Welcome !

Greetings to all who love to wander along the paths of the Holy Scriptures! The purpose of this blog is to share some of the insights of ordinary Catholics who have begun to delve into the mysteries of the Sacred Scriptures. Hopefully you will find these reflections inspiring and insightful. We are faithful to the Church, but we are not theologians; we intend and trust that our individual reflections will remain within the inspired traditions of the Church. (If you note otherwise please let me know!) Discussion and comments are welcome, but always in charity and respect! Come and join us as we ponder the Sacred Scriptures, which will lead us on the path into His heart, which "God alone has traced" Job 28:23.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Man-Made Laws-Not God's Laws?

Sunday May 1, 2016
A Reflection on John 14:23-29, N.A.B.

By: Larry T

At a recent Scripture study class an older woman, a convert to Catholicism, frowned throughout the discussion of infant baptism, and finally snorted, “Man-made laws – not God’s laws!”

At yet another meeting my cradle-Catholic friends said they had never been accused of following man-made laws. But another friend in the discussion group, also a convert, said, “I went to a Lutheran college for four years and I know all about that!”

This highlights the very different way in which Catholics and Protestants view the Bible. Most Protestants believe the Bible contains all you need to know; it doesn’t need to be supplemented with doctrines. Our Catholic perspective is the Bible plus Tradition (as is expressed in the Catechism of the Catholic Church).

Father Ronald D. Witherup, S.S., Ph.D., writes in Biblical Fundamentalism, What Every Catholic Should Know:

“From a Catholic perspective, as important as the Bible is, it cannot serve alone as the sole source of revelation. We should note, however, that the word ‘Tradition’, (note the capital T) does not mean ‘traditions’ we remember as we grew up. Rather it refers to the Church’s magisterial teaching through the ages as it has interpreted the Scriptures, interacted with them, and formulated doctrines that expound God’s revelation as humans can know it.”

Catholic Tradition is what some Protestants disdainfully call man-made laws.

That is all well and good, but how do we respond to a Protestant friend who asks, “Why do you follow man-made laws instead of God’s laws?” Is it enough to shrug our shoulders and reply, “Because I have faith in the Church.”? Along that same line of thinking how much confidence can Catholics have in the Church’s formulated doctrines and teaching? A good starting point is in verse 26 of this Sunday’s Gospel reading:

23 Jesus answered and said to him, “Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.
24 Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; yet the word you hear is not mine but that of the Father who sent me.
25 “I have told you this while I am with you.
26 The Advocate, the holy Spirit that the Father will send in my name-he will teach you everything and remind you of all that [I] told you.
27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.
28 You heard me tell you, ‘I am going away and I will come back to you.’ If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father; for the Father is greater than I.
29 And now I have told you this before it happens, so that when it happens you may believe.
- John 14:23-29, N.A.B.

In this Last Supper Discourse Jesus introduced the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, to his disciples to assure them of God’s continued presence on earth after his return to the Father. At that time the meaning of “he will teach you everything and remind you of all that [I] told you.” was probably beyond the disciple’s comprehension.

Father Roch A. Kereszty O.Cist., writes in Jesus Christ: Fundamentals of Christology:

“God would have been a poor communicator or rather no communicator at all, had he left the interpretation of the inspired biblical witness to his Son to the ever-changing and mutually contradictory whims of human interpreters. Working in different way through the liturgy, the Magesterium, the theologians, and the Christian faithful, Christ himself has guided the Church through his spirit on the often-torturous path of understanding his own mystery.”

What evidence is there that the Holy Spirit has piloted the Catholic Church from its very beginning? Protestants and Catholics will agree that the four Gospel authors were inspired by the Holy Spirit to write what was necessary for the salvation of the souls of their individual church communities and ultimately the Universal Church. By 375 A.D. eighty heresies, many of which dealt with the divinity of Jesus, had arisen; it took the sure hand of the Holy Spirit to guide the Church through them. Our Protestant friends would have to agree that the Holy Spirit was present at the Synod of Hippo in 393 A.D. when the council of bishops listed and approved the books to be included in the Bible. Nor can we forget that many of the Church’s so called man-made laws were in direct response to a dispute or crisis of some sort. For example, it was the Council of Nicaea in 325 A.D. that settled the question of the nature of Jesus in his relationship to the Father and gave us the Nicene Creed. The most significant event in the modern era of our Church was the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965); who will deny the influence of the Holy Spirit over it? The more we study our Church’s history the more convinced we will be that the Holy Spirit has been at the helm all along. And we can take comfort in the knowledge that He will continue to lead our Church through the challenges that are yet to come.

So then, is the Protestant way of viewing the Bible wrong? Not necessarily! After all, Protestants are Christians too, and we’re all in the same boat. There is the Protestant way and there is the Catholic way. When we’re asked why we believe in man-made laws the proper response is:

Just as we accept the Holy Spirit’s role in the inspiration of the Bible, so we believe the Holy Spirit guides the Church in its teaching and prevents it from falling into errors on matters of doctrine and morality.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

"My Lord and My God!"

Sunday April 3, 2016

A Reflection on John 20:19-31, N.A.B.

By: Larry T

As far as I am concerned the only reason to eat cake is for the frosting. I always maneuver for the corner piece of a rectangular or square cake; I don’t have to explain the reason for this to my fellow icing lovers. On the other hand, my wife doesn’t share my love for frosting and will carefully scrape it off when it’s too thick for her taste. Including the icing most 3-layer round cakes are about 8-inches in diameter and 6 to 7-inches tall. A generous layer of icing is usually covering the top of cupcakes, so we don’t want to overlook them. They are usually 3-inches in diameter and 2-inches tall.

Does Thomas’s faith resemble a 3-layer cake or is it more like a cupcake in this Gospel reading?

19 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.”
20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.
21 [Jesus] said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”
22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the holy Spirit.
23 Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”
24 Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came.
25 So the other disciples said to him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nail marks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”
26 Now a week later his disciples were again inside and Thomas was with them. Jesus came, although the doors were locked, and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.”
27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe.”
28 Thomas answered and said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
29 Jesus said to him, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”
30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of [his] disciples that are not written in this book.
31 But these are written that you may [come to] believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name.
- John 20:19-31, N.A.B.

Prior to Jesus’ crucifixion and death Thomas’s faith was no doubt the size of a 3-layer cake, but after Jesus’ death Thomas’s faith must have been crushed. We can easily imagine Thomas shaking his head in wide-eyed disbelief as he listened to reliable eyewitness descriptions of Jesus’ crucifixion and death. Why couldn’t Jesus have saved himself? After all, it was because of His many healings, miracles, and teachings that Thomas had come to believe in Him. But, witnesses saw a Roman centurion thrust his spear directly into Jesus’ heart, so there was no denying His death. In the end was Jesus just another in a long line of Jewish prophets to be put to death by his own people?

Upon discovering Jesus’ empty tomb Mary of Magdala tearfully reported, “They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don‘t know where they put him.” Had grave robbers stolen His body, or had the Jewish authorities taken it away? What was Thomas to make of the empty tomb?

Thomas had probably been wandering the streets aimlessly, carefully avoiding Roman and Jewish authorities, while trying to sort out the roller coaster chain of events. And now his friends were telling him that Jesus had been raised from the dead? Well, that was too much to accept! That is, until he spoke with the raised Jesus and touched His physical body; his “My Lord and my God!” was a public profession of faith in the Divinity of Jesus.

What are we to make of it all? We’ve seen that on its own Jesus’ crucifixion and death would have been just another ghastly execution at the hands of the Romans. Likewise the empty tomb on its own would have meant nothing. Take away Jesus’ crucifixion and death and the empty tomb, and there would have been nothing unusual about his sharing a meal with his disciples. But when we combine Jesus’ crucifixion and death with the empty tomb and with His bodily resurrection, we have the three pillars that support Christianity. Take away any one of these three Easter events and we might as well take away all twenty-seven books of the New Testament!

As Christians these three events are the main ingredients of our faith cake. How long does it take a faith cake to rise to its full potential? It takes a lifetime to reach 3-layer cake dimensions. But, what goes into the icing? Having a good priest as a spiritual guide, studying Holy Scripture, enjoying Christian music, and associating with the right kind of friends are some of the elements that go into the icing, but in the end they only make up the icing. If we try to heap enough frosting on a cupcake to make it pass for a 3-layer cake we wind up with a shapeless blob. Sadly, too many of us try to cover our lifeless, stagnant faith with layer upon layer of frosting. God charges each of us with the responsibility to grow in our faith. Happy cooking!