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Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Why Do Catholics "Keep Jesus On The Cross"?

 Catholics are often accused of keeping “Jesus on the cross” which to some Bible believers seems to deny that Jesus rose from the dead and ascended into heaven and lives right not at the right side of the Father. So why do we have pictures of Jesus on the cross.

They say that a picture is word a thousand words. The crucifix is a picture worth and infinite number of words, but today we will stick with some inspired words from scripture, because they are from God.

The cross is picture of radical love. We have all heard Jesus say:

NAB John 15:13 1 No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends.

But here are the words that we forget from St. Paul

NAB Romans 5:7 Indeed, only with difficulty does one die for a just person, though perhaps for a good person one might even find courage to die.  8 But God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us. 9 How much more then, since we are now justified by his blood, will we be saved through him from the wrath. 10 Indeed, if, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, how much more, once reconciled, will we be saved by his life.

You can imagine being in a back alley and it looks as though a mugger is not only going to take your money, but your life as well. If there is someone else there you might try to courageously defeat the mugger so your friend’s life will be spared.

Now imagine as though you are the mugger, and you are trying to mug Jesus, when suddenly a murderous gang heads down the same alley and Jesus throws himself into the crowd so that you can escape. THIS is what St. Paul is talking about.

NAB Romans 5:8 But God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.

Again the cross is a picture of a radical kind of love.

The cross is a picture of Christ in His Glory.


RSV John 12:23 23 And Jesus answered them, "The hour has come for the Son of man to be glorified.

Now if I were to ask you outside the context of this radio broadcast – when was Jesus glorified? Most people would naturally respond – at his resurrection, or ascension, and they would be correct to a certain extent because yes at the resurrection Jesus has a glorified body and is back from the dead and when Jesus is ascending into heaven it is to be seated at the right hand of God – amen.

But listen to what else Jesus describes as his Glory.

RSV John 12:24 24 Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.
25 He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.
26 If any one serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there shall my servant be also; if any one serves me, the Father will honor him.

Jesus says:
RSV John 12:23 23 And Jesus answered them, "The hour has come for the Son of man to be glorified.
And then talks about wheat dying, and losing you life, and following Jesus. So this glory doesn’t sound very glorious.

Finally

RSV John 12:27 "Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? `Father, save me from this hour'? No, for this purpose I have come to this hour.

Father save me from this hour – is Jesus asking the Father to save him from the resurrection and ascension into heaven? No, he is saying Father save me from the this death, and cross. Yet the cross is described as his glory. Now the hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.

This is also a picture that has medicinal properties.
RSV John 3:14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of man be lifted up,
-        Moses lifted the serpent up in the wilderness so that all who looked upon it would be healed on their snake bites. Jesus on the cross heals all those who look upon Him on the cross who have been bitten by the devil.
RSV John 8:28 So Jesus said, "When you have lifted up the Son of man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own authority but speak thus as the Father taught me.
RSV John 12:32 and I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself."


The crucifix was a picture of God’s wisdom and power.

RSV 1 Corinthians 1:17 For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. 18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God…. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.
RSV 1 Corinthians 2:1 When I came to you, brethren, I did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God in lofty words or wisdom. 2 For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.

Finally the crucifix is a picture of our marriage to Christ. Just as God put Adam in a deep sleep and from his side formed his wife Eve, So from the water and blood of Christ’s side did we come forth (in our baptism and Eucharist) when he slept the sleep of death on the cross.

The catechism says this in:

1067 … For it was from the side of Christ as he slept the sleep of death upon the cross that there came forth 'the wondrous sacrament of the whole Church."'

For this reason, the Church celebrates in the liturgy above all the Paschal mystery by which Christ accomplished the work of our salvation.


Thursday, July 11, 2013

Rock Solid Faith

In an age of uncertainty it seems as though this attitude has infected many who believe in Jesus. These are some things I hear people say that suggest this.

When discussing and disagreeing about doctrine people say, “I guess we will find out when we meet Jesus.” Or, “Maybe you are right, maybe I am right – who can know?”

It seems to me as though this is a faith that is built on sand, ever shifting, with no foundation. The tide will push and pull it this way and that until it falls.  Then we have a cranky Catholic who isn’t going to Mass and find fault with the Church at every turn. This is not what Jesus wants for us.

Jesus is described in the Bible as being a stone. But He is stone in two senses. For the believer, He is a foundation stone that can be stood upon and built upon. But for the unbeliever, Jesus becomes a stone that causes you to stumble. Listen to St. Peter who is quoting the Old Testament here:

 1 Peter 2:6 For it stands in scripture: "Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and he who believes in him will not be put to shame."  To you therefore who believe, he is precious, but for those who do not believe, "The very stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner,"  and "A stone that will make men stumble, a rock that will make them fall"; for they stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.

Now listen to Jesus:
 Matthew 7:24 "Every one then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house upon the rock;  and the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat upon that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.  And every one who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house upon the sand;  and the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell; and great was the fall of it."

So this is not the kind of faith that we can cultivate. What do you think is that cause of this kind of sandy faith?

I think that there are several factors, but the first is poor education in the faith. Many people believe that because they had twelve years of Catholic education, served as an altar boy, or served as a lector that these kinds of experiences have given them a sufficient knowledge of the faith, and possibly at that time they had. Then they left those elementary institutions and continued on with their vocational studies while neglecting to study their faith at a deeper level. They then are deep in the world looking at it through the lenses of an elementary education and one of four things could happen I think:

1. The first person didn’t originally care in school and they don’t care now.
2. The second person, if they had doubts about the faith before – continuing education just confirmed that doubt and they continued out the church door.
3. The third person wants to remain Catholic while at the same time holding on to the doubts and falsehoods.
4. The forth person sees the challenges and realizes that they have to step up their faith and begin to search for answers.
Another large factor is pride.  Folks feel like they know more about the faith again, because they had that basic education and experiences.

Finally, we are all a bit lazy. We aren’t encouraged many places outside of EWTN and the like radio and TV to study the faith. Yet this is something we need to do weekly if not daily.

So what is the solution to this sandy faith?
Something I have been encouraging people to do as of late is to read the lives of the saints. When you read the lives of the saints you get to see what actually happens to people when they live the faith.  This reading should remove some of the fear that people feel when they finally choose to live the faith. It should also inspire them to in fact deepen their faith. They will see that as a Church and as individuals that Christ has not abandoned us, but desires a radical relationship with us unlike any we could have with anyone on earth.

I recommend Matt and Colleen Swaim's book for those going into any kind of continuing education.