Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Bible alone?

In order to find truth,
one must be open to find it...
wherever that may be.

I reached a point where I began to question what was TRUE. Of course, I knew that I had "some" truth but certain things were just not adding up. It was not until I truly opened my heart, that I was able to see the complete truth that God was calling me to see.

One of those things that didn't add up was the idea that the Bible was the "sole rule of faith". Many Protestants, when asked, "What is the pillar of truth?" will reply, "The Bible!"

But the Bible says:

1 Timothy 3:14-15 (NIV)
Although I hope to come to you soon, I am writing you these instructions so that, if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God's household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.

The church is the pillar of truth... and if the church is the pillar of truth, aren't Catholics correct when they look to the church for the authority to interpret Scripture? The Bible itself does not make a claim to be the sole rule of faith but it DOES state that the church is the "pillar and foundation of truth".

Christ clearly established a visible Church... but that's for another post!

What I want to talk about is "sola scriptura".

Protestants often argue that the Bible claims to be the sole rule of faith in the following passage:

2 Timothy 3:16-17 (NIV)
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

This passage indicates that Scripture is useful... It does not say that Scripture is enough, plenty, or all that is needed... This passage also does not say Scripture "alone". Look at the verse before: 2 Timothy 3:15 (and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus). Since the New Testament did not exist at this time, this was referencing the Old Testament. If we are to use the Protestant interpretation of 2 Timothy 3:16-17, then we might be able to assume that the OT "alone" was to be used as the sole rule of faith. Neither Protestants nor Catholics would agree with that idea! But we CAN agree that the OT is useful, just as the Scripture reads...

The following is another verse often used to "prove" sola scriptura:

John 20:30-31 (NIV)
Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

The problem here is that "this book" refers to the book of John. But would anyone agree that the book of John alone is sufficient? Plus, this passage indicates that it will help us to believe, not that it is necessary in order to believe.

If the Bible was the sole rule of faith, what did early Christians do before the Bible existed?

They passed along traditions! Christ did not condemn ALL traditions... just the traditions of men... but clearly, we were to "stand firm and hold" to some traditions!

2 Thess 2:15 (NAS)
So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from us.

2 Timothy 2:2 (NAS)
The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.

1 Corinthians 11:2 (NAS)
Now I praise you because you remember me in everything and hold firmly to the traditions, just as I delivered them to you.

These apostolic teachings (or traditions) have been passed down for 2000 years in the Catholic Church... This means that instead of the Bible as the sole rule of faith, Catholics believe that the Word of God is the sole rule of faith.

Another question that came to mind is: If the Bible is the sole rule of faith and the 25,000+ Protestant, Bible-only denominations all claim to be guided by the Holy Spirit in their interpretation of the Bible, how is it that the Holy Spirit is contradicting Himself? The Holy Spirit cannot contradict Himself.

The Catholic Church has not changed on issues of faith or morals in 2000 years... They hold to the teachings of the apostles... My heart was open and I found the Church that Christ established, the pillar of truth. The Word of God is now my sole rule of faith... this does not disregard the Scriptures but makes the Scriptures come alive in my life so that I can experience the fullness of faith that Christ intended for all Christians. And I've found the unity in the body of Christ that I was seeking

Ephesians 4:4-6 (NIV)
There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope when you were called- one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

Monday, October 30, 2006

"Master, I want to see." / Letting go...

Reflection on Sunday's gospel reading:

I spent some time thinking about how my life relates to the story of Bartimae'us. The first thing that jumped out at me was when Bartimae'us said, "Master, I want to see." I thought about the boldness of this request. Never having sight, Bartimae'us had to have a bit of fear as to what it would be like... to see for the first time, physically and spiritually. For me, asking God to open my eyes to truth does have a small element of fear. What should I expect? What will God ask of me?

Despite that fear, this journey has led me to be bolder in my request for God to allow me to "see". I don't want to be half-blind to the truth but I want to understand all the fullness of God's truth...

Secondly, Bartimae'us was rebuked by those around him as they told him to be quiet. But Bartimae'us persisted. He believed that Jesus could heal him and did not give up calling out to Jesus. For me, this was a picture of what I'm going through with the friends and family who do not understand the journey I'm on. They are telling me how wrong I am from all sides... but I know that if I persist in following Jesus despite their rebuke, Jesus will be faithful to me. I cannot let those around me keep me from calling out to the Lord.

* * * * *

A while ago I posted that it was going to be difficult for me to transfer from Protestant services to Mass... that I was really going to miss what I had always known. I remember several times, especially before I informed my family, trying to let go... and saying goodbye. I thought the transition might take a long time...

It took a shorter amount of time than I thought it would. I went to my Protestant church for the last time this Sunday. I actually had only gone once in the last several weeks and as I browsed their website last week, I stumbled across a video of one of their services... I began to watch it and realize that I could no longer sit through another service. The biggest reason? I can now hear the subtle digs at the Catholic faith (or rather what they THINK is the Catholic faith). I feel that sitting through these services do not benefit my growth in faith any longer.

This week, the music pastor, made a comment. It went something like this:

"We're having a Harvest Party this week to take the place of trick-or-treating. Please bring family, friends and neighbors. Everyone is welcome. What often happens is that new people will come into the church... they expect to see an organ in the corner... Instead they see drums and think, 'Hmm... looks pretty cool... I might have to come back and check this church thing out!'"

How sad it made me to think coming to church wasn't "cool" without a set of drums... that churches without rock music and a coffee cart were somehow "less than"... Even sadder was that I used to think the same way. They've turned church into a cool "hang-out"... that isn't worthy of our attention otherwise. Sad.

I love the music in my former church... but to take that music and make it a reason to come to church, is wrong. We're there to worship, with drums or without, with an organ or without. I believe too many churches have replaced an altar for a stage...

Thursday, October 26, 2006

What Art Movement Am I?

Just something for fun:

You Are Romanticism

You are likely to see the world as it should be, not as it is.

You prefer to celebrate the great things people do... not the horrors they're capable of.

For you, there is nothing more inspiring than a great hero.

You believe that great art reflects the artist's imagination and true ideals.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Rite of Acceptance

The rite was beautiful. I wanted to post all the details but I really think it should remain a surprise for those who have not experienced it so I won't spoil it here. I believe I will have to write it elsewhere though just to keep it fresh upon my mind.

(Thank you, Cindy, for your prayers!)

I finally know who my sponsor is. She's a wonderful lady named Ruth. I can just feel the love of God coming through her. What I think will be best about my pairing with her is that she seems to be so in tune with the "heart" aspect... where I am lacking. She does not seem to be the intellectual/apologetic type. I think this will really help me to put the intellectual conversion together with the heart conversion.

On a completely different note, I have three past marriages going through the annulment process. There is some paperwork I have to get together which has caused me to rely on other people. Being patient is difficult. One person is a friend and for some reason, she is not being helpful. It's a matter of getting to a fax machine and she simply hasn't "gotten around to it" for several weeks now. It is frustrating... I am also relying on a county clerk's office in another state. They haven't gotten back to me and it's been about 6 weeks. I really just want to get the process back on track but it seems I've hit some walls. What's worse, the paperwork that is most difficult to attain is probably the most essential. Any prayers for me in this area would be helpful and appreciated.

Last night, my five-year-old prayed: "Dear Jesus, thank you for the day. You touched my heart. Please keep our tiny treasures safe with you... Amen."

Today's prayers:
Marshall - joy
Richie - teen with cancer... there is nothing more they can do for him
Anna - steeped in new age and other anti-Christian activity
My family - for understanding and openness of heart
My children - to grow knowing God's love for them

Friday, October 20, 2006

Pray for the babies

Please pray. There is an abortion clinic around the corner from where I work and there are praying protesters out there right now. The doctor has blocked much of the sidewalk in hopes they will block the entrance and therefore be arrested. He also has the sprinklers turned on and they are basically being rained on... but they are standing firm, in the cold, to pray.

Pray for the babies and the women who will drive in and out of that clinic today. Even if ONE child is saved through their effort, it will be worth it.

Monday, October 16, 2006

This church is very special...

While leaving Mass yesterday, my 5-year-old son and I had a little conversation:

C: "This church is very special!"
Me: "Yes, it is... why do you think it’s special?"
C: "Because everyone loves God here!"

Children are amazing. It's things like this that give me affirmation about the direction God is taking us. I was so worried about them at first. This same child did not do well when I put him in religious education classes. In fact, he was downright uncooperative! So, I decided not to force him to go and decided I would just have to teach his class next year. Outside of that, all three of my children are adjusting well to the change.

They also seem to be learning quite a bit about Jesus and other characters in the Bible. In fact, the 5-year-old was walking with a tall stick the other day while we were loading up in the car:

Me: "You need to put that stick down and get in the car... "
C: "But I'm Moses!"


These little things touch my heart.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Joy will be restored...

I've been reading "Rome Sweet Home" and I cannot begin to express how great this book is. I can relate so well with Kimberly Hahn.

"Lord, the joy is gone. Who are you? I've known you all my life. I thought I understood you but now I don't understand anything... I'm so confused."

Joy. It is what I've longed to have restored to me. I desire to feel God's presence in my life again... like I did when I was a child but with a greater thirst and a more mature heart. I no longer want to be a child in my faith. I want to be where God wants me to be. I want to do what God wants me to do. I don't want to just get in the boat, but I want to be in the center of the boat... I don't want to make excuses and I don't want anything to hold me back.

Last night, on the way to RCIA, I felt so content. It was a feeling I cannot recall feeling before. I mean, I really felt GREAT! I knew this was the last class in the Inquiry stage and I was anticipating the move to the next step. On October 21, 2006, I will go through the Rite of Acceptance and become a candidate. Though I have had people come at me from all sides, God is keeping me firmly planted. I have no doubt that I am obeying God and coming home to the Church He established.

Some of these good feelings are so foreign to me that I don't know what to do with them and I try to push them away. It seems strange but I have to focus on NOT pushing them away... on letting God just work on my heart. I know now that living my life they way I have, has caused more damage than I imagined to my heart and to my spirit. God is pulling me out of the miry clay and setting me upon His truth. But there is still a lot of work to be done in order to heal all the damage.

Joy. It is what I've longed to have restored to me. And the more I surrender my will to the Lord, the more joy I feel. Last night, I thanked the Lord for breaking me and for bringing me into the fullness of truth.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Unfamiliar Words

"Catholic theology is, for Evangelicals, positively bestrewn with great ideas that are couched in frightening language." - Mark Shea

I cannot begin to express how true this is. One of the biggest problems I had in the beginning were the words used. They were unfamiliar and uncomfortable. Even today, some words will hang me up a bit. For example, when I hear the word "purgatory", what comes to mind immediately are my Protestant thoughts regarding purgatory. I believed it was a place between heaven and hell in which a soul was either stuck for all eternity or they'd have to work their way toward heaven out of purgatory. I thought it was someplace that Catholics believed that unbaptized babies would be... forever. This, I knew, was not Biblical... and I didn't know why someone would make this up!

Of course, now I understand it. Catholic understanding:

"All who die in God's grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven" (CCC 1030).

The Bible does reference a "purification":

1 Corinthians 3:14-15
"If the work which any man has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If any man's work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire."

Nothing impure can enter heaven (Rev. 21:27) so it is necessary that we be purified before we enter. This is all purgatory is... a period/place of purification. It may be as short as the blink of an eye or it may take a bit longer. We don't know for sure... but the Bible also mentions a waiting place other than heaven for souls already heaven-bound (1 Peter 3:19-20). This may not be referring directly to purgatory but it does indicate the possibility of a place other than heaven or hell.

But back to my point, the words used are often so different that they would trip me up. Mark Shea has a short list of examples:

Merit = fruitfulness under the influence of grace
Apostolate = Ministry
Venial sin = stumbling
Mortal sin = backsliding
Formation = discipleship
Indulgence = gift of mercy
Temporal punishment = discipline of the Lord

Understanding the differences in terms helps me to see that what Catholics believe is not so far off from what I already believed and this understanding helped to bridge an enormous gap for me.

Along with this is the idea that the phrase "personal relationship with Christ" is not often used in Catholic circles, but this does not mean that Catholics don't have one and, if you define it, many will agree that they DO have a personal relationship with Christ! I've also found that some Catholics get hung up on the "born again" phrase. Of course, if you define born-again, Catholics will say, "Yes, I fit that description!"

At one point, before I was even exploring Catholicism, words like liturgy, mass, eucharist, and homily, also bothered me greatly. They seemed so formal, odd and out of place in today's society.

Homily = sermon
Eucharist = communion
Mass = church service (loosely)
Liturgy = rites, prayers, ceremonies and sacraments of the church (something missing from my non-denominational background)

In short, I see how careful I have to be when talking with non-Catholic friends and family about Catholicism. Simple words could cause them to seriously misunderstand certain aspects of the faith.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Good Stuff - Justification

1987 The grace of the Holy Spirit has the power to justify us, that is, to cleanse us from our sins and to communicate to us "the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ" and through Baptism:34

But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him. For we know that Christ being raised from the dead will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. The death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves as dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.35

1988 Through the power of the Holy Spirit we take part in Christ's Passion by dying to sin, and in his Resurrection by being born to a new life; we are members of his Body which is the Church, branches grafted onto the vine which is himself:36

[God] gave himself to us through his Spirit. By the participation of the Spirit, we become communicants in the divine nature. . . . For this reason, those in whom the Spirit dwells are divinized.37

1989 The first work of the grace of the Holy Spirit is conversion, effecting justification in accordance with Jesus' proclamation at the beginning of the Gospel: "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."38 Moved by grace, man turns toward God and away from sin, thus accepting forgiveness and righteousness from on high. "Justification is not only the remission of sins, but also the sanctification and renewal of the interior man.39

1990 Justification detaches man from sin which contradicts the love of God, and purifies his heart of sin. Justification follows upon God's merciful initiative of offering forgiveness. It reconciles man with God. It frees from the enslavement to sin, and it heals.

1991 Justification is at the same time the acceptance of God's righteousness through faith in Jesus Christ. Righteousness (or "justice") here means the rectitude of divine love. With justification, faith, hope, and charity are poured into our hearts, and obedience to the divine will is granted us.

1992 Justification has been merited for us by the Passion of Christ who offered himself on the cross as a living victim, holy and pleasing to God, and whose blood has become the instrument of atonement for the sins of all men. Justification is conferred in Baptism, the sacrament of faith. It conforms us to the righteousness of God, who makes us inwardly just by the power of his mercy. Its purpose is the glory of God and of Christ, and the gift of eternal life:40

But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from law, although the law and the prophets bear witness to it, the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, they are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as an expiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins; it was to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies him who has faith in Jesus.41

1993 Justification establishes cooperation between God's grace and man's freedom. On man's part it is expressed by the assent of faith to the Word of God, which invites him to conversion, and in the cooperation of charity with the prompting of the Holy Spirit who precedes and preserves his assent:

When God touches man's heart through the illumination of the Holy Spirit, man himself is not inactive while receiving that inspiration, since he could reject it; and yet, without God's grace, he cannot by his own free will move himself toward justice in God's sight.42

1994 Justification is the most excellent work of God's love made manifest in Christ Jesus and granted by the Holy Spirit. It is the opinion of St. Augustine that "the justification of the wicked is a greater work than the creation of heaven and earth," because "heaven and earth will pass away but the salvation and justification of the elect . . . will not pass away."43 He holds also that the justification of sinners surpasses the creation of the angels in justice, in that it bears witness to a greater mercy.

1995 The Holy Spirit is the master of the interior life. By giving birth to the "inner man,"44 justification entails the sanctification of his whole being:

Just as you once yielded your members to impurity and to greater and greater iniquity, so now yield your members to righteousness for sanctification. . . . But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the return you get is sanctification and its end, eternal life.45

Monday, October 09, 2006

Mother of God

I went to my parents' church last night. They spoke about David, the Ark of the Covenant and God's holiness. This brought up many things to write about but for now I'm going to stick to something that was brought to my mind.

God is holy... SO holy, in fact, that there are no words to adequately describe Him. This is evident in the fact that if anyone touched the Ark of the Covenant, he would perish... Isn't it interesting to think that the dust that touched the Ark, because of God's holiness, would not be defiled? Protestants and Catholics both agree on the fact that God is the utmost and holiest of all.

So, imagine, God himself, coming down to us: fully God and fully man – fully divine and fully human... It's astounding. God himself lived among us, walked where we walk, breathed the air we breathe, saw the things we see.

Then there's Mary. She carried God within her. Holy God... sinless, perfect, sovereign. Is it not fitting that God would be born not only of a virgin but of one who is sinless? Would it have been fitting for the most Holy God to be born of a woman who had sinned at any moment in her life? Even after Jesus was born, would it have been fitting for him to be cared for by a sinful woman?

Luke 1:39-45
Mary Visits Elizabeth
At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, where she entered Zechariah's home and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!"

Luke 1:46-49
And Mary said:
"My soul glorifies the Lord
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has been mindful
of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
holy is his name..."

So, while Catholics call her blessed, and rightfully so, Protestants seem to take the opposite extreme by completely ignoring her. You can listen to them talk about many other women in the Bible but when it comes to Mary, they undermine exactly who she is and what she's done.

Jesus did not ignore Mary in such a way. Why, then, should His followers?

I used to think that Catholics worshipped Mary... that they put her above or equal to Jesus. This is completely untrue. The Catholic Church does not teach that Mary was divine in her own right but that she acted in purely obedient faith. By saying "yes", Mary allowed God to accomplish his perfect will, which played a role in all of our salvation.

Mary is the Ark of the New Covenant. This is something I'd never heard before a few months ago but last night's service about the Ark of the Old Covenant made me take a deeper look.

When Davis approached the Ark, he leapt and danced.
When Mary approached Elizabeth, John the Baptist leapt in his mother's womb.

The Ark of the Old Covenant stayed in the house of Obed-edom for three months.
Mary stayed in the house of Elizabeth for three months.

The place that housed the ark for three months was blessed.
Elizabeth uses the word blessed three times in Luke (and surely she would be because GOD was in her home!)

When the OT ark arrived, they were greeted with shouts of joy.
When Mary arrived, she was greeted with shouts of joy.

The OT ark returns to its home and ends up in Jerusalem, where God's glory is revealed in the temple.
Mary returns home and ends up in Jerusalem, where she presents Jesus in the temple.

In the OT ark, the law of God was in stone.
Mary carried the Word of God in flesh.

In the OT ark was an urn of manna, the bread from heaven that kept God's people alive in the wilderness.
Mary carried the Bread of Life from heaven that brings us eternal life.

In the OT ark was the rod of Aaron, the proof of true priesthood.
Mary carried the true priest.

This passage also makes the connection:
Revelation 11:19-12:2
Then God's temple in heaven was opened, and within his temple was seen the ark of his covenant. And there came flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake and a great hailstorm.

A great and wondrous sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth.

The parallel is undeniable. God did not ignore her... but chose her and blessed her because of her obedience.

John 19:26-27
When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, "Dear woman, here is your son," and to the disciple, "Here is your mother." From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.

Revelation 12:17
Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to make war against the rest of her offspring-those who obey God's commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus.

We should not ignore Mary. She is our mother... given to us by our Most Holy God.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Faith alone?

The literature for last night's Bible study said specifically, "Salvation is by faith alone." I knew right away this was going to be an issue for me. Where does this faith alone idea come from? Did you know that the only place in the Bible where the term "faith alone" exists is where it says "not by faith alone"?

James 2:14-26 (NIV)

14What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? 15Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. 16If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? 17In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

18But someone will say, "You have faith; I have deeds."
Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do.

19You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.

20You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless[d]? 21Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. 23And the scripture was fulfilled that says, "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,"[e] and he was called God's friend. 24You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.

25In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? 26As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.

How much clearer can it be? You cannot separate faith and works. Faith alone, without works, is not a saving faith! Works alone, without faith, is just something to boast about and does not encourage the relationship that God wants with us. They MUST go together.

Without God's grace, even our faith does not save us! If our works were not a part of our faith, then why would we be obligated to keep the commandments? or to love our neighbor? Of course, our works (or our faith for that matter) do not obligate God to save us and our works don't EARN our salvation. Our salvation is a gift from God promised to us when we respond to his grace in our obedience to Him.

We are not saved by "faith alone" and this doctrine has misled people for years. This idea is what made me live my life the way I wanted for far too long. My faith was enough. I could be a nominally good person and my faith alone would save me.

Understanding this has made me realize that I can no longer live my life as I have. I must strive to love more, give more, and help more. Do I want to merely have faith? or do I want a saving faith?

What do you want?

Wednesday, October 04, 2006