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Crucifix at Saint Etienne-du-Mont

Crucifix at Saint Etienne-du-Mont

What is the message that Jesus has for the world? At first he seems to confirm his followers’ hopes: “The hour has come for the Son of man to be glorified.” Great! Finally, after putting things off for so long, he is ready; the moment has come.

But then he clarifies: “I solemnly assure you, unless the grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat, but if it dies it produces much fruit.” Believe me, this is not what his followers wanted to hear.

The Jews had had more than enough experience with death. They had lived under oppression for centuries and their glory days were long ago. The Roman boot was pressing down upon them. Those who would endeavour to throw it off were imprisoned or killed. And now this one, upon whom they had pinned their hopes, at the high point of his life, is speaking of falling to the earth and dying.

Then it gets stranger: “The man who loves his life loses it, while the man who hates his life in this world, preserves it to life eternal.” Come again?!

To understand what all this means, we should go back to the great image that Jesus uses, the grain of wheat that falls to the earth. A seed, resting by itself, can exist for a long time. In fact, they have found seeds in the tombs of the Pharaohs and seeds in fossil remains. But unless they fall into the soil and crack open, nothing further comes of them. Their life is inside, yes, but it’s a life that grows by being given away and mixing with the soil around it. It has to crack open and be destroyed. But even after a very long time, a seed can grow into a flourishing plant. The oldest seed that has grown into a viable plant was a 2000-year-old date palm seed from excavations at Herod the Great’s palace on Masada in Israel. It was germinated in 2005.

When you look at a great tree or a plant, you see none of the original seed, and yet you see life. The same is true of the cross. When Christians look at the cross, we no longer see death, but eternal life.

Originally published by Fr. R. Barron

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There are so many reasons our western society is in frantic decline, but none is more acute and serious than our contempt for morals and natural justice, which are two of the three main pillars of Christian life, along with love of God and neighbour. As a result of this process we have seen an almost irrational increase in relativism; which is causing the notion of right and wrong to almost disappear from our so called developed societies, as most people now seem to believe that these concepts belong to the realm of personal opinion. In other words, what once used to be evil is now good and nobody cares… After all, everybody is entitled to have an opinion.

This phenomenon has lead some once God-fearing nations to almost forget and, in some cases, even deny their Christian identity. I found the article below to be consonant with many of the things I believe and thought I should share it with the followers of my blog. I hope you will enjoy it too; Via Catholicism Pure and Simple: Good times for dogs, not so good for babies. A Reflection on the Perversity of Modern Culture.

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Pocket Catholic Dictionary – Fr John Hardon SJ

Justification -. The process of a sinner becoming justified or made right with God. As defined by the Council of Trent.

“Justification is the change from the condition in which a person is born as a child of the first Adam into a state of grace and adoption among the children of God through the Second Adam, Jesus Christ our Savior” (Denzinger 1524)

Etymology of Justification comes from the Latin justus: just + facere: to make, do: justificatio.

A Catholic who is in the state of grace i.e. not in the state of mortal sin is justified. Depending on the sins from which a person is to be delivered, there are different kinds of justification:

1- An infant is justified by baptism and the faith of the one who requests or confers the sacrament.

2-Adults are justified for the first time either by personal faith, sorrow for sin and baptism, or by the perfect love of God, which is at least an implicit baptism of desire.

3- Adults who have sinned gravely after being justified can receive justification by sacramental absolution or perfect contrition for their sins.

SANCTIFICATION. Being made holy. (Etymology from Latin sanctificare: to make holy.

1- The first sanctification takes place at baptism, by which the love of God is infused by the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5)…

2- The second sanctification is a lifelong process in which a person already in the state of grace grows in the possession of grace and in likeness to God by faithfully corresponding with divine inspirations.

3- The third sanctification takes place when a person enters heaven and becomes totally and irrevocably united with God in the beatific vision.

The following is from The Salvation Controversy – James Akin.

SALVATION. Salvation basically means being saved.

In the New Testament the focus is primarily on the idea of eternal salvation – salvation from the eternal consequences of sin (hell.)

In the Old Testament the term salvation often used to refer to temporal dangers – war, famine, disease, and death (physical rather than eternal.)

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Before addressing the issue of the intercession of the Saints we need clarify that the Catholic Church, although many protestants believe otherwise, does teach  and has always taught that Christ is the only mediator.
 
 

The Catechism of the Catholic Church affirms this in numerous places. For example, no. 771 reads:

“The one mediator, Christ, established and ever sustains here on earth his holy Church, the community of faith, hope, and charity, as a visible organization through which he communicates truth and grace to all men.” (citing another official Catholic document from Vatican II, Lumen gentium, 8 § 1.).

The Council of Trent stated:

“If anyone asserts that this sin of Adam, which in its origin is one, and by propagation, not by imitation, transfused into all, which is in each one as something that is his own, is taken away either by the forces of human nature or by a remedy other than the merit of the one mediator, our Lord Jesus Christ . . . let him be anathema.” (Session V, 3).

However, for the sake of discussion and reflection, I propose that we ask a question that is pertinent to all Christians: If Christ is the only Mediator, why do we intercede for one another?

 Scriptural Facts I:

    1. Christ is the only Mediator between men and God. (1 Timothy 2:5)
    2. The Church is the Body of Christ, in which Jesus is the Head. ( Colossians 1:18)
    3. Jesus’ Eternal Priesthood. (Hebrews 7: 24)

The Holy Trinity with saints in heaven, the Garden of Eden below - By Scipione Compagno

 
The Catholic Answer:

Catholics do not argue with either of the facts stated above; these are Scriptural Truths. However, the Church reads the Scriptures as a whole and interprets them as ONE book. 

The Catholic understanding is that, although Christ is the only Mediator. The Church, as Member of His Body, is also part of this ‘One Mediator’  and in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work”.  (Ephesians 4:15-16)

Jesus is the Eternal High Priest and the Church, as members of His Body, shares in that priesthood. This is why St Peter, in a clear reference to the Old Testament Priesthood – where priests were intercessors between God and men – could declare that we are built up a holy priesthood (1 Peter 2:5 and 2:9), as we are joined to Him as members of His Body.  The book of Revelation 1:6 says that we “are a kingdom, priests to his God and Father“.  As the Mediator, Jesus is not alone,  He is the head of the Church in which all members can intercede for one another through Him.

This is the notion of  Totus Christus, a Biblical Theology of the Whole Christ which is confirmed in the Scriptural account of Paul’s conversion in Acts 9:4, where Jesus asks Paul, then Saul: “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” and not “Why are you persecuting my followers?” – His Church.

What about the deceased Saints?

We’ve seen that the living members of the Church can indeed pray for one another, but how can we explain the intercession of the Saints? The Catholic Church teaches about the Communion of the Saints, that is, the entire Church is One in Christ. The deceased members of the Body of Christ are not separated from Christ once they leave their physical bodies, because “if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness” (Rom 8:10).  As St Paul states it “neither death nor life […] will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom 8: 38-39). Therefore, the souls of the Saints departed never cease to be part of His Body, they are part of the Church in Heaven, the Church Triumphant.

Once in Heaven, the Saints can intercede for the members of the Church on earth, the Church Militant. The Bible confirms that the Saints in Heaven do pray to God:

When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne. They cried out with a loud voice,O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?”  (Rev 6: 9-10) 

For more on the Saints read: Why do Catholics pray to Saints?

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Has some-one finally got it right?

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No, it is not true. Protestants have as their sole rule of faith the written Word of God, which we find in Sacred Scripture. The Catholic Church has as its sole rule of faith, the entire Word of God, as it is found in Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition.

All of the Word of God was at one time passed on orally: Sacred Tradition. Eventually, some of Sacred Tradition was written down; this became Sacred Scripture, which is written tradition. However, Scripture itself tells us that not all of the things that Jesus said and did were written down. And listen to what Paul says about “tradition”:

2 Thes 2:15, “So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter.” Traditions! Traditions taught by word of mouth, in other words, oral tradition, and traditions taught by letter. Traditions which they are being told to “stand firm and hold to”. Sacred Scripture and Tradition do not contradict themselves, but complement each other.

1 Cor 11:2, “I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I have delivered them to you.” The Corinthians are being commended by Paul because they maintain the traditions that he passed on to them. Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition.

2 Tim 2:2: “and what you have heard from me before many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” What we have here in 2 Timothy is an instance, in Scripture, of Paul commanding the passing on of oral tradition.

1 Thes 2:13, “And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the Word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the Word of God, which is at work in you believers.” So, they received as the Word of God that which they heard, not simply that which they read in Scripture.

In other words, the Bible clearly supports the Catholic Church’s teaching that the Word of God is contained in both Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition.

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According to Wikipedia the “Once Saved, Always Saved”, is a Christian teaching which holds that once a person is saved they can never lose their salvation. This notion was formulated by Calvin in the 1600’s and is shared by most Evangelical and reformed Protestant churches, such as the Church of England, as it is stated in the Westminster Confession of faith. However, there are some variations of the original doctrine of Calvin – no surprise here, protestants must do what they do best: Protest. Those who didn’t entirely agree with Calvin felt they needed to make changes… I believe the Baptist Church holds a non-Calvinistic OSAS doctrine.

Anyhow, Calvin sustained that a true believer can never lose his/her salvation. His doctrine argues that although individuals are free and responsible, they cannot choose salvation of their own accord. Rather, God selected certain individuals before the world began to whom he would draw to faith. According to Calvinism, since faith is not something they choose to do, but rather a work that God performs in them, it cannot be walked away from. Note that this Calvinist notion also denies the gift of Free Will.

Many Protestants, mainly born-again Evangelicals, like to quote verses such as Romans 10:9 which states that if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. They mention other passages where assurance of salvation is made to those who believe in Christ, in order to defend their view:

I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. John 10:28

There are two main problems with this approach. Most protestants like to think of salvation as a one-time event, not an ongoing process. Also it is tremendously common for Evangelicals to assert on isolated passages without the back-drop of the whole context of the Bible. In the case of John 10:28, which has a similar language to Romans 8:39, Jesus is telling us that no-one can take a person’s salvation away, but He is not saying that an individual can’t refuse the free-gift of salvation offered by God, through his own rejection or refusal to lead a life pleasing to God. In other words, one cannot be snatched away, but one can walk away. It all comes down to free will, which Calvin seems to ignore in his doctrinal formulation.

What else does the bible say?

Here are a few examples that refute OSAS:

New Testament:

Matthew 7: 21-23. Not every one that saith to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, but the one who shall do the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name, and in thy name have cast out devils, and in thy name have done many wonderful works? And then will I confess to them, I never knew you depart from me, you who work iniquity.

Phi. 2:12 “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling;”

Matthew 24:13 – But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.

1Pe 4:18 Now “If the righteous one is scarcely saved, where will the ungodly and the sinner appear?”

Heb 6:4-6 For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame.

Jas 5:19-20 Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins.

Old Testament:

Num 14:11-12 Then the LORD said to Moses: “How long will these people reject Me? And how long will they not believe Me, with all the signs which I have performed among them? I will strike them with the pestilence and disinherit them…”

1Sa 15:23 For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, And stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, He also has rejected you from being king.”

1Sa 28:6 -7 And when Saul inquired of the LORD, the LORD did not answer him, either by dreams or by Urim or by the prophets. Then Saul said to his servants, “Find me a woman who is a medium, that I may go to her and inquire of her…”

Pro 2:13 …From those who leave the paths of uprightness To walk in the ways of darkness…

Those who believe in the doctrine of eternal security often wonder why Catholics aren’t terrified of the possibility of being lost since we reject the assurance that they believe to possess. I would explain to them that Catholics neither presume God’s grace or despair of it. I would explain we are created in the image and likeness of God, and as a point to demonstrate the reality of free will in our experience and as an attribute that we possess as children of God.”

But what is the Catholic view on Salvation? Read more on the Catholic Doctrine of Salvation.

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