Christ in the Eucharist

Protestant attacks on the Catholic Church often focus on the Eucharist. This demonstrates that opponents of the Church—mainly Evangelicals and Fundamentalists—recognize one of Catholicism’s core doctrines. What’s more, the attacks show that Fundamentalists are not always literalists. This is seen in their interpretation of the key biblical passage, chapter six of John’s Gospel, in which Christ speaks about the sacrament that will be instituted at the Last Supper. This tract examines the last half of that chapter.

John 6:30 begins a colloquy that took place in the synagogue at Capernaum. The Jews asked Jesus what sign he could perform so that they might believe in him. As a challenge, they noted that “our ancestors ate manna in the desert.” Could Jesus top that? He told them the real bread from heaven comes from the Father. “Give us this bread always,” they said. Jesus replied, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.” At this point the Jews understood him to be speaking metaphorically.

Again and Again

Jesus first repeated what he said, then summarized: “‘I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh.’ The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, ‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat?’” (John 6:51–52).

His listeners were stupefied because now they understood Jesus literally—and correctly. He again repeated his words, but with even greater emphasis, and introduced the statement about drinking his blood: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him” (John 6:53–56).

No Corrections

Notice that Jesus made no attempt to soften what he said, no attempt to correct “misunderstandings,” for there were none. Our Lord’s listeners understood him perfectly well. They no longer thought he was speaking metaphorically.

In John 6:60 we read: “Many of his disciples, when they heard it, said, ‘This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?’” (It is here, in the rejection of the Eucharist, that Judas fell away; look at John 6:64.) “After this, many of his disciples drew back and no longer went about with him” (John 6:66).

This is the only record we have of any of Christ’s followers forsaking him for purely doctrinal reasons. If they erred in taking a metaphor in a literal sense, why didn’t he call them back and straighten things out? Both the Jews, who were suspicious of him, and his disciples, who had accepted everything up to this point, would have remained with him had he said he was speaking only symbolically.

But he did not correct these protesters. Twelve times he said he was the bread that came down from heaven; four times he said they would have “to eat my flesh and drink my blood.” John 6 was an extended promise of what would be instituted at the Last Supper—and it was a promise that could not be more explicit. Or so it would seem to a Catholic. But what do Fundamentalists say?

Merely Figurative?

They say that in John 6 Jesus was not talking about physical food and drink, but about spiritual food and drink. They quote John 6:35: “Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life; he who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst.’” They claim that coming to him is bread, having faith in him is drink. Thus, eating his flesh and blood merely means believing in Christ.

But there is a problem with that interpretation. As Fr. John A. O’Brien explains, “The phrase ‘to eat the flesh and drink the blood,’ when used figuratively among the Jews, as among the Arabs of today, meant to inflict upon a person some serious injury, especially by calumny or by false accusation. To interpret the phrase figuratively then would be to make our Lord promise life everlasting to the culprit for slandering and hating him, which would reduce the whole passage to utter nonsense” (O’Brien, The Faith of Millions, 215). For an example of this use, see Micah 3:3.

Fundamentalist writers who comment on John 6 also assert that one can show Christ was speaking only metaphorically by comparing verses like John 10:9 (“I am the door”) and John 15:1 (“I am the true vine”). The problem is that there is not a connection to John 6:35, “I am the bread of life.” “I am the door” and “I am the vine” make sense as metaphors because Christ is like a door—we go to heaven through him—and he is also like a vine—we get our spiritual sap through him. But Christ takes John 6:35 far beyond symbolism by saying, “For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed” (John 6:55).

He continues: “As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me” (John 6:57). The Greek word used for “eats” (trogon) is very blunt and has the sense of “chewing” or “gnawing.” This is not the language of metaphor.

Their Main Argument

For Fundamentalist writers, the scriptural argument is capped by an appeal to John 6:63: “It is the spirit that gives life, the flesh is of no avail; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.” They say this means that eating real flesh is a waste. But does this make sense?

Are we to understand that Christ had just commanded his disciples to eat his flesh, then said their doing so would be pointless? Is that what “the flesh is of no avail” means? “Eat my flesh, but you’ll find it’s a waste of time”—is that what he was saying? Hardly.

The fact is that Christ’s flesh avails much! If it profits us nothing, so that the incarnation, death, and resurrection of Christ are of no avail, then “your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished” (1 Cor. 15:17b–18).

In John 6:63 “flesh profits nothing” refers to mankind’s inclination to think using only what their natural human reason would tell them rather than what God would tell them. Thus in John 8:15–16 Jesus tells his opponents: “You judge according to the flesh, I judge no one. Yet even if I do judge, my judgment is true, for it is not I alone that judge, but I and he who sent me.” So natural human judgment, unaided by God’s grace, is unreliable; but God’s judgment is always true.

Also in John 6:63, “The words I have spoken to you are spirit” does not mean “What I have just said is symbolic.” The word “spirit” is never used that way in the Bible. The line means that what Christ has said will be understood only through faith; only by the power of the Spirit and the drawing of the Father (cf. John 6:37, 44–45, 65).

Paul Confirms This

Paul wrote to the Corinthians: “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?” (1 Cor. 10:16). So when we receive Communion, we actually participate in the body and blood of Christ, not just eat symbols of them. Paul also said, “Therefore whoever eats the bread and drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will have to answer for the body and blood of the Lord. . . . For any one who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself” (1 Cor. 11:27, 29). “To answer for the body and blood” of someone meant to be guilty of a crime as serious as homicide. How could eating mere bread and wine “unworthily” be so serious? Paul’s comment makes sense only if the bread and wine became the real body and blood of Christ.

What Did the First Christians Say?

Anti-Catholics also claim the early Church took this chapter symbolically. Is that so? Let’s see what some early Christians thought, keeping in mind that we can learn much about how Scripture should be interpreted by examining the writings of early Christians.

Ignatius of Antioch, who had been a disciple of the apostle John and who wrote a letter to the Smyrnaeans about A.D. 110, said, referring to “those who hold heterodox opinions,” that “they abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer, because they do not confess that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, flesh which suffered for our sins and which the Father, in his goodness, raised up again” (6:2, 7:1).

Forty years later, Justin Martyr, wrote, “Not as common bread or common drink do we receive these; but since Jesus Christ our Savior was made incarnate by the word of God and had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so too, as we have been taught, the food which has been made into the Eucharist by the Eucharistic prayer set down by him, and by the change of which our blood and flesh is nourished, . . . is both the flesh and the blood of that incarnated Jesus” (First Apology 66:1–20).

Origen, in a homily written about A.D. 244, attested to belief in the Real Presence. “You are accustomed to take part in the divine mysteries, so you know how, when you have received the Body of the Lord, you reverently exercise every care lest a particle of it fall and lest anything of the consecrated gift perish” (Homilies on Exodus 13:3).

Cyril of Jerusalem, in a catechetical lecture presented in the mid-300s, said, “Do not, therefore, regard the bread and wine as simply that, for they are, according to the Master’s declaration, the body and blood of Christ. Even though the senses suggest to you the other, let faith make you firm” (Catechetical Discourses: Mystagogic 4:22:9).

In a fifth-century homily, Theodore of Mopsuestia seemed to be speaking to today’s Evangelicals and Fundamentalists: “When [Christ] gave the bread he did not say, ‘This is the symbol of my body,’ but, ‘This is my body.’ In the same way, when he gave the cup of his blood he did not say, ‘This is the symbol of my blood,’ but, ‘This is my blood,’ for he wanted us to look upon the [Eucharistic elements], after their reception of grace and the coming of the Holy Spirit, not according to their nature, but to receive them as they are, the body and blood of our Lord” (Catechetical Homilies 5:1).

Unanimous Testimony

Whatever else might be said, the early Church took John 6 literally. In fact, there is no record from the early centuries in which the literal interpretation is opposed and only the metaphorical accepted.

NIHIL OBSTAT: I have concluded that the materials
presented in this work are free of doctrinal or moral errors.
Bernadeane Carr, STL, Censor Librorum, August 10, 2004

IMPRIMATUR: In accord with 1983 CIC 827
permission to publish this work is hereby granted.
+Robert H. Brom, Bishop of San Diego, August 10, 2004

Ten Reasons Why Our Hearts Should Be Full of Thanksgiving

Ten Reasons Why Our Hearts Should Be Full of Thanksgiving
hanksgiving day is celebrated once a year in the United States as a national holiday. But as follower of Jesus, Thanksgiving Day should be every day! Why? For many reasons!
First, the Psalmist commands us to give thanks: “ Give thanks to the Lord for He is good; for His mercy endures forever.”
Second, St Paul invites us in his letters to give thanks to God constantly; that means, at all times!
Third, Jesus rejoices in gratitude and suffers when faced with ingratitude. Jesus healed the 10 lepers of this contagious, painful, incurable disease— that of leprosy—and only one of the 10 returned to give Jesus thanks and this man was a foreigner (Samaritan). This ingratitude must have wounded the loving Heart of the Saviour!
Fourth, Jesus was the epitome of
Gratitude . Before working the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves, Jesus raised His eyes to heaven and gave thanks. At the Last Supper Jesus took bread and “Gave thanks”. “Eucharist”, a word coming from Greek actually means “Thanksgiving.” Therefore the greatest gift, “The Gift of Gifts”, from God Himself, the “Eucharist means “Thanksgiving”.
Therefore, all of us should strive to give constant thanks to God, our supreme and most generous Benefactor. Honestly, everything we have in life are pure gifts of God. As St. Paul asserts, quoting the Greek poet: “In Him we live and move and have our being.”
Why not compose your own Litany of Gratitude?
Why We Should Give Thanks
Following is a list of reasons why our heart should be abounding in thanksgiving. It is our duty, but also our privilege to thank God! This list will limit itself to spiritual gifts from the “Giver of all good Gifts”.

  1. Faith in God
    When it comes to your faith, do not take it for granted; rather, be thankful for it and cultivate it, as the seed planted and nourished.
  2. Prayer
    You pray? If yes, also give thanks! This too is a gift coming from “The Gift of Gifts,” the Holy Spirit who actually teaches us to pray. “We do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Holy Spirit, intercedes with ineffable groans so that we can say, Abba, Father.” (Romans 8).
  3. Your Guardian Angel
    He is your constant friend at your side. Give thanks to God for His gift of friendship, but talk to him and thank him for having inspired you with holy thoughts and saved you from many dangerous spiritual pitfalls.
  4. Divine Mercy
    Despite your many failures, God has forgiven you as He forgave the Prodigal Son upon his return, and as the wandering sheep brought back to the fold. God’s mercy, His greatest attribute— Lord I thank you and I praise you for such a wonderful gift.
  5. The Saints
    There is a wonderful crowd of Heavenly Friends that are waiting for your prayers from heaven and longing to see you advance in Friendship with God. Your prayer to them fills them with joy and results in your receiving added graces on earth to arrive safely Home to heaven.
  6. Patron Saints
    In a very special manner, due to your parent’s choice, you have a very special friend—he is your patron saint. Look them up. Read on their life!. Underline the three virtues he or she practiced. Ask for his intercession to overcome in you that which is most displeasing to God. The intercession of your patron saint is powerful before the throne of God!
    7 . The Bible, God’s Word of Truth
    What songs of gratitude should explode from our hearts knowing that we have the “Word of Truth”, the Bible, and can read, meditate, assimilate and live it all the days of our lives. Years ago, there was less access to the Bible and less literacy. Today Bibles are easy to purchase and can be read in any time and place!
  7. The Blessed Sacrament
    “Really Present” in even the most humble church in the world is the Blessed Sacrament. The Blessed Sacrament is truly Jesus, the “King of Kings and the Lord of Lords” and He is waiting for His friend—you—to visit Him and thank Him for all that He has so generously given to you. You need not travel across mountain, hillside, nor ocean to encounter Him. Just go to your closest church and there He is, waiting!
  8. Holy Mass
    Every day of the year throughout the world the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is being offered by the priest to God the Father for the forgiveness of sins, conversion of sinners, and for the salvation of the entire world. Your gratitude should manifest itself by your assistance in Mass, participation and reception of Holy Communion. Remember that Mass/ “Eucharist” means “Thanksgiving”. No greater gift in the world than God Himself, descending from heaven to earth to abide in the human heart.
    All this becomes a reality in Holy Mass and in the reception of Holy Communion!
  9. Mary: Mother of God, Mother of the Church, My Mother
    In the prayer “The Hail Holy Queen” we invoke Mary “the Mother of mercy, our life, our sweetness and our hope…” In the midst of the stormy, dark, uncertain sea that we live in, we can always look up and see Mary, the Star of the Sea pointing the way to the eternal shore of salvation. Hail, Mother of God, Hail, Mother of the Church, Hail, star of the Sea, Hail, Holy Queen, mother of mercy, our life, our sweetness and our hope….
    In sum, let us cultivate an attitude of gratitude. Let us give thanks to God at all times, in all occasions, and with all people. God rejoices in the heart that constantly is beating: “Thank you Lord…Thank you Lord…Thank you Lord… DEO GRATIAS!”

A Fire and a Sword: Four Unexpected Reasons Why Jesus Said He Came to Earth

A Fire and a Sword: Four Unexpected Reasons Why Jesus Said He Came to Earth
dvent is a time to immerse ourselves in the reality of Jesus’ coming—in history, in our lives, and in the future. It is also an opportunity to step back and reflect on the reasons why He came.
Evangelical Protestantism tends to give one reason: to save us from the penalty for our sins. The Catholic tradition has several. A patristic answer would be that Jesus came to unite God to man. A medieval Catholic might say that it was to die and to institute the sacraments and the Church. More recently, in his book,
Jesus of Nazareth, Pope Benedict XVI said that Jesus brought us God.
All of those are valid explanations for why Jesus came. But what were Jesus’ reasons for coming in His own words? Over the course of the gospels, He offers an intriguing range of reasons.

  1. ‘I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing!’ – Luke 12:49
    This statement, so jarring and enigmatic, both inspires us and instills fear. There are many ways to interpret the fire. It can be seen as judgment, which is certainly part of Christ’s mission on earth. Fire is also purifying, as several commentators have noted. But, most importantly, fire is associated with God’s divine being, from the fire on top of Mount Sinai to the tongues of fire that descended at Pentecost. As one nineteenth century Anglican commentator, Alexander Maclaren, so beautifully puts it ,
    We have here one of the rare glimpses which our Lord gives us into His inmost heart, His thought of His mission, and His feelings about it.
    He does not kindle it simply in humanity, but He launches it into the midst of humanity. It is something from above that He flings down upon the earth. So it is not merely a quickened intelligence, a higher moral life, or any other of the spiritual and religious transformations which are effected in the world by the mission of Christ that is primarily to be kept in view here, but it is the Heaven-sent cause of these transformations and that flame. If we catch the celestial fire, we shall flash and blaze, but the fire which we catch is not originated on earth. In a word it is God’s Divine Spirit which Christ came to communicate to the world.
    Fittingly, this divine fire is also associated with the burning love we have for God and sharing Him with others. As St. Catherine of Siena said, “Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.”
  2. ‘I came into the world as light, so that everyone who believes in me might not remain in darkness.’ – John 12:46
    In his commentary on the Gospel of John, St. Augustine sees the light primarily in reference to being enlightened about who God is. He connects this verse with Jesus’ statement to His disciples that they are the light of the world, in Matthew 5:14. So, according to Augustine, there are lights and then there is the Light:
    Such a statement, I maintain, can nowhere be met with. All the saints, therefore, are lights, but they are illuminated by Him through faith; and every one that becomes separated from Him will be enveloped in darkness. But that Light, which enlightens them, cannot become separated from itself; for it is altogether beyond the reach of change. We believe, then, the light that has thus been lit, as the prophet or apostle: but we believe him for this end, that we may not believe in that which is itself enlightened, but, with him, on that Light which has given him light; so that we, too, may be enlightened, not by him, but, along with him, by the same Light as he.
    Jesus description Himself as the Light also confirms His identity as God. Note Augustine’s language, which strongly insinuates both Jesus’ relationship with the Father and His unchanging nature as God: But that Light, which enlightens them, cannot become separated from itself; for it is altogether beyond the reach of change .
    The Nicene Creed seems to pick up on this use of light as an image for God when it declares that Jesus is ‘God from God, light from light, true God from true God.’
    Such language not only draws us upward in contemplation of God. It also calls us to action. Thanks to Augustine’s comparison with Matthew, we can see Jesus words in John as a calling to us to become little lights in the darkness.
  3. ‘I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.’ – John 10:10
    The vision that Jesus has here of His mission is so much richer and broader than what some Christians say it is. Yes, Jesus saves us. But this is where the evangelical Protestant account falls short. Because we are not simply saved from something. We are also saved for something. And that something is abundant life. Again: Jesus came not only to save us from death but to give us a new life. In theological terms, we could describe it as participation in the inner life of the Trinity. In an eschatological context, we could say it is the joy of the beatific vision we will enjoy in heaven as we both rest in Him and journey to know Him ever more deeply. In the language of the virtues, we could say an abundant life is one that is large in loving.
  4. I have come to bring not peace but the sword. – Matthew 10:34
    This one is harder to explain than the fire-casting verse above. To understand it, we have to dig deep into Scripture. Jesus is likely speaking in metaphorical terms since he rebukes Peter for drawing his sword in the Garden of Gethsemane. In the midst of its well-known exposition on spiritual arm, Ephesians 6 identifies the “sword of the Spirit” as the “word of God” (verse 17). Hebrews 4:12 expands upon this:
    Indeed, the word of God is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating even between soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart.
    One level, Ephesians and Hebrews are talking about Scripture itself. But we should also understand the ‘word of God’ as the Word Incarnate. The next verse in Hebrews supports this interpretation, referring to the ‘word of God’ as ‘Him’:
    No creature is concealed from Him, but everything is naked and exposed to the eyes of Him to whom we must render an account.
    Revelation 1:16 offers further confirmation in its depiction of Jesus as having “a sharp, double-edged sword” coming out of his mouth. (Note that this passage also employs images of fire and light to describe Jesus!)
    Clearly there is a sense in which Jesus is ‘divisive.’ To paraphrase St. Paul, the cross is a stumbling block to those who cannot accept it. The ultimate division is between heaven and hell, and between those who accept Jesus and those who do not. The Good News is that Jesus came to give us a choice

St. Thomas Aquinas’s Guide to Turning Away from False Goods & False Gods

NOVEMBER 22, 2019
St. Thomas Aquinas’s Guide to Turning Away from False Goods & False Gods
“The ultimate and principal good of
man is the enjoyment of God.”
— Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica II-II, 23, 7
imagine that if you are like me, it is one thing to agree that our goal should be the attainment of bliss in heaven with God (and an easy thing to agree on, at that), but quite another thing to live our lives with our eyes fixed on God rather than on ourselves . Since the Fall of Adam and Eve, we’ve all had a battle against sin on our hands. Sin takes our eyes off our heavenly goal and redirects them toward far less worthy things.
St. Thomas wrote that “inordinate self-love is the cause of every sin” (I-II, 77, 4). “Inordinate” means disordered, unrestrained, and inappropriate. It means love of the lower, bodily, animal self over one’s spiritual soul; love of simple pleasures, of money, of false gods of every sort in place of love for God.
The Deadly Sins & Our Gaze of God
All sins remove our gaze from God and place it on ourselves in one way or another. Lust, for example, has always been very good at tempting us to accept far less than the best. Through lust we fixate on people’s bodies and remain blind to the souls within them, made in the image and likeness of God.
Through gluttony we live to eat, rather than eating to live. Through greed we obsess about obtaining worldly things. Through anger we lash out at those who keep us from our sensuous and worldly goals. Through envy we are saddened by the thought that others may have more things or more fun than we do. Through pride we most directly and deliberately shift our goal from serving God to serving ourselves, doing everything our way .
All six of the classic seven deadly sins mentioned above divert us from our ultimate end. As I peer over Thomas’s broad shoulders, I see him writing about yet one other deadly sin most relevant to our first lesson: “Sloth is not an aversion of the mind from any spiritual good, but from the Divine good, to which the mind is obliged to adhere” (II-II, 35, 3).
Sloth then, is the sin that provides the most direct obstacle. It takes our minds off the divine good, which is God. This may seem a bit surprising to some. In our day, sloth probably first calls to mind “laziness,” as can be found in many dictionary definitions.
This article is from adapted from a chapter in
12 Life Lessons from St. Thomas Aquinas . Click image to learn more
Acedia, the Root of Sloth
We’ll have a true grasp of sloth if we understand it through the word St. Thomas himself used for it — acedia,
the Latinized version of the Greek word akedia, meaning “without,” and
cedia (or kedia , if you prefer the Greek) coming from kedos, meaning “care” or “concern.” The deadly sin of sloth is a spiritual sloth that says, “I don’t care — about the things of God.”
Thomas further defines “sloth” as “an oppressive sorrow” and as “a sluggishness of the mind which neglects to do good” (II-II, 35, 1). Sloth is a spiritual apathy, a sadness or boredom about the divine good of God . This lack of passion for serving and enjoying God is the antithesis of our first life lesson, and yet it is, in some sense, the first life lesson of the popular culture around us.
We can see this in the culture, and within ourselves, when we look at the sins that accompany, serve, and flow from sloth. St. Thomas, borrowing from St. Gregory the Great, notes that each deadly sin has a bevy of “daughters,” so let’s look now at sloth’s sorry brood.
Sloth’s Daughters
Wanderings Towards Unlawful Things
Sloth’s daughter running rampant in our culture is that of “wandering of the mind after unlawful things” (II-II, 35, 4). Thomas agreed with Aristotle that “those who find no joy in spiritual pleasures have recourse to pleasures of the body.” In our day of extreme “separation of church and state,” observe how the vast majority of the most heated political debates involve precisely the “pleasures of the body.”
So many minds in our culture have wandered so far toward unlawful pleasures of the body, rejecting God’s laws, that it is quite fitting to see this as a worship of false gods , and unfortunately, the chief false god appears to be Molech, who relished the sacrifice of innocent children (Lev. 18:21, 20:1-5; 2 Kings 23:10; Jer. 32:35).
Hopefully our minds have not wandered far from spiritual good in pursuit of bodily pleasures, but we still need to examine our consciences to track down and bring home our own wandering, prodigal minds. Spiritual sluggishness is not for the lazy alone. If we become overly obsessed with our work or some hobby or special interest, or even our cell phones or social media accounts, we might be extremely physically active , while mired in spiritual sloth .
Other Daughters of Sloth
Thomas names other daughters of sloth. It would do us well to see if they lie lurking lazily in our souls.
Sluggishness regarding the commandments. To keep our eyes on the goal of God, we need to ask ourselves if we are doing the specific kinds of things He commanded us all to do, such as honoring His day by going to Mass every Sunday.
Faintheartedness regarding spiritual obligations. Do we give our full effort and attention to spiritual obligations, in things as simple as speaking to God in prayer as well as in things as difficult as publicly standing up for the right to life?
Despair. Are we spiritually apathetic and despairing because we doubt that God could show forgiveness and mercy to sinners such as ourselves? To do so is to doubt God’s loving power and mercy and to accept not the best but the worst as our lot.
Spite toward those who lead others to spiritual goods. Have we been spiteful to those who stand up boldly to do God’s will? Have we disparaged the priest who dares to give powerful sermons on controversial topics or our neighbors in the pew who are willing to take a public stand to pray at an abortion center and offer counsel to women in crisis?
Malice. Hopefully we do not openly detest the spiritual goods of God, as do some of the most virulent “new atheists” who describe a Christian upbringing as child abuse, but do we do anything to defend the Faith when it is attacked in our presence?
If sloth or any of its sinful, self-serving daughters have a home in our hearts or are expressed in our deeds, it is time to root them out and pulverize them to dust, because they are keeping us from our ultimate goal, and they might well be hindering our loved ones, too, as they look to us for guidance.
The Sloth of Secularism
Alas, sloth has other powerful allies that quite directly strive to remove our eyes from the goal of God and bring them down to gaze upon the world. One term for this worldly view that champions sloth in our time is the ideology of “secularism.” The word derives from the Latin
saecularis which means “of an age, or a generation,” and it has long referred to “worldliness” in Christian usage. Secularism is a worldview with no place for religion and, therefore, no place for God. Those with a thoroughly secularist worldview will certainly spend no time trying to conquer sin as a first step toward loving God.
The influential philosopher Bertrand Russell wrote that it is not sin, but rather the sense of sin, the very notion that it is possible to behave in a way that is contrary to God’s will, that leads to man’s unhappiness.
By 1973, the eminent psychiatrist Karl Menninger would come to write the book Whatever Became of Sin? , arguing that increasing societal problems, the growing incidence of mental disorders, and increasing unhappiness had resulted from the growth of secularism and the rejection of the concept of sin in modern culture. Four and a half decades have passed since then, and our problems continue to mount, as more and more people seem to flounder, having lost track of the meaning of life.
Although I hope and pray that every one of my readers still has a zest for life, we might also ask ourselves how a downplaying of the dire importance of sin in acquiescence to the social winds of the times has grown within the Church herself , not to mention
within our own souls . To root out key obstacles that keep us from the enjoyment of God, we must pulverize not only the sloth that would turn our
hearts from God but also the
secularism that seeks to divert and poison our minds and our Church as well. When we refuse to accept sloth into our hearts and secularization into our minds, we ready our souls to accept only the best, the things that lead us to God.

This article is adapted from a chapter in Dr. Vost’s latest book,
12 Life Lessons from St. Thomas Aquinas : Timeless Spiritual Wisdom for Our Turbulent Times . It is available as an ebook or paperback from Sophia Institute Press .

Strive For Balance In Your Spiritual Life

Strive For Balance In Your Spiritual Life
Most of the heresies that have opposed the Church in her progress through the world have arisen from the undue pressing of one part of the truth. For the truth of the Christian Faith can generally be stated in the form of a paradox. And any failure to keep perfect balance and proportion in these statements results in error.
The history of the struggles of the early ages is the history of the wonderful instinct with which the Church ever preserved the mean between the extremes toward one or another of which the human mind tended in the definition of the doctrines of the Faith.
But amid all these controversies that spread over several hundred years, ranging from gross heresy to the nicest and most delicate overstatement or understatement of a truth, the Church ever kept the balance between the extremes of the contending parties, and taught that “Christ is perfect God and perfect man,” and that the union was effected “not by confusion of substance, but by unity of Person.”
So, again, with the doctrines of human
life. Some, looking upon the nature of man, have felt most keenly its inherent badness; others, its inherent goodness. But the Church, recognizing fully all the evil and all the good that is in man, taught that his nature is neither wholly bad nor wholly good; that he is a being created in the image of God, but fallen, and that without God’s grace he cannot attain to his perfection.
Again, in regard to man’s spiritual
life. There have been those who have taught that man’s greatest act is to be still and to leave God to work within him — that man can do nothing; God must do all. On the other hand, there have been others who, feeling the intensity of their own struggle and little sense of supernatural help, have taught that man must fight as best he can his own battles. And the Church, recognizing what was true, and rejecting what was erroneous and exaggerated, in each, taught the truth in the great paradox of St. Paul: “Work out your salvation. For it is God who worketh in you.”
Do not develop only part of your soul
This article is from a chapter in Christian Self-Mastery . Click image to learn more.
There is danger of this pressing of part of a truth in the practical life. Man has many sides to his nature, and his conscience must take them all under its care. If he neglects part, he will find that he has injured the whole, for all are a part of the one person. It is true in more senses than one that “the eye cannot say to the hand, I have no need of thee.” Every member of the body must be used for the welfare of the whole organism. And every side of life must be used if a man is to be at his best.
Indeed, if anyone sets himself to develop merely one side, he will find that he fails to perfect even that side, for it needs many things that come to it from other quarters. One man determines to develop the social side and altogether neglects the religious, but he finds in time that the social side fails in its perfection through the lack of just those things that religion alone could give him. Another neglects the social side for religion, and he soon finds that his religion becomes fanciful, fantastic, and deceptive, unless it is brought in contact with the hard facts of human life and experience. Another determines that he will give his life to the training and development of his reason alone, but he learns, perhaps too late, that he is not merely a reasoning but a moral being, and that the reason isolated and separated from the rest of his nature suffers vengeance at the hands of those powers which, as its fellow workers, would have helped and perfected it.
There is the same danger in the struggle with sin and the effort to form virtues. Many people who set themselves to conquer one fault and give their whole minds to this will find, if they are not careful, that they have only fallen into another.
For virtue cannot thrive in the narrow soil of one department of the soul’s life, unnourished by the streams that should flow into it from all sides and unpruned by the hand that watches over and labors for the enrichment of the whole. Every Christian virtue has more sides than one and is a more complicated and delicately balanced thing than we imagine. It has to look, as it were, toward God and toward man; toward the person in whom it dwells and toward others; toward itself and its place in the soul and its relations with other virtues. It has to be tended in its growth by the intellect as well as by the will and affections, and has to endure much severe pruning at the hand of reason. It must be able to live in the open and bear the hard dealings of the rough world, and it must grow in the silence of prayer and the presence of God.
There may be such a thing as the overgrowth of the one virtue to the crowding out of others that are equally or perhaps more necessary. Or, on the other hand, we may develop a virtue in one department of life to the neglect of all others. It is not uncommon to find a man very different in his domestic relations from what he is in public life. There are not a few who are thoroughly truthful and honest in all the concerns of life except in the conduct of their business. But a virtue is not a Christian virtue if it is exercised with exceptions. It must have its roots in the person and spread through every department of the soul’s life.
In the effort to conquer our faults, therefore, we have to be on our guard against the danger of being one-sided. For the very virtues we may be striving for are not so simple as they seem, and the materials of which they are formed, if not mixed in exact proportion, may produce not a virtue but a fault.
Humility is the perfect blending of the very highest and the lowliest thoughts of oneself. The humble man is conscious at once of his own nothingness and of his exaltation as God’s creature, whom He would unite to Himself. And he somehow contrives with the deepest sense of his own unworthiness to maintain a dignity that wins respect. If he leaves out this self-respect, his humility is not true humility and ends in self-degradation.
Meekness is the blending of gentleness and strength — a strength that has been won by victory over self and passion, and a gentleness that shows that this victory is the outcome of no harshness and bitterness toward self or the world, but of love. Test true meekness by the severest trials to which it can be put, and you will find in it no flaw of weakness or harshness, but a dauntless courage of the loftiest kind and an inexhaustible gentleness.
So with charity. Christian charity is not a blind disregard of facts, a refusal to see things as they are, a condoning of the sins of others. It is the love of the sinner springing from the love of God, which necessitates the hatred of sin. There is a great deal of spurious charity in the world, making excuse for sin or explaining it away, devoid of strength and virility, and often mixed with insincerity and unreality. True Christian charity blends in perfect proportion justice and love.
Thus, we might go on and see how every virtue involves the balancing and blending of characteristics that seem at first sight almost opposite, and thus embrace the whole many-sided nature of man and keep him exact and well-proportioned. There is more truth than we realize in the saying “Every vice is a virtue carried to extremes.”

Why I’m Catholic

Grace—it’s why I’m Catholic

There are many reasons to be Catholic. Grace is present in all of them.

By Annemarie Scobey-Polacheck | Print | ShareARTICLE YOUR FAITH

My friend recently asked me in an email conversation why I stay in the Catholic Church. “If that sounds confrontational, it’s not,” he wrote in his email. “At least not yet. I am genuinely curious.”

My friend was raised Catholic but is not currently a practicing member of any religion. He credits the Jesuits with saving his life in high school, and he went to Georgetown University for undergrad and married a Catholic woman he met there. They now have four children. His wife is still a practicing Catholic and brings the younger kids to Mass and religious education. My husband Bill and I are godparents to their third child. 

My friend’s question is a fair one. He’s not asking why I’m Christian or questioning my faith in God; he’s asking me why I belong to a religion that has some elements with which he knows I disagree.

He knows, for example, that I believe the church should ordain married people of both genders, along with men and women who choose celibacy. He knows I believe the question of birth control and family planning is complex and should not be simplified into a one-size-fits-all teaching. He knows that because Bill and I have adopted from the U.S. foster care system, we have a depth of understanding of the ramifications of all types of child abuse.

Yet we have chosen to stay with a church whose leaders failed to protect children from the most egregious of abuse. He knows I hold dear our gay friends and colleagues—that I believe they should be as welcome at the eucharistic table as they are at our own dining room table. 

And yet I’m Catholic. Passionately Catholic. And I could no more change to another Christian religion than I could peel off my skin and exchange it for a different tone with a better hue. 

Why am I Catholic? I may not embrace or even agree with all the teachings of the church, but I believe in all the sacraments. I believe in God’s grace working through them. I’ve felt the grace; I’ve seen it.

When each one of my children was baptized, the grace washed over the whole family—connecting our new little child to us, as parents and their first teachers, back to their grandparents, and to the grace of their great grandparents. Baptism, our first gift of faith to our children, a tidal welcome into life eternal. 

I’ve received communion and have been grateful for the grace that carried me through a difficult relationship. I know it was eucharistic grace that allowed me to be able to reach beyond the angry words I wanted to say to a difficult person, to the better words I needed to say to begin to heal the relationship. 

I’ve felt the grace present in the sacrament of reconciliation. I’ve seen my children leave the church after going to reconciliation feeling more peaceful, acting more loving, trying harder to be who they are called to be. Not leaving the church perfect, by any means—none of us do—but coming out of the sacrament, still imperfect, but full of grace. I remember Liam running around the parking lot of the church when he was about 8, after his first reconciliation, yelling, “I feel so light!” I have felt that lightness, too. It is grace. 

It is marriage where I’ve probably felt sacramental grace most strongly. Bill and I continue to turn to our vows, to our promise to God, to each other. I’ve seen the grace in my parents’ 50-year marriage—two people with completely different personalities who bring out the best in one another. I see the same grace in the marriages of my friends. One friend, whose husband made a hurtful choice, responded by upping her prayer, turning to her husband, and recognizing not only her own pain, but his. She allowed his poor choice to propel them together more in search of God, rather than let his behavior be a reason to drift apart. I watched their grace, and it made me weep. 

Some sacraments seem under-utilized. We do not need to reserve the sacrament of the sick for the dying. Any serious problem—mental, physical, emotional—can be a reason to receive the sacrament. I asked that my daughter Jamie be anointed when she was 1—not because she seemed sick, but because I knew of her past history before she came to us as a foster child. I knew healing was needed. I asked for it. I felt the grace. I feel it now. In 14-year-old Jamie’s exuberant presence is God’s grace. 

And then there’s ordination. God’s profound grace. Some of the most influential, inspirational people Bill and I have ever had the pleasure of knowing and listening to are (or were) priests. These amazing people, in their homilies and in the way they live (or lived) their lives, inspired the decisions we have made and have deepened our own faith journey. Holy orders is a beautiful, grace-filled sacrament. It’s just not expansive enough—we could have even more grace-filled people leading our church. 

And speaking of grace-filled leaders, what about those sisters? I’m Catholic because I stand in awe of the strong, independent, creative women so often at the helm of our Catholic schools, hospitals, and social service agencies. Yes, many of them are retired now, and fewer women are entering orders, mostly because Catholic women today have so many more options than young women did decades ago. These sisters were ahead of their time as leaders. In choosing to forego marriage and family, they were able to experience the greater world in a way uncommon to many women. And in doing so, they lifted us all. 

I couldn’t say all this to my friend in my email, because the email came in at work, and I didn’t have time to respond. But I can say it now. I can explain that I stay in the Catholic Church because of God’s grace present in the sacraments. I have seen how this has led to prayer, service, and goodness in the world. This grace is present in Catholic social teaching, a beautiful set of letters and documents about how we are called to serve our world in a very concrete and practical way. 

I am part of the Catholic Church because I see God’s people, nourished by the sacraments, anointed with oil, splashed with the water of baptism, serving God in great numbers. They teach in schools, work for change, bring about good in the public and private sector. They house refugees and give food and shelter to the needy. They bandage the hurt and the broken, give medicine to the ill, and visit those in prison. They speak out against injustice. I see them, and I strive to use my God-given grace as well as they do. That’s why I’m Catholic.

Salvation has come to this home today

31st Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C, November 3, 2019-“Salvation has come to this home today”
Father Lawrence Obilor
Daily Readings for Mass
“Late have I loved you, beauty so old and so new: late have I loved you. And see, you were within and I was in the external world and sought you there, and in my unlovely state I plunged into those lovely created things which you made. You were with me, and I was not with you. The lovely things kept me far from you, though if they did not have their existence in you, they had no existence at all. You called and cried out loud and shattered my deafness. You were radiant and resplendent, you put to flight my blindness. You were fragrant, and I drew in my breath and now pant after you. I tasted you, and I feel but hunger and thirst for you. You touched me, and I am set on fire to attain the peace which is yours. And now I know that you have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in you” (Confession of St. Augustine of Hippo).
The experience of the conversion of St. Augustine could be likened to that of Zacchaeus in the Gospel. And the first reading affirms how conversion is made possible through God’s patience and mercy. Yet man must cooperate with this saving grace of God by striving to remain in the good works as St. Paul admonishes the Thessalonians in the second reading.
FIRST READING: Wisdom 11:22-12:2
In this first reading, the author of the book of Wisdom, a Jewish sage responds to an important question that preoccupied the mind of his people, and which we often ask: “Why does God not do away with evil men?” In his response, he affirmed God as a merciful father whose mercy extends to all without boundary. Thus, he does not despise his own, and he values each one of his creatures to the point that even when they offend him, he says: ‘Little by little He corrects them and admonishes and reminds them how they have sinned.’ What a patient God we have!
SECOND READING: 2 Thessalonians 1:11–2:2
At the time Paul wrote this letter, there was confusion in the community of Thessalonica because it was alleged that someone brought a letter claiming to be from Paul. The letter asserted that the Day of the Lord, i.e., the second coming of Jesus, had already occurred. This created a kind of internal tension and reactions. Some even relaxed and never wanted to bother themselves with the things of faith again. But Paul calls their attention not to allow themselves be distracted by any false message about the coming of the Lord. And while they still have to hope for that day, he admonishes them not to relent in good works.
GOSPEL: Luke 19:1-10
Barely one week Luke spoke about the “metanoia” of a certain tax collector in the Temple of prayer, today he points out the clear identity of another tax collector “the Sycamore Zacchaeus.” It is Luke’s way of affirming that the Kingdom of God is taking a different meaning. It is no longer an inheritance of the supposed chosen ones rather for those who though are counted apart but have acknowledged their unworthiness and in humility set off in search of the kingdom of God made visible in Christ.
Today Jesus meets Zacchaeus at Jericho. Jericho was a very wealthy, commercial town in the Jordan valley known for growing palms and balsam groves. It was equally important because at the time of Jesus, there were two major highways in Israel, and one of them went through Jericho. Thus, Jericho was one of the flourishing tax centers of Palestine and its tax-collectors were very rich and popular.
How does Zacchaeus’ meeting with Jesus look like?

  1. The thirst: Zacchaeus was anxious to see Jesus (Lk 19:3)
    Why did Zacchaeus want to see Jesus? It was perhaps a mere curiosity. But could this eagerness be an indication of something deeper – a thirst, a desire? And where does that desire come from? Certainly God was the source of the thirst. He personally organized the encounter. Jesus chose to cross the path of Zacchaeus and not the other way round.
  2. The search: He ran ahead (Lk 19:4a)
    Because God had already stirred that desire in the heart of Zacchaeus, he could not resist the attractive force of the presence of Jesus. He rose up in search for Jesus. This search could be likened to that of the woman who went to the well to satisfy her thirst (Jn 4:7). Zacchaeus was thirsty. He had a problem. His life was empty.
  3. Two impending obstacles that would have distracted this search:
    Zacchaeus was short.This is a physical description of his person and which prevented him at first from seeing Jesus. This was a self-imposed problem.
    The second obstacle was “the crowd.” This seemed to be a greater obstacle that almost made it impossible for him to see Jesus. It was an obstacle rising from his environment and the people around him.
  4. The sign of victory: He climbed a sycamore tree (Lk 19:4b)
    Because God has destined him for this divine encounter, no obstacle can defeat such plan.The same God who has put within him the desire to search for Him, also showed him a way out. Sycamore tree in its meaning is a symbol of “strength, protection and divinity. It was God’s sent signpost for Zacchaeus and he did not lose sight of it. He saw it as a pointer to Jesus like the way the Magi saw a star in the east. They recognise that this is the time to go searching for the Son of God. However, even when the found themselves in the palace of Herod which was an obstacle for them, the same God that brought them from the east stirred afresh in their hearts that it wasn’t their destination. They were temporarily uncomfortable because they lost sight of the star. We were told that when they saw the star, they rejoiced (Matthew 2:10).
    Another important act displayed by Zacchaeus is the “Climbing of the Sycamore.” It was an act of individual will to be open to the grace of God. He did not stop at seeing and admiring the Sycamore tree but he grabbed it as a God-sent medium to encounter him. It was a difficult thing to do owing to his worth in the society as a rich man…but he understood that God is greater than his worth. Thus he dropped the robe of pride and vested himself with the robe of humility which is the only vestment suitable for meeting God.
  5. The invitation : Zacchaeus, come down (Lk 19:5)
    This is a very important moment in the whole narrative. It reaffirms the teaching of the Church that Salvation is both an act and an initiative of God himself. Notice that it was Jesus himself who invited him to a banquet. It is a prefiguration of the heavenly banquet meant for saints and which Jesus himself will serve.The God of surprises in Jesus goes to Zacchaeus who is now on the tree: “Zacchaeus, come down. Hurry, because I am to stay at your house today” (Lk 19:5). Jesus invited himself into the house of Zacchaeus just as he did with the woman who came to the well to draw water (Jn 4:7). It was Jesus himself who took the initiative to make the ‘seductive’ proposition: “Give me something to drink” as a means of having his way into her life.
  6. The encounter : Jesus has gone to stay in the house of Zacchaeus (Lk 19:7)
    Zacchaeus’ meeting with the Lord on the tree would not have been complete if he had not allowed Him into his home. In other words into his heart. It was a moment of communion made visible through meal. Meals signify fellowship, celebration and sealing of a covenant. So many gospel encounters unfold in the context of a meal: the sinner woman (Lk 7: 36-50), multiplication of loaves (Jn 6); last supper (Jn 13); the resurrection encounter (Jn 21:1-13); the two disciples on the road to Emmaus (Lk 24:13-35).
    At every Eucharistic meal, it is Jesus himself who prepares table for those who desire salvation through communion with him.
  7. Saving Grace : Today salvation has come (Lk 19:9)
    After Jesus had played his part, it was left for Zacchaeus to give a definitive response in order to make the encounter complete. In other words, conversion which is the initiative of God cannot be complete until man makes an active and concrete response. And this rejoins the words of St. Augustine: “The God who created us without us, cannot save us without us.” The concrete response to conversion must be expressed in the act of renunciation. That is a pledge not to remain the same again since the new life is not compatible with the old. That is the pattern of leaving something behind like the woman on the well who left her jar of water because at that point it was no longer important for her since she now has a new jar of water, that is her new heart filled no longer with the old water of jacob but with the living water which is Jesus himself (Jn 4:28).This is exactly what Zacchaeus did. And the promise to repay whatever he has spoiled in the past is a penance that follows a penitent. There is a price that must be paid for any damage caused. Zacchaeus understood this and opened his heart to do it even more. It was not until then that Jesus pronounced the saving word: “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man too is a son of Abraham” (Lk 19:9).
  8. Jesus has not stopped to enter the ‘Jericho’ of our lives. Each one of us like Zacchaeus has got his own saving opportunity but we must use it as he did. Jesus will not return back to ‘Jericho’ to meet Zacchaeus again. He got the chance and he used it. Let us not postpone our own hour of meeting with the Lord. It could be our last opportunity.
  9. Zacchaeus was said to be short and was unable to see Jesus because of the crowd. Taken from its spiritual perspective, sin makes us short of the glory of God. The more we love sin and grow in friendship with it, the shorter we become and eventually lose sight of God. And when he passes our way, we cannot see him because our sins have rendered us spiritually short. The crowd of people that blocked the view of Zacchaeus was the world and its riches and distractions. Even when it was his last opportunity to see Jesus, they still could not allow him. They kept blocking his view. What is blocking our view of Jesus? We must be courageous enough like Zacchaeus to defeat them.
  10. We must be open to grace. His word says: “My grace is enough for you: for power is at full stretch in weakness” (2 Cor 12:9). Zacchaeus opened his heart to the river of God’s grace and it flowed into the heart of his home. He allowed Jesus into his home, thus moving from public admiration and curiosity of Jesus’s identity to a concrete personal encounter with him. Many of us are still on the ‘Sycamore.’ We have grown used to admiring Jesus while sitting on the fence because we have blocked our hearts from allowing him to invite us into our home. Let us accept his invitation today for a total life changing encounter.
  11. We must be ready to make amends. Don’t you think you and I have part of Zacchaeus in us? We may have extorted others either with our position or talent. The justice of God and the call to a new life demands that we pay them back. Secondly we must learn to take our penance seriously. Many of us leave the confessional thinking that to do penance is a second option afterall the sins are confessed. No, the penance given by the priest at the confessional completes the process of our healing. Let Zacchaeus guide our step on this.
    Lord Jesus help me to always desire for change and do not pass me by nor let the ‘crowd’ of difficulties stop me from reaching you. Amen.

Why pagan Pilate is found in the creed

Why Pagan Pilate Is Found in the Creed
hen Pontius Pilate accepted the post of Governor of Judaea, he never could have imagined that he’d cross paths with God Incarnate, or that his name would end up in the creed recited by millions of Christians every Sunday.
And yet Pontius Pilate is in both of the main Christian creeds, the Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene Creed (see here for a side-by-side comparison).
Both creeds assign a similar role to Pilate. Here’s what the Nicene version says:
For our sake he was crucified
under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered died and was buried.
The Apostles Creed is comparable:
He suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried.
He descended into hell.
As Catholics, we recite the Nicene Creed every Sunday without giving much thought to the pagan in the creed. Pilate is, after all, an integral part of the story of Jesus. Nevertheless, his place in the creed is curious. Everything else in the two creeds is a person, object, or belief of the faith. As far as we know, Pilate never came to the faith and, even if he did, that’s not why he’s in the creed.
We simply cannot accept the explanation that he was casually thrown in. Remember, the early Christians fiercely debated the truths of the faith down to the very letter. At one point, the division between Arians and orthodox Christians hinged on whether the letter “i” should be added to the Greek word
homoousious . Without the additional letter, the word declared that Jesus was the ‘same in being’ or ‘consubstantial’ with the Father. The change in spelling, however, would have changed its meaning to say that Christ was only ‘alike’ in being to the Father.
So no, Pilate is not in the creed by accident.
First, Pilate’s existence reinforces the historicity of the Incarnation. His reference confirms that Jesus walked this earth and died on it at a specific time and place. The story of Jesus is anchored in concrete events. God entered history itself and Pilate’s presence in the drama reminds us of this. (This is the explanation preferred by patristic commentator Rufinus, who says of the framers of the creed, “They who have handed down the Creed to us have with much forethought specified the time when these things were done.”)
Witness to Innocence of Jesus
Second, Pilate stands as a witness to Jesus’ innocence. In the gospel accounts, Pilate is the closest thing to an impartial judge Jesus was going to get. He examines Jesus and acquits Him of the charges. Luke 23:14-15 recounts his words this way:
You brought this man to me and accused him of inciting the people to revolt. I have conducted my investigation in your presence and have not found this man guilty of the charges you have brought against him, nor did Herod, for he sent him back to us. So no capital crime has been committed by him.
This is a crucial aspect of Jesus’ atoning sacrifice on our behalf: He was innocent. He was the ‘the sinless, spotless Lamb of God’ offered for our sake (1 Peter 1:19).
Pilate’s overall significance extends beyond the two reasons outlined above. In bringing him to mind, the creed beckons us to look closer into the role he plays in the gospel story.
Witness to the Emptiness of the World
We can begin by noting that Pilate marks an interesting contrast with the Jewish opponents of Jesus. Both parties represent opposite approaches to worldly government. If the Jewish leaders in the story were overly zealous for the reconstitution of an earthly Jewish state, Pilate was completely dispassionate and indifferent. He is the personification of the bored bureaucrat who can’t be bothered to take a position on right and wrong. All four gospel account portray his decision to execute Jesus as an act meant to mollify angry crowds (see Matthew 27 , Mark 15 ,
Luke 23 , and John 18 ). In Matthew, Pilate even washes his hands in front of the crowd in any effort to shirk any responsibility.
The World’s Rejection of Jesus
It seems necessary that Jesus’ rejection be as complete as possible. His people—at least a sizable portion of them—had rejected Him. Pilate’s sentence thus represents the rejection of the world. Ironically, in a way, this paves the way for all future believers to accept Jesus. Although the next two thousand years would contain many instances of powerful Christian states and Church institutions, at its heart, the story of Jesus is of a God who assumed our humanity in radical humility, asking us to ‘believe also in me’ (John 14:1). The redemptive work of Jesus would not have been possibly had he been the worldly savior so many Jews of the time wanted. Likewise, had a pious Pilate saved Him there would have been no suffering, no death, and no resurrection.
An Admonition to Believe
In the account of John, Pilate doesn’t seem to know what to make of Jesus:
Jesus answered, “My kingdom does not belong to this world. If my kingdom did belong to this world, my attendants would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not here.” So Pilate said to him, “Then you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say I am a king. For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” Pilate said to him, “What is truth?” (John 18:36-38)
What must it have been like for this Roman figurehead to breathe the same air as God-made-man? What did He see when He looked into Christ’s eyes? Did He sense he was in the presence of something and Someone far greater than what he could comprehend? Pilate certainly seems curious. In the above dialogue, he is clearly feeling Jesus out, trying to get to the bottom of things.
His final question has lent itself to many interpretations. On its face, it looks like the ultimate statement of relativism. Others have seen it as sarcasm or an expression of frustration. There is yet another interpretation, according to Matthew Henry, a seventeenth century Presbyterian commentator :
Pilate put a good question, he said, What is truth? When we search the Scriptures, and attend the ministry of the word, it must be with this inquiry, What is truth? and with this prayer, Lead me in thy truth; into all truth. But many put this question, who have not patience to preserve in their search after truth; or not humility enough to receive it.
Pilate stands as both a cautionary tale and a call to faith. He shows the perils of not pursuing the truth. And, in so doing, he calls us to respond differently. When we seek the truth. When we ask the truth we must wait for Jesus to answer us.
The Mystical Theological Reason
Finally, there is a mystical theological reason for Pilate’s encounter with Christ. It was necessary for the Good News to be announced throughout the world. Jesus preached, of course, to his fellow Jews. But the Word also needed to reach the Gentiles. Of course, the apostles later would spread the Gospel, but it was fitting for the Word Incarnate to do so Himself. Pilate stands in for all the future Gentiles who would hear it.
Jesus’ mission had to be complete.
Isaiah 55 describes God’s Word as if it was journeying throughout the world. 1 Peter 3:19 says He even preached to the ‘spirts in prison’—that is, those in hell, announcing to them the Good News they had forfeited. Indeed, in
On the Incarnation of the Word, St. Athanasius says Jesus ‘filled’ the whole world with His teaching.
Many before Him have been kings and tyrants of the earth, history tells also of many among the Chaldeans and Egyptians and Indians who were wise men and magicians. But which of those, I do not say after his death, but while yet in this life, was ever able so far to prevail as to fill the whole world with his teaching and retrieve so great a multitude from the craven fear of idols, as our Savior has won over from idols to Himself?
Jesus continues to fill the world with His teaching today through the Church. Thanks to His enduring Presence among us we can be confident we still hear His voice speaking to us from the gospel accounts. And, while His words to Pilate may have fallen on deaf ears, may the opposite be the case with us.
Tagged as: Apostle’s Creed , Creed ,
Pontius Pilate

What does the church say about the ghosts

What Does the Church Say About Ghosts?
Dear Father Kerper: It seems like there is a lot of evidence that there are ghosts that haunt people’s homes. Do ghosts really exist?
Thanks very much for your question about the reality of ghosts. Some people, of course, would brush it off as a silly thing to ask, but it actually leads us to consider anew two key Christian beliefs: first, that every human person is a communion of body (matter) and soul (spirit); and second, that human life continues forever after bodily death, first as a bodiless soul, and eventually as a resurrected human being with body and soul reunited. To put your question differently: can these bodiless souls — ghosts — appear and intervene in our lives?
We have to clarify the term “ghost.” I am not speaking here about menacing spirits that terrorize movie characters. This English word “ghost” comes from the German word “geist,” which broadly means “spirit,” including non-personal things such as the “spirit of the age” and so on. In English, “ghost” specifically means the soul of a dead person that becomes discernible through our eyes, ears, nose (some ghosts smell!), or skin.
In theory, billions of ghosts potentially exist because billions of human beings have “lost” their bodies through death. Strictly speaking, these disembodied souls are not ghosts because they have never become discernible to any living people. Only those few souls whose presence is seen or felt by others are truly ghosts. And their existence is plausible. But here we must proceed with great caution.
Let’s look at Sacred Scripture. The book of Deuteronomy condemns anyone “who consults ghosts and spirits or seeks oracles from the dead” (see Deut. 18:10–11). And the book of Leviticus warn against using “mediums” to contact the souls of the dead (see Lev. 19:31; 20:6, 27). These legal prohibitions demonstrate that at least some people believed in ghosts. If they didn’t, why prohibit attempted contacts?
This article is from A Priest Answers 27 Questions.
The Old Testament also has a few ghost stories. The most famous one is in 1 Samuel 28:8–20. Here the inspired writer tells how King Saul met with the ghost of the prophet Samuel. In 2 Maccabees 15:1–16, you can read about the encounter between Judas Maccabeus, the great Jewish patriot, and the ghost of Onias, the dead high priest. These Old Testament laws and stories affirm that the people of Israel believed that human souls survive after death and can have contact with the living, at least occasionally.
Now, let’s see what theology contributes to the matter. To be frank, many theologians haven’t written much about ghosts, but some have, notably Saint Augustine and Saint Thomas Aquinas.
According to Saint Thomas ( Summa Theologica , Suppl., Q. 69, art. 3.), the souls of the dead who are in heaven can indeed manifest themselves to the living on their own initiative. Such appearances, however, are not “hauntings” meant to terrify or tease people. Rather, these saintly apparitions occur only to bring comfort and encouragement, never fear. And remember, “saint” means anyone who dwells with God, not just those officially declared “saints” by the Church.
In light of this, it is theoretically possible for loved ones, such as deceased grandparents or children (even babies), to become sensibly discernible to us. While such occurrences may be rare, there is no reason to rule them out. In a sense, these spirits are “ghosts” but they are benign, even loving.
Now we move to the matter of malicious ghosts, the nasty type that pop up in horror movies and novels. Saint Thomas clearly states that the souls of the dead, who are not in heaven, can never appear to the living without God’s consent. But why would God ever allow ghosts to “haunt” people?
Saint Thomas gives two reasons: first, as a warning; and second, to seek spiritual assistance from the living in the form of prayer or good deeds to advance the dead person toward fulfillment in God. The ghosts or “non-saints” may annoy people, but they can never harm them.
Of course, one can read somewhat credible stories about destructive “hauntings,” but Saint Thomas always insisted that these “ghosts” were definitely not the souls of dead people, but something else, most likely demons masquerading as ghosts.
This brief exploration about ghosts leads us to a very positive point: the spiritual bonds between the living and dead, especially those who love one another, are deep, unbreakable, and mysterious because they are rooted in the Body of Christ, which embraces the living and dead. We have nothing to fear, for God governs all things — including “ghosts” — with wisdom and love.

Prayer, purgatory and all souls day

Prayer, Purgatory, and All Souls Day
When I was a Protestant, there were things I thought I knew about the Catholic Church, things I knew I didn’t know about the Catholic Church, but didn’t want to learn, and then a box marked, “Everything Else”.
During my conversion process, that “Everything Else” box grew bigger and bigger as I slowly acquainted myself with this strange new religion that familiarity had convinced me I knew everything about, but pride had kept me ignorant of. One of the most beautiful, exotic jewels I discovered in that box was All Souls Day.
Growing up Presbyterian, everyone went to Heaven. And they went there immediately upon the death rattle. It wasn’t that there was an unshakable certainty in each souls’ eternal reward, it was just that it was gauche to suggest people other than the Hitlers and Jeffrey Dahmers of humanity went to hell, and there was no other option in Protestant theology. So everyone, from the drunken uncle who didn’t exactly abuse his wife, but certainly made her life uncomfortable, to the coworker who never once, in the 20 years you worked with her, so much as mentioned God, went immediately and directly to their heavenly rest.
It was an odd system, one that not only ignored God’s perfect Justice, but also made His perfect Mercy something cheap and tawdry.
During the RCIA process, I’d bought a copy of the Catechism , and I read it, cover to cover, in the evenings after the kids had gone to bed. The day I was introduced to the topic of Purgatory was a life-changer for me:
1030 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.
1031 The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned. The Church formulated her doctrine of faith on Purgatory especially at the Councils of Florence and Trent. The tradition of the Church, by reference to certain texts of Scripture, speaks of a cleansing fire:
As for certain lesser faults, we must believe that, before the Final Judgment, there is a purifying fire. He who is truth says that whoever utters blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will be pardoned neither in this age nor in the age to come. From this sentence we understand that certain offenses can be forgiven in this age, but certain others in the age to come.
1032 This teaching is also based on the practice of prayer for the dead, already mentioned in Sacred Scripture: “Therefore [Judas Maccabeus] made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin.” 609 From the beginning the Church has honored the memory of the dead and offered prayers in suffrage for them, above all the Eucharistic sacrifice, so that, thus purified, they may attain the beatific vision of God. The Church also commends almsgiving, indulgences, and works of penance undertaken on behalf of the dead.
When I dug this jewel out of the box of Catholic teaching, it was both beautiful and terrifying. It was beautiful because it finally gave due respect to both God’s justice and His mercy. It was terrifying because it sounded like it involved pain.
I don’t like pain.
The next week, I marched into the priest’s office, my copy of the Catechism dog-eared to the offending section. I slapped it down on his desk and pointed at the part about Purgatory.
“It says here that Purgatory is like burning,” I said to him, with that aggression that is born of fear. “Is that true? If it is, I’m out. I’m not going to do this whole conversion thing just to end up burning in the afterlife anyway.”
Clearly, I was in desperate need of religious education. And the more I learned about Purgatory, the more grateful for it I became. I was so grateful for the generosity of God, who give us the security of justice, but also the security of mercy. I was so grateful knowing that there was a system in place for me to purify myself of the vices I may fail to shed in this life. From a purely human, flawed point of view, it was somehow easier to envision not-so-stellar people enjoying the bliss of heaven if I remembered they had some soul cleaning to endure first.
With that realization, came the understanding that there were people, unknown numbers of people, currently undergoing the purification. My heart broke for them- those who knew they were destined to be united with God in Heaven, but were still undergoing that fire of final sanctification. What did that fire feel like? How deeply did it burn?
But, like the loving mother she is, the Church doesn’t just shrug her shoulders and let the soul in Purgatory burn in isolation. Rather, she gives us, the living, chance after chance to help our brothers and sisters along in their purification. Prayers, indulgences, alms and fasting are all ways we can help, and All Souls Day is like the Super Bowl for helping out purgatorial souls.
Coming down off the high of All Saints day, the Church asks us to remember those who’ve gone before us, who will eventually take their place among the angels and saints, but haven’t gotten there yet. And so take a moment to remember those poor souls, who can’t even whisper a shred of prayer for themselves anymore. Say a decade of the Rosary for them. Light a candle for them. Even better, go to a cemetery to do so. Firmly ground yourself in the physical reality that all our lives have an expiration date, and someday, by the grace of God, it’ll be us in Purgatory, burning off those last imperfections, gratefully accepting the prayers of the living.