Thursday, January 27, 2011

Is the Virgin Mary our Mother?

As a relatively new Catholic, I am still growing in my appreciation of Mary as our Mother. In my pre-Catholic days I would have vehemently denied the universal motherhood of Mary, just as my non-Catholic friends deny it whenever I bring it up.
The fact that Mary is our Mother is at the same time a very simple truth as well as a deep Mystery. It is not unlike any other aspect of our Christian faith - whether it be Christology, the covenant, or even the Trinity.
But how do we know that Mary is our Mother?  The first and easiest proof is by simple logical deduction. The Scriptures tell us in Rom 8:29 that our Lord Jesus is the Firstborn among many brethren (that’s us). So, if Christ is our elder brother, and Mary was His mother, then that makes her our mother too.
In the same chapter of Romans, St. Paul tells us that we are made God’s children by adoption through the Spirit (Rom 8:15). But consider this. If Mary was the Mother of our Lord Jesus Christ by the overshadowing of the Spirit, that would make her the Spouse of the Holy Spirit (as the Holy Catholic Church teaches). So by virtue of our adoption in the Spirit, we are also the children of His Spouse, Mary.
We also know that Mary is our Mother because our Lord told us that this was the case just before He died (Jn 19:25-26). The most common argument against the Catholic interpretation of this Scripture is that Jesus wasn’t giving Mary to all Christians as mother, but He was simply assigning the task of caring for His mother to the Apostle John. At face value, that argument might seem to make sense, but if you consider the following couple of points, it is easily seen just how implausible the argument actually is:
1)      Our Lord knew well before His Crucifixion that He would be put to death. He even knew the hour. With that knowledge, if all He wanted to do was find a suitable caretaker for His mother, He would have arranged it before His betrayal rather than waiting until He was breathing His last on the Cross. After all, that would have been the responsible thing to do.
2)       Everything that Christ spoke from the Cross (commonly called His “7 last words”) were not spoken emptily by our Lord, but they were filled with a deep theological meaning that have a deep impact on all Christians across all ages. Included in these last sayings is His giving of His mother.
In addition to the above, it is worth noting that when our Lord addressed Mary in this passage, He addressed her personally by calling her “Woman” (which itself is full of meaning when we consider that this is what Adam called Eve in Gen 2:23). But, when addressing St. John he doesn’t address him by name – rather He purposefully addresses him generically. Given the above points, it would be reasonable to deduce that this was because our Lord was not giving Mary to St. John specifically, but rather to all of Christ’s beloved disciples. St. John just happened to be the one who was standing at the foot of the Cross when He gave His Mother to us as part of His Redeeming Act on Calvary.
Then there is also the passage in the 12th chapter of Revelation. The opening verses (vv 1-5) make it quite clear that woman that St. John sees in heaven is Mary (i.e. she is the one who gave birth to the Lord Jesus Christ). At the end of the chapter (v17) are told that the devil, who makes war with Mary and Her Seed (see also Gen 3:15), also makes war with the rest of her children. Who are her children? The verse tells us – it is those who keep the commandments of God and hold the testimony of Jesus i.e. Christians.
Now, what about Matt 12:46-50? It is commonly argued by non-Catholics that these verses show that our Lord Jesus did not intend for Mary to treated as the Mother of God, let alone the Mother of all Christians because He tells us that His true mother, and brothers, and sisters are those who do the will of His Father in Heaven. But does this passage really disprove the teaching of the Holy Catholic Church? The first thing to note is that if by these words our Lord was denying that Mary was the mother of His One Person, then He would’ve been breaking the 4th Commandment i.e. of honouring His mother. Secondly, rather than negate the Catholic teaching, these words actually affirm the Catholic teaching because Mary was the single most obedient Christian that ever lived and she in fact did do the will of the Father (e.g. Lk 1:38). St. Irenaeus put it so aptly when he reminded us that Mary is the New Eve because “the knot of Eve’s disobedience was loosed by the obedience of Mary. For what the virgin Eve had bound fast through unbelief, this did the Virgin Mary set free through faith”.
Just as Christ is the New Adam, so Mary is the New Eve. Though we are all physically children of Eve, the mother of all the living (Gen 3:20); we are spiritually children of Mary, who is the Mother of all those who have new life in Christ and who keep the commandments of God.
And that is why as Christians we must give honour to Mary. Not because she is worthy to be worshipped – for only God is to be worshipped. We must honour Mary because she is our Mother, and God commands us to honour our mother and our father. So, by honouring Mary we keep the commandment of God...and by doing so we follow in the footsteps of our Lord Jesus Christ who kept all of God’s commandments most perfectly – including the command to honour His Holy Mother, Mary.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Don't Equate John Piper With Theologically Accurate

A very dear Protestant friend of mine sent me a link today to a short article by John Piper, a prominent Baptist pastor – see or simply view the article (which I have copied and pasted) below:
“Beware of imputing advantage to antiquity. Seventy years after the death of Jesus the churches had neither the collected New Testament nor a living apostle. It was a precarious and embattled time.

"Neither the experiences nor the teachers of the first 300 years of the church are as reliable as the finished New Testament. The church did not rescue the New Testament from neglect and abuse. The New Testament rescued the early church from instability and error.

"We are in a better position today to know Jesus Christ than anyone who lived from AD 100 to 300. They had only parts of the New Testament rather than the collected whole. That’s how valuable the fullness of revelation is in the finished Bible. Beware of idealizing the early church. She did not have your advantages!”

I have a lot of respect for my Baptist friend who sent me the link – he is a far better Christian than I could ever hope to be. But I was really surprised that this was the best John Piper could come up with. There were more holes in Piper’s argument than in a block of Swiss cheese.

Anyway, here is the response that I sent to my dear friend. Some of it is tongue in cheek – but I couldn’t help it...

Hey xxxx

Long time no speak...I trust that the Lord is keeping you well. Anyway, thanks for sharing that with me...I am always grateful when the Lord gives me an opportunity to share my Catholic here goes...

I think that Piper is being quite presumptuous to say the least...but I can see why he feels the need to say what he says. He has to disagree with the Early Church Fathers on numerous points in order for his own theological position to stand. As soon as he agrees with the Fathers, he has a problem because he will need to start agreeing with the Catholic Church on those doctrines that are distinctly Catholic.

I have provided some of my own brief thoughts on Piper’s short article for your digestion below. A lot is tongue in cheek, but I really couldn’t help it – especially with something that is so poorly argued. I am by no means a seasoned apologist...and this was easy to pull apart even for one as uneducated as me.

“Beware of imputing advantage to antiquity.”
Of course he would say this...he would rather we imputed advantage to his views.
“Seventy years after the death of Jesus the churches had neither the collected New Testament nor a living apostle.”
True enough...but does he think that after the Apostles the Church all of a sudden went into a theological vacuum? The Apostles left successors to tend to the flock of the Lord Jesus Christ (e.g. Acts 20:28; 2 Tim 2:2; Tit 1:5).
“It was a precarious and embattled time.”
It certainly was...but not in the way that Piper thinks. It was a time in which Christians were being martyred for their faith...a faith which was founded upon the written AND oral traditions of the of the Apostles (see 1 Thess 2:15). What is interesting is that the faith of these martyrs was Catholic, as is so clearly demonstrated by the writings of the Early Church Fathers. 
“Neither the experiences nor the teachers of the first 300 years of the church are as reliable as the finished New Testament.”
Of course not. The Scriptures are infallible because they are inspired by God Himself. But that doesn’t mean that the Church Fathers were all wrong either. On the contrary, their faith from the earliest times was a common faith, a Catholic faith...which unfortunately for Piper does not gel with his own private interpretations.
Also, remember that the New Testament does not contain everything that there is to know about the life and teachings of our Lord (Jn 20:30-31), much less His Apostles.
“The church did not rescue the New Testament from neglect and abuse. The New Testament rescued the early church from instability and error.”
Says Piper. Piper only says this because his own interpretation of Scripture disagrees with that of the Early Church.
Another thing that Piper is not acknowledging is that it was the Church that gave us the New Testament Canon. The Church existed before the New Testament. And the Church existed before any Apostle even wrote the first word of the New Testament.
If you were to work Piper’s position to its logical conclusion, you would have to say that he thinks Jesus Christ was a liar – because Piper believes that Jesus did not lead His Church into ALL the truth as He promised (Jn 16:13). In fact, he had no sooner said that He would never leave His Church, then He left it for 300 years before giving it the New Testament (Note: Which NT Jesus never actually promised to give). And as if His infidelity was not enough...he waited another 1300 years before He gave anyone that would actually guide Christians into a correct interpretation of that New Testament. This infidelity continues today because our Lord has actually now allowed every man and his dog to hold a different interpretation. And so we see, Piper must think that Jesus Christ was a liar because the Holy Spirit certainly hasn’t guided the Church into ALL truth...
...unless Piper is wrong...
Ah...and there is the beauty of the Catholic Church, the Bride of Christ who truly is led by the Holy Spirit, the pillar and foundation of truth. And not just today, but ever since the Holy Spirit descended on the Apostles on that Pentecost Sunday so many centuries ago.
“We are in a better position today to know Jesus Christ than anyone who lived from AD 100 to 300.”
Wow! That is a pretty bold statement to make. Of course, Piper MUST be correct since we are in such a great position today that Christians of various denominations always agree on all the most important Baptism and Eucharist. Wait a they don’t. Silly me!
Piper is mistaken. Has he forgotten that the Early Church Fathers were actually taught by the Apostles themselves? Given that they were far closer to the events of Christ’s Life, Passion, and Resurrection; and the Apostles, Piper’s comment is actually quite absurd. How could anyone even begin to think that we (removed by almost 2,000 years) are actually better equipped to know what the Apostles meant by their teaching than those that they actually taught.
“They had only parts of the New Testament rather than the collected whole.”
So is Piper admitting here that the Early Church did not in fact practice Sola Scriptura? Hmmm...interesting...
I wonder when Piper thinks Sola Scriptura actually developed. It certainly couldn’t have been the first 300 years of the Church, because they didn’t have a complete NT Canon. And it couldn’t have been for many centuries following the Canon either – because the writings of the Fathers after the Council of Carthage are clearly for reading Scripture in light of Catholic Tradition.
“That’s how valuable the fullness of revelation is in the finished Bible. Beware of idealizing the early church. She did not have your advantages!”
I’d say that Piper needs to be careful to so easily neglect the Early Church...because we today do not have her advantages.

Anyway brother, I hope the above comments help you work through the various issues. I hope the “tongue-in-cheekedness” doesn’t come across the wrong way – I just can’t believe that such a highly regarded Protestant theologian has managed to put together such a weak argument.
May God richly bless you as you seek to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
God bless

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

We glorify God in the Hail Mary

Non-Catholic Christians often accuse Catholics of idolatry by claiming that we worship Mary as if she was more important to us than God. However, any honest Christian who truly knows what Catholics believe and practise would never accuse a Catholic of such a heinous sin.

On the contrary, Catholics do not worship Mary as above God. In fact, Catholics do NOT worship Mary – period. We honour her because she is the Mother of our Lord Jesus Christ, (which makes her the Mother of God); and she is also our Mother given to us by our Lord Jesus Christ before He died (Jn 19:26-27). As our Mother, we do well to obey God’s command and honour her (Ex 20:12).

As part of this honour to our Blessed Mother, we Catholics often recite the Hail Mary:

Hail Mary, full of grace; the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the Fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

The Hail Mary is a beautiful prayer asking our Lady for her intercession on our behalf. What we often don’t realise is just how Scriptural the Hail Mary is. The first part is taken from the Angel Gabriel’s greeting to Mary; the second and third part is taken from St. Elisabeth’s greeting to her; and the third part is based on the Christian principle that we should pray for one another.

At present, I am reading “The Secret of the Rosary” by St. Louis de Montfort, who has the following to say about the Hail Mary:

“Although the [Hail Mary] is addressed directly to the Mother of God and contains her praises, it nevertheless glorifies the Blessed Trinity. Any honour we pay to our Lady returns to God as the cause of all her perfections and virtues. God the Father is glorified because we are honouring His most perfect creature. God the Son is glorified because we are praising His most pure Mother. God the Holy Spirit is glorified because we are in admiration of the graces with which He filled His Spouse.”

May our Good Lord grant that we would grow in our love and devotion towards Mary…and as we do so, we will find that she will do for us what she has always done for all God’s saints – she will unfailingly point us to her Son.

Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death.

Monday, January 17, 2011

The orchestra and Church unity

Every now and then I enjoy listening to a beautifully composed piece of classical music. But nowadays, the “classics” I mostly get to listen to are Old MacDonald’s Farm, Twinkle Star, the ABC song, etc. courtesy of my two oldest daughters. Don’t get me wrong – I wouldn’t change it for the world. It is the cutest thing to see them learn new songs and sing along in the car to their own made up words.
But I digress...classical music...
This weekend, I was thinking about orchestral classical music (yes, I often have random thoughts that I just let run their course...and don’t judge me because I’m sure you do the same...). It got me to thinking about Church unity. Consider this...
Imagine an orchestra playing an extremely detailed piece of classical music. What does the orchestra need to make that music come alive in a beautiful way? Unity. And for that unity to exist, a few things are necessary. They need to be playing from the same sheet music; they all need to play in the same time; each person needs to know their place and their part and stick to it; etc. As I was pondering this, it actually struck me as to just how important the conductor actually is, and how each and every person in the orchestra needs to be able to see the conductor and follow his lead.
The Church of Jesus Christ is like an orchestra playing the glorious masterpiece of the Gospel. For this masterpiece to be fully appreciated, we must all be following the same doctrine (the sheet music). Unfortunately, in today’s world the Gospel is scandalised because there is so much division in Christianity. To start, there are the major rifts between Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestants. For the most part, Catholic and Orthodox theology agrees and it appears that a reunification is on the distant horizon. However, the rift with Protestantism is far greater...and this is compounded by the fact that within Protestantism itself there are such major divisions that reunification at times seems completely impossible. Christianity is far away from having “one Lord, one faith, one baptism” (Eph 4:5).
This is where we are able to see the wisdom of God in establishing His Church with a visible head on earth, akin to the conductor in an orchestra. The Pope is the Vicar of Christ. That means that he is Christ’s visible representative on earth, instituted by our Lord for the sake of the unity of the Church. Like the conductor, he is assigned with the task of leading God’s Church in unity so that we can know how we should play God’s Gospel masterpiece. As soon as we start ignoring our God-given conductor, we become responsible for the scandalous noise that is not the true Gospel.
So this morning, let us thank God for our Catholic Church – that He has preserved it through the centuries as He has promised. And let’s especially thank Him for the ministry of our Holy Father – and may we all find it in our hearts today to pray for him and for his intentions (which can be found here

As an aside, I thought that I would also provide a brief comment on the Church being One and Catholic (or Universal). For Catholics, it means that the One Church of Jesus Christ covers the whole world i.e. it is One and it is Universal at the same time...and this unity an universality is something that can actually be seen.
But for many Protestants, it means something very different. Because the division within Protestantism is rife, many Protestants will try to spiritualise (away) what it means for the Church to be One and to be Catholic i.e. they argue that the Church is unified and it is universal, but only spiritually. This means that there is a unity and universalism that exists, despite the fact that we can’t see it outwardly.
There are a few problems with this Protestant invention – not least being that it can’t be backed up by their principle of Sola Scriptura; that is, this notion of the Church is nowhere to be found in the Scriptures. It is a doctrine that has developed to overcome a difficulty produced by the fruits of a Protestant Reformation which has done more to tear the Church to pieces than it has to build it up in unity.
Another problem is that many denominational differences are irreconcilable. For example, whilst claiming to hold to “one baptism”, many Protestants (e.g. Baptists) do not accept other Protestants (e.g. Presbyterians) exercise valid baptisms. But they want to have their cake AND eat it because those same Baptists would never go so far as to say that those Presbyterians aren’t part of Christ’s one universal Church. It doesn’t take much to see how obviously inconsistent this position is.
The “unity” and “universalism” of Protestant doctrine is only imagined. But the unity and universalism of the Holy Catholic Church founded by our Lord Jesus Christ is real – and it is guarded by none other than the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. And we would cause division to this unity at our own peril.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Called to Communion

For those who have never read anything by Pope Benedict XVI (formerly Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger), I would really encourage you to do so. Apart from the fact that he is our Pope, he is also one of the most gifted theologians I have ever read...and that is only after reading two of his books.
The first book of his I read was “Jesus of Nazareth” which covers the life and ministry of our Lord from His baptism to the Transfiguration, and I am already chomping at the bit waiting for the second instalment.
Now I have just finished reading his “Called to Communion”, which he actually wrote before he ascended to the Papacy. For a book that is small and only 165 pages long, it certainly packs a heap of they say – dynamite comes in small packages. Cardinal Ratzinger speaks of the true nature of the Church of Jesus Christ as the One Body of Christ. He then goes on to speak of how that unity / communion flows from the one Eucharist / Holy Communion that we share as the One Church. He also elaborates on the connection with the Primacy of Peter (as the sacrament of unity) and how the particular (local) churches under their respective bishops all form part of this One Universal (i.e. Catholic) Church in communion with the Bishop of Rome. From that flows the essence of the priesthood and how that it relates to the unity of Christ’s Body.
Reading this you might think that this sounds just too theological...but the beauty of how Cardinal Ratzinger / Pope Benedict XVI writes is that he has a way of making even difficult theology acceptable to the simplest of us (which is probably why I am actually able to follow it). And I think that the reason his theology is so simple yet profound is because he always brings things back to the most basic foundation of our faith – the Lord Jesus Christ.
So again...if you have never read anything by our Holy Father, I would really encourage you to start. I guarantee that you will be blessed. It is really hard to read his works and not be prompted on to holiness.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Leprosy and the Sacrament of Reconciliation

Last night, I was reading Matt 8:1-4 (which coincidentally happens to be the parallel passage for today’s Gospel reading in the Lectionary i.e. Mk 1:40-45).
In this account, our Lord heals a leper of his leprosy and tells him to go and show himself to the priest and offer the sacrifice commanded by Moses. The law that our Lord is referring to is found in Leviticus 13 – 14. Basically, if an Israelite had a blemish in his skin (or garments or home) it was necessary for him to show himself to the priest, who would then make a judgment based on God’s prescriptions, and if he was declared a leper he would be removed from the community and have to publically declare himself a leper. Then if his leprosy was subsequently healed, he would return to the priest who would make a judgment on whether he could be pronounced clean. After a pronouncement of being clean, he would then have to offer a sacrifice.

How does this tie in with the Sacrament of Reconciliation?

We are created in God’s image, but we are tainted with sin. This is pictured by the blemish of leprosy. We know that in the Sacrament of Reconciliation it is the Lord Jesus Christ who forgives us of our sins. But, we also know that the ministry of reconciliation and the authority to pronounce forgiveness has been delegated by Christ to His Church (Jn 20:23; 2 Cor 5:18).

And so, just as the leper had to “confess” his leprosy to the priest, it is necessary for us to confess our sins to the priest. Just as the priest would pronounce the leper “clean”, our priest will pronounce an absolution i.e. that our sins have been forgiven in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. And just as the Israelite had to make a sacrifice, so we too make our penance for our sins as prescribed by the priest.

I can’t begin to tell you how excited I was when I saw this as I was reading last night. Initially I thought that perhaps I was reading too much into the passage so I decided to check if my reading was in line with Church teaching...and I got even more excited when I found that “my” interpretation was by no means novel. On the contrary, I found that St. Augustine, arguably the Church’s greatest theologian, advocated this very same position in his “Questions on the Gospels”.

This is just another of those wonderful occasions where the Lord has shown me the wonderful treasures in store for us when we allow the Holy Spirit to guide us as we read the Scriptures through the eyes of the Church.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Purgatory in the Beatitudes?

A few days ago I was reading through the Beatitudes of our Lord Jesus in His “Sermon on the Mount” (Matt 5 – 7). As I was reading, the sixth Beatitude really struck me...
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God” – Matt 5:8
God is holy, holy, holy (as we proclaim every time we gather for the Mass) and a consuming fire (Heb 12:29). Because of the sheer awesomeness and holiness of God, I am not aware of any Christian who would be presumptuous enough to assume that he has a sufficient purity of heart to look upon God without being utterly consumed in His holiness. And why is this? Because, even though we have been washed by the Blood of Christ, we are still sinners. Even though we have been born again through the waters of baptism, our hearts are still far from pure (e.g. Matt 5:28).
And that is why Purgatory is so necessary for us as Christians. It is only when we realise just how impure of heart we really are that we realise what a great (albeit painful) gift the Lord has given us in Purgatory. The purgatorial cleansing that we experience after death refines and purifies us so that, once every stain of sin has been purged, we are able to look upon the utter holiness of our Almighty God. Anyone who really understands the holiness of God understands the Christian’s need for Purgatory. Because C.S. Lewis of Narnia fame put it much better than I ever could, I will finish with one of his quotes:
"Our souls demand purgatory, don’t they? Would it not break the heart if God said to us, ‘It is true, my son, that your breath smells and your rags drip with mud and slime, but we are charitable here and no one will upbraid you with these things, nor draw away from you. Enter into the joy’? Should we not reply, ‘With submission, sir, and if there is no objection, I’d rather be cleaned first.’ ‘It may hurt, you know’—‘Even so, sir.’"

Monday, January 10, 2011

Your love for the Church shows your love for Christ

Back in the days when I was still a Protestant, one of the most significant things that my Baptist pastor taught me was to love the Church – purely because it was the Church that our Lord Jesus Christ loved and died for (Eph 5:25). It was a lesson that has stuck with me ever since, and little did I know then that it would be one of the things that would lead me to the Catholic Church – which is the household of faith and the Body of Christ.
If we really love our Lord Jesus Christ, we will love His Body, the Church. I was reminded of this earlier this week while I was reading “Called to Communion” by Pope Benedict XVI (then Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger), where our holy father had the following to say:
“...we do not seek a Christ whom we have invented, for only in real communion of the Church do we encounter the real Christ...[T]he depth and seriousness of one’s relation to the Lord himself is revealed in the ready willingness to love the Church, to live together with her and to serve Christ in her.”
So, the true test of our love for Christ is whether we love one another. May God grant that we would grow in our love for the Church as evidence of our love for our Lord Jesus Christ.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Blessing in persecution

Catholics really are the most blessed people on earth – although I don’t think that we always appreciate it. We are blessed because our Lord Jesus gives Himself to us in the Sacraments...most important of which is the Eucharist in which He gives us His whole Self – Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity. If we really understood what we have as in the Sacraments, and especially in the Eucharist, I think that we would be far more resolved to live out our days in holiness.
But another way we are blessed, and don’t even realise it, is in persecution. Christians are the most persecuted religion in the world...but one doesn’t need to look too far to see that Catholics are the most persecuted of all Christians. Lies are spread about the Catholic Church by non-Christians (e.g. in the media) and non-Catholics alike. There are many non-Catholic Christian groups who think that the Catholic Church is the harlot of the Apocalypse (see Rev 17:3ff) and that the Pope is the Antichrist or Beast of the Apocalypse (see Rev 13:1ff). And these are just the tip of the iceberg. Coming from a Protestant background, I am more than aware of the myriads of lies that are spread about the Catholic Church by other “well-meaning” Christians (in ignorance or otherwise). But, as Catholics, we really shouldn’t be surprised by these things because our Lord said that it would happen:
“It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master, and the servant as his lord. If they have called the good man of the house Beelzebub, how much more them of his household?” (Mk 10:25)
Rather than be surprised, we should thank the Lord that we have been counted worthy suffer shame for His name’s sake (Acts 5:41). When these and other lies about the Catholic Church are spread, we should count ourselves as blessed, just as our Lord said:
“Blessed are ye when they shall...speak all that is evil against you, untruly, for my sake...” (Matt 5:11).

Friday, January 7, 2011

The purpose of doctrine

The beauty of reading something more than once is that you often see things that you never saw before. I have time and time found this to be true of the Scriptures…the more I read the Scriptures, the more I am amazed by how much God continues to open my eyes to treasures old and new.

Towards the middle of 2010 I finished reading through the Catechism of the Catholic Church for the first time. I was astounded by the beauty and balance of this wonderful deposit of faith that God has blessed His Church with.

As mentioned in a previous post, my wife and I have committed to reading through the entire Scriptures and the Catechism during the course of 2011. Well, in my reading of the Catechism a couple of days ago, the following statement really jumped out at me, and I wanted to share it because it really sums up the purpose of doctrine.    

The whole concern of doctrine and its teaching must be directed to the love that never ends. Whether something is proposed for belief, for hope or for action, the love of our Lord must always be made accessible, so that anyone can see that all the works of perfect Christian virtue spring from love and have no other objective than to arrive at love. (Catechism, para. 25; quoting the Roman Catechism, preface 10)

If our pursuits in theology don’t lead us to grow first and foremost in our love for God and neighbour, then we really have missed the point – much like the church at Ephesus in the the book of Apocalypse. May God grant that as we grow in the faith and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ, that we would grow in our love towards Him and towards others…because He is Love.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

25 phrases from the Catechism worth memorising

This morning I came across this...25 phrases from the Catechism worth memorising. If anything, this short list of quotes should really inspire us to pick up a really is a beautiful and balanced summary of our Faith.

Monday, January 3, 2011

The Fall and the Eucharist - Genesis 3:18

This morning as I was reading the account of the Fall of Adam and Eve in Genesis chapter 3, I saw something that I had never seen before. I really love it when God suddenly allows me to uncover such profound Scriptural gems. But I am sure that this little gem is still rough, and I have only scratched the surface...
I have always understood that God’s curse upon man for his sin in the Fall was that the ground would be cursed, and subsequently, his labour (which was originally created good by God) would now become burdensome toil. Up until now though, a part of the curse that I have overlooked is that God said Adam would now “eat the plants of the field”. You might ask, “How could this possibly be a curse for sin?”
We can begin to answer the question when we remember that in Gen 2:16 God gave Adam the fruit of the trees of the Garden of Eden for food (including the Tree of Life). And when we understand that Eden was actually God’s Sanctuary – the place of God’s closest communion with Adam – we begin to understand the depths of exactly what Adam lost due to his sin.
O, how glorious then does the Gospel shine when we see how God makes a New Creation through Jesus Christ, the New Adam, together with His Mother Mary, the New Eve. Because it is in Christ that communion with God is restored through the Cross, which is the New Tree of Life (Gal 3:13; 1 Pet 2:24; Rev 2:7). Our deepest communion with God is realised when we partake of the Sacrifice of the Cross i.e. when we receive the Most Precious Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus in Holy Communion.
I thought that it would be fitting to finish this post with the opening prayer for the Feast of Corpus Christi:
Lord Jesus Christ, you gave us the Eucharist as the memorial of your suffering and death. May our worship of the sacrament of your body and blood help us to experience the salvation you won for us
and the peace of the kingdom where you live with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Sunday, January 2, 2011


Over the past two weeks, courtesy of a dear family friend that I believe (sadly) is on the brink of apostasy, I have come to learn about a group (aka sect) that call themselves the Natsarim (or Netzarim).
Basically, those who call themselves Natsarim believe that the true disciples of our Lord Jesus didn’t go on to become the Church – rather they went on to form a group called the Natsarim (from the Hebrew root “nezter" from which we derive "Nazarene”). Basically, they claim that the Lord’s intention was that the people of the New Covenant (or Renewed Covenant as they call it) remain essentially Judaistic in their beliefs and practices; and that the Church is one great big lie because it has Hellenised (and subsequently paganised, as they think) the true religion. In essence, the Natsarim claim that they alone are the true follows of Yeshua (because “Jesus” is a pagan name) because they follow the Torah (i.e. Law of Moses); and that Christianity is basically a deception of Satan.
Needless to say, because I had never heard of this little sect before, I was intrigued by who they were and what they believe. What I subsequently found was that the Natsarim are no better off than the thousands of Protestant denominatons who each claim that their version of the truth is the correct one. Within the scope of Natsarim, there are those who only accept the Hebrew Scriptures (i.e. what we Christians call the Old Testament); there are those who accept the New (or “Renewed”) Testament; there are those who only accept the Gospels; etc. (the list could go on for ages). So basically, they can't agree amongst themselves what is actually true. One would think that if they were the true disciples of “Yeshua” that they would be able to show at least the following two things:
1)      A line of succession that stretches all the way back to our Lord and His Apostles; and
2)      A uniformity of doctrine
On the first point, no evidence has been provided (as far as I can see); and on the second, well...let’s just say that it seems like everyone does what is right in his/her own eyes (much like Protestant interpretations of Scripture). The difference with Protestants is that even though their anti-Catholic arguments are wrong, they maintain a sense of coherency which is respectable. However, with the Natsarim, they are worse than “proof-texters”.
In summary, the little research I did has caused me to be extremely concerned for our dear friend...and at the same time, I can’t even begin to mention how grateful I am that our Lord has given us Holy Church as the pillar and foundation of truth. It was a reminder to me of the faithfulness of God as He continues, through the centuries, to lead His Church into all truth. And because our Lord is always with us, may we never be ashamed of being Catholic, knowing that we do indeed have the full deposit of Truth.

2011 is here - time for refreshed commitments

Well, 2011 has finally arrived. And a new year is always an opportunity for a fresh start.

As part of our fresh start, my wife and I have decided that we are going to aim to read through the Scriptures AND the Catechism this year. The Scriptures because ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ; and the Catechism because every Catholic should know what Holy Church teaches so that we can better live our lives for the greater glory of God.

For others who might be interested in joining us, here is a link to a reading guide (kindly provided by the Coming Home Network) that will help:

In the meantime, our prayer is that 2011 will be a year of God's richest blessings for you as you seek to grow closer to our Blessed Lord.