Tag Archives: Christianity

Affliction

Yesterday, I was nursing a very bad migraine which got worse as the day went by. I got off work slightly earlier than usual and went before my Lord and King at the adoration room of St. Joseph’s Church since I was early for class.

In there, I pondered. A lot of things have happened over the past week. It has not been easy to zealously share the faith, listening to people struggling with life and dealing with people who are rejecting the Gospel.

I realized that Christianity is not a sport for weekend warriors. It demands a dedication and consistency that makes time for God and summons the energy to do his will even when difficult. In short, the model Disciple is eager to serve the Lord in season and out.

Christians facing abuse, verbal or otherwise, are not to react in kind, but to invoke the blessings of God on the offender (c.f. Rom 12:4). Humanly speaking, performing an act of kindness in exchange for a blistering insult is counter-intuitive, to say the least.

Yet, this is one of the revolutionary demands of Gospel morality that makes Christians stand out. It is most perfectly exemplified in Jesus Himself, who invoked the Father’s forgiveness on those who crucified Him (Lk 23:34).

I’ve begun to see that the most foundational discipline of a Christian Disciple is serious prayer. Christian solidarity. Prayer, specifically in affliction, emphasizes on the Holy Spirit’s role as intercessor, helper and Paraclete. A Christian must sustain lifelong dialogue with the Lord.

Paul presses believers to ‘pray without ceasing’ (1 Thess 5:17) and to make their requests known to God in everything (Phil 4:6). Ultimately, constancy in prayer is a teaching that goes back to Jesus himself (Lk 18:1-8). For me, perhaps now is a time to just take a back seat and indulge in prayer.

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Originally posted on Instagram.

Parable of the Wicked Tenants

2 Peter 1:2-7, Psalm 91, Mark 12:1-12

The wicked tenants in this Gospel passage do not just represent Israel’s leaders. Our Lord too, has left us each a ‘vineyard’ of blessings, gifts, talents and charisms.

How have we been using these gifts God has loaned to us? Have we been prideful of our abilities or do we praise and thank God everyday for them? Pope Benedict tells us:

“We should not become elated over our good deeds… it is the Lord’s power, not our own, that brings about the good in them.”

Going a step further, through Baptism, every Christian is expected to participate in Christ’s ministry as Priest, Prophet and King.

As Prophets, we are expected to share the Truth of the Gospel boldly and prudently.

As Priests, we are expected to be faithful followers of Jesus. This refers to our interiority and inner disposition. If we begin to think of ourselves acting in a priestly fashion everyday of our lives, we would undoubtedly carry out the work of Jesus — bringing justice and love into our world.

As Kings (or Queens), we are in charge of ourselves. Intellect and free will are powers bestowed upon our rational souls. This gives us dominion over our choices and bodies. We have a moral obligation to look after our temples and keep our passions under reason.

The Psalmist today gives us the simplest solution on how we can fulfill our three roles to its maximum potential: “In you, my God, I place my trust.” (Ps 91:2).

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Originally posted on Instagram.
Image: PD-US

Christian Discipleship

How do we become a Disciple of Christ? This is one of the greatest questions to ask.

Leonard Porter’s rendition of Jesus taking up His cross for the Stations of the Cross commissioned by the Church of Christ the King in New Vernon, New Jersey.

Firstly, the etymology of the word ‘Disciple’ referred to the people who used to study under great Rabbis and Teachers in the past. Thus, the essence of Discipleship means, ‘to become like the Master’.

Secondly, a Disciple of Christ requires one to be interiorly conformed to the Father’s Will. To be like Christ. How though? Answer: A RELATIONSHIP. The most fundamental criteria which everything rests on. If we think about it, being in a real relationship always entitles one to RIGHTS and RESPONSIBILITY.

1) RIGHTS: Being in a relationship with Christ gives one rights. Yes, we can ‘appeal’ to God to help us whenever we need Him. And we should all the time.

2) RESPONSIBILITY: Being in a relationship with Christ also requires us to grow responsibly. If not, why bother at all? For example, we must pray, mortify ourselves, go for mass and confession, etc. Again, not just exteriorly, but interiorly. Being truly present in heart, mind and soul.

3) CONSISTENCY: Inevitably, a Disciple of Christ must have consistency. This word is derived from the Biblical Word ‘Faithfulness’ or ‘Steadfastness’. A Faithful Disciple will always consistently persevere.

Back to the concept of a Relationship: Ultimately, when we say we want to be a Disciple of Christ, we are telling God, “We honor Your Holy Covenant.”

We are to be obedient to ALL the commandments and teachings of Jesus, not cherry-pick them. Only then, would we ‘remain in His love’, as He commanded us.

Do you still want to be a Disciple of Christ? If yes, are you cooperating with His Grace to grow responsibly and consistently?

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Originally posted on Instagram.

Movie Review: Paul, Apostle of Christ

I was excited when I learned that the life of Saint Paul was going to be made into a movie. Among the saints, Saint Paul is one who has a movie-worthy life:  his dramatic conversion on the road to Damascus, a daring escape plan that involved being lowered down the window in a basket, preaching and provoking riots and getting arrested several times, shipwreck, remaining unharmed after being bitten by a viper.

Paul,  Apostle of Christ turned out different from what I expected.  It is meditative, a bit slow-paced in the beginning, and intellectual. It assumes that the viewer knows a bit about Saint Paul. Nevertheless, the movie is still accessible, and though the movie could have been improved by better storytelling and more action, it is not devoid of tension and drama.

In short, I loved the movie despite its flaws.

Paul, Apostle of Christ opened  at the time of the Roman emperor Nero’s crackdown against Christians after the burning of Rome. Christians were being persecuted, and Saint Paul was arrested, imprisoned in the Mamertine Prisons, and condemned to death by beheading.  (For parents concerned with the appropriateness of this movie for their children, the movie depicts scenes of Christians being burned as human torches, the bloody body of a dead child, and Christians, including children, in prison waiting to be thrown to the lions).

The movie follows Saint Luke’s frequent visits to Saint Paul in prison, seeking wisdom for a struggling Christian community in Rome and in order to document Saint Paul’s story in what was later to be the Acts of the Apostles. The movie also follows the subplots of the dilemma of the Christian community whether to stay in Rome or escape, the conflicts with a faction of Christians who want to raise arms against Nero, a Roman officer’s attempt to understand Christianity, and Saint Paul’s own internal conflict grappling with his past as a persecutor of Christians himself.

One of the movie’s strengths was making Saint Paul’s words come alive, putting them in the context in which they were written – a context not so different from our own times. I like how the scriptwriter chose appropriate Pauline quotes for the different situations that the movie depicted. The themes of love, forgiveness, and hope will be appreciated by many.

I also like how the movie made Saint Paul himself come alive, highlighting his mental sharpness and his zeal for souls which made seize every available opportunity to speak about Christ to everyone, even his executioners.

Another of the movie’s strengths is its depiction of the first Christians – how they lived fraternally among themselves, how their ideals clashed with those of pagan Rome, how they sustained hope and witnessed to Christ in their ordinary lives amidst persecution. The Christian characters other than Saint Paul are just as lovable, and one of my favorite parts is when a certain Christian character’s excellent practice of his profession became an occasion of grace for a non-believer.

However, the movie could have given more emphasis on the Eucharist as the sustaining and unifying force of the Christian community. There was a lot of focus on the teachings of Christ as transmitted by Saint Paul, but not enough on the Bread of Life which was the center of life and worship among the first Christians, and which was also a central theme of Pauline writings. More emphasis on the Eucharist would have been also been an apt counterpoint to the movie scenes showing sacrifices to the pagan Roman gods.

Despite its flaws, Paul, Apostle of Christ is a worthy effort to present the apostle’s life and teachings. Its depiction of Saint Paul as a man with a rich inner life and silent power beneath his aging, battered exterior complements my image of him as a passionate and energetic preacher and man of action. Watching the movie gave me a greater appreciation of Saint Paul’s role in the early Church, and how his teachings are as relevant today as they were during those times.

Movie Review: “King’s Faith”

The Christian movie King’s Faith (2013), available on Netflix, is a beautiful and moving story of faith and redemption. Best of all, it manages to convey the reality of faith without being corny or trite, examining complex human issues like death, crime, divorce and abortion with tenderness, displaying the full reality of the pain and trauma of loss while demonstrating the healing that comes with trust in each other and in God.

[Caution: some spoilers ahead]

King’s Faith centers on 18-year-old Brendan King (Crawford Wilson), who has been on the wrong side of the law multiple times and is placed in his eighteenth foster home after being detained for three years. His foster father Mike Stubbs (James McDaniel) is a math teacher at his new high school, and mentors the after-school Bible study group as well as the faith-based community service youth group, The Seekers.

Brendan was given a Bible while in juvenile detention, and came to accept the saving truth of Christianity. With his newfound faith in God, Brendan applies himself to his studies, determined to leave his old life behind.

However, trouble comes calling when Brendan saves a fellow schoolmate, Natalie Jenkins (Kayla Compton), from a car crash and appears on the news. His old gang tracks him down and demands that he hand over a stash of drugs and cash that he and his now-dead best friend had hidden before the federal drug raid that ended his friend’s life and landed Brendan in detention.

The Stubbs are recovering from the death of their only son, a police officer who was killed during a routine traffic stop. Vanessa Stubbs (Lynn Whitfield) is unable to move on, and spends most days cultivating flowers for her son’s memorial on the side of the highway.

Mike, meanwhile, has been able to surrender his pain to God and welcomes Brendan as a foster child, knowing that God may bring good out of this gift of a stable, loving home for a troubled youth. He is a trusting man who looks for the good in others, even those rejected by the rest of society.

As we follow Brendan through his new life and watch him and other characters grapple with the past, we witness the power of faith to transform even the most terrible circumstances, binding old wounds and uniting the estranged in love and truth.

On St. Paul, Sports, and Sanctity

My high school batch at St. Paul College of Pasig, a Catholic school for girls here in the Philippines run by the Sisters of St. Paul of Chartres, just celebrated its homecoming.  We prepared for it for a year, a year that was spent reminiscing about high school memories and organizing a grand celebration dinner.

Among the fond memories of our high school days, a favorite is that of the Intramurals. The Intramural athletic competitions were, and still are, a big thing in our school. Rivalry between batches in volleyball, softball, track-and-field, swimming, and chess events was intense, although everyone played fair and clean most of the time. Even members of the non-athletic majority, such as I, were expected to take the Intramurals seriously as we formed part of their batches’ pep squads in the cheering competitions. The cheering competitions were the biggest events in the Intramurals. We practiced hard for hours amidst the demands of high school homework, and each batch tried to outdo each other in coming up with the most sophisticated and most artistic pep squad and cheer dance routines.

From the conversations and social media interactions among my batch mates, it is clear that the spirit of the Intramurals is still alive among us – especially since we could never forget that we were the champions of the cheering competition during our junior year.

It seems that sports competitions were a big thing, too, to our school’s patron saint. In St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, he used athletics as an example to illustrate the determination and sacrifice it takes for a Christian to reach the highest goal in life, which is union with God: “Do you not know that in a race all the runners compete, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it.  Every athlete exercises self-control in all things.  They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.” (1 Corinthians 10:7).

In other words, St. Paul was cheering on the Christian community in Corinth, “Go! Fight! Win!”

I like the way St. Paul viewed the struggle for sanctity as a sport.

Often, we balk at the suggestion that we should aim to be saints.  We tend to think that sanctity is reserved for an elite few, and that the rest of us are doomed to either spiritual mediocrity or damnation. We want to be good but we find it hard.

St. Paul himself knew how hard it is to aim to be a saint. His writings reflect his awareness of his sinful past, and even post-conversion he wrote about “the thorn of the flesh” and having had to be delivered from his “body of death”.

Perhaps it is because he knew how discouraging the struggle against oneself can be, that he wrote about it in terms of sports to encourage his readers.  Sports are tough and demanding. They involve pain and hard training. But they are fun, too. They are all about a sense of accomplishment when one wins, hope for another second chance of victory when one loses, and camaraderie with one’s teammates in any case.

It is depressing to examine one’s conscience every night and discover that one has committed the same faults and sins as the day before.  But it is less discouraging to see one’s repeated falls as the reps that an athlete must do to master a technique.  The struggle for sanctity is not about loathing oneself for being a sinner and beating up oneself to become what one is not.  The struggle to be a saint is a spiritual sport.  One can win with training (developing virtue), proper nutrition and hydration (the Eucharist and the other sacraments), proper treatment of injuries (the sacrament of confession), following the advice of one’s coach (spiritual direction and the teachings of the Church), the right mental attitude (the theological and cardinal virtues), and teamwork (the support we get from each other as members of the Mystical Body of Christ).  Like any other sport, it is enjoyable; one fruit of training in this spiritual sport is joy.

St. Paul’s reference to a “perishable wreath” refers to the fact that during his time, victorious athletes got nothing more than crowns of leaves for all their efforts. Today’s athletes receive more durable prizes – metal or plastic trophies, or medals of gold, silver, or bronze – but just the same, these prizes serve no further purpose than to be displayed. Nevertheless, athletes invest a lot just to win these prizes. The prize for winning the spiritual sport of pursuing sanctity is priceless, and surely worth all the effort involved in attaining it.

When we are defeated in the struggle to be good, we can either give in to discouragement, or we can, like a true athlete, train for the next match and try again as many times as needed to win.  One day, we will be able to say, like Saint Paul, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith “ (2 Timothy 4:7)

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Image: PD-US

The Old Testament and the Karate Kid

It is a common charge against Christians that we ignore the unpalatable parts of the Bible, in particular the rules set down in Mosaic law as recorded in the Pentateuch.

Firstly, the Old Testament is a pre-Christian record of the development of the Jewish people as a nation.

It’s also an account of how mankind wrestled with the effects of the Fall and failed repeatedly to honor God’s commands. This utter fail demonstrates the need for a divine Savior.

In the spiritual life, as Aquinas explains, there is operative and cooperative grace. God works in us as a doctor does to restore us to full health, but we have to cooperate with the process, as a patient takes medicine and does appropriate exercises.

In the Karate Kid (1984), Mr. Miyagi trains Daniel by having him do seemingly pointless, unrelated tasks like waxing his car, sanding the floor, refinishing a fence and painting his house. However, all the repetitive motions involved in these tasks create muscle memories that are eventually vital to Daniel’s development in the art of karate fighting.

Similarly, some of God’s commandments in the Old Testament can seem arbitrary and strange to us. However, they all had a deeper purpose. They trained the people of God to live in obedience with His will, and marked them as a holy people set apart for His divine purpose.

Even today, the rules of the Church may seem strange and pointless, but they have been laid down with profound wisdom, honoring the unity of soul and body, a unity oft riven by sin. The practice of fasting teaches us not to follow our selfish urges and appetites; it trains us to be in spiritual fighting form, ready to deny ourselves of earthly goods for the sake of heavenly treasure.

As the flesh is cut off in circumcision, so does baptism, the new circumcision in Christ (cf. Colossians 2:11), cut us off from the fallen state of mankind, enabling us to live by the Holy Spirit.

Sometimes, children may not understand their parents’ commands, but when they grow up and mature in their relationship with their parents, they come to understand that it was all said and done in love for their own good.

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Image: PD-US

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The Church of Jesus Christ

To love and believe in Jesus is to obey Him.1 When one searches the Scriptures, it is readily apparent that Jesus established a Church founded on the rock of Peter,2 a corporeal and spiritual community to which all His followers were to belong. Examining history,3 we see that it is the Catholic Church which alone fits the description of this Church founded by Our Lord, handing down the Faith in an unbroken line of visible apostolic succession and dispensing divine graces through the sacraments instituted by Christ. God has given us the Church as the preeminent means of encountering, knowing, loving and serving Him. Obedience to Christ demands full communion with His Church, the Mystical Body and Bride of Christ. To try and seek Jesus in isolation would be to arrive at a defective understanding of and union with Him, His saving mission, and the Kingdom of God.

Being a person of faith entails being part of a community of believers, those who are ek-kaleo, called out by God, a people set apart,4 united in the covenantal bond with God.5 We are the Body of Christ,6 incorporated in Him through Baptism,7 partaking of the Eucharist,8 sharing in the one Priesthood of Christ and participating in the common worship of the one Divine Liturgy.9 The Church does not merely stand for Christ but is Christ;10 as St Jeanne d’Arc said, “About Jesus Christ and the Church, I simply know they’re just one thing, and we shouldn’t complicate the matter.11 The Risen Lord identified Himself completely with His Church, saying to Saul on the road to Damascus: “Why do you persecute Me?”12 Saul had never encountered Jesus during His earthly ministry, but was persecuting members of the early Church. Therefore, to love and obey the Church is to love and obey Jesus; they are one and the same. Conversely, to deny the Church is to deny Christ Himself, to separate oneself from the life of the Body of Christ and cut oneself off from the Living Vine.13 Those who claim to have a relationship with Jesus apart from the Church, at most have only an imperfect communion with Him.14

Christianity, being the religion of the Incarnation, is a faith manifested in the physical reality of the Church,15 which Jesus instituted to perpetuate the faith.16 The magisterium or teaching authority of the Church gives us the guarantee that the teachings of our faith are orthodox and apostolic;17 it also possesses the capability to iron out doctrinal controversies with conclusive pronouncements,18 instead of descending into disunity.19 Jesus said to His disciples: “He who hears you, hears Me, and he who despises you, despises Me; and he who despises Me, despises Him that sent Me.”20 Christ has endowed the presbyters of His Church with divine authority to “teach all nations; baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.”21 In particular, Christ ensured the unity of His Church by centering the community on the rock of Peter,22 giving him administrative authority over His Church symbolized by the keys to the Kingdom;23 the Vicar of Christ is given a share in Christ’s own nature and office as the Rock and Cornerstone of faith.24 Ubi Petrus ibi ecclesia, et ibi ecclesia vita eterna: where there is Peter there is the Church, where there is the Church there is Life eternal,25 which is Jesus Christ. Christ spoke of the apostles’ function of being judges or rulers over His Church.26 This applies to the successors of the apostles – the bishops,27 who are pastors (literally, shepherds) of Christ’s flock, guiding and serving believers in the life of faith. It is based on the papal and collegial authority of the Church “built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets”,28 that we have the Holy Bible and apprehend the articles of faith;29 it is by the preaching of the Church, the “pillar and ground of the truth”,30 that we have the Gospel through which we know Jesus.31

The ministerial priesthood is at the service of the baptismal priesthood,32 enabling believers to encounter Christ through the sacraments of the Church:33 particularly in Baptism, where one is incorporated through the working of the Holy Spirit into Christ’s Mystical Body; in Confirmation, where one receives the Holy Spirit again in order to be more fully configured to Christ and participate in His saving work; and most especially in the Eucharist, where one is physically and spiritually united with Jesus.34 One cannot have a more personal relationship with Jesus than in the reception of the Blessed Sacrament, where He becomes our very food,35 our spiritual nourishment. Jesus commanded his apostles to perpetuate the Holy Sacrifice in memory of Him,36 and this has continued to the present day through the Church’s liturgy, which is also the principal setting where the Scriptures – telling of the life and message of Christ – are read and meditated upon. Only the Church possesses the true sacraments through which God is encountered and His grace outpoured on this earth for His redemptive work;37 and the priests of the Church are uniquely configured to Christ, acting in persona Christi so that the faithful have immediate access to Christ through them.38 The Church is not an end in herself,39 but always directs the believer to Christ and the Kingdom of God,40 through the working of the Holy Spirit.41 The Church herself is a Sacrament,42 being a symbol and means of union with God and humanity,43 manifesting Christ in the same way that He was physically present during His earthly ministry, taking on a particular human form and living among men.44 The Church and her members are not barriers between oneself and Jesus; instead, participating in the life of the Church brings one closer to Jesus in the way He intended,45 and leads to salvation.46

One’s faith is sustained by the community through its rites, symbols and customs.47 Belief must be externalized through habitualization and ritual,48 then institutionalization;49 this externalization strengthens faith, embedding it in daily life. An individual’s growth occurs in tandem with the development of the society he belongs to.50 Without the support of a community, it is easy to lose faith in times of difficulties and distress. Even Protestants, who tend to emphasize one’s personal relationship with the Lord to the exclusion of the communion of saints, in practice still end up forming ecclesial communities where the members edify and encourage each other. Catholics have an incredible source of solace in the invisible members of the communion of saints, the Church Triumphant; through them, believers are given particular models of sanctity in living Christ-like lives, as well as heavenly assistance through their intercession, perfected by their union with Christ.51 Living in Christ entails living in communion with His saints, in Heaven and on earth.52

Divine revelation was public,53 not private in character, and the deposit of faith is necessarily passed on through the public witness of the ecclesial community, the Mystical Body of Christ.54 It is not a matter of indifference as to what faith one subscribes to; it is not sufficient simply to believe in God; if so, even the devils would be saved.55 One’s belief must be backed up by genuine divine authority and the authentic witness of a Christian life lived for God and for others.56

St Cyprian affirmed: “No one can have God as his Father who does not have the Church as his Mother.”57 Jesus is never found in isolation, and one cannot be a Christian alone. The very Godhead is a community, and the Christian life, being modeled on Trinitarian life,58 is by definition a communal way of life.59 The Lord commanded His disciples to love one another as He loved them, for by that shall all men know that they are His disciples.60 To love and imitate Jesus is to love those dear to Him – His family, His Church. This shared bond of love unites believers in a common witness to the world. Jesus’ prayer before commencing His Passion was that His followers would be one as He and the Father are one,61 so that the world may believe that the Father sent Him.62 Life in Christ is characterized by harmony and unity;63 authentic Christian faith is summarized by the four marks of the Church: One,64 Holy,65 Catholic and Apostolic.66

In conclusion, it is only through the Catholic Church, the Barque of Peter, that one is assured of receiving the genuine apostolic faith handed down from the time of Christ through Scripture and Tradition. In the sacraments, one truly encounters the Crucified Christ, not only spiritually but physically as well. To divorce oneself from Christ’s Church is to impoverish one’s faith, robbing it of the support and nourishment of the true Vine. It is possible to approach Christ outside the bounds of the visible Church, but to enjoy the fullness of life in Him is to be a member of His Holy Church, which is animated by His Spirit and fulfills His salvific mission from the Father.

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1 John 14:15.

2 Matthew 16:18.

3 John Salza, “What is the History of Your Church?” Scripture Catholic (updated 2004) http://www.scripturecatholic.com/history.html [accessed 23rd April, 2013].

4 Deuteronomy 7:6.

5 Avery Cardinal Dulles S.J., “The Ecclesial Dimension of Faith”. Communio 22, 3 (Fall, 1995) pp. 418-432, at 419.

6 1 Cor. 12:27.

7 Dulles, op. cit., p. 423.

8 Fr Friedrich Jürgensmeier, The Mystical Body of Christ. Sheed and Ward (New York, 1954), p. 236.

9 Paul VI, 1964, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (Vatican II, Lumen Gentium), 34-36 [henceforth referred to as LG]; John XXIII, 1963, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy (Vatican II, Sacrosanctum Concilium), 14.

10 Jürgensmeier, op. cit., p. 29.

11 “Acts of the Trial of Joan of Arc”, Catechism of the Catholic Church, 795 http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p123a9p2.htm [accessed 23rd April, 2013].

12 Acts 9:4.

13 Fulton Sheen, The Mystical Body of Christ. Sheed & Ward (London, 1935), p. 239; John 15:5.

14 Paul VI, 1964, Decree on Ecumenism (Vatican II, Unitatis Redintegratio), 3; Dulles, op. cit., p. 421.

15 Fr Timothy Radcliffe O.P., “Should I Stay or Should I Go?” (updated 10 April, 2010) http://www.thetablet.co.uk/article/14543 [accessed 6th May 2013].

16 Fr Arnold Damen S.J., “The Church or the Bible” (updated 2013) http://www.drbo.org/church.htm [accessed 23rd April, 2013].

17 Norman Cardinal Gilroy, Archbishop of Sydney, “The Magisterium of the Vicar of Christ”, L’Osservatore Romano, 4 April 1968, p. 7 http://www.ewtn.com/library/Theology/MAGVICXR.HTM [accessed 6th May 2013].

18 Gaillardetz, op. cit., p. 60.

19 Damen, “The Church or the Bible”, op. cit.

20 Luke 10:16.

21 Matthew 28:19.

22 Henri de Lubac, The Motherhood of the Church. Ignatius Press (San Francisco, 1982), p. 276.

23 Scott Hahn, “Scott Hahn on the Papacy” (updated 2007) http://www.catholic-pages.com/pope/hahn.asp [accessed 14th May 2013].

24 Dr Thomas Mor Athanasius, “Primacy of St Peter” http://www.syrianchurch.org/Articles/PrimacyofStPeter.htm [accessed 14th May 2013].

25 St Ambrose of Milan.

26 Matthew 19:28.

27 Vat. II, LG, 28.

28 Ephesians 2:20.

29 Council of Rome, Decretum Gelasianum.

30 1 Timothy 3:15.

31 Fr Jules Lebreton, S.J., and Jacques Zeiller, The Church in the New Testament. Collier Books (New York, 1962), p. 83.

32 Vat. II, LG, 10.

33 Dulles, “The Ecclesial Dimension of Faith”, op. cit., p. 431.

34 Avery Cardinal Dulles S.J., A Church to Believe In. The Crossroad Publishing Company (New York, 1982), p. 44.

35 John 6:5-6.

36 1 Corinthians 11:25.

37 Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Responses to Some Questions regarding Certain Aspects of the Doctrine of the Church, Fourth Question http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_20070629_responsa-quaestiones_en.html [accessed 14th May, 2013].

38 Vat. II, LG, 28.

39 Yves Congar, This Church that I Love. Dimension Books (New Jersey, 1969), p. 97.

40 John Paul II, 1990, Redemptoris Missio (The Mission of Christ the Redeemer), Encyclical on the permanent validity of the Church’s missionary mandate, 18; Raymond E. Brown, The Churches the Apostles Left Behind. Geoffrey Chapman (London, 1984), p. 51; Fr Geoffrey Preston, O.P., Faces of the Church. T&T Clark (Edinburgh, 1997), p. 67.

41 Manuel Urena, “The missionary impulse in the Church according to Redemptoris Missio”. Communio 19, 1 (Spring, 1992), pp. 94-102, at 101; Vat. II, LG, 4; Ephesians 1:17; Gaillardetz, op. cit., p. 50.

42 Richard R. Gaillardetz, The Church in the Making: Lumen Gentium, Christus Dominus, Orientalium Ecclesiarum. Paulist Press (New York, 2006), p. 43.

43 Vat. II, LG, 1.

44 Francis A. Sullivan, “The Evangelising Mission of the Church”, The Gift of the Church. Liturgical Press (Collegeville, 2000), p. 235.

45 Matthew 16:18, 18:18.

46 Congar, op. cit., p. 51.

47 Dulles, “The Ecclesial Dimension of Faith”, op. cit., p. 419.

48 Adam B. Seligman, Robert P. Weller and Michael J. Puett, Ritual and Its Consequences: An Essay on the Limits of Sincerity. Oxford University Press (2008), p. 37.

49 Peter L. Berger and Thomas Luckmann, The Social Construction of Reality. Doubleday (New York, 1966), p. 53.

50 Ibid., p. 52.

51 Christoph Cardinal Schönborn, “The ‘Communion of Saints’ as three states of the Church: pilgrimage, purification, and glory”. Communio 15 (Summer, 1988), pp. 169-181, at 176.

52 Congar, op. cit., p. 97.

53 Gaillardetz, op. cit., p. 49.

54 Dulles, “The Ecclesial Dimension of Faith”, op. cit., p. 425; Pius XII, 1943, Encyclical Mystici Corporis Christi, 1.

55 Fr Arnold Damen S.J., “The One True Church” (updated 2013) http://www.drbo.org/church2.htm [accessed 23rd April, 2013]; James 2:19.

56 Luke 10:27; James 2:20.

57 St Cyprian, Epistle 43.

58 Gaillardetz, op. cit., p. 47.

59 David S. Cunningham, “The Trinity”. The Cambridge Companion to Postmodern Theology. Cambridge University Press (Cambridge, 2003), p. 199.

60 John 13:34.

61 Lebreton and Zeiller, op. cit., p. 145; Congar, op. cit., p. 109.

62 John 17:11, 21.

63 Vat. II, LG, 1.

64 Gaillardetz, op. cit., p. 58.

65 Vat. II, LG, 39.

66 First Council of Constantinople, The Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed.

Masterpieces are Made by Many

He who has himself for a guide has a fool for a disciple.

art studio

I had a lapsed Catholic friend who expressed skepticism about our devotion to saints, because she had read that it originated in the worship of pagan gods. Well, if you walk into the Pantheon in Rome today, you will see that it is dedicated to St. Mary and the Martyrs. Christianity is the religion of the Incarnation; just as God elevates our human nature into His divine life through the life and death of Jesus Christ, so does Catholicism elevate non-Christian culture by receiving what is true, good and beautiful in it into the life of the Church. We do not worship saints, far from it – we honor them as masterpieces of God, frail humans just like us who derived their strength, courage and joy from the One God.

It is a really modern idea that for something to be good, or valid, or sound, it has to be one-of-a-kind, trademarked, patented, branded, a unique individual piece to be appreciated on its own merit. People are suspicious that copies are not genuine. But the world doesn’t work that way – creation is full of recycling: just look at the food chain! Human endeavors are built on the work of previous generations. It would be terribly inefficient to reinvent the wheel every time we embarked on a project.

The entire enterprise of education involves teachers handing down skills and knowledge from previous generations, and we are bound to trust this process to some degree, even though it is mediated through imperfect human beings. We are copies of our parents and our ancestors – we are at once unique, entirely new individuals from the moment of our conception, and also replicas of the people who have gone before us, a part of the vast community of humanity. God alone is the Original.

Christianity did not develop in a vacuum – Christ came in the fullness of time (Galatians 4:4), fulfilling not just Hebrew but also pagan prophecies;1 the time of His coming resulted in the early Church being able to synthesize Jewish tradition, Greek philosophy and Roman governance, creating a strong foundation for the rest of salvation history.2 With God, there are no accidents. Ancient texts like the Babylonian Epic of Gilgamesh echo the tale of Noah’s flood in Genesis; God is present and active throughout human history, though He has chosen to bind salvation to the Barque of Peter. As Aquinas says, grace does not destroy nature but perfects it.3 It takes a Jewish girl and, through her acceptance of God’s proposal, makes her Theotokos and Queen of Heaven;4 it takes up our offerings of bread and wine, transforming them into God’s own Self, the supersubstantial bread referred to in the Lord’s Prayer. God’s grace, His infinite mercy, takes our human lives and all of human history and transfigures everything, everything, taking it to Himself.

It was only with the Renaissance that composers began acknowledging authorship of their own work.5 Even so, they continued to borrow liberally from each other, as demonstrated by Mozart’s, I mean, Beethoven’s Ode to Joy.6 From the humanism of the Renaissance came modern anthropocentricity, decried by gulag survivor Alexander Solzhenitsyn in his commencement address at Harvard.7

Mona Lisa has a twin, a painting “executed by an artist in Leonardo da Vinci’s workshop at the same time as the original. Probably it was created by Francesco Melzi, one of Leonardo’s favorite pupils.”8 Art, like architecture, used to be a craft with skills passed down from generation to generation, steadily developing but not departing from the mathematical principles of aesthetics. (Incidentally, there is a new online Masters of Sacred Art course where you can learn to create beautiful art in the tradition of Holy Mother Church). Art was taught in schools where pupils assisted the master craftsman with producing commissioned pieces. It was an organic and collaborative process, with the Church as principle patron and benefactor.

This too can be seen in the creation of the Biblical canon. The Bible is comprised of books which each have their own name, but scripture scholarship has taught us that many of the books have multiple authors, each with a unique, detectable voice. Other ancient texts like the Iliad and the Odyssey are also deemed to have had multiple authors, though these two are attributed to Homer; they were passed down in oral tradition before being written down, just as Holy Writ and British common laws were handed down. This does not detract from the truth, beauty or authority of the scriptures, through which God deigns to speak to us today. Like fertile riverbanks forming through gradual accretion of silt and being slowly molded by the flow of the river, so did the rich loamy soil of Scripture and Tradition develop naturally through the centuries, molded by the Holy Spirit.

The books of the Bible were not written under divine dictation, but with divine inspiration. In this, we can see how God respects the freedom of human creatures. He has endowed us with reason and faith, which enable us to collaborate in His work even through our imperfect lives. The process of deciding which books were canonical was also a collaborative exercise performed under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, at the Council of Rome in AD 382.9

In the Church, we do not “go it alone”. We are not self-made men. On the contrary, we are members of the One Body of Christ, a communion of saints working in unison to proclaim the Good News, setting the world ablaze with the fire of God’s love, the love of the Holy Trinity. God is the perfect Union of Persons, a Communion of superabundant Love that pours Itself into all creation, making masterpieces out of messiness.

Bernard of Chartres used to compare us to dwarfs perched on the shoulders of giants. He pointed out that we see more and farther than our predecessors, not because we have keener vision or greater height, but because we are lifted up and borne aloft on their gigantic stature.
John of Salisbury, Metalogicon (1159)

Private prayer is like straw scattered here and there: If you set it on fire it makes a lot of little flames. But gather these straws into a bundle and light them, and you get a mighty fire, rising like a column into the sky; public prayer is like that.
St. Jean-Baptiste Marie Vianney, Curé d’Ars

Our heart is built according to the Trinity; our love is built according to the trinitarian love; all nature has a trinitarian character.
Msgr. Leo Maasburg

…a threefold cord is not easily broken.
Ecclesiastes 4:12

Reality, in fact, is usually something you could not have guessed. That is one of the reasons I believe Christianity. It is a religion you could not have guessed. If it offered us just the kind of universe we had always expected, I should feel we were making it up. But, in fact, it is not the sort of thing anyone would have made up. It has just that queer twist about it that real things have. So let us leave behind all these boys’ philosophies — these over-simple answers. The problem is not simple and the answer is not going to be simple either.
—C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Image: “The Evolution of the Artist’s Studio, From Renaissance Bottega to Assembly Line”, Artspace.

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1 Archbishop Fulton Sheen, “The Only Person Ever Pre-Announced”, The Catholic Thing.

3 St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, Part 1, 1:8.

4 Eric M. Johnston, “Grace Does Not ‘Build On’ Nature”, The Catholic Spiritual Life.

6 M. Klugewicz, “Did Mozart Actually Write the ‘Ode to Joy’?”, The Imaginative Conservative.

7 Joseph Pearce, “Alexander Solzhenitsyn: The Courage to be a Christian”, The Imaginative Conservative.

8 Zuzanna Stanska, “Meet Mona Lisa Twin (Shocking!)”, Daily Art Daily.

9No Church, No Bible”, Thanks to Catholicism.

The New Evangelization: What’s new, why now?

Evangelization: Why is the Gospel good news?

The word “evangelization” comes from the Greek “Euangelion” meaning the announcing of good news. St Paul and the apostles were excited about the person and message of Jesus. They had encountered Jesus as a Savior, who by His cross and resurrection, has triumphed over sin and death, and who has sent His Holy Spirit to accompany His followers in all things. The command by Jesus to “go teach all nations” was not felt as a burden imposed upon them, but as a joyful obligation. They had experienced true freedom in the Gospel “for freedom Christ has set us free”, and they wanted to proclaim this to the world, that God has made adoption as His children possible in Christ.

Through the preaching of the apostles, those who became Christian in the early Church felt the same freedom. St. Justin Martyr felt that Christ was the fulfillment of his vocation as a philosopher. St. Agatha felt herself to be a spouse of Jesus. To preserve her vow of virginity, she refused marriage to a pagan noble and suffered martyrdom as a result. St. Augustine, after living a chaotic life, famously declared after his baptism, “You have made us for ourselves O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” The ancient world was stirred by Christ and His message. The human person has a royal dignity and a direct link with the Creator. God in Jesus Christ is the friend of the human person. And the countless Powers—gods, spirits, demons—weighing upon the soul with all their terrors, now crumbled into dust.

Why a “new” evangelization?

If evangelization is the announcing of good news, why the need for a new evangelization? John Paul II, who first coined the phrase “new evangelization”, clarified that the message of the Gospel has certainly not changed. What has changed however was the fact that

i. A growing number of Christians, in traditionally Christian countries, no longer experience Christianity, especially its moral teaching, as liberation but as a burden. They practice their religion “as if they have just returned from a funeral.”

ii. Increasingly educated and exposed to science and reason, the doctrines of Christianity were also experienced as somehow pre-scientific and having no rational basis.

Two convenient options

Faced with these two challenges, a Catholic can take the “soft” option. He can (at least in his own mind) “water down” the Church’s moral teaching, especially its difficult and inconvenient ones. Faced with accusations that he is being “pre-scientific”, he could also discard the seemingly incomprehensible “supernatural” doctrines of Christianity (the resurrection or the virgin birth, for example) and focus on what seems to be “reasonable.”

He can also take the “hard” option. In the face of a hostile world, he can retreat into his private Catholic space, with other like-minded Catholics, viewing the “hard” teachings as a necessary burden to attain heaven in the next life and diagnosing Catholics who have difficulties in believing as somehow lacking in faith. “If only they pray more and have more faith and don’t question too much.”

The teaching of the New Evangelization proposes a third option. John Paul II declares that the new Evangelization must be new “in ardor, methods and expression.” Let’s look at these in turn.

New in Ardor

Ardor refers primarily to enthusiasm and excitement. This is something that cannot be “faked”. It has to be real. It has to flow from an encounter, or a re-encounter with the person of Jesus Christ. Hence, Singapore Archbishop William Goh’s emphasis on the “conversion experience”, where one recognizes that he is a sinner in need of grace. Jesus Christ is experienced no longer as simply a great moral teacher but one’s personal savior. To continue fanning the flame of conversion, the Archbishop insists on the cultivating of an intense prayer life and on-going formation so that the converted disciple can better share the Gospel with others.

New in Method

There is a move away from teaching Catechism as simply “doctrines to be learnt” or “moral teachings to be followed.” Rather, at the heart of Catechesis is to facilitate for the child an encounter with the person of Christ. Doctrines and the Church’s moral teaching flow from that encounter. They liberate the person to live a new life in Christ. They point to Him. They are not ends in themselves. The catechist is not “the teacher” but a “facilitator.” Christ is the Teacher. The catechist is there to facilitate the encounter. He is not “God’s lawyer.” Rather, he is a co-pilgrim with his students in the journey of life. He has nevertheless found Christ in his pilgrimage of life and is thus there to share this with his students.

I remembered one incident that might illustrate this new approach. I bumped into my student who was hanging outside church and not attending Mass. In my earlier years as a Catechist, I would actually have focused straight away on his non-attendance at Mass and tell him that what he is doing is very wrong and that he should go for confession and then for Mass the next time. This time, I did something different. I said hello and asked him if he would like to chat a while as he seemed to have things on his mind. What followed was a 30 minute conversation where he shared about how he felt that Church teaching is restricting his freedom and that his family situation is unhappy. I acknowledged his feelings as very real and shared with him how, in my own experience, I too had these feelings but had gradually found Christ to be a source of freedom. I did not focus on what he “did not do.” A year later, while preparing another batch of students for confirmation, he waved at me and said that he too has decided to get confirmed. He too had experienced the love of Christ for him and found in the Catholic faith a source of true freedom. While I would never dare to take any credit for his conversion, I nevertheless shudder to think what might have happened if I had “scolded” him for not attending Mass during our first encounter, out of a sense of misguided zeal.

New in Expression.

Icon written by Br. Claude Lane, OSB, Mount Angel Abbey, Saint Benedict, OR, USA

It is easy to simply reduce the phrase “new in expression” to the need for Catholics to be “up to date”, especially in the use of social media (Facebook etc). While social media is certainly an important means of evangelization, the call for a “new expression” is deeper than that. It is a call to re-present the person and message of Christ in a manner that is comprehensible, challenging and compelling to a new generation. It would be no use for instance to say “Jesus Christ saves you from sin” when the culture has lost a sense of sin. Rather, a patient dialogue about the nature of right and wrong would be an important first step in precisely recovering such a sense, and then showing how Christ saves us from the burden of an overwhelming guilt. The art of learning how to understand the cultural situation in the light of Christ would require formation. But the acquiring of such knowledge is not simply “book knowledge” but flows from the fervor to make Christ known to others.

Conclusion: Mary, the Star of the New Evangelization

On 27th Sept 2014, Archbishop William Goh consecrated Singapore to Mary, the Star of the New Evangelisation. In this, we ask not only for our blessed Mother’s powerful intercession, but also through the studying of her life, we will know how to go about our tasks of evangelizing. As the Archbishop declared in his pastoral letter, it is from Mary that we learn i) that the New Evangelization is urgent. That it is ii) principally a witness of love. That it must iii) begin from a contemplation of the Word of God and that iv) it must possess a spirit of poverty and the recognition of the primacy of grace.

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Image: Church of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour

A Scientific Approach to God

It is said that the most popular theory for the beginning of time and space is the Big Bang. This is the theory which states that 13.8 billion years ago, “everything in the Cosmos started out as a single point in space. In an instant, everything expanded outward from that location, forming the energy, atoms and eventually the stars and galaxies we see today.” An impressive theory, one that can easily be reconciled with the Creation Narratives of Christianity. However, there are many who renounce the account of God creating the universe, choosing various other viewpoints, even random chance, as the reason why there is something rather than nothing.

Msgr Georges Lemaître

Monsignor Georges Lemaître, a Roman Catholic priest, is credited with conceiving and advancing the Big Bang theory in 1927. This was at a time when many scientists believed that the universe was infinite, and therefore most had trouble accepting Monsignor Lemaître’s proposal. However, after Edwin Hubble reported in 1929 his observations that far galaxies are continuing to move further away from us, scientists began to accept the theory. This included Stephen Hawking, whose work in the 1960s helped to further the understanding that the universe has a beginning.

A sensible decision — if we observe that galaxies in space are moving away from each other, then it would make perfect sense that they were at one time very close together. Moreover, it would be correct to infer that there was some force that caused the galaxies to separate and expand.

While science is a great tool in discerning and discovering aspects of reality, it cannot be deemed the sole arbiter of what is real and what is not. To say that God did not have a role in the beginning of time and space is an unscientific claim. I state that there is much more proof for God than there is for the idea of a Godless beginning of everything.

First, we can scientifically observe the world around us and see that in no other circumstance does something cause itself. Nothing else seems to just happen without something bringing it about. To say that the Big Bang caused itself would then be an exception in which we allow for a self-caused entity to exist.

Earth

If one wanted to turn the tables, so to say, on Christians and our God, we see that the definition of God is that He is not created, therefore not a self-caused, but an infinite Being. We believe this as it has been revealed to us through Divine Revelation and not from mere observation. Furthermore, we do not believe this as sole individuals or as part of a cult, but as members of an institution with rich foundational Tradition, which brings me to my next point.

If we look at the evidence for our Faith that has been handed down over the millennia, we can rest assured that when we assert that the Creation of Life and the World by an all-loving God is reality, we are in good standing and good company. The Church itself has 2,000 years of teachings and further clarifications from many respectable, intelligent people. If one does the work, one will find logical conclusions and insights within these teachings.

Furthermore, much like Christ performed miracles to affirm His teaching, so too do we find many miracles through the history of the Church to affirm our Faith. Two of the strongest are the tilma of Our Lady of Guadalupe (still on display in Mexico City) and the Eucharistic Miracle of Lanciano (still on display in Lanciano, Italy). While many can assume these two phenomena, both studied and tested, are false and easily ignore them, that does not prove them to be false. In fact, in many of its investigations of miracles, the Church has asked atheist scientists to study them in order to receive unbiased conclusions.

While these miracles and testimonies are indeed extraordinary, there is still more for the Christian in our Faith. In fact, not only can we know more about our Faith and come to know of God’s power, but we are also able to know God Himself, growing closer to Him and experiencing His power each day. Just like it is possible for one to buy a really expensive telescope and witness for themselves the drifting of the planets to believe in the Big Bang, it is also possible for one to know for themselves that God exists.

However, before God proves Himself to us, we need to prove ourselves to Him. Throughout the Gospels, the miracles that Christ performs on behalf of the sick, the blind, the deaf are for those who show great faith in Him. The hemorrhaging woman who touches His cloak, the paralyzed man lowered through the roof by his friends, and the Centurion whose slave was also in need of healing all went before Jesus with faith. While God too is the source of this Faith, we must use our free will to accept His Revelation and whatever He has planned for us. Additionally, it is interesting to note that all of these men and women manifested their Faith to Jesus in a big way.

It might not have been as comfortable as it seems for these people to go before Christ in front of others, humbly show their weaknesses and ask for healing. In a way, they needed to leave their comfort zones in order to experience Jesus in this way. So too must we be stretched at times in order to experience God. Furthermore, we must go humbly, seeking Him on His terms. We cannot reduce God into an organism that we can fully know and study exhaustively. If we could, He would not be God.

In a way, the origin of the universe is an interesting analogy for God. Today, we can study and learn more about it, but we cannot fully identify nor comprehend how or why the universe began, with the unique role of Earth in supporting life. Nor can we know God fully. However, with the testimonies we find in the Church over the past 2,000 years, along with the Jewish foundations on which these accounts are based, as well as our own experience of God in our daily ever-enriched lives, we can study and learn more about God, while not fully comprehending Him.

In our study and growth in relationship with the Almighty, there are things we can actively do to both prove ourselves to Him and know God and our Faith more.

First, we can read some of the following books:

  1. Practical Theology by Dr. Peter Kreeft
  2. Particles of Faith: A Catholic Guide to Navigating Science by Stacy Trasancos
  3. Pints with Aquinas by Matt Fradd
  4. Theology for Beginners by Frank Sheed
  5. Triumph: The Power and the Glory of the Catholic Church by H. W. Crocker III

Second, we can practice these devotions

  1. The Rosary
  2. The Daily Office (even just the morning prayer)
  3. Mass more than just on Sundays (even every day is possible)
  4. Routine Adoration
  5. Scheduled prayer time
  6. Daily Bible or Gospel Meditation
  7. Join/start a Prayer group that involves any of the above devotions or the books listed.

Our Faith is much more than a viewpoint, opinion, or theory of life. It is even more than a way of life, because it is Life itself. These books and practices are ways for us to encounter this Life that raises us up both now and at the end of our lives. Our Faith is bursting with much more and I would love to see in the comments anything else you would recommend for myself and others to encounter God and grow more in our Faith.

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Image: AllThingsCatholic; NASA.

Read the Bible By Going To Mass

I remember an impactful talk given by Dr. Scott Hahn in an Atlanta home a little less then a year ago. In it he compared Catholics’ knowledge of the Bible to children’s knowledge of the streets in their hometown, not so much by knowing the street names, but from the memory of walking through them their whole lives. He underlined how the Liturgical hermeneutic, reading the Bible in the Mass, allows us to experience and know the Scriptures.

St. Paul authored the first Letter to the Thessalonians, the first document from the New Testament to be written down, around A.D. 51-52. This means that there were about 19 years in which the only Scriptures the early Christians had was the Old Testament. The New Testament would come about by Christians writing down the teachings and events of the Life, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus, with some explaining these things through letters, like First Thessalonians.

The importance of Scripture is highlighted in the Catholic faith, as it is one of two modes of transmission of the Divine Word of God, His Revelation of Himself to man so that we might not just know about God, but know Him personally. The Scriptures, along with Oral Tradition, the other means by which we have received God’s Word, allow us to come into contact with God’s Revelation of Himself. These two unique communications of this Revelation meet in the Mass, where the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist form together for mankind the highest and most meaningful prayer.

Therefore we can accurately say that in the Mass is the best place to read the Bible. An analogy may be drawn with the works of Shakespeare. While for some, Shakespeare’s plays are a little confusing at times, they are nonetheless wonderful stories to read. Moreover, an interesting aspect of these stories is that they were not only meant to be read in a book. They are meant to be acted out on a stage. To be seen live in person, with the words heard as they are pronounced in iambic pentameter.

So too are the Scriptures meant to be performed, not at a playhouse, but in the Mass. In the heart of the Church, with the Source and Summit of Grace, the Eucharist, we are able to experience the Scriptures. The Mass is drenched with the Bible. From the prayers of the priest to the responses of the people, and the very actions within this Holy Celebration, we see the Scriptures brought to life. We might not see the Centurion and his servant when we quote Matthew 8 crying out, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed”. Okay, we say soul, he said servant, but the message is still the same. Furthermore, we hear the Word proclaimed in the Liturgy of the Word.

In fact, it was the Holy Spirit guiding the Early Church in choosing which readings of that time should be proclaimed in the Liturgy of the Word that helped to form the Canon itself. We can say that the New Testament was assembled in the Mass. And if we look at the direction in which both the Old Testament and the New Testament go, both separately and united, we can see that we are guided by the Scriptures to the Mass. The Israelites were formed and eventually brought to the Promised Land, and were given a Temple to worship in. The Temple Life was active around the time of Jesus and He was very happy with most of what was going on there. However, He came to give us more, and the Scriptures bring us to what He does in the Upper Room. Moreover, Acts 2:42 gives us a glimpse of the life of the Early Church after Christ’s Resurrection: “And they held steadfastly to the Apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to the prayers.”

The Breaking of Bread refers to the Eucharist. At least that’s what St. Paul communicates in 1 Corinthians 10:16, “The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the Body of Christ?” Holy Mass

The Scriptures lead us to the Mass and the Mass gives us the Scriptures. The relationship between the two highlights the heavy celebration of the Word of God by the Catholic Church. It also connects us to the Scriptures as we participate in the Heavenly Liturgy we read about in the Book of Revelation.

And so we see that not only is attending Mass a great way to read the Bible, it is irreplaceably the best way to read the Sacred Page. Or better yet, to breathe the Sacred Page as we truly act out the Bible by going to Mass. In fact, in the Mass, the whole person experiences the Scriptures, body and soul.

In each part of the Mass, the human person is either standing, sitting, or kneeling. And in each part of the Mass, the human is either praising God through His Words, adoring God with His Words, or Reflecting on God in His Words. When we stand we pray and receive God through the Scriptures; when we kneel we adore and exalt God with the Scriptures; and when we sit, we reflect and meditate on God in the Scriptures.

Furthermore, through our responses taken directly from the Bible, we allow for the Scriptures to move through us, using all three powers of the human soul, the memory, the intellect, and the will. In this way, we are not merely passive in the Liturgy, but are actively participating.

With the memory, we memorize the responses to recall and proclaim and further remember the stories of Scripture as they are read to us again and again over the course of our lives. We are assenting to the Scriptures with our intellects, receiving them and reflecting on them as they too are proclaimed back to us throughout the Mass. Finally, we use our wills to choose to participate through the responses with the Holy Words of the Scriptures, and honor God through them. This last part is true love, attaching the heart to the mind’s and body’s participation.

The Scriptures are then breathed in and out of the Mystical Body of Christ at every Mass united together throughout the whole World. Moreover, we have the same Scriptures at every Mass to drive the heartbeat of the Church to one rhythm filling our veins with grace, as we not only allow God’s Word to once again build us up from clay, but also to cover our bones with the flesh of dignity, and then redeem us through His sacrifice and Resurrection. This same Mystery, proclaimed to us in the very Word, is again and again re-presented to us in the Mass, while the words that first inform us and remind us of it are actually proclaimed.

In this way, we see the greatest method to read the Bible and know its truths. In the Mass, we are not simply given a map of the Bible, not even a street view, but in a mystical way, an experience of the Bible. In the Mass, we breath, we speak, and sing the Words of the Sacred Page as actors in the Liturgical Play. Let us continue to commit ourselves to giving our best in each performance. May God be with us all.

‘As the Mass moved on, however, something hit me. My Bible wasn’t just beside me. It was before mein the words of the Mass! One line was from Isaiah, another from the Psalms, another from Paul. The experience was overwhelming. I wanted to stop everything and shout, “Hey, can I explain what’s happening from Scripture? This is great!” Still, I maintained my observer status. I remained on the sidelines until I heard the priest pronounce the words of consecration: “This is My body… This is the cup of My blood.”‘
The Lamb’s Supper: The Mass As Heaven On Earth by Scott Hahn (former Presbyterian minister)

Image: Signum-Crucis