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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Isn't the Church too opulent? Why doesn't the Church sell its riches and give it to the poor?

“Love the Lord with all your heart, and with all your soul,
                                                         and with all your MIND”--Matt 22:37

It seems that this question was asked 2000 years ago, and has been with us ever since the beginnings of Christianity.

Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.
But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected,  “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages." He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.--John 12:1-6

As with most Catholic answers, the response to the above objection is not either/or but both/and.  We do not have ornate Basilicas or serve the poor--with all due respect, the Catholic Church is big enough and catholic (meaning UNIVERSAL) enough to do both.  We give glory and worship to God through our magnificent and sacred cathedrals, basilicas and churches, AND we provide corporal works of mercy:  feeding the poor, clothing the naked, sheltering the homeless, etc, etc.

The Catholic Church is the largest charitable organization in the world.  It educates, houses, medicates, clothes, feeds, shepherds, nurtures and nourishes more people than any other organization on the planet.

And, if we were to sell off our beautiful works of art, who would buy them?  Who could pay what they're worth?  And if someone could indeed afford to buy what the Catholic Church sells, the question, naturally arises, then why doesn't THIS INDIVIDUAL sell his property and help the poor?  

Now, this may be a matter of preference, but I cannot help but look at the picture below and see the glory and grandeur of God:

Upon entering a sacred space like the above, it is almost impossible not to be in awe at the Presence of God.  This type of magnificent, rich architecture simply elevates us and inspires prayer, don't you think?  It awakens in us a profound sense of the divine.

We are called to be HOLY--to be set apart--and creating a sacred space that is SET APART for worship only, which separates us from our mundane activities, is a worthy human endeavor.

Now, contrast the above to the photo below of a Quaker church. 

Please note:  certainly God can be present in the above worship space; indeed, He is present in all places of worship, where 2 or 3 are gathered in His name.  And I am making no statement about whether spartan architecture is never warranted--in fact, there are many Catholic orders that eschew the ornate and embrace a life of apostolic poverty. 

Again, the Catholic Church is a both/and, not either/or.

And I welcome those who feel that, for them, the Quaker worship space is more inspiring of prayer than the resplendent basilica. 

My point:  beautiful worship spaces do have a place in our Church, for they do inspire and elevate us.  We are a Sacramental people, both spirit and body, who express and absorb through our senses.   Worship in a sensual way (meaning:  through our senses), through architecture, art, music, incense is both human and necessary. 

The books of Scripture, in particular Exodus (Exodus 25:1) and Revelation (Revelation 19), detail the construction of ornate offerings, using precious gold and silver, fine linens, inlaid stones to give honor and glory to God.  The book of Psalms proclaims:  How lovely is thy dwelling place, O Lord of hosts! My soul longs, yea, faints for the courts of the Lord--Ps. 84:1–2.

In fact, the book of Revelation provides rich and splendid imagery of liturgy:  Another angel came and stood at the altar, holding a golden censer; and much incense was given to him, so that he might add it to the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar which was before the throne.

When I read the above passages, as well as the many, many passages in Ezekiel, Isaiah, Psalms, Hebrews, the image that comes to mind from Scripture of a sacred space suitable to worship the Divine Godhead is more in line with what we Catholics have, than the austere, muted styles of some Protestant congregations. 

For more in-depth study visit these websites:

Shouldn't the Church Sell Off Its Artifacts?

Why does the pope wear decorated robes and ornate headwear? If he is a Christian, he should be Christ-like. Jesus never dressed that way. He was very humble in his dress.

Catholic Bible online

Catechism of the Catholic Church online

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Where is the word "pope" found in the Bible?

“Love the Lord with all your heart, and with all your soul,
                                        and with all your MIND”--Matt 22:37

Where is the word "pope" found in the Bible?

Again, as discussed in previous 3-minute Apologetics, this question "Where is found in the Bible?" can always be answered with, "Where does it say in the Bible that all we believe about God is contained in the Bible?" (Answer: nowhere.) In fact, the Bible explicitly says 2 things in regard to this:

-it states that it does NOT contain all that Jesus said and did: 
Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of (his) disciples that are not written in this book. (John 20:30)
-that it is NOT the norm nor foundation by which Christians know the teachings of Christ; the Scriptures say the sure norm is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of truth. 1Tim: 3:15

Thus, we must look to the teachings handed on from the Apostles, either by Tradition or by Scripture, in order to know the entire deposit of faith that has been left to us by God.)

The Catholic faith was whole and entire before a single word of the New Testament was ever put on paper (or papyrus, as the case might be).  Christianity is not distilled from the words of Scripture, but the Scriptures reflect the paradosis, the handing on of the faith of the Apostles.

In other words, we do not extract doctrine from the Scriptures, but rather the Scriptures reflect that which was taught and believed and understood by the Apostles, as proclaimed by the Word of God:  Jesus.

From apologist John Martignoni's "Two-Minute Apologetics" (NB:  I did not "borrow" the title of my emails from him, but actually borrowed it from a website called "3-Minute Retreats"...but I digress  :-)

Well, you will not find the word “Pope” in the Bible. Just as you will not find the word “Trinity,” or the word “Incarnation” in the Bible...Just because a particular word is not found in the Bible, does not mean that we should not use that word or that the theology implied by that word is somehow unbiblical. The word “Bible” is not found in the Bible, so does that mean we should not believe in the Bible? Of course not.
The fact of the matter is, even though the word “Pope” is not found directly in the Bible, the underlying meaning of that word is. The word “Pope” is derived from the Greek word, “pappas,” which means, "father" (Latinized as “papa”). In Isaiah 22, verses 19-24, we see God telling Shebna, who was the chief minister of the House of David, that he will be replaced in his office by Eliakim, and that Eliakim will have authority and will be a “father” [papa; pope] to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and to the House of Judah.

So, with that being said, this Sunday's Gospel reflects and affirms the constant teaching of the Church regarding the papacy:  Jesus gave the keys of the kingdom to Peter in Matt 16:19.

I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven.
Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven;
and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

Interestingly, this echoes that which is proclaimed in the first Sunday reading, from Isaiah 22:

I will place the key of the House of David on Eliakim's shoulder;
when he opens, no one shall shut
when he shuts, no one shall open.

I find this parallel in the OT reading fascinating as it really is quite obvious what is being fulfilled in the NT by Peter:  Eliakim is the chief steward of the house of David, as Peter is the chief steward of the house of God.  And keys are significant in both passages.

"Eliakim is made master of the palace, a post roughly equivalent to prime minister. As the king's right-hand man, the master of the palace is given the "key of the House of David."

Keys symbolize authority, so bestowing the key to the House of David upon Eliakim is equivalent to giving him, as the king's duly appointed representative, authority over the kingdom." source

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Revisit: Where is the Assumption of Mary in the Bible?

 “Love the Lord with all your heart, and with all your soul,
and with all your MIND”
Question:  Where is the Assumption of Mary in the Bible?

This is a re-posting of a previous blog, with some addition/deletions.

Firstly, the question "Where is it in the Bible?" assumes one thing:  all we believe about God must be found in the Bible.  That is, we must look to the Bible as our foundation for Truth.

The irony in this assumption (haha!  no pun intended!) is, however, that Scripture never says that all we believe about God must be found in the Bible. 

In fact, Scripture says that the sure norm for our understanding of what God has revealed is...the Church, not the Bible!  (
"the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth" 1 Tim 3:15)
This self-refuting belief (the Bible-alone is our sole foundation of faith) is found in many Christian circles.  In other words, it's a non-biblical tradition they've created:  "show me where this is in the Bible" is not ever stated in Scripture.

As Catholics we believe that all that God has revealed can be found in Sacred Scripture AND Sacred Tradition (the oral teaching of the Apostles, handed down through the bishops and teaching authority of the Church.)

It has been the constant teaching of the Apostles that Mary was assumed into heaven, body and soul. (This is different than Jesus' Ascension, in which he ascended into heaven on his own power.  Mary was assumed only by God's grace and command, not of her own authority).

That this dogma was defined later (1950) does not mean it was "created" by a pope.  It simply means that the Church in her wisdom saw fit to formally declare something, which was believed from the earliest days of Christianity, as a dogmatically revealed truth of God.

As far as there being no evidence in Scripture for Mary's Assumption, this is not exactly true.  Firstly, there are indeed holy individuals who were assumed into heaven in the Old Testament:  Enoch and Elijah. 
"Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, for God took him away"--Gen. 5:24.   And Elijah: "As they walked on still conversing, a fiery chariot and fiery horses came between the two of them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind"--2 Kings 2:11

In addition, there is evidence that the early Christians, from the very first centuries, believed and proclaimed in the Assumption.  Veneration of relics of the Apostles and of the first Christian martyrs emerged quite quickly.  Shrines were built on the tombs of these early Christians and their bones were distributed to the early Christian communities.  (Note:  veneration of these relics is not to be confused with worship, which is due properly and rightfully only to God).

However, there is not a single piece of evidence that relics of the Blessed Mother were ever in existence.

This speaks to the fact that the early Christians knew that Mary's body was not on earth.  It seems that the early Church had already been proclaiming that Mary had been given a special privilege as a redeemed Christian, through the atoning death of her Son, and been assumed into heaven.  

"Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect" - 1 Peter 3:15

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Why don't Catholics baptize the way Jesus was baptized (i.e. by full immersion)?

“Love the Lord with all your heart, and with all your soul,
and with all your MIND”--Matt 22:37

Question:  Why don't Catholics baptize the way Jesus was baptized (i.e. by full immersion)?
So some Jehovah's Witnesses (JWs) came to my door recently, and we had a short and sweet discussion. 

One comment that they made was that they "baptized the way Jesus was", meaning that they baptize by full immersion.  This was an unspoken criticism, I think, of the way Catholics baptize. 

I found this comment curious because it seems that they took one characteristic of Jesus' baptism--that he was fully immersed, but not any of the others.  That is:

  • they don't baptize their converts in the River Jordan, as Jesus was. 
  • they don't even baptize in any river (even one down the street) as Jesus was.
  • they don't baptize when the convert is 30-ish, as Jesus was. 
  • they don't get baptized by their cousin named John, as Jesus was.
So, it would seem, that JWs don't really baptize "the way Jesus was baptized".

And another curiosity is that Catholics actually do recognize baptism by immersion as a valid way to confect the sacrament.  So this JW's comment was merely expressing some misinformation she may have had about Catholic baptism.

Catholics can be baptized by

  • pouring (also known as infusion),
  • sprinkling
  • or by immersion. 
What is required is that we must use water*, and baptize using the Trinitarian formula** (in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit).  Adults must express repentance, and infants must have parents or a proxy who make a profession of faith on their child's behalf.

Incidentally, it's not only JWs who claim that the only valid baptism is through full immersion.  There are many Christians who do not view infusion or sprinkling as a permissible way to baptize--for the same reason that JWs do: because Jesus was baptized by immersion.

I think that Catholics would be right to ask other Christians why they take one aspect of Jesus' baptism (immersion) and apply it to their baptism rite, but not any of the other aspects (in the River Jordan, by his cousin, at age 30, wearing a robe and sandals, after eating fish...etc etc etc).

*Regarding water being required for baptism:  this speaks to the proper form and matter for sacraments.  For example, the Eucharist is not valid if a priest "consecrates" grape juice and Oreos.  Baptism is not valid if water is not used.

**Regarding using the Trinitarian formula:  there are a few sects of Christianity that claim that baptism must be done "IN JESUS' NAME," not using "the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit", citing Acts 2:38
Peter (said) to them, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  This is another example of the chaos and confusion that arises from individuals interpreting the Scriptures divorced from the authority of the Church, which received the faith that was once for all handed down to the holy ones.--Jude 1:3.

"Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect" - 1 Peter 3:15