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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Isn't our faith all about a relationship with Jesus? One's religion, then, shouldn't matter as long as one has a personal relationship with Christ.

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

Well, yes and no.  Or, with the oft-repeated Catholic apologetics phrase:  it's not either/or but both/and.  It's not either a relationship with Christ or a following one's religion.  Catholics have a relationship with Christ AND it's through our religion (i.e. through the Church) that we can have this relationship.

Firstly, if anyone ever approaches you and asks if you have a "personal relationship" with Jesus, we as Catholics must give a hearty, "Indeed, we Catholics do have a personal relationship with Jesus! The most personal and intimate that we can have in fact!"  For we Catholics enjoy the Eucharist (that is, the One Flesh Union with Christ), and, truly, there is no other religion that has as close or "personal" and intimate relationship with Jesus than Catholicism (and, of course, the Orthodox who also share in the Real Presence of Christ in their liturgy and Eucharist).  I mean, really, how much more "personal" can one get in one's relationship with Jesus than being One Flesh with him???

Secondly, it's true that the entire reason for our existence is to be in a relationship with Christ.  But to say that one doesn't need religion for this relationship is to be a bit nonsensical.  For the word "religion" comes from the Latin word "religare", which means:  relationship (to bind or tie together).  In other words, when someone says, "I don't need religion to have a relationship with Christ" what they are saying is the illogical, "I don't need relationship to have a relationship with Christ."

Thirdly, the only way, really, that any Christian knows anything about Christ is because, well, because the Catholic Church told them this.  It was the Catholic Church which discerned which of the over 400 ancient Christian texts  (not all listed on that website) were inspired.  It was the Catholic Church which codified and preserved that which the Apostles taught us.  Thus, we know that "God is love" only because a religion--the Catholic religion--preserved this teaching.  We know that "Jesus saves" only because of religion--again, the Catholic religion--discerning this to be part of God's revelation. So without "religion" we could not know a single thing about Christ's message of love and redemption.

Fourthly, the question posed seems to be saying that it doesn't really matter what one believes, as long as one loves Jesus.  This simply cannot be true. Doctrine (what we believe) matters because Truth matters.  For without knowing exactly who Jesus is (what we believe) we cannot love Jesus.  In fact, Jesus commands us to know him with our entire MIND (see verse in Matt 22:37 at the top of each apologetics post).  Knowing God with our entire MIND means knowing what he taught, wrestling with the teachings that are unpalatable, unattractive and difficult, and then conforming our minds to the Truth.

Love of Jesus and love of each other ought never be separated from the Truth.  As Pope Benedict XVI so eloquently said, "
Truth and love coincide in Christ. To the extent that we draw close to Christ, in our own lives too, truth and love are blended. Love without truth would be blind; truth without love would be like “a clanging cymbal” (I Cor 13:1). It is precisely from union, I would like to say from the symphony of perfect harmony between truth and love that an authentic beauty emanates, capable of eliciting admiration, wonder and true joy in human hearts. The world in which we live needs the truth to shine brightly and not to be obscured by lies or banality; it needs love that enflames and that is not overwhelmed by pride and egotism. We need the beauty of truth and love to strike us in the intimacy of our hearts and make us more human."

Finally, we can see the fruit of this disunifyng paradigm that it doesn't really matter what you believe as long as you love Jesus and love each other.  So they may claim that it doesn't really matter if, for example, baptism is necessary; but now we have confusion and chaos--millions of folks disagree now on just this one verse in the Bible: 
"This prefigured baptism, which saves you now."--1 Peter 3:21.  Does baptism save?  Should it be done on infants?  By sprinkling? Or by immersion?  Is it a sacrament or an ordinance? Should it be done in "Jesus' name" only or using the Trinitarian formula?   Because some folks say that it doesn't really matter what one believes we have allowed division, uncertainty and confusion to prosper in our Christian community.  As Scripture says, there is only ONE Lord, ONE faith, ONE baptism--Eph 4:5.  But, sadly, because of the above paradigm, what we see is multiple faiths, each teaching its own version of Christianity.  I simply cannot see how it is a good thing that millions of folks have a myriad of understandings about this once concept, baptism.  Does not it matter that people are disunified on this point?

So, yes, doctrine matters because TRUTH matters.  Jesus wants us to be ONE as he and the Father are ONE.

For more in-depth study visit these websites:
Catholic Bible online

Catechism of the Catholic Church online

"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

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Can Catholics practice Reiki?

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

Reiki (pronounced ray-kee, or sometimes ray-EE-kee) is a New Age spiritual practice that is creeping into Catholic Churches, Catholic retreats and Catholic hospitals that attempts to harness and manipulate a universal healing energy.  "It uses a technique commonly called palm healing as a form of complementary and alternative medicine and is sometimes classified as oriental medicine by some professional bodies. Through the use of this technique, practitioners claim to transfer healing energy in the form of ki through the palms." source.

The US Conference of Catholic Bishops has written an article on this, Guidelines for Evaluating Reiki as an Alternative Therapy, and said, essentially, it is a superstitious practice and ought to be avoided.  The principle from which Reiki is founded upon borrows from the occult and ancient forms of sorcery and magic. 

Reiki's foundational tenet is that disease is caused by an imbalance in one's "life energy".  By manipulating and controlling this life force Reiki practitioners attempt to influence the healing power of this life force energy.  The Bishops caution that
"neither the Scriptures nor the Christian tradition as a whole speak of the natural world as based on a 'universal life energy' that is subject to manipulation by the natural human power of thought and will." 

Catholics may be enticed by some of the Christian language espoused by Reiki and believe that it is compatible with Christian principles.  Some Reiki practitioners may even add a prayer to Christ in an attempt to "legitimize" this practice with Christians or make references to God as the "divine healing mind".  However, according to the US Bishops:
"The fact remains that for Christians the access to divine healing is by prayer to Christ as Lord and Savior, while the essence of Reiki is not a prayer but a technique..."  Even if the Reiki practitioner invokes Christ's name or speaks of the "Divine Consciousness", Reiki is still a technique that attempts to channel this "universal life energy" at the disposal of human thought and will.  "For this reason Reiki and other similar therapeutic techniques cannot be identified with what Christians call healing by divine grace."

From Jonette Benkovic: "In an effort to “Christianize” this pagan practice, some Reiki practitioners assert that the universal life force they are channeling is actually the Holy Spirit; however, this is a specious argument."

"Nowhere does Scripture teach us to ‘channel energy’ in the way characteristic of Reiki,” writes Father Gareth Leyshon, a Cardiff-trained astro-physicist. “And in fact, presuming that God will assist in a way which He has not revealed to be His will constitutes the sin of ‘tempting God.’”
Some go so far as to claim that Jesus used Reiki to perform miracles because of how He used His hands to heal. But this argument is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of the use of the hands during Christian prayer. In the Christian tradition of laying on of hands, the hands are used as a “sign” of intercession, not a means of channeling energy."

However, we are not to understand this cautionary note against Reiki to be a condemnation of all non-medical healing practices.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church acknowledges that some human beings have been given a special healing charism, so as to
"make manifest the power of the grace of the risen Lord."  CCC 1508. 

"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

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Doesn't the Church claim that her teachings have never changed? Why, then, is she changing the Mass?

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

Yes, the Church's teachings have never changed.  Public revelation ended with the death of the last apostle and the Church's teachings were whole and entire by the end of the Apostolic era.  (There is, however, an entity called "development of doctrine" which is fodder for another apologetics discussion. Thus, while our understanding of a truth proclaimed by the Apostles may evolve and improve, doctrinal development is not a proclamation of a new teaching or an innovation. Please see this analogy, posted on a prior apologetics discussion here, to revisit the discussion about how doctrine may evolve.

And yes, the Church is "changing" the Mass, if by "changing" we mean offering a new, improved and more precise translation from the original Latin.  However, this is not a doctrinal change. It is disciplinary change.  Doctrine simply means "teaching" and discipline is "how we apply these teachings to our spirituality and worship".  Doctrine doesn't change (see above) but discipline can and does change.  (Another example of a disciplinary change:  abstaining from meat on Fridays.  In the pre-Vatican II days all Fridays during Lent were meat-less.  Now
only on Fridays during Lent we are enjoined to abstain from meat. This was a disciplinary change, not a doctrinal one.)

So where does the Church receive her authority to make disciplinary changes?  From this weekend's Gospel:

Amen, I say to you,

whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven,
and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.--Matt 18:18

In other words:  that which the Church enjoins upon us, heaven (that is, God) is enjoining upon us.  That which the Church permits or grants, heaven (God) is permitting.

In my opinion, one ought not dismiss lightly that which the Church proposes, saying, "Well, I don't agree with the Church on.... ".  Because, based upon the above Gospel, (as well as the words of Jesus in Luke 10:16:  "He who hears you (the Apostles and their successors) hears Me") it is the equivalent to saying, "Well, I don't agree with God on <fill in the blank.>"  Eek!

A critic may say, "Well, this gives the Church the power to say anything and claim she is speaking in God's name and people would just have to blindly follow."  This is not true.  The Church does not have the authority to change anything she wants.  For example, if the Pope suddenly were to proclaim, "The Blessed Mother is now part of the Trinity!" he would have no authority to make such a claim, for it changes the deposit of faith,
given once for all, to the holy ones".--Jude 1:3.  And how do we know that a corrupt pope won't do this?  Because we are given the assurance from Jesus himself that the "gates of hell will not prevail against" His Church.--Matt 16:18.  (And we have, sadly, had some really, really bad popes in our 2000 year history of Christianity, but as a testament to the truth of Jesus' promise to protect his Church, none of these corrupt popes has ever made any doctrinal proclamations which were contrary to the deposit of faith.  How incredible is that??!!)

Finally, I heard that George Carlin once wickedly and cheekily said, (paraphrasing)  "I feel sorry for the poor guy who's in hell for eating meat on a Friday before Vatican II, and now people are feasting on meat while he's burning eternally."  In response I propose another analogy:  parents may tell their children, "It is our rule that you may not drive until you are 18."  Child #1, desperate to drive at 16 laments that he has to wait.  Child #2, same situation.  When Child #3 becomes 16 parents, with their God-given authority, say, "You know, we have assessed your maturity level and our current family needs and we are going to allow you to drive at age 16."
  Who could object to the parents' right to do this?  Now, it may seem unfair to the older children who weren't allowed to drive at age 16, but the parents, in their wisdom, discerned that they were not ready. Now they are met with a different child, a different situation.  Similarly, the Church, in her wisdom, discerned that her flock needed to abstain from meat on all Fridays, and later assessed that this was not a requirement for all Fridays and changed her disciplinary requirements.

Who could fault the Church for using her God-given authority to initiate this change?

For more in-depth study visit these websites:

"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