Year of Faith Catechism Study: CCC 538-546, 566-567 – The Temptation of Christ and the Proclamation of the Kingdom

clock December 14, 2012 01:02 by author John |

Today’s Catechism sections discuss Jesus’ temptations and the Proclamation of the Kingdom. Supporting material comes from St. John Cassian’s “Conferences”.

Jesus' temptations

538 The Gospels speak of a time of solitude for Jesus in the desert immediately after his baptism by John. Driven by the Spirit into the desert, Jesus remains there for forty days without eating; he lives among wild beasts, and angels minister to him.241 At the end of this time Satan tempts him three times, seeking to compromise his filial attitude toward God. Jesus rebuffs these attacks, which recapitulate the temptations of Adam in Paradise and of Israel in the desert, and the devil leaves him "until an opportune time".242

539 The evangelists indicate the salvific meaning of this mysterious event: Jesus is the new Adam who remained faithful just where the first Adam had given in to temptation. Jesus fulfills Israel's vocation perfectly: in contrast to those who had once provoked God during forty years in the desert, Christ reveals himself as God's Servant, totally obedient to the divine will. In this, Jesus is the devil's conqueror: he "binds the strong man" to take back his plunder.243 Jesus' victory over the tempter in the desert anticipates victory at the Passion, the supreme act of obedience of his filial love for the Father.

540 Jesus' temptation reveals the way in which the Son of God is Messiah, contrary to the way Satan proposes to him and the way men wish to attribute to him.244 This is why Christ vanquished the Tempter for us: "For we have not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sinning."245 By the solemn forty days of Lent the Church unites herself each year to the mystery of Jesus in the desert.

"The kingdom of God is at hand"

541 "Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying: 'The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent, and believe in the gospel.'"246 "To carry out the will of the Father Christ inaugurated the kingdom of heaven on earth."247 Now the Father's will is "to raise up men to share in his own divine life".248 He does this by gathering men around his Son Jesus Christ. This gathering is the Church, "on earth the seed and beginning of that kingdom".249

542 Christ stands at the heart of this gathering of men into the "family of God". By his word, through signs that manifest the reign of God, and by sending out his disciples, Jesus calls all people to come together around him. But above all in the great Paschal mystery - his death on the cross and his Resurrection - he would accomplish the coming of his kingdom. "and I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself." Into this union with Christ all men are called.250

The proclamation of the kingdom of God

543 Everyone is called to enter the kingdom. First announced to the children of Israel, this messianic kingdom is intended to accept men of all nations.251 To enter it, one must first accept Jesus' word:

The word of the Lord is compared to a seed which is sown in a field; those who hear it with faith and are numbered among the little flock of Christ have truly received the kingdom. Then, by its own power, the seed sprouts and grows until the harvest.252

544 The kingdom belongs to the poor and lowly, which means those who have accepted it with humble hearts. Jesus is sent to "preach good news to the poor";253 he declares them blessed, for "theirs is the kingdom of heaven."254 To them - the "little ones" the Father is pleased to reveal what remains hidden from the wise and the learned.255 Jesus shares the life of the poor, from the cradle to the cross; he experiences hunger, thirst and privation.256 Jesus identifies himself with the poor of every kind and makes active love toward them the condition for entering his kingdom.257

545 Jesus invites sinners to the table of the kingdom: "I came not to call the righteous, but sinners."258 He invites them to that conversion without which one cannot enter the kingdom, but shows them in word and deed his Father's boundless mercy for them and the vast "joy in heaven over one sinner who repents".259 The supreme proof of his love will be the sacrifice of his own life "for the forgiveness of sins".260

546 Jesus' invitation to enter his kingdom comes in the form of parables, a characteristic feature of his teaching.261 Through his parables he invites people to the feast of the kingdom, but he also asks for a radical choice: to gain the kingdom, one must give everything.262 Words are not enough, deeds are required.263 The parables are like mirrors for man: will he be hard soil or good earth for the word?264 What use has he made of the talents he has received?265 Jesus and the presence of the kingdom in this world are secretly at the heart of the parables. One must enter the kingdom, that is, become a disciple of Christ, in order to "know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven".266 For those who stay "outside", everything remains enigmatic.267

IN BRIEF

566 The temptation in the desert shows Jesus, the humble Messiah, who triumphs over Satan by his total adherence to the plan of salvation willed by the Father.

567 The kingdom of heaven was inaugurated on earth by Christ. "This kingdom shone out before men in the word, in the works and in the presence of Christ" (LG 5). the Church is the seed and beginning of this kingdom. Its keys are entrusted to Peter.

St. John Cassian, in his “Conferences” (5) writes about the temptation of Christ in the desert.

Chapter 6

Of the manner of the temptation in which our Lord was attacked by the devil.

For it was right that He who was in possession of the perfect image and likeness of God should be Himself tempted through those passions, through which Adam also was tempted while he still retained the image of God unbroken, that is, through gluttony, vainglory, pride; and not through those in which he was by his own fault entangled and involved after the transgression of the commandment, when the image and likeness of God was marred. For it was gluttony through which he took the fruit of the forbidden tree, vainglory through which it was said Your eyes shall be opened, and pride through which it was said You shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. (Genesis 3:5) With these three sins then we read that the Lord our Savior was also tempted; with gluttony when the devil said to Him: Command these stones that they be made bread: with vainglory: If You are the Son of God cast Yourself down: with pride, when he showed him all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them and said: All this will I give to You if You will fall down and worship me: in order that He might by His example teach us how we ought to vanquish the tempter when we are attacked on the same lines of temptation as He was. And so both the former and the latter are spoken of as Adam; the one being the first for destruction and death, and the other the first for resurrection and life. Through the one the whole race of mankind is brought into condemnation, through the other the whole race of mankind is set free. The one was fashioned out of raw and unformed earth, the other was born of the Virgin Mary. In His case then though it was fitting that He should undergo temptation, yet it was not necessary that He should fail under it. Nor could He who had vanquished gluttony be tempted by fornication, which springs from superfluity and gluttony as its root, with which even the first Adam would not have been destroyed unless before its birth he had been deceived by the wiles of the devil and fallen a victim to passion. And therefore the Son of God is not said absolutely to have come in the flesh of sin, but in the likeness of the flesh of sin, because though His was true flesh and He ate and drank and slept, and truly received the prints of the nails, there was in Him no true sin inherited from the fall, but only what was something like it. For He had no experience of the fiery darts of carnal lust, which in our case arise even against our will, from the constitution of our natures, but He took upon Him something like this, by sharing in our nature. For as He truly fulfilled every function which belongs to us, and bore all human infirmities, He has consequently been considered to have been subject to this feeling also, that He might appear through these infirmities to bear in His own flesh the state even of this fault and sin. Lastly the devil only tempted Him to those sins, by which he had deceived the first Adam, inferring that He as man would similarly be deceived in other matters if he found that He was overcome by those temptations by which he had overthrown His predecessor. But as he was overthrown in the first encounter he was not able to bring upon Him the second infirmity which had shot up as from the root of the first fault. For he saw that He had not even admitted anything from which this infirmity might take its rise, and it was idle to hope for the fruit of sin from Him, as he saw that He in no sort of way received into Himself seeds or roots of it. Yet according to Luke, who places last that temptation in which he uses the words If You are the Son of God, cast Yourself down, (Luke 4:9) we can understand this of the feeling of pride, so that that earlier one, which Matthew places third, in which, as Luke the evangelist says, the devil showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time and promised them to Him, may be taken of the feeling of covetousness, because after His victory over gluttony, he did not venture to tempt Him to fornication, but passed on to covetousness, which he knew to be the root of all evils,(1 Timothy 6:10) and when again vanquished in this, he did not dare attack Him with any of those sins which follow, which, as he knew full well, spring from this as a root and source; and so he passed on to the last passion; viz., pride, by which he knew that those who are perfect and have overcome all other sins, can be affected, and owing to which he remembered that he himself in his character of Lucifer, and many others too, had fallen from their heavenly estate, without temptation from any of the preceding passions. In this order then which we have mentioned, which is the one given by the evangelist Luke, there is an exact agreement between the allurements and forms of the temptations by which that most crafty foe attacked both the first and the second Adam. For to the one he said Your eyes shall be opened; to the other he showed all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them. In the one case he said You shall be as gods; in the other, If You are the Son of God.

Footnotes

241 Cf. ⇒ Mk 1:12-13.
242 ⇒ Lk 4:13.
243 Cf. ⇒ Ps 95:10; ⇒ Mk 3:27
244 Cf ⇒ Mt 16:2 ⇒ 1-23.
245 ⇒ Heb 4:15.
246 ⇒ Mk 1:14-15.
247 LG 3.
248 LG 2.
249 LG 5.
250 ⇒ Jn 12:32; cf. LG 3.
251 Cf. ⇒ Mt 8:11 ⇒ 10:5-7; ⇒ 28:19.
252 LC 5; cf. ⇒ Mk 4:14, ⇒ 26-29; ⇒ Lk 12:32.
253 ⇒ Lk 4:18; cf. ⇒ 7:22.
254 ⇒ Mt 5:3[ETML:C/].
255 Cf. ⇒ Mt 11:25.
256 Cf. ⇒ Mt 21:18; ⇒ Mk 2:23-26; ⇒ Jn 4:6 1; ⇒ 19:28; ⇒ Lk 9:58.
257 Cf. ⇒ Mt 25:31-46.
258 ⇒ Mk 2:17; cf. ⇒ l Tim 1:15.
259 ⇒ Lk 15:7; cf. ⇒ 7:11-32.
260 ⇒ Mt 26:28.
261 Cf. ⇒ Mk 4:33-34.
262 Cf. ⇒ Mt 13:44-45; ⇒ 22:1-14.
263 Cf. ⇒ Mt 21:28-32.
264 Cf. ⇒ Mt 13:3-9.
265 Cf. ⇒ Mt 25:14-30.
266 ⇒ Mt 13:11.
267 ⇒ Mk 4:11; cf. ⇒ Mt 13:10-15.



Year of Faith Catechism Study: CCC 531-537, 562-565 – Jesus’ Hidden Life and Baptism

clock December 13, 2012 01:02 by author John |

Today’s Catechism sections discuss Jesus’ “hidden life” and baptism. Supporting material comes from St. John Chrysostom’s “Homily 12 on Matthew”.

The mysteries of Jesus' hidden life

531 During the greater part of his life Jesus shared the condition of the vast majority of human beings: a daily life spent without evident greatness, a life of manual labor. His religious life was that of a Jew obedient to the law of God,221 a life in the community. From this whole period it is revealed to us that Jesus was "obedient" to his parents and that he "increased in wisdom and in stature, and in favor with God and man."222

532 Jesus' obedience to his mother and legal father fulfills the fourth commandment perfectly and was the temporal image of his filial obedience to his Father in heaven. The everyday obedience of Jesus to Joseph and Mary both announced and anticipated the obedience of Holy Thursday: "Not my will. . ."223 The obedience of Christ in the daily routine of his hidden life was already inaugurating his work of restoring what the disobedience of Adam had destroyed.224

533 The hidden life at Nazareth allows everyone to enter into fellowship with Jesus by the most ordinary events of daily life:

The home of Nazareth is the school where we begin to understand the life of Jesus - the school of the Gospel. First, then, a lesson of silence. May esteem for silence, that admirable and indispensable condition of mind, revive in us. . . A lesson on family life. May Nazareth teach us what family life is, its communion of love, its austere and simple beauty, and its sacred and inviolable character... A lesson of work. Nazareth, home of the "Carpenter's Son", in you I would choose to understand and proclaim the severe and redeeming law of human work. . . To conclude, I want to greet all the workers of the world, holding up to them their great pattern their brother who is God.225

534 The finding of Jesus in the temple is the only event that breaks the silence of the Gospels about the hidden years of Jesus.226 Here Jesus lets us catch a glimpse of the mystery of his total consecration to a mission that flows from his divine sonship: "Did you not know that I must be about my Father's work?"227 Mary and Joseph did not understand these words, but they accepted them in faith. Mary "kept all these things in her heart" during the years Jesus remained hidden in the silence of an ordinary life.

III. THE MYSTERIES OF JESUS' PUBLIC LIFE

The baptism of Jesus

535 Jesus' public life begins with his baptism by John in the Jordan.228 John preaches "a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins".229 A crowd of sinners230 - tax collectors and soldiers, Pharisees and Sadducees, and prostitutes - come to be baptized by him. "Then Jesus appears." the Baptist hesitates, but Jesus insists and receives baptism. Then the Holy Spirit, in the form of a dove, comes upon Jesus and a voice from heaven proclaims, "This is my beloved Son."231 This is the manifestation ("Epiphany") of Jesus as Messiah of Israel and Son of God.

536 The baptism of Jesus is on his part the acceptance and inauguration of his mission as God's suffering Servant. He allows himself to be numbered among sinners; he is already "the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world".232 Already he is anticipating the "baptism" of his bloody death.233 Already he is coming to "fulfill all righteousness", that is, he is submitting himself entirely to his Father's will: out of love he consents to this baptism of death for the remission of our sins.234 The Father's voice responds to the Son's acceptance, proclaiming his entire delight in his Son.235 The Spirit whom Jesus possessed in fullness from his conception comes to "rest on him".236 Jesus will be the source of the Spirit for all mankind. At his baptism "the heavens were opened"237 - the heavens that Adam's sin had closed - and the waters were sanctified by the descent of Jesus and the Spirit, a prelude to the new creation.

537 Through Baptism the Christian is sacramentally assimilated to Jesus, who in his own baptism anticipates his death and resurrection. The Christian must enter into this mystery of humble self-abasement and repentance, go down into the water with Jesus in order to rise with him, be reborn of water and the Spirit so as to become the Father's beloved son in the Son and "walk in newness of life":238

Let us be buried with Christ by Baptism to rise with him; let us go down with him to be raised with him; and let us rise with him to be glorified with him.239

Everything that happened to Christ lets us know that, after the bath of water, the Holy Spirit swoops down upon us from high heaven and that, adopted by the Father's voice, we become sons of God.240

IN BRIEF

562 Christ's disciples are to conform themselves to him until he is formed in them (cf ⇒ Gal 4:19). "For this reason we, who have been made like to him, who have died with him and risen with him, are taken up into the mysteries of his life, until we reign together with him" (LG 7 # 4).

563 No one, whether shepherd or wise man, can approach God here below except by kneeling before the manger at Bethlehem and adoring him hidden in the weakness of a new-born child.

564 By his obedience to Mary and Joseph, as well as by his humble work during the long years in Nazareth, Jesus gives us the example of holiness in the daily life of family and work.

565 From the beginning of his public life, at his baptism, Jesus is the "Servant", wholly consecrated to the redemptive work that he will accomplish by the "baptism" of his Passion.

In his “Homily 12 on Matthew”, St. John Chrysostom comments on the baptism of Jesus:

2. Then he suffers Him. And Jesus, when He was baptized, went up straightway out of the water; and, lo, the heavens were opened unto Him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon Him.

For inasmuch as many supposed that John was greater than He, because John had been brought up all his time in the wilderness, and was son of a chief priest, and was clothed with such raiment, and was calling all men unto his baptism, and had been born of a barren mother; while Jesus, first of all, was of a damsel of ordinary rank (for the virgin birth was not yet manifest to all); and besides, He had been brought up in an house, and held converse with all men, and wore this common raiment; they suspected Him to be less than John, knowing as yet nothing of those secret things—and it fell out moreover that He was baptized of John, which thing added support to this surmise, even if none of those mentioned before had existed; for it would come into their mindthat this man was one of the many (for were He not one of the many, He would not have come with the many to the baptism), but that John was greater than He and far more admirable:— in order therefore that this opinion might not prevail with the multitude, the very heavens are opened, when He is baptized, and the Spirit comes down, and a voice with the Spirit, proclaiming the dignity of the Only Begotten. For since the voice that said, This is my beloved Son, would seem to the multitude rather to belong to John, for It added not, This that is baptized, but simply This, and every hearer would conceive it to be said concerning the baptizer, rather than the baptized, partly on account of the Baptist's own dignity, partly for all that has been mentioned; theSpirit came in form of a dove, drawing the voice towards Jesus, and making it evident to all, that This was not spoken of Johnthat baptized, but of Jesus who was baptized.

And how was it, one may say, that they did not believe, when these things came to pass? Because in the days of Moses also many wonderful works were done, albeit not such as these; and after all those, the voices, and the trumpets, and the lightnings, they both forged a calf, and were joined unto Baal-peor. And those very persons too, who were present at the time, and sawLazarus arise, so far from believing in Him, who had wrought these things, repeatedly attempted even to slay Him. Now if seeing before their eyes one rise from the dead, they were so wicked, why marvel at their not receiving a voice wafted from above? Since when a soul is uncandid and perverse, and possessed by the disease of envy, it yields to none of these things; even as when it is candid it receives all with faith, and has no great need of these.

Speak not therefore thus, They believed not, but rather inquire, Did not all things take place which ought to have made thembelieve? For by the prophet also God frames this kind of defense of His own ways in general. That is, the Jews being on the point of ruin, and of being given over to extreme punishment; lest any from their wickedness should calumniate His providence, He says, What ought I to have done to this vineyard, that I have not done? Just so here likewise reflect; what ought to have been done, and was not done? And indeed whenever arguments arise on God's Providence, make use of this kind of defense, against those who from the wickedness of the many try to raise a prejudice against it. See, for instance, what astonishing things are done, preludes of those which were to come; for it is no more paradise, but Heaven that is opened.

Footnotes

221 Cf. ⇒ Gal 4:4.
222 ⇒ Lk 2:51-52.
223 ⇒ Lk 22:42.
224 Cf. ⇒ Rom 5:19.
225 Paul VI at Nazareth, 5 January 1964: LH, Feast of the Holy Family, OR.
226 Cf. ⇒ Lk 2:41-52.
227 ⇒ Lk 2:49 alt.
228 Cf. ⇒ Lk 3:23; ⇒ Acts 1:22.
229 ⇒ Lk 3:3[ETML:C/].
230 Cf. ⇒ Lk 3:10-14; ⇒ Mt 3:7; ⇒ 21:32.
231 ⇒ Mt 3:13-17.
232 ⇒ Jn 1:29; cf. ⇒ Is 53:12.
233 Cf. ⇒ Mk 10:38; ⇒ Lk 12:50.
234 ⇒ Mt 3:15; cf. ⇒ 26:39.
235 Cf. ⇒ Lk 3:22; ⇒ Is 42:1.
236 ⇒ Jn 1:32-33; cf. ⇒ Is 11:2.
237 ⇒ Mt 3:16.
238 ⇒ Rom 6:4.
239 St. Gregory of Nazianzus, Oratio 40, 9: PG 36, 369.
240 St. Hilary of Poitiers, In Matth. 2, 5: PL 9, 927.



Year of Faith Catechism Study: CCC 522-530 – The Incarnation and Hidden Life of Jesus

clock December 12, 2012 01:02 by author John |

Today’s Catechism sections discuss the Incarnation and Hidden Life of Jesus. Supporting material comes from the Papal Bull, “Incarnationis Mysterium” of Pope John Paul II.

II. THE MYSTERIES OF JESUS' INFANCY AND HIDDEN LIFE

The preparations

522 The coming of God's Son to earth is an event of such immensity that God willed to prepare for it over centuries. He makes everything converge on Christ: all the rituals and sacrifices, figures and symbols of the "First Covenant".195 He announces him through the mouths of the prophets who succeeded one another in Israel. Moreover, he awakens in the hearts of the pagans a dim expectation of this coming.

523 St. John the Baptist is the Lord's immediate precursor or forerunner, sent to prepare his way.196 "Prophet of the Most High", John surpasses all the prophets, of whom he is the last.197 He inaugurates the Gospel, already from his mother's womb welcomes the coming of Christ, and rejoices in being "the friend of the bridegroom", whom he points out as "the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world".198 Going before Jesus "in the spirit and power of Elijah", John bears witness to Christ in his preaching, by his Baptism of conversion, and through his martyrdom.199

524 When the Church celebrates the liturgy of Advent each year, she makes present this ancient expectancy of the Messiah, for by sharing in the long preparation for the Savior’s first coming, the faithful renew their ardent desire for his second coming.200 By celebrating the precursor's birth and martyrdom, the Church unites herself to his desire: "He must increase, but I must decrease."201

The Christmas mystery

525 Jesus was born in a humble stable, into a poor family.202 Simple shepherds were the first witnesses to this event. In this poverty heaven's glory was made manifest.203 The Church never tires of singing the glory of this night:

The Virgin today brings into the world the Eternal
and the earth offers a cave to the Inaccessible.
The angels and shepherds praise him
and the magi advance with the star,
For you are born for us,
Little Child, God eternal!204

526 To become a child in relation to God is the condition for entering the kingdom.205 For this, we must humble ourselves and become little. Even more: to become "children of God" we must be "born from above" or "born of God".206 Only when Christ is formed in us will the mystery of Christmas be fulfilled in us.207 Christmas is the mystery of this "marvelous exchange":

O marvelous exchange! Man's Creator has become man, born of the Virgin. We have been made sharers in the divinity of Christ who humbled himself to share our humanity.208

The mysteries of Jesus' infancy

527 Jesus' circumcision, on the eighth day after his birth,209 is the sign of his incorporation into Abraham's descendants, into the people of the covenant. It is the sign of his submission to the Law210 and his deputation to Israel's worship, in which he will participate throughout his life. This sign prefigures that "circumcision of Christ" which is Baptism.211

528 The Epiphany is the manifestation of Jesus as Messiah of Israel, Son of God and Savior of the world. The great feast of Epiphany celebrates the adoration of Jesus by the wise men (magi) from the East, together with his baptism in the Jordan and the wedding feast at Cana in Galilee.212 In the magi, representatives of the neighboring pagan religions, the Gospel sees the first-fruits of the nations, who welcome the good news of salvation through the Incarnation. the magi's coming to Jerusalem in order to pay homage to the king of the Jews shows that they seek in Israel, in the messianic light of the star of David, the one who will be king of the nations.213 Their coming means that pagans can discover Jesus and worship him as Son of God and Savior of the world only by turning towards the Jews and receiving from them the messianic promise as contained in the Old Testament.214 The Epiphany shows that "the full number of the nations" now takes its "place in the family of the patriarchs", and acquires Israelitica dignitas215 (is made "worthy of the heritage of Israel").

529 The presentation of Jesus in the temple shows him to be the firstborn Son who belongs to the Lord.216 With Simeon and Anna, all Israel awaits its encounter with the Savior - the name given to this event in the Byzantine tradition. Jesus is recognized as the long-expected Messiah, the "light to the nations" and the "glory of Israel", but also "a sign that is spoken against". The sword of sorrow predicted for Mary announces Christ's perfect and unique oblation on the cross that will impart the salvation God had "prepared in the presence of all peoples".

530 The flight into Egypt and the massacre of the innocents217 make manifest the opposition of darkness to the light: "He came to his own home, and his own people received him not."218 Christ's whole life was lived under the sign of persecution. His own share it with him.219 Jesus' departure from Egypt recalls the exodus and presents him as the definitive liberator of God's people.220

Pope John Paul II elaborates on the Nativity of Jesus in the Papal Bull, “Incarnationis Mysterium”

The birth of Jesus at Bethlehem is not an event which can be consigned to the past. The whole of human history in fact stands in reference to him: our own time and the future of the world are illumined by his presence. He is "the Living One" (Rev 1:18), "who is, who was and who is to come" (Rev 1:4). Before him every knee must bend, in the heavens, on earth and under the earth, and every tongue proclaim that he is Lord (cf. Phil 2:10-11). In the encounter with Christ, every man discovers the mystery of his own life.

Jesus is the genuine newness which surpasses all human expectations and such he remains for ever, from age to age. The Incarnation of the Son of God and the salvation which he has accomplished by his Death and Resurrection are therefore the true criterion for evaluating all that happens in time and every effort to make life more human.

Footnotes

195 ⇒ Heb 9:15.
196 Cf. ⇒ Acts 13:24; ⇒ Mt 3:3[ETML:C/].
197 ⇒ Lk 1:76; cf. ⇒ 7:26; ⇒ Mt 11:13.
198 ⇒ Jn 1 29; cf. ⇒ Acts 1:22; ⇒ Lk 1:41; ⇒ 16:16; ⇒ Jn 3:29.
199 ⇒ Lk 1:17; cf. ⇒ Mk 6:17-29.
200 Cf ⇒ Rev 22:17.
201 ⇒ Jn 3:30.
202 Cf. Lk 2:61.
203 Cf. ⇒ Lk 2:8-20.
204 Kontakion of Romanos the Melodist.
205 Cf. ⇒ Mt 18:3-4.
206 ⇒ Jn 3 7; ⇒ 1:13; ⇒ 1:12; cf. ⇒ Mt 23:12.
207 Cf. ⇒ Gal 4:19.
208 LH, 1 January, Antiphon I of Evening Prayer.
209 Cf. ⇒ Lk 2:21.
210 Cf. ⇒ Gal 4:4.
211 Cf. ⇒ Col 2:11-13.
212 ⇒ Mt 2:1; cf. LH, Epiphany, Evening Prayer II, Antiphon at the Canticle of Mary.
213 Cf ⇒ Mt 2:2; ⇒ Num 24:17-19; ⇒ Rev 22:16.
214 Cf ⇒ Jn 4 22; ⇒ Mt 2:4-6.
215 St. Leo the Great, Sermo 3 in epiphania Domini 1-3, 5: PL 54, 242; LH, Epiphany, OR; Roman Missal, Easter Vigil 26, Prayer after the third reading.
216 Cf. ⇒ Lk 2:22-39; EX 13:2, 12-13.
217 Cf. ⇒ Mt 2:13-18.
218 ⇒ Jn 1:11.
219 Cf. ⇒ Jn 15:20.
220 Cf. ⇒ Mt 2:15; ⇒ Hos 11:1.



Bishop Morlino Rebukes New Age Nuns

clock December 11, 2012 16:15 by author John |

Sinsinawa Dominican Nun working as an abortion clinic escortTwo Sinsinawa Dominican Sisters, Lynn Lisbeth and Maureen McDonnell have wondered off the path a bit too far it seems. The bishop of the Diocese of Madison, Wisconsin, Robert Morlino sent a letter to priests in the diocese advising of his “grave concerns” over the work of the two nuns. He cited their views which stem from New Ageism and “indifferentism”. They “may not share an authentic view of the Catholic Church's approach to interreligious dialogue“, according to the letter. The sisters work with a group called “Wisdom’s Well”, and 2 other women connected with the group have been banned also.

Sisters Maureen McDonnell and Lynn Lisbeth, both Sinsinawa Dominicans, have diverged too far from Catholic teaching, according to a confidential memo sent Nov. 27 to priests on behalf of Morlino. A copy of the memo was leaked to the State Journal. Two other women connected to the interfaith center, called Wisdom's Well, also have been banned as part of the same action.

The memo says Morlino has "grave concerns" about the women's teachings, specifically that they "espouse certain views" flowing from such movements as "New Ageism" and "indifferentism." The latter, according to the memo, is "the belief that no one religion or philosophy is superior to another." The women "may not share an authentic view of the Catholic Church's approach to interreligious dialogue," the memo said.

The memo sent to priests says the four women "are not to be invited or allowed to preach, catechize, lead spiritual or prayer instructions or exercises, or to provide spiritual direction or guidance at churches, oratories or chapels within the Diocese of Madison." No publicity materials from Wisdom's Well are to be allowed inside parishes.

In response to this news, the Sinsinawa congregation released a statement saying that the nuns in question are "respected and valued members" of the order, and that both women "have been dedicated to religious life and preaching and teaching Gospel values for nearly 50 years." The Sinsinawa Dominicans "wholeheartedly support our sisters and hold them in prayer as we continue our mission of participating in the building of a holy and just church and society," the statement said.
 
The Sinsinawa Dominicans are the same group that produced the nun who worked as an abortion clinic escort, Sister Donna Quinn. My advice: parents, don’t let your daughters grow up to be Sinsinawa Dominicans. It seems like the group is hanging to their Catholicism by the skin of their teeth.

If you are a young woman interested in joining a good Dominican community, check out the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia, headquartered in Nashville, TN.

Go here to learn about the faithful Dominicans in Nashville.

Go here to read the article about the wayward Dominicans of Sinsinawa.



Tuesday Ear Tickler: Nathaniel Frank Distorts Scripture to Fit His Homosexual Agenda

clock December 11, 2012 02:02 by author John |

The Tuesday Ear Tickler award is Solemn Charge’s weekly recognition of teachers who “Tickle the Ears” of those who “no longer endure sound doctrine”. In the spirit of 2 Timothy 4: 2-4, this award serves to identify theological or doctrinal errors, dissent or hostility toward the Magisterium of the Catholic Church, or writing that undermines the purpose of each human soul – to know love and serve God so as to enjoy eternal happiness with Him in Heaven. I make no judgment of the writer’s intentions. Usually the winner of this award was raised in the 60’s so that right there is a mitigating factor toward their culpability for their actions. I do judge concrete actions and the quality of ideas, however…

Today’s winner is Nathaniel Frank (absolutely no relation to the keeper of this blog), who is a gay rights pusher and apparently, a Bible distorter. He tries to claim that homosexual activity is a social taboo and that it is only wrong in so far as it is not a customary thing for the culture at the time, naming his article, “Is Homosexuality a Sin?” His article is quite long and filled with error, so bear with me as I take it apart piece by piece. It takes many words to correct the many errors in his work. (Mr. Frank’s comments in the red quote boxes, my comments in black.)

When Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said last week that his faith teaches that homosexuality is a sin, he was clearly speaking to social conservatives. But with the 2016 election in mind, he was simultaneously moderating his rhetoric, so he also said that while his faith "informs" him "as a policy maker," he would never use it "to pass judgment on people."

It's a logically dubious position. If a set of judgments about people informs you as a policy maker, then how can you avoid judging people, and equally importantly, why should you? Casting further doubt on his sincerity, Rubio has indeed judged gay people as unworthy of equal protection under the law, opposing letting them marry, adopt or serve openly in the military.

Rubio’s point, which is aligned with Catholic teaching is that judgment is passed on concrete acts. For example, arson is wrong. There could be factors involved with the arsonist’s decision-making process that lessen his culpability for the arson, such as mental illness (pyromania) or societal acceptance or promotion of arson that causes the arsonist to believe that the arson is morally neutral or even desirable. These circumstances prevent a person from judging the reasons behind the arson, but it is still possible to clearly identify certain actions that are wrong without condemning the actor. Frank’s argument is based on emotion, as is generally the case with moral relativists, and seems to conclude that a person cannot separate the act of identifying evil behavior from the act of condemning the actor. This is perhaps the case with a great many people in our society, but it should not be, and indeed, many people are able to make this distinction.

Rubio, who has called for Republicans to appeal more to minorities and immigrants, was trying to soften his moralizing as part of a new brand of Republican thinking after the Party's White House bid failed decisively last month. The brand takes the one page from the George W. Bush playbook that the GOP still finds useful: the so-called "compassionate conservatism" embodied by the principle of "hate the sin, love the sinner." As Rubio put it, "there isn't a person in this room that isn't guilty of sin."

This is small consolation for gays (and their proliferating supporters), who shouldn't have to feel that expressing their love sexually is a shameful transgression that's tolerated merely because other evil things are, too. But Rubio was trying to walk a fine line that's increasingly tough for Republicans to pull off: salvaging their coalition of evangelicals and more moderate conservatives by moralizing and not moralizing at the same time.

Rather than evaluate the truth and wisdom of the Church’s teaching on sexual morality, Frank is more concerned with the way homosexuals “feel”. If an action is evil, and society has embraced it, that society turns on the messenger that has denounced it, claiming that they are insensitive, old-fashioned, outdated, or too legalistic. We see in these statements that Frank, like many in the gay rights movement have moved beyond simply trying to convince society to tolerate moral depravity. These statements are a direct assault on the sacred right of Christians to proclaim their faith and its moral teachings. This is pure moral relativism at its worst. These statements are a prime example of why Pope Benedict (while still Cardinal Ratzinger) called out the “dictatorship of relativism” in April of 2005:

Having a clear Faith, based on the Creed of the Church, is often labeled today as a fundamentalism. Whereas, relativism, which is letting oneself be tossed and "swept along by every wind of teaching", looks like the only attitude acceptable to today's standards. We are moving towards a dictatorship of relativism which does not recognize anything as certain and which has as its highest goal one's own ego and one's own desires.

 

The Bible, both the Old and New Testaments, actually contains two different kinds of sin. One is an act considered morally wrong because it's hurtful or dangerous. This includes obvious violations of the social contract, such as murder and theft, as well as sentiments that are discouraged because they can lead to unfairness or harm: greed, envy, idleness and arrogance. It also includes violations of more minor rules that can seem like mere rituals but which evolved to keep a population safe or healthy from perceived dangers, such as rules about diet and sanitation.

The second kind of sin is a violation against social conventions. This is where the word "moral" comes from, as in "social mores." These refer to practices and beliefs widely shared by your community, but which are not intrinsically beneficial or harmful. These mores exist as a way to bind the community together, often in opposition to another group.

Which kind of sin is homosexuality, according to the Bible? Certainly in an era of tribal rivalries and high infant mortality, procreative sex was encouraged as necessary to population growth, making alternatives potentially harmful to group survival. This, at least, is a popular explanation of how both masturbation and homosexuality became taboo in biblical times and would place them in the moral category of intrinsic harm.

Yet this explanation for the origin of anti-gay sentiment is unconvincing. Only in recent times has homosexuality become such a distinct identity that it implies forgoing procreative sex, and scholars believe that, as in many non-Western cultures today, those who engaged in same-sex behavior in the ancient world often married and slept with members of the opposite sex, too.

Instead, what becomes clear from actually reading the Bible on homosexuality is that the anti-gay taboo is, above all, a badge of team membership -- of a piece with opposition to outsiders and nonbelievers. Leviticus appears to condemn same-sex desire unequivocally, forbidding "lying with a man" as an "abomination." But the word normally translated as "abomination" is more properly understood as simply "taboo" -- something forbidden by custom, largely because it's associated with other groups. Indeed, the literal meaning of "taboo" is "set apart."

This explanation is complete balderdash.  In many passages in the Bible, the word “abomination” is used and it applies to all varieties of sin from the most serious, such as idolatry: “Cursed be the man who makes a graven or molten image, an abomination to the LORD” (Deut 27:15) and murder all the way down to arrogance and deceit: “There are six things which the LORD hates, seven which are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and a man who sows discord among brothers.” (Proverbs 6:16-19). There is no distinction between sins which are an abomination and those that are not. All sin is an abomination to the Lord.

Furthermore, we know that the most serious sins are punished by death in the Old Testament. In Leviticus 20: 13, God commands that “If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall be put to death, their blood is upon them.” Not only is homosexuality punished by death in this chapter of Leviticus, but also anyone who “gives his child to Moloch” (v 2), “turns to mediums and wizards” (v 6), “curses his father or his mother” (v 9), “commits adultery” (v 10), or commits any other sexually immoral act (v 11-21), will be put to death, “cut off from his people”, or “die childless”, all of which are generally considered to be the most severe punishments.

The Old Testament taboo against homosexuality appears in a passage that's all about the duty of Jews to honor and obey God, meant to set them apart from pagans. It begins with God telling the Israelites to worship only him and follow only his rules and not those of the whacky Egyptians and Canaanites just because they may pass through their lands. In other words, when in Rome, do not as the Romans do, or you'll mark yourself as a member of the wrong team. The so-called "abomination" really denotes a non-Israelite cultic practice, like the worship of foreign idols. It's an act that the Israelites were forbidden from doing because others did it, not because it was intrinsically bad.

I’m not sure if Frank is deliberately misleading his readers or if this is an oversight, but he claims that the taboo against homosexuality appears in “a passage that’s all about the duty of Jews to honor and obey God, meant to set them apart from pagans.” This is true – of one instance of the prohibition against homosexuality. There are a multitude of other passages, such as the one I quoted above from Leviticus 20, which forbid homosexual depravity and lumps it together with other offenses punishable by death – the most serious offenses. He gives the impression that it is only forbidden in one passage. That is patently false.

Like the Hebrew scriptures, the New Testament appears to condemn homosexuality in no uncertain terms, most notably in Paul's letter to the Romans, which bemoans men who relinquish their natural function and "burn in their lust" for each other. But it turns out that this desire is not so much the cause of harm but the punishment for a much greater violation: denying God. "Even though they knew God, they did not honor him," writes Paul. "Therefore, God gave them over" to such desires -- along with a long list of others. Like the Jews, Christians threw homosexuality into a bucket of no-nos (along with gossip, insolence and apostasy) to solidify their team membership against nonbelievers and outsiders.

Sometimes things are exactly how they appear. I’m not sure how he claims that homosexuality was not a sin, but merely a punishment for denying God. Clearly something that is “shameful” and “indecent” is sinful. They “received the due penalty for their perversion”, which indicates that they were punished additionally for the acts they committed which “God gave them over to”. God allowed them to fall into other sins because they rejected the graces He gave them. Here is the full quote from Romans 1:26-27:

Therefore, God handed them over to degrading passions. Their females exchanged natural relations for unnatural, and the males likewise gave up natural relations with females and burned with lust for one another. Males did shameful things with males and thus received in their own persons the due penalty for their perversity.

We know that without God’s grace, we fall further and deeper into sin. One sin leads to another. A man cannot maintain a particular level of evil. He always looks for the next and greater evil unless he returns to God, in which case he opens himself to God’s graces.

Looked at in proper context, the biblical taboo against same-sex desire was a product of one key fact: that foreigners and apostates practiced it. That fact, above all else, appears to be what made it unacceptable, more than anything intrinsic to same-sex acts, such as their association with depopulation.

This conclusion is based on false assumptions, therefore, it cannot be maintained. Homosexual acts were clearly forbidden in both the Old and New Testaments and included with the most grave sins.

What a Christian ought to say when asked if homosexuality is a sin is whatever he says when asked if an atheist is sinning by denying God or failing to attend Church on Sunday, which is also how an observant Jew or Muslim should answer if asked if it's morally wrong to eat pork. Homosexuality is only condemned in scripture for adherents of Judaism and Christianity (and it's actually debatable whether condemnation is the only interpretation of those texts -- increasingly, people of faith are showing strong support for LGBT dignity and equality).

This also is a false conclusion based on bad logic. Homosexuality is a violation of the natural law, like murder. It was punished by God among the “foreign people” as well as the Jews to whom the law was given. God destroyed the entire cities of Sodom and Gomorrah for the sins of homosexuality in the book of Genesis. It was not simply a cultural guideline that only the Jews should follow, otherwise the heathens in Sodom and Gomorrah wouldn’t have been scorched to death with holy fire.

The distinction between moral rules designed to prevent harm and moral rules meant solely to mark team membership is critical, and blurring it -- as the religious right has done for decades -- is itself a moral transgression that creates more harm than it prevents, and not only for those who are wrongly judged but for politicians like Rubio who continue to think they must square a circle instead of reexamining the shape altogether.

The laws of God require no “reexamination”. They are the eternal Truth. They have lasted throughout the history of man and will continue to endure long after Frank and other moral relativists have been brushed aside like every other heretic in the history of the Church. The blurring is done by liberals who feast on confusion and moral equivocation, sowing doubt and dissent among the faithful.

I hereby award the Tuesday Ear Tickler Award for Tuesday, December 11, 2012 to Nathaniel Frank, who is again, no relation to the author of this blog.



Year of Faith Catechism Study: CCC 512-521, 561 - The Mysteries of Christ's Life

clock December 11, 2012 01:02 by author John |

Today's Catechism sections discuss the mysteries of Christ's life as oriented toward His birth and death. Supplemental material comes from St. Irenaeus' "Against Heresies".

Paragraph 3. THE MYSTERIES OF CHRIST'S LIFE

512 Concerning Christ's life the Creed speaks only about the mysteries of the Incarnation (conception and birth) and Paschal mystery (passion, crucifixion, death, burial, descent into hell, resurrection and ascension). It says nothing explicitly about the mysteries of Jesus' hidden or public life, but the articles of faith concerning his Incarnation and Passover do shed light on the whole of his earthly life. "All that Jesus did and taught, from the beginning until the day when he was taken up to heaven",171 is to be seen in the light of the mysteries of Christmas and Easter.

513 According to circumstances catechesis will make use of all the richness of the mysteries of Jesus. Here it is enough merely to indicate some elements common to all the mysteries of Christ's life (I), in order then to sketch the principal mysteries of Jesus' hidden (II) and public (III) life.

I. CHRIST'S WHOLE LIFE IS MYSTERY

514 Many things about Jesus of interest to human curiosity do not figure in the Gospels. Almost nothing is said about his hidden life at Nazareth, and even a great part of his public life is not recounted.172 What is written in the Gospels was set down there "so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name."173

515 The Gospels were written by men who were among the first to have the faith174 and wanted to share it with others. Having known in faith who Jesus is, they could see and make others see the traces of his mystery in all his earthly life. From the swaddling clothes of his birth to the vinegar of his Passion and the shroud of his Resurrection, everything in Jesus' life was a sign of his mystery.175 His deeds, miracles and words all revealed that "in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily."176 His humanity appeared as "sacrament", that is, the sign and instrument, of his divinity and of the salvation he brings: what was visible in his earthly life leads to the invisible mystery of his divine sonship and redemptive mission

Characteristics common to Jesus' mysteries

516 Christ's whole earthly life - his words and deeds, his silences and sufferings, indeed his manner of being and speaking - is Revelation of the Father. Jesus can say: "Whoever has seen me has seen the Father", and the Father can say: "This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!"177 Because our Lord became man in order to do his Father's will, even the least characteristics of his mysteries manifest "God's love. . . among us".178

517 Christ's whole life is a mystery of redemption. Redemption comes to us above all through the blood of his cross,179 but this mystery is at work throughout Christ's entire life: -already in his Incarnation through which by becoming poor he enriches us with his poverty;180 - in his hidden life which by his submission atones for our disobedience;181 - in his word which purifies its hearers;182- in his healings and exorcisms by which "he took our infirmities and bore our diseases";183 - and in his Resurrection by which he justifies us.184

518 Christ's whole life is a mystery of recapitulation. All Jesus did, said and suffered had for its aim restoring fallen man to his original vocation:

When Christ became incarnate and was made man, he recapitulated in himself the long history of mankind and procured for us a "short cut" to salvation, so that what we had lost in Adam, that is, being in the image and likeness of God, we might recover in Christ Jesus.185 For this reason Christ experienced all the stages of life, thereby giving communion with God to all men.186

Our communion in the mysteries of Jesus

519 All Christ's riches "are for every individual and are everybody's property."187 Christ did not live his life for himself but for us, from his Incarnation "for us men and for our salvation" to his death "for our sins" and Resurrection "for our justification".188 He is still "our advocate with the Father", who "always lives to make intercession" for us.189 He remains ever "in the presence of God on our behalf, bringing before him all that he lived and suffered for us."190

520 In all of his life Jesus presents himself as our model. He is "the perfect man",191 who invites us to become his disciples and follow him. In humbling himself, he has given us an example to imitate, through his prayer he draws us to pray, and by his poverty he calls us to accept freely the privation and persecutions that may come our way.192

521 Christ enables us to live in him all that he himself lived, and he lives it in us. "By his Incarnation, he, the Son of God, has in a certain way united himself with each man."193 We are called only to become one with him, for he enables us as the members of his Body to share in what he lived for us in his flesh as our model:

We must continue to accomplish in ourselves the stages of Jesus' life and his mysteries and often to beg him to perfect and realize them in us and in his whole Church. . . For it is the plan of the Son of God to make us and the whole Church partake in his mysteries and to extend them to and continue them in us and in his whole Church. This is his plan for fulfilling his mysteries in us.194

IN BRIEF

561 "The whole of Christ's life was a continual teaching: his silences, his miracles, his gestures, his prayer, his love for people, his special affection for the little and the poor, his acceptance of the total sacrifice on the Cross for the redemption of the world, and his Resurrection are the actualization of his word and the fulfillment of Revelation" John Paul II, CT 9).

In “Against Heresies” (3, 18, 7), St, Irenaeus comments on the life and works of Christ as directed toward His birth and death.

7. Therefore, as I have already said, He caused man (human nature) to cleave to and to become, one with God. For unless man had overcome the enemy of man, the enemy would not have been legitimately vanquished. And again: unless it had been God who had freely given salvation, we could never have possessed it securely. And unless man had been joined to God, he could never have become a partaker of incorruptibility. For it was incumbent upon the Mediator between God and men, by His relationship to both, to bring both to friendship and concord, and present man to God, while He revealed God to man. For, in what way could we be partaken of the adoption of sons, unless we had received from Him through the Son that fellowship which refers to Himself, unless His Word, having been made flesh, had entered into communion with us? Wherefore also He passed through every stage of life, restoring to all communion with God. Those, therefore, who assert that He appeared putatively, and was neither born in the flesh nor truly made man, are as yet under the old condemnation, holding out patronage to sin; for, by their showing, death has not been vanquished, which reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression. Romans 5:14 But the law coming, which was given by Moses, and testifying of sin that it is a sinner, did truly take away his (death's) kingdom, showing that he was no king, but a robber; and it revealed him as a murderer. It laid, however, a weighty burden upon man, who had sin in himself, showing that he was liable to death. For as the law was spiritual, it merely made sin to stand out in relief, but did not destroy it. For sin had no dominion over the spirit, but over man. For it behooved Him who was to destroy sin, and redeem man under the power of death, that He should Himself be made that very same thing which he was, that is, man; who had been drawn by sin into bondage, but was held by death, so that sin should be destroyed by man, and man should go forth from death. For as by the disobedience of the one man who was originally molded from virgin soil, the many were made sinners, Romans 5:19 and forfeited life; so was it necessary that, by the obedience of one man, who was originally born from a virgin, many should be justified and receive salvation. Thus, then, was the Word of God made man, as also Moses says: God, true are His works. Deuteronomy 32:4 But if, not having been made flesh, He did appear as if flesh, His work was not a true one. But what He did appear, that He also was: God recapitulated in Himself the ancient formation of man, that He might kill sin, deprive death of its power, and vivify man; and therefore His works are true.

Footnotes

171
172 Cf. ⇒ Jn 20:30.
173 ⇒ Jn 20:31.
174 Cf. ⇒ Mk 1:1; ⇒ Jn 21:24.
175 Cf ⇒ Lk 2:7; ⇒ Mt 27: 48; ⇒ Jn 20:7.
176 ⇒ Col 2:9.
177 ⇒ Jn 14:9; ⇒ Lk 9:35; cf. ⇒ Mt 17:5; ⇒ Mk 9:7, "my beloved Son".
178 ⇒ Jn 4:9[ETML:C/].
179 Cf. ⇒ Eph 1:7; ⇒ Col 1:13-14; ⇒ 2 Pt 1:18-19.
180 Cf. ⇒ 2 Cor 8:9.
181 Cf. ⇒ Lk 2:51.
182 Cf. ⇒ Jn 15:3.
183 ⇒ Mt 8:17; cf. ⇒ Is 53:4.
184 Cf. ⇒ Rom 4:25.
185 St. Irenaeus, Adv. haeres. 3, 18, 1: PG 7/1, 932.
186 St. Irenaeus, Adv. haeres. 3, 18, 7: PG 7/1, 937; cf. 2, 22, 4.
187 John Paul II, RH II.
188 I Cor 15:3; ⇒ Rom 4:25.
189 I ⇒ Jn 2:1 ⇒ Heb 7:25.
190 ⇒ Heb 9:24.
191 GS 38; cf. Rom 1 5:5; ⇒ Phil 2:5.
192 Cf. ⇒ Jn 13:15; ⇒ Lk 11:1; ⇒ Mt 5:11-12.
193 GS 22 # 2.
194 St. John Eudes: LH, week 33, Friday, OR.



How to Avoid Purgatory: 8 Specific Ways to Reduce or Eliminate Your Time in Purgatory

clock December 10, 2012 09:42 by author John |

PurgatoryThis is the third article in a series on the Catholic understanding of Purgatory.

Part 1: Introduction to the Catholic Understanding of Purgatory
Part 2: What is Purgatory Like? The Catholic Understanding of the Pains of Purification
Part 3: How to Avoid Purgatory
Part 4: How to Help the Poor Souls in Purgatory
Part 5:
Indulgences - Definition and Meaning: The God's Mercy Dispensed Through the Catholic Church

Purgatory is the state in which we make reparation for all of our sins which have not been satisfactorily atoned for during our earthly life. The punishment of purgatory is avoidable to varying extents based on how we atone for our sins in this life. Indeed, it is even possible to remove all temporal punishment for our sins before we die and immediately join our Lord in Heaven upon our death. Not only is this possible, but it should be our goal.

How is it possible to reduce or eliminate the pains of purgatory? There are several ways, which when combined, practically assure us of removing most if not all of the debt we have incurred for our sins. If we strive to achieve all of these goals, we will certainly enjoy eternal reward at the moment of our death. I have listed 8 specific ways to avoid Purgatory.

1. Avoid Sin

The first and best way to avoid Purgatory is to avoid the thing that causes us to find ourselves there in the first place: Sin. This is an incredibly difficult proposition, and is not entirely possible, since we are imperfect creatures. We can reduce the number and severity of the sins we commit through concerted effort to live by the commandments and by asking for the assistance of Divine grace.

It is not possible to completely avoid venial sins. On the other hand, it is possible to totally eliminate mortal sin in our lives. If we die in a state of mortal sin, we will suffer eternal damnation in Hell. If we die with confessed mortal sin that we have not done sufficient penance for, we suffer the most severe punishment in purgatory. We must strive to eliminate all mortal sin in our lives.

The next most dreadful cause of Purgatorial suffering is venial sin that is committed deliberately. The only thing separating deliberate venial sins from mortal sins is the severity of the sin. Deliberate venial sins show callousness toward God’s law and the people harmed by those sins. Similarly, we must strive to eliminate lesser venial sins, because punishment will be given for them as well. While we cannot completely eliminate venial sins, we can drastically reduce their frequency in our lives by avoiding near occasions of sin and making better decisions when tempted. The graces given to us by the reception of the sacraments are very helpful in reforming our lives.

2. Do Penance

The second way to lessen our punishment in purgatory is to do penance. Penance most commonly involves fasting, prayer and almsgiving. The more healthy penance we are able to do in this life, the less punishment we will suffer in purgatory. We can make any unpleasant experience into a penance by offering our pain, discomfort, or stress to God.

Penance helps us in 2 ways. First, it repays the debt incurred by our sinfulness. It is believed that the penance we do while still alive will be easier than the penance required of us after death.  Secondly, it helps us to comprehend the severity of our sins and thereby focuses us on avoiding sin the next time we are tempted. Why not be proactive and make penance a part of our daily routine?

3. Embrace Suffering

The third means to avoid purgatorial punishment is to embrace our suffering. This does not necessarily mean we should seek it out, but we should accept the suffering that we cannot avoid and bear it without complaint. Everyone has to face many and varied sorrows and pains in life. These result from both physical pains as wells as emotional distress.

We all have our crosses to bear. These pains are God's greatest graces, which so many of us neglect to embrace and in doing so, lose many of the graces offered to us. They are an opportunity for us to share in Christ’s Passion in our own way, however small and dissimilar to the agony He endured for our salvation.

4. Receive the Eucharist Worthily and Confess Your Sins

The fourth method of reducing or eliminating our time in purgatory is by making frequent reception of the sacraments of Confession and Holy Eucharist. We should confess our sins on a regular basis, not just when we have a mortal sin on our soul. Frequently confessing our sins provides us with grace to avoid those sins in the future.

We should strive to receive the Eucharist every day at mass in order to receive the graces that it bestows upon us. These graces cleanse us of our venial sins and also dispose us to avoid evil. Attending daily mass is easier for some than others due to working schedules and the availability of the sacrament, but the more we receive the Eucharist, the more graces we receive from God to live in more perfect conformity with His Will for us.

5. Ask God Specifically to Save You from Purgatory

The fifth way to avoid purgatory is to specifically pray to God for that purpose. Asking God for the grace necessary to avoid purgatory and be happy with Him in Heaven is an especially powerful method. When asking for this grace, if we do so with faith and perseverance, we will receive it. We should therefore pray daily that God will free us from purgatory. We ask God for so many other things, why not ask Him for something as important as avoiding the fires of Purgatory?

6. Resign Yourself to Your Own Death

The sixth way to avoid purgatory is by resignation to death. Pope St. Pius X granted a plenary indulgence to those who after receiving the Holy Eucharist at the hour of death, say the following prayer: “Eternal Father, from this day forward, I accept with a joyful and resigned heart the death it will please You to send me, with all its pains and sufferings.” The usual conditions of course apply to this plenary indulgence: Confession, prayer for the intentions of the Pope, and detachment from all sin. What better way to exit this life than with a “Get out of Jail Free Card” for the punishments in Purgatory.

Beyond the obvious impact of the plenary indulgence, resignation to death is something we should be living with anyway, since we will more carefully consider our actions if the reality of our own death is always present in our consciousness.

7. Receive the Anointing of the Sick (Last Rights/Extreme Unction)

The seventh means of reducing our suffering in purgatory is to receive the anointing of the sick (also known as Last Rights or Extreme Unction). This sacrament prepares us to bypass the pains of purgatory and immediately enter Heaven. We must properly prepare for the sacrament so that we can receive it while we have full use of all of our faculties. We must understand exactly what we are receiving to obtain its full graces. This is why it is important that others know of our desire to have the Anointing of the Sick when the end of our life is in sight.

8. Gain Indulgences

The final means of avoiding Purgatory is to make use of the generous indulgences that the Catholic Church has made available to us. Indulgences are specific ways to directly reduce or remove our suffering in Purgatory. There are two types of indulgence: partial and plenary. Partial indulgences remove part of the suffering due for our sins in purgatory, while plenary indulgences remove all of our due suffering. We should strive to make use of these opportunities for grace before we face the punishment of purgatory. Indulgences will be covered in the 5th article in this series.

 

Other articles you may like:

How Often Should Catholics Go to Confession?

Matthew 10 and a Kick in the Pants for the Soldiers of the New Evangelization

Top 10 Emotional Reasons People Don't Go to Confession and Why You Should Consider it Anyway



Year of Faith Catechism Study: CCC 502-507, 511 – Mary’s Virginity in God’s Plan

clock December 10, 2012 01:02 by author John |

Today we discuss Mary’s virginity in the Catechism sections for the day. Supplemental material comes from “On Holy Virginity” by St. Augustine.

Mary's virginal motherhood in God's plan

502 The eyes of faith can discover in the context of the whole of Revelation the mysterious reasons why God in his saving plan wanted his Son to be born of a virgin. These reasons touch both on the person of Christ and his redemptive mission, and on the welcome Mary gave that mission on behalf of all men.

503 Mary's virginity manifests God's absolute initiative in the Incarnation. Jesus has only God as Father. "He was never estranged from the Father because of the human nature which he assumed. . . He is naturally Son of the Father as to his divinity and naturally son of his mother as to his humanity, but properly Son of the Father in both natures."161

504 Jesus is conceived by the Holy Spirit in the Virgin Mary's womb because he is the New Adam, who inaugurates the new creation: "The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven."162From his conception, Christ's humanity is filled with the Holy Spirit, for God "gives him the Spirit without measure."163 From "his fullness" as the head of redeemed humanity "we have all received, grace upon grace."164

505 By his virginal conception, Jesus, the New Adam, ushers in the new birth of children adopted in the Holy Spirit through faith. "How can this be?"165 Participation in the divine life arises "not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God".166 The acceptance of this life is virginal because it is entirely the Spirit's gift to man. The spousal character of the human vocation in relation to God167 is fulfilled perfectly in Mary's virginal motherhood.

506 Mary is a virgin because her virginity is the sign of her faith "unadulterated by any doubt", and of her undivided gift of herself to God's will.168 It is her faith that enables her to become the mother of the Savior: "Mary is more blessed because she embraces faith in Christ than because she conceives the flesh of Christ."169

507 At once virgin and mother, Mary is the symbol and the most perfect realization of the Church: "the Church indeed. . . by receiving the word of God in faith becomes herself a mother. By preaching and Baptism she brings forth sons, who are conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of God, to a new and immortal life. She herself is a virgin, who keeps in its entirety and purity the faith she pledged to her spouse."170

IN BRIEF

511 The Virgin Mary "co-operated through free faith and obedience in human salvation" (LG 56). She uttered her yes "in the name of all human nature" (St. Thomas Aquinas, S Th III, 30, 1). By her obedience she became the new Eve, mother of the living.

St. Augustine writes on Mary’s Virginity in “On Holy Virginity” (3-4).

3. It is written in the Gospel, of the mother and brethren of Christ, that is, His kindred after the flesh, that, when word had been brought to Him, and they were standing without, because they could not come to Him by reason of the crowd, He made answer, Who is My mother? Or who are My brethren? And stretching forth His Hand over His disciples, He says, These are My brethren: and whosoever shall have done the will of My Father, that man is to Me brother, and mother, and sister. What else teaching us, than to prefer to kindred after the flesh, our descent after the Spirit: and that men are not blessed for this reason, that they are united by nearness of flesh unto just and holy men, but that, by obeying and following, they cleave unto their doctrine and conduct. Therefore Mary is more blessed in receiving the faith of Christ, than in conceiving the flesh of Christ. For to a certain one who said, Blessed is the womb, which bare You, He Himself made answer, Yea, rather, blessed are they who hear the Word of God, and keep it. Lastly, to His brethren, that is, His kindred after the flesh, who believed not in Him, what profit was there in that being of kin? Thus also her nearness as a Mother would have been of no profit to Mary, had she not borne Christ in her heart after a more blessed manner than in her flesh.

4. Her virginity also itself was on this account more pleasing and accepted, in that it was not that Christ being conceived in her, rescued it beforehand from a husband who would violate it, Himself to preserve it; but, before He was conceived, chose it, already dedicated to God, as that from which to be born. This is shown by the words which Mary spoke in answer to the Angel announcing to her her conception; How, says she, shall this be, seeing I know not a man? Which assuredly she would not say, unless she had before vowed herself unto God as a virgin. But, because the habits of the Israelites as yet refused this, she was espoused to a just man, who would not take from her by violence, but rather guard against violent persons, what she had already vowed. Although, even if she had said this only, How shall this take place? and had not added, seeing I know not a man, certainly she would not have asked, how, being a female, she should give birth to her promised Son, if she had married with purpose of sexual intercourse. She might have been bidden also to continue a virgin, that in her by fitting miracle the God should receive the form of a servant, but, being to be a pattern to holy virgins, lest it should be thought that she alone needed to be a virgin, who had obtained to conceive a child even without sexual intercourse, she dedicated her virginity to God, when as yet she knew not what she should conceive, in order that the imitation of a heavenly life in an earthly and mortal body should take place of vow, not of command; through love of choosing, not through necessity of doing service. Thus Christ by being born of a virgin, who, before she knew Who was to be born of her, had determined to continue a virgin, chose rather to approve, than to command, holy virginity. And thus, even in the female herself, in whom He took the form of a servant, He willed that virginity should be free.

Footnotes

161 Council of Friuli (796): DS 619; cf. ⇒ Lk 2:48-49.
162 ⇒ I Cor 15:45, ⇒ 47.
163 ⇒ Jn 3:34.
164 ⇒ Jn 1:16; cf. ⇒ Col 1:18.
165 ⇒ Lk 1:34; cf. ⇒ Jn 3:9[ETML:C/].
166 ⇒ Jn 1:13.
167 Cf. ⇒ 2 Cor 11:2.
168 LG 63; cf. l Cor 7:34-35.
169 St. Augustine, De virg. 3: PL 40, 398.
170 LG 64; cf. 63.



Year of Faith Catechism Study: CCC 495-501, 509-510 – The Perpetual Virginity of Mary

clock December 9, 2012 01:02 by author John |

Today’s catechism sections discuss the perpetual virginity of Mary. Supporting material comes from St. Jerome’s “The Perpetual Virginity of Blessed Mary”.

Mary's divine motherhood

495 Called in the Gospels "the mother of Jesus"; Mary is acclaimed by Elizabeth, at the prompting of the Spirit and even before the birth of her son, as "the mother of my Lord".144 In fact, the One whom she conceived as man by the Holy Spirit, who truly became her Son according to the flesh, was none other than the Father's eternal Son, the second person of the Holy Trinity. Hence the Church confesses that Mary is truly "Mother of God" (Theotokos).145

Mary's virginity

496 From the first formulations of her faith, the Church has confessed that Jesus was conceived solely by the power of the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary, affirming also the corporeal aspect of this event: Jesus was conceived "by the Holy Spirit without human seed".146 The Fathers see in the virginal conception the sign that it truly was the Son of God who came in a humanity like our own. Thus St. Ignatius of Antioch at the beginning of the second century says:

You are firmly convinced about our Lord, who is truly of the race of David according to the flesh, Son of God according to the will and power of God, truly born of a virgin,. . . he was truly nailed to a tree for us in his flesh under Pontius Pilate. . . he truly suffered, as he is also truly risen.147

497 The Gospel accounts understand the virginal conception of Jesus as a divine work that surpasses all human understanding and possibility:148 "That which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit", said the angel to Joseph about Mary his fiancee.149 The Church sees here the fulfillment of the divine promise given through the prophet Isaiah: "Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son."150

498 People are sometimes troubled by the silence of St. Mark's Gospel and the New Testament Epistles about Jesus' virginal conception. Some might wonder if we were merely dealing with legends or theological constructs not claiming to be history. To this we must respond: Faith in the virginal conception of Jesus met with the lively opposition, mockery or incomprehension of non-believers, Jews and pagans alike;151 so it could hardly have been motivated by pagan mythology or by some adaptation to the ideas of the age. The meaning of this event is accessible only to faith, which understands in it the "connection of these mysteries with one another"152 in the totality of Christ's mysteries, from his Incarnation to his Passover. St. Ignatius of Antioch already bears witness to this connection: "Mary's virginity and giving birth, and even the Lord's death escaped the notice of the prince of this world: these three mysteries worthy of proclamation were accomplished in God's silence."153

Mary - "ever-virgin"

499 The deepening of faith in the virginal motherhood led the Church to confess Mary's real and perpetual virginity even in the act of giving birth to the Son of God made man.154 In fact, Christ's birth "did not diminish his mother's virginal integrity but sanctified it."155 and so the liturgy of the Church celebrates Mary as Aeiparthenos, the "Ever-virgin".156

500 Against this doctrine the objection is sometimes raised that the Bible mentions brothers and sisters of Jesus.157 The Church has always understood these passages as not referring to other children of the Virgin Mary. In fact James and Joseph, "brothers of Jesus", are the sons of another Mary, a disciple of Christ, whom St. Matthew significantly calls "the other Mary".158 They are close relations of Jesus, according to an Old Testament expression.159

501 Jesus is Mary's only son, but her spiritual motherhood extends to all men whom indeed he came to save: "The Son whom she brought forth is he whom God placed as the first-born among many brethren, that is, the faithful in whose generation and formation she co-operates with a mother's love."160

IN BRIEF

509 Mary is truly "Mother of God" since she is the mother of the eternal Son of God made man, who is God himself.

510 Mary "remained a virgin in conceiving her Son, a virgin in giving birth to him, a virgin in carrying him, a virgin in nursing him at her breast, always a virgin" (St. Augustine, Serm. 186, 1: PL 38, 999): with her whole being she is "the handmaid of the Lord" (⇒ Lk 1:38).

St. Jerome discussed the perpetual virginity of Mary in his work, “The Perpetual Virginity of Blessed Mary”.

5. This, however, is a point which will find its proper place further on. We must now hasten to other matters. The passage for discussion now is, And Joseph arose from his sleep, and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took unto him his wife and knew her not till she had brought forth a son, and he called his name Jesus. Here, first of all, it is quite needless for our opponent to show so elaborately that the word know has reference to coition, rather than to intellectual apprehension: as though anyone denied it, or any person in his senses could ever imagine the folly which Helvidius takes pains to refute. Then he would teach us that the adverb till implies a fixed and definite time, and when that is fulfilled, he says the event takes place which previously did not take place, as in the case before us, and knew her not till she had brought forth a son. It is clear, says he, that she was known after she brought forth, and that that knowledge was only delayed by her engendering a son. To defend his position he piles up text upon text, waves his sword like a blind-folded gladiator, rattles his noisy tongue, and ends with wounding no one but himself.

6. Our reply is briefly this—the words knew and till in the language of Holy Scripture are capable of a double meaning. As to the former, he himself gave us a dissertation to show that it must be referred to sexual intercourse, and no one doubts that it is often used of the knowledge of the understanding, as, for instance, the boy Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem, and his parents knew it not. Now we have to prove that just as in the one case he has followed the usage of Scripture, so with regard to the word till he is utterly refuted by the authority of the same Scripture, which often denotes by its use a fixed time (he himself told us so), frequently time without limitation, as when God by the mouth of the prophet says to certain persons, (Isaiah 46:4) Even to old age I am he. Will He cease to be God when they have grown old? And the Savior in the Gospel tells the Apostles, (Matthew 28:20) Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Will the Lord then after the end of the world has come forsake His disciples, and at the very time when seated on twelve thrones they are to judge the twelve tribes of Israel will they be bereft of the company of their Lord? Again Paul the Apostle writing to the Corinthians says, Christ the first-fruits, afterward they that are Christ's, at his coming. Then comes the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father, when he shall have put down all rule, and all authority and power. For he must reign, till he has put all enemies under his feet. Granted that the passage relates to our Lord's human nature, we do not deny that the words are spoken of Him who endured the cross and is commanded to sit afterwards on the right hand. What does he mean then by saying, for he must reign, till he has put all enemies under his feet? Is the Lord to reign only until His enemies begin to be under His feet, and once they are under His feet will He cease to reign? Of course His reign will then commence in its fullness when His enemies begin to be under His feet. David also in the fourth Song of Ascents speaks thus, Behold, as the eyes of servants look unto the hand of their master, as the eyes of a maiden unto the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look unto the Lord our God, until he have mercy upon us. Will the prophet, then, look unto the Lord until he obtain mercy, and when mercy is obtained will he turn his eyes down to the ground? Although elsewhere he says, My eyes fail for your salvation, and for the word of your righteousness.

Footnotes

144 ⇒ Lk 1:43; ⇒ Jn 2:1; ⇒ 19:25; cf. ⇒ Mt 13:55; et al.
145 Council of Ephesus (431): DS 251.
146 Council of the Lateran (649): DS 503; cf. DS 10-64.
147 St. Ignatius of Antioch, Ad Smyrn 1-2: Apostolic Fathers, ed. J. B. Lightfoot (London: Macmillan, 1889), 11/2, 289-293; SCh 10, 154-156; cf. ⇒ Rom 1:3; ⇒ Jn 1:13.
148 ⇒ Mt 1 18-25; ⇒ Lk 1:26-38.
149 ⇒ Mt 1:20.
150 Is 7:14 (LXX), quoted in Mt 1:23 (Greek).
151 Cf. St. Justin, Dial. 99, 7: PG 6, 708-709; Origen, Contra Celsum 1, 32, 69: PG 11, 720-721; et al.
152 Dei Filius 4: DS 3016.
153 St. Ignatius of Antioch, Ad Eph. 19, 1: AF 11/2 76-80: cf. I Cor 2:8.
154 Cf. DS 291; 294; 427; 442; 503; 571; 1880.
155 LG 57.
156 Cf. LG 52.
157 Cf. ⇒ Mk 3:31-35; ⇒ 6:3; ⇒ I Cor 9:5; ⇒ Gal 1:19.
158 ⇒ Mt 13:55; ⇒ 28:1; cf. ⇒ Mt 27:56.
159 Cf. ⇒ Gen 13:8; ⇒ 14:16; ⇒ 29:15; etc.
160 LG 63; cf. ⇒ Jn 19:26-27; ⇒ Rom 8:29; ⇒ Rev 12:17.



What is Purgatory Like? The Catholic Understanding of the Pains of Purification

clock December 8, 2012 21:59 by author John |
Purgatory
The Trinity with the Holy Souls in Purgatory By Corrado Giaquinto

This article is the second in a series on the Catholic understanding of Purgatory.

Part 1: Introduction to the Catholic Understanding of Purgatory
Part 2: What is Purgatory Like? The Catholic Understanding of the Pains of Purification
Part 3: How to Avoid Purgatory: 8 Specific Ways to Reduce or Eliminate Your Time in Purgatory
Part 4: How to Help the Poor Souls in Purgatory
Part 5:
Indulgences - Definition and Meaning: The God's Mercy Dispensed Through the Catholic Church

Purgatory is a place of atonement for the sins we have committed throughout our lives, for which we have not yet been satisfactorily purified. It is also the means by which any lingering attachment to sin is broken after we have completed our earthly journey. The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines Purgatory as “A state of final purification after death and before entrance into Heaven for those who died in God’s friendship, but were only imperfectly purified; a final cleansing of human imperfection before one is able to enter the joy of Heaven.”

How will this purification take place? There are two forms of atonement that will cleanse us of our impurities before we can enter Heaven. The first is the pain of loss and separation from the Beatific Vision. The second is the physical suffering of fire. In his "Summa Theologica", St. Thomas Aquinas describes these methods of purification:

“In Purgatory there will be a twofold pain; one will be the pain of loss, namely the delay of the divine vision, and the pain of sense, namely punishment by corporeal fire. With regard to both the least pain of Purgatory surpasses the greatest pain of this life. For the more a thing is desired the more painful is its absence. And since after this life the holy souls desire the Sovereign Good with the most intense longing--both because their longing is not held back by the weight of the body, and because, had there been no obstacle, they would already have gained the goal of enjoying the Sovereign Good--it follows that they grieve exceedingly for their delay.”

These torments are tempered only by the existence of hope within our consciousness. That glimmer of light distracting us from our anguish is the knowledge that our separation is only temporary. We know that all those in Purgatory will attain their release after their final debt has been satisfied. That thought is perhaps the only thing which separates the torments of Hell from those of Purgatory.

While hope sustains the souls in Purgatory, the source of that hope is also the source of their pains of separation. They in some way have received at least a small taste of the ultimate joy which is the experience of God’s loving embrace, whether that stems from their experiences on earth or at their particular judgment, for without knowing what they hope for, they cannot entertain hope. Without knowing what they are separated from, they cannot suffer the pain of longing for it.

The following excerpt explaining the punishment in purgatory is from the book, "Read Me or Rue it" by Fr. Paul O’Sullivan:

"How Comes it that the Pains of Purgatory are So Severe?

1. The fire we see on Earth was made by the goodness of God for our comfort and well-being. Still, when used as a torment, it is the most dreadful one we can imagine.

2. The fire of Purgatory, on the contrary, was made by the Justice of God to punish and purify us and is, therefore, incomparably more severe.

3. Our fire, at most, burns this gross body of ours, made of clay; whereas, the fire of Purgatory acts on the spiritual soul, which is unspeakably more sensitive to pain.

4. The more intense our fire is, the more speedily it destroys its victim, who therefore ceases to suffer; whereas, the fire of Purgatory inflicts the keenest, most violent pain, but never kills the soul nor lessens its sensibility.

5. Unsurpassingly severe as is the fire of Purgatory, the pain of loss or separation from God, which the souls also suffer in Purgatory, is far more severe. The soul separated from the body craves with all the intensity of its spiritual nature for God. It is consumed with an intense desire to fly to Him. Yet it is held back. No words can describe the anguish of this unsatisfied craving."

“Read Me or Rue it” is not an official Church document, and we are not bound to believe everything it says about Purgatory, however, the descriptions of Purgatory it contains are well-founded among the writings of the Church Fathers. Given these terrible images of the suffering in Purgatory, we must logically consider how we can avoid this punishment, and how we can help those who are subjected to it presently. These subjects will be discussed in the next 2 articles in this series.

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How to Make a Good Catholic Confession
What is Mortal Sin (The Catholic Definition)
What is Venial Sin (The Catholic Definition)
A World Without God is a Hell on Earth