thought there might be language like this when Jesus is taken from Pilot to be crucified, but the language is that He is handed over. Just a connection between our understanding of Christ death and the Old Testament sacrifices that I had never thought about before. Humanity laid hands on Christ and transferred our sins to Him, then slaughtered Him, and He allowed it because it was the necessary way to bring about the forgiveness of our sins.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

December 26, 2010 – Catechism 651-658
"If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain." 1 Cor 15:14. It can’t be put much clearer than this. Christ Resurrection is the event that brings about our hope. If Christ does not rise, our salvation does not come, our healing is not available, and our life is not given. How many go to their Easter Masses without the full sense of what they are celebrating, without the understanding that everything was changed with Christ rising from the dead. Everything that came before was leading to that moment and that moment has been felt in every moment that has come since. Everything written, preached, believed, is vain without His Resurrection.
Such a statement cannot be made about any other moment in history, yet there are those that choose to live a life ignoring this moment. I cannot imagine living life that way. I know what living a life having Christ on the outskirts and occasionally reflecting on Him is like. I know a life of striving to bring Christ into every moment of my life. It is beyond my personal knowledge of living a life without Christ at all. This is living a life ignoring this moment, Christ rising, Christ changing the world, Christ opening the doors to Heaven for us. We should constantly pray for those that live life ignoring this moment, that God will fill them with His grace and the entire splendor that burst forth from that tomb so that may not “be unbelieving, but believe” (John 20:27)

Saturday, December 25, 2010

December 25, 2010 – Mark 10:17 - 10:52
Merry Christmas!!
10:39-40 For whom it has been prepared. This brings up the notion of predestination which can be a term that is often confusing and controversial for many people. I will briefly try to lay out my understanding from what I have read and we can discuss whether I understand it correctly, close, or not at all. The other two terms that are usually in discussion of predestination are free will and double predestination. They will be thrown in there as well.
Predestination is the theology that God knows who will end up with Him in Heaven for all eternity. This idea is based on the idea that God is all knowing and eternal. The concern is that this takes away our free will, but that is not the case. God knows where will end up because He is outside of time. He is ever present; ever moment to Him throughout all of time is the present to Him. He knows what I am doing right now as I type this and He knows exactly what you are thinking when you read this and both moments are happening in God’s present even if you are reading this several years after I am typing it. That allows God to know exactly who will be with Him in Heaven after the final judgment and the end of this world because that moment is as present to Him as this moment is to us.
I was trying to think of an example that would explain this, but I couldn’t come up with anything that really explained it well. But knowing something will happen does not mean that we are necessarily causing it to happen.
Double predestination is the idea that not only does God know who will be with Him in Heaven, but that He has chosen certain people, before the beginning of time, to be with Him in Heaven and others that are chosen to go to Hell. This is not a teaching that is accepted by the Catholic Church. The Church teaches that everyone is created and designed to go to Heaven, however, some choose not to follow that path and choose to abandon a life of God and choose the path to Hell. Just because knows who they are does not mean they were created for Hell. Everyone starts as a creation, made in the image and likeness of God, with the destination for Heaven, with God their creator. Some freely choose to stay on that path and others choose to veer off. The decision we make is our own and has eternal consequences, but it is our own.

Friday, December 24, 2010

December 24, 2010 – Sirach 20
I was thinking about what someone would answer if they were asked “Does Matthew talk a lot.” I think there are times when I might talk too much, but I think there are more times when I don’t say anything. I much prefer to watch and observe what is going on and join in when I feel comfortable or have something to add. I know there are times when I leave situations thinking, “Were you just talking to hear yourself talk?” And that is usually times when I either didn’t know what I was talking about or I thought the people there were thinking that I should know about what everyone was talking about. There is that pressure to open our mouths so that people think we know what is going on and are full of knowledge. Here we see the exact opposite is true. 20:4 – one man is silent and thought wise, another is talkative and is disliked. But there is that pressure to talk when we shouldn’t.
I don’t know if he gets it from me or it is just who he is, but Paul appears to be very wise, as far as this particular chapter goes. He really never jumps right into running around or conversing with groups. He spends time observing his surroundings and watching people for a while before deciding to then jump in and run around like a lunatic. I thought maybe he wasn’t around enough kids at first and he is just shy, but maybe he is just a wise 20 month old.
In a world with 24 news and internet and all the talking heads that are paid to fill the air with noise, here we see that it is not wise to constantly talk.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

December 23, 2010 – Leviticus 7

This is another chapter on the sacrifices for the Israelites. This is our 4th or 5th chapter in Leviticus about these rituals and I am running out of things to talk about. So far I count at least 5 different types of offerings, holocaust, sin, guilt, cereal and peace. I guess the one I understand the least is the cereal offering. I found a few things that describes the cereal offering as a offering of thanks. Then I wondered what holocaust meant. It means “whole” or that the entire sacrifice was burnt up as an offering, unlike others that were described as burning parts, taking other parts out, partaking of other parts. So, we have a whole, sin, guilt, thanks, peace offerings. That may help keep them a bit more straight.
So do we call what the Nazis were doing a Holocaust because they were trying to exterminate the “whole” race of Jews or is there another reason?

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

December 22, 2010 - Catechism 647-650

I find it strange that there isn’t a story about the Resurrection. I don’t know if I have ever thought about it before. Such an important event, with no witness. Yet, even if there were a witness, would they have been able to explain or describe what they were seeing. I would imagine it would come across like something like the visions in Revelation. I was thinking about this in Adoration this morning and we have a large painting of the Resurrection behind the monstrance. Obviously this is just this artist interpretation, but in others depicting the same event Jesus is always holding a flag with a red cross on it. Does anyone know where this comes from or what it stands for.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

December 21, 2010 – Mark 9:33 - 10:16

“Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me.”  In my line of work I see a lot of children and I deal with a lot of foster parents.  On the rare occasion, there is a situation where a child may be taken from a bad situation and put into one that is as bad or worse.  But for the most part, these foster care placements are a loving and nurturing environment.  These people are on call so that at any minute they may receive a call from DCFS and they are going to have a child or children in their home.  Not just any children, but sometimes they are children with very special needs or have been through very traumatic events.  I would imagine there is a special place in God’s heart for foster parents, not to mention the special feeling He has towards the most famous foster parent, St. Joseph.

Verses 38-43 cause me great confusion.  On one hand, anyone that does good in Christ name should not be stopped.  We should look as an example to our Protestant brothers and sisters and the good works they do for Christ.  We cannot take anything away from the many great things that have been accomplished by them.  Yet we have also the warning to those that may cause someone to sin.  When those same Protestants may condemn the Catholic Church or preach against the Eucharist or say the homosexuality or abortion is not a sin, how do we mesh these two together.  It seems very clear in both cases, yet it seems easy to find an example of someone who might fit into both camps.      

We see here that a marriage, entered validly, is for life.  Today, we see people going into marriage planning for what the divorce will look like.  It also spells out pretty clearly that marriage is meant to be a union between a male and a female. 

Monday, December 20, 2010

December 20, 2010 – Judith 15-16

If you are wondering about the order in which I do these readings, here is a brief summary.  The first day is the historical books of the Old Testament.  The third day is the New Testament.  The forth day is the Catechism.  The second day, I looked up websites that talked about Old Testament Scriptures that were mentioned or referred to in some way in the New Testament.  These are not always so obvious, but it sometimes works out.  For instance, today’s reading, what I have written is that there is a Vision of Hell and that there should also be something in tomorrow’s reading that is either a vision of Hell or something similar.  When I have something written down that is suppose to connect the two, I will try and let you know. 

So, we get the tail end of the story first here.  You can go to the introduction of the book for a quick synopsis.  We see in 16:17 the verse that refers to a vision of Hell.  Keep that in mind when reading tomorrows.  Going off of what I posted yesterday, here we see another honoring of a woman as a hero and savior of the Israelite people, but this is not a book celebrated by Protestants in their Bibles.  I don’t have much to add except that the lesson to be learned is that if you are in charge of a military and attacking someone, don’t get lured into a drunken stupor or you may lose your head.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

December 19, 2010 – Leviticus 6

A few thoughts about this chapter.  First, we see that the priest had to be doing this daily.  The Lord talks about the routine to be done every night and moving the ashes every morning and how the fire should never go out.  (Quick mention – does this remind anyone of a candle that never goes out).  We see that although there are special times for certain types of sacrifices, every day the priest must be ready for the individual sin or guilt offering.  Although Catholics are obligated to go to Mass every Sunday, Mass is there every day for us if we chose to.   

All descendants of Aaron may partake of this bread.  This reminded me of the Eucharist and the fact that we are all called to a priesthood in Christ, therefore becoming descendants of Aaron’s priesthood. 

It is sacred and everything that touches it is sacred.  Here they are talking about this sacred bread.  It reminded me of how carful the priest and deacons are called to be when wiping the chalice and paten and anything else that comes into contact with the precious body and blood.  I remember being a server way back when and the Lay Ministers would bring them back and wash everything right after Mass in the sink.  That is how I remember it and I don’t know if they used a special sink or whether the priest had already cleaned them correctly, I just remember that being done and how our church now is very careful about not doing anything like that.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

December 18, 2010 – Catechism 641-646

Sometimes these reflection spark idea that are not totally related to the readings we have.  When I was reading this, I was mainly interested in the idea that it was the women that Christ appeared to first.  That got me thinking about how the Catholic Church is often portrayed as a discriminating organization when it comes to women.  I hear people say that because we don’t allow women to become priest, we are not allowing them all the rights they deserve and ought to have.  I don’t get this.  First of all, do the women that want to be priest see Christ as discriminatory.  He didn’t choose any women as disciples.  But secondly, and this is really what got me thinking, in the last 30-40 years, when you think of well known Catholics, who comes to mind.  Pope John Paul the II is probably first.  Second is probably going to be Mother Theresa of Calcutta.  For the Church being so discriminating, one of the most well known and respected Catholics in recent times is a woman.  I just do not see how someone can in good conscience make that argument if they are honestly trying to follow the teachings of Christ.   

Friday, December 17, 2010

December 17, 2010 – Mark 9 - 9:32

'If you can!’ First we have the questioning of God’s power.  You can almost feel Christ frustration.  "I do believe, help my unbelief!"  Then you have the humility prayer.  I don’t know if any of you have private prayers that you say at certain times, but I have one.  During Mass, right after the prayer of consecration, when the priest lifts the host or chalice, I pray this prayer.  “Lord I believe this is your body/blood, given up for me, give me grace, increase my faith, help my unbelief.”  It really helps me focus on not only what has just happen, but begins to prepare me for what I am about to receive.  “Help my unbelief”.  I believe all the Catholic Church teaches me, whether I understand it or even know it yet.  But that is an ideal that I am striving for, not a reality as of yet.  Wherever it comes from, doubt is able to creep into the very corners of our mind and heart.  “Help my unbelief” is such a great and humbling prayer for me.  It helps keep me in a good perspective.  I do not know everything and never will, but sometimes I do get a little arrogant and proud of how much I do know.  Although we do need to thank God for our faith and our beliefs, we need to reach out to Him to heal and strengthen those places where are beliefs are not as strong.   

Thursday, December 16, 2010

December 16, 2010 – Sirach 19

So, a lesson on gossip.  I don’t know how many of you struggle with this, but it appears to be a large issue.  I sometimes slip into it, but I don’t think it is a major struggle for me.  I believe that is because verse 9 is very easy for me.  I don’t have a good memory.  When someone tells me something it is easily forgotten, ask my wife.  Even important things sometimes just flutter away.  When you can’t remember something you heard about somebody that they heard about somebody else, you can’t repeat that to someone else and continue the chain.  That is not to say I don’t do it at all, but I think I do it seldom enough that I do catch myself and can stop it, in other words it doesn’t feel natural. 

I am around people that it seems to them a matter of nature that they must talk about other people.  If they weren’t able to talk about others, they may go days at a time without uttering a word.  Here we see why.  People do get the sense that when they learn something about someone, they must get it out of them or they will burst.  “I have to tell someone or I’ll explode.”  Why is that our nature.  I believe it is because we were not created to keep secrets, because we were not initially created to have secrets.  What was the first thing we did after the fall.  We hid ourselves and tried to keep it a secret.  But that didn’t last long because as soon as God called out, Adam comes out of hiding and says, “I was hiding because I was naked.”  We are not good at keeping secrets and those that are good at keeping secrets usually are not living joyful lives.  The important thing to remember is not that we are not suppose to keep secrets, but that we are not suppose to have secrets.

Whatever we do, we should not be ashamed of.  We talked with the teens about phones and communication last week.  They all had stories of trying to not let their parents know who was on their phone or what they were talking about.  We tried to explain that if they worried about their parents finding it out, they probably shouldn’t be doing it.  Evil loves the darkness and the shadows.  We are called to be children of the light.  If we have something we are ashamed of, we need to confess it and forget it.  Facebook and Tweeter are ways in which many are brought to embarrassment by actions that are recorded in some way and then broadcast.  This should teach us our lesson on how we need to live our daily lives.  Gossip is hard for us, not because we like to blather on about people’s business.  I think deep down we don’t like it and I know we feel that way when we discover people have been talking about us.  We do it because at our very foundation, in our very nature, we are not meant to keep secrets because we are called to a relationship with God, who knows more about us than we do.  There are no secrets with God.  Keep that in mind when you are around the water cooler.  And “Let anything you hear die within you”, so that you do not continue the chain. 

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

December 15, 2010 – Leviticus 5

Here we have the description of more personal offerings to the Lord for the sins committed.  If you commit a sin, you must go to the priest, confess your sins, offer your sacrifice, the priest would then offer your sacrifice to God, then you would be forgiven.  The Catholic formula for confession is very similar.  If you commit a sin, you go to the priest, confess your sin.  The part of our sacrifice and the priest offering it up are substituted by Christ sacrifice, once and for all, on the Cross.  The priest will reiterate this by reciting the words of absolution.  It usually goes something like this,

"God, the Father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of his Son has reconciled the world to himself and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins; through the ministry of the Church may God give you pardon and peace, and I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen."

Then your sins are forgiven.  It is a very similar process.  The whole idea of confessing our sins straight to God in our own heart and mind and having them forgiven that way is something that is not Biblical and contrary to both the Old Testament and New Testament methods of forgiveness of sins.  Although the method of forgiving sins that was given to Moses was an imperfect form, we must look to it as a foundation for what Christ would institute.  We cannot believe that Christ would guide us to completely ignore or not consider the old ways.  Not a letter of the law was changed by Him.  If we believe Christ can forgive our sins and we believe that He would have established a way for us to receive that grace, we must look to the Old Testament as a foundation for the way we will receive that forgiveness.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

December 14, 2010 – Catechism 638-640

We sometimes gloss over the fact that the writings of the Bible are so old.  In almost all other cases, something that is very old is seen as more authentic than something that is written further away from the actual events.  When I was going to school for history, we were encouraged to read books written about events, but if you really wanted a clearer picture about something, look to the newspapers written the days or weeks following it.  Those are considered a more accurate portrayal. 

That argument seems to get swept under the rug when people argue against the belief in the Bible and it being a description of actual historical events.  No matter how much you may tell someone or show them how these words were written in the few decades after Christ died, they will completely refuse to believe it is historical because it is the Bible.  In certain circles, basically because it is the Bible, it is not a historically accurate document.  Those same circles will more easily believe a writing such as the Gospel of Thomas or the like as being more historically accurate because it is not a part of the Bible. 

I think it is essential for us to understand and reflect on the historical certainty of the Bible.  Yes the teachings are essential for us to live our lives and the way it guides us in prayer leads us to God, but sometimes we may forget that this actually happened.  We are so far removed from it and moving further and further away, that we must reach back and cling to that certainty that it did really and historically happen.    “The mystery of Christ's resurrection is a real event, with manifestations that were historically verified, as the New Testament bears witness.”  I don’t know why the Bible has been given the stigma that because it is a religious work it is any less historically accurate.  Take confidence in its accuracy because it is the Word of God which is truth. 

Monday, December 13, 2010

December 13, 2010 – Mark 8

This is a very up and down chapter for the Apostles.  They see Christ feed 4,000, then they think He is scolding them for not having enough food, then Peter identifies Him as the Messiah, then is chastised for trying to talk Him out of going to get killed.  One thing we can take from this is the humanity of the Apostles.  I think sometimes we forget that they were normal everyday (uneducated in most instances) people.  They were called, chosen, followed Christ, but still made mistakes, and sometimes very obvious ones.  I don’t think it was necessarily that their hearts were hardened, I think it was more that they needed all their failings in order to really grow.  We see the same thing in the Old Testament when we think of why God took Israel on the up and down roller coaster they went on.  Everything God did for and against them was for their growth, so that they would be ready for Christ.  Everything Christ teaches and does for the Apostles, whether instructing or chastising, is for when He is no longer there.  We have to remember this, because we have ups and downs and that is just life.  We must take hope in the example of the Apostles that they didn’t leave after looking like fools or making mistakes.  Through their faults they were able to grow.  That is the lesson for us.  

Sunday, December 12, 2010

December 12, 2010 – Sirach 18

This chapter got me thinking about God being eternal and what that means.  v 8 talks about the Lord being patient with us because even 100 years is like a spec of sand on the beach to eternity.  I don’t know why, but it go me thinking about Hitler and the knowledge that the Catholic Church has never said there is a specific person in Hell.  I find it easiest when thinking about this theology to go to the most extreme example of someone we would jump to the conclusion or say it is obvious that they are in Hell.  If we can somehow see reasons why that person might not be there, we can see why the Church has this theology.  This chapter talks about how time on earth is fleeting to God.  So, first of all, Hitler was really just a blip on God’s radar, an small flicker in the span of all eternity.  We see it as something huge and overwhelming, and in human terms I would agree, but in eternal terms, we have to think about it as God does. 

Second, we never can know someone’s mental capacity.  If Hitler was completely crazy and had no real mental control of what he was doing, if the Church’s eye, in God’s eye, his responsibility is not as great.  In human terms, even if he was crazy, what was done under his command could not be dismissed by some defense of mental illness, but in the eyes of God, our chooses to do evil must be with full consent and understanding to have all the ramifications of mortal sin. 

Thirdly, we see the power of God and His using terrible things for good.  How many martyrs came out of Hitler’s evil.  How many conversions.  How many prayers to God came from the camps.  Sure, there were probably those that turned to God in anger in their last moments, but I am sure there were also those that turned to God as there last hope, their last chance.  And those that suffered before death, that suffering aided them towards Heaven. 

I am not saying Hitler is in Heaven, but I can’t say he is in Hell, and neither does the Church, say that about anyone.  The Catholic Church is often seen as intolerant because it has the fullness of truth and people take offense when you tell them they are wrong about something.  But I see a lot more intolerance when I hear some Christians say that Catholics are all going to Hell.  I believe there is a Hell, I believe there are people or souls there.  But I can never judge that someone, let alone some group, is for sure going there.  I can and should tell people that what they are doing is wrong or they are heading in the wrong direction, but if I ever find myself judging them or convincing myself that they are going to Hell, I have put myself in the place of God, the only one that will ever truly be able to judge us.  

Saturday, December 11, 2010

December 11, 2010 – Leviticus 4

The sin offering is something very important to understand for Christians because it is in this sacrifice that we see one of the clearest foreshadowing of what Christ does for us.  What I noticed in reading this is that those that sin have to slaughter the animal that the sin is laid upon.  Early we read in the Catechism about some Christians being known for hating Jews because they killed Christ.  But we saw in the Catechism that all sinners take part in the death of Jesus.  After reading this chapter you see that it was always that way.  If the priest, the community or the prince sins, they are the ones that have to slaughter the animal.  When Christ took on the sin of all the world, past, present and future, He became that sacrificial animal.  We don’t want to think of ourselves as part of Christ death, as the ones that nailed Him to the cross, but we cannot be a part of His redemption until we accept that we did nail Him to the cross.  The ones that sin must be the ones that sacrifice, that is how God instructed it.  The Israelites would slaughter the animal in the hopes of their sin being washed away.  We must accept Christ as the Sacrifice, we must accept that He took on our sins, then we must take responsibility for sacrificing Him, just as the Israelites had to sacrifice their own sin offerings. 

This idea of us offering our own sacrifice and our necessity of being an active part of it is something that is fundamental in the Catholic Mass.  Being the age I am, I only know Mass post Vatican II.  I have heard it discussed that since Vatican II, Mass has been shifting its focus from the Sacrifice aspect to a community meal gathering focus.  There has been a shift back to the focus being the Sacrifice of the Mass, which is its intention and understanding the Jewish tradition of the sin offering is a piece to the puzzle of being able to see the whole picture of the importance of the Mass. 

Friday, December 10, 2010

December 10, 2010 – Catechism 631-637

Jesus descended into the realm of the dead and preached the Good News to those that were there.  We understand this happening from His death Friday afternoon to Sunday morning, but time doesn’t work the same in the land after death so we really don’t know how long He spent in the afterlife preaching and getting those that were waiting to get into Heaven ready for the trip.  This trip into the after life to redeem those that had gone before is something I have never heard tackled by the faith alone theology.  If we are saved by faith alone in Christ as our Savior, how did this camp in hell get to be saved if Christ did not come in their lifetime.  Obviously they had faith in God, but that is not what sola fide is about, at least not the way it has been described to me. 

Thursday, December 09, 2010

December 9, 2010 – Mark 7

I found it interesting that during the first part of the chapter Jesus makes a statement that would bring Jews and Gentiles onto an even playing field (making all food clean) then making a statement that totally separates the two groups again (don’t feed to dogs what belongs to the children).  I read this in the morning and have been thinking about it on and off and can’t seem to figure out why the two extremes so close together.  Christ gives many example of wanting to save the Jewish people first, sending the Apostles only to the Jews first, preaching in the synagogues, and yet there are the times when He stretches out to the Gentiles.  If it is only to emphasis the point that the Jews are the chosen people of God and have a special relationship to them, but if they will not Christ will go to the Gentiles, then I guess I get it.  I thought there might be something more to it and more to it because these two are put so closely together.

There is something to be said about the power of God and the power of our choice to follow Him as well.  When you think that Israel was given the food from the table and that many of them did not convert, you can see the power of our free will and how God cannot do anything for us if we don’t let Him.  Then you see that so many Gentiles were converted based on the scraps from the table.  God’s “scrapes” had the power to convert most the known world within several generations.  And anytime you talk about food and a table you are drawn to think about the Eucharist.  This reminds us that even the smallest piece of a consecrated host is the still fully Christ, body, blood, soul and divinity.  The smallest piece holds all the graces that we need to change our lives, if we choose to let Him.  It is also a affirmation for Extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharist to take what they are doing seriously.  I, for one, know I used to not take it near serious enough.  Now I really try to reflect and be very humble and reverent when I have the privilege to minister.  Even the smallest piece is Christ, the smallest drop, we must take care and keep this in mind.  

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

December 8, 2010 – Sirach 17

V 22-23 – What does it mean to be alive.  Here we see the dead cannot praise God than those that have never lived.  The way I took this is that until you are praising God, you are not truly alive.  So, what does it mean to be alive in that sense.  To live your life praising God.  Making it known to everyone that sees you that you are a child of God, that you belong to God.  How many of us can say we do that.  How many of us shy away from making it public knowledge that we live our life for God.  How many have that divide between our heart and our head that stops us from living our life for God.  Until we break down that barrier, until we make that connection, until our everyday life is able to be directed by the Will of God, are we really even alive.  There are a lot of zombie movies out and even TV shows.  I guess all the vampire books and movies fall into this category.  The world is obsessed with the walking dead.  Is that merely a coincidence that God is being so minimalized in our culture.  When looking at verse 23 the question becomes not only are we alive, but have we ever lived. 

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

December 7, 2010 – Leviticus 3

This is again talking about the offerings to God.  What I find curious is that my last reflection about Leviticus 1-2 I talked about giving your best to the Lord.  Hence, a lamb from the flock, unblemished, the best you had, is what God ask for.  But here, when the person offering the sacrifice is going to partake of the meat not offered, God seems to be cutting out the unnecessary parts.  Maybe that isn’t the best word for it.  I was just thinking that if Michelle wanted to eat a piece of meat, the less fat on it the better.  God wants us to give Him all the fat and we can partake of a piece that is all meat.  Now that I write it down and think about it, this could be looked at as God wanting to only give us what is good and Him taking on the imperfections or “fat and blood” of our sacrifices so that they can be pure meat.  I guess that does help with that understanding a little.  I think we also must look at this through the lens of understanding that God needs nothing from us.  This entire sacrificing and partaking is for the Israelites, not God.  He would want something that they eat that appears holy and from a sacrifice to be as pure as they could make it, thus no fat or blood.       

Monday, December 06, 2010

December 6, 2010 – Catechism 624-630

I had never thought about Holy Saturday as Jesus’ Sabbath.  Christ did His work, and on the Sabbath (a Saturday in Jewish tradition) He rested.  It makes it much more obvious that Sunday becomes the new day of celebration because it is the start of the new creation.  I guess I don’t see why we still don’t rest on Saturdays and celebrate on Sundays.  If Fridays are traditionally a day to remember Christ death and Sunday is a day to remember His rising, wouldn’t we still want to reflect on His resting and His Sabbath rest.  Maybe that is just me wanting another excuse to not do anything, but we have really combined the resting of the Sabbath with the Celebration of the Resurrection and made Sunday a day to do both with all our focus on God. 

Christ Body and Spirit separated at His death.  When we say in the Creed that Christ descended into the dead or into hell, this is what we are talking about.  Christ Spirit going into the Netherworld.  It has always been explained to me that when Christ died, His Spirit went down to bring all those righteous souls up from the Netherworld where they had been waiting for Christ redemptive moment.  Can you imagine the celebration that was being done by those famous patriarchs of the Church.  Then again, this brings up some questions I don’t know the answers to.  If all the souls before Christ were waiting in a certain place to go to Heaven when they were redeemed, how did Elijah and Moses talk with Christ at the Transfiguration.  I guess those are two people in the Old Testament that we actually do not see die or be buried so they may have had special abilities.  But we also see Samuel come back from the dead to talk to Saul, so even though it is a different type of afterlife before redemption, it appears the souls could still come back if God allowed it.  

This talks about Christ body being incorruptible.  I have never thought about it, but when Christ appears after the Resurrection, He is appearing in a different manner and if He was incorruptible, why did the nail marks and the hole in His side stay there.  I can’t imagine all the marks from what He suffered were visible, but those are the ones we hear about.  I just wonder why they remained.  Was it only to show that it was Him, “Thomas put your finger in my nail marks”.  

Sunday, December 05, 2010

December 5, 2010 – Mark 6:30 - 6:56

I imagine there was a time when it was hard for people to envision this idea of crowds swarming around someone.  The idea that masses of people would just hover and slowly move with or follow one person.  But we live in a world where people will break down blockades to get close to a celebrity.  They swarm and swoon around the elite of Hollywood or amass around the President.  Picture the flurry of people that surrounded the Beetles when they went around or what you see on shows like TMX when celebrities come out of a restaurant and are hounded from door to car door.  Picture Jesus wading through these crowds and them following Him into deserted areas, passing rumors about where He was heading and meeting Him there.  We are not talking about cities with millions of people, but small villages.  To get a number of 5,000 men, not including women and children, people must have traveled a long distance. 

It is somewhat refreshing, if you ever get the chance to witness it, to see the swarms of people that eagerly wait to see the Pope.  Knowing that it is not some celebrity that is on their third wife and has a cocaine habit, but the Descendant of St. Peter and Leader of the Church that is getting people so excited that they will wait in line 2 hours in the cold rain and then run a ¼ mile as fast as they can to get an aisle seat so that they have a chance to maybe be touched by the Pope.  (Knowledge from personal experience.)  That we could shift the energy most people spent on finding out about their favorite celebrities to learning about Christ and what He taught.  Christ looks at those crowds still today with pity.  They are still sheep without a shepherd.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

December 4, 2010 – Sirach 14-15

This first week of Advent has been all about the choice we have made with out lives and whether that is going to lead us to eternal Love and Life with God or eternal separation from Him.  Here we see Sirach saying the same thing.  Before man are life and death, whichever he chooses shall be given him.  We make the choice as to how we are going to spend our eternity.  And we can only choose our own.  We do not know anyone else’s state of mind or culpability.  That is why Catholic Church has never stated that any specific person is in Hell.  We are not the judge of anyone, but we know in our hearts the choose we are making.  We need to realize the gravity of the choice before that time comes when we cannot change our mind.  That moment is coming for all of us in one way or another.  Advent is preparation for the Celebration of Christ birth, but it is also a reminder to prepare for the final coming of Christ when He will judge the world, and a time to prepare ourselves for that time, if we go before Christ second coming, for when we will be judged on our life and the choices we have made.  Let us take advantage of this Advent season to look at the choses we are making and whether we are reaching for water or fire, life or death. 

Friday, December 03, 2010

December 3, 2010 – Leviticus 1-2

The thing you notice is that the offering of a sheep or lamb must be a male without blemish.  What is the meaning of this.  It is because God wants our best.  The same was true with Cain and Able, here with the Israelites, and still today with us.  God must the best of what we have, not the stuff we have left over to offer Him.  That is why the distinction of asking for the male without blemish because that was the choicest one of the herd.  In order to sacrifice that one to God, you were trusting God to provide for you.  Do we give our best to God or do we hold back the best we have because we don’t trust Him to provide for us.  During this Advent when we are out spending and giving to others keep in mind what we are giving God.  Is it only what we have left over after everything else or do we look to giving to God first. 

Thursday, December 02, 2010

December 2, 2010 – Catechism 618-623

Most of the summary is review.  What are we suppose to make of the idea of taking our cross daily.  Especially those that believe Christ death on the cross is all we need, believing in that alone is enough to save us, the idea of faith alone.  Matthew 16:24  Then Jesus said to his disciples, "Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.  What does that mean if not some action on our part.  And not just the action of believing Christ is our Lord and Savior, but some type of suffering or sacrifice.  How else can that be interpreted.  This one verse contains, not in specific words, the teaching that a person needs faith and works in order to follow Christ.  “take up his cross” is a work, “follow me” is the faith.  Christ says you need both.  He doesn’t say that one is shown by the other or you get one from the other.  You need both, both are separate parts to following Him.  A person may have a cross they are barring, but not following Christ.  A person may be trying to follow Christ, but if they are not carrying their cross, not accepting it, ignoring it, or making others carry it, they are not following Christ.  We need both.  I will post again what I wrote about James 2:26 because it also talks about this idea of faith and works and their connection. 

(From October 30, 2010 post)

James 2:26 For just as a body without a spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.

There was a debate about James 2:24 at the beginning of Aug., but this is the verse I wanted to discuss.  This post is pretty much the last post of the debate that I added and there were no comments after that.  So either it stumped them and they had to reflect on it or no one read it.  But here it is.

Faith and works are analogized with body and spirit. The Body is Faith and the Spirit is Works. So, I was thinking about these together and separate. What is a Body separate from Spirit? The verse says it is dead, but not looking at the verse, just thinking about it, it is a corpse, a dead body. There is still a body there, to be buried or cremated or whatever, but there is still a body that exists. What is the other side, a Spirit without a Body? Well, that is what we consider an angel. I guess you could also say that this will be our existence after we die. Put them together, Body and Spirit, and you have a living human person.

So, what is Faith Alone? A dead body. What is Works alone? A Spiritual Being which can be good or bad. Angel or Demon. Someone in Hell or Heaven or Purgatory. But when they are together you have a person who is alive, in our situation, alive in Christ.

What does this do with the idea of being saved by faith alone and that being shown by our works? If you use the analogy of the verse, that doesn’t seem to fit. You are not a dead body that is given a spirit to live, they are created in you at the same time. God works in the process along with your parents to give you life at your conception. One is not the product of the other in either way. They are complimentary to the whole.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

December 1, 2010 – Mark 6 - 6:29

Jesus did not work miracles or great feats were the people had little faith.  Look at our country and how much we are trying to discard Christianity and the teachings of Christ, yet we think our country is invisible and will always be around.  We are expecting a miracle to pull us out of the direction we are heading, yet we have no faith in Christ.  How are things going to change if we only look to ourselves as the only way things are going to change.  Modern secularism feels that humans are self sufficient and destined for godliness on their own.  They do not need some God that people used to rely on.  God is an old fashioned thing that we know better than to believe in.  How is that different than the people in Nazareth that thought they knew better than Christ because He was born of a carpenter and they knew His family.  The world is trying to make God obsolete, something only uneducated people fall back on, something educated people only do in the privacy of their own homes.  They try to explain the problems that occur in scientific or economic ways.  They will not entertain the notion that our nation has turned from God and that may be the cause of our struggles.  They will not entertain the thought that the destruction of any sense of morality has damaged the very foundations of our families and has sent ripples that have destroyed the environment we live in for generations to come.  The world is those people in Nazareth who think they already “know” Christ and don’t feel they need anything more from Him.  Miracles cannot happen in that environment.  This country will not change until we realize the Christ, the son of God is in our midst, and as our faith grows, God’s miracles can increase and pull us out of our tailspin.  Until then, we are looking at more of the same.