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The video below is a must see for ALL Christians. Whoever believes in Jesus as their Saviour is ought to ponder at some point on questions regarding the woman who actually brought Him into the world. The one who, unlike Eve, obeyed God and said ‘yes’ to his holy will, for the sake of our Salvation, which comes from her Divine Son, Our Lord and Master Jesus Christ. 
  
This video gives an incredible Scriptural insight on Mary’s role as the New Eve. Just as Jesus is the New Adam. Furthermore, the video will show scriptural evidence that supports  the understanding of Mary as the ‘Woman’ of the Book of Revelation. That’s a must see!!!

 

 

  

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I am sorry for my frustration, but I am tired of trying to understand fundamentalism! I had no idea things could become so blurred for human minds to grasp them on account of a fundamentalist approach to things…It is like the world is ‘black & white’ and don’t you dare saying it isn’t!

Now, consider the statement below:

The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. (James 5:16)

I was reading an article on a  Christian website about the need for Christian unity. After a long assertion the poster stated that Christians need pray for unity, and that the best prayer for this is the Lord’s Prayer. I was puzzled, but read it on… Obviously, I DO think the Lord’s prayer is a powerful prayer, and I plan to write a whole post on that soon, but why is it so effective in this particular issue of Christian unity? I wondered…

The author’s explanation came as a bit of a shock to me: James said that the prayer of the righteous avails much. Jesus was the most righteous person on earth, thus, His own personal prayer – the Lord’s prayer – is the most powerful prayer!!

The Power of Prayer

How much power does Jesus’ prayer hold? James said that the prayer of a righteous man “avails much” (James 5:16-18). It is difficult to find a prayer uttered by a man more righteous than Christ; therefore, to those who esteem Him a righteous man, this prayer will hold great sway as it outlines Christ’s will for us. Never mind its influence on the mind of the Father as He provides for His children. The question for us is, “Do we feel any need to do our part to recognize the fulfilment of the Lord’s prayer?”

Frankly, I can’t get my head around as to how someone would assert on the Power of Lord’s prayer using James 5:16. I am sorry, but I convinced that anything Jesus would have said in prayer,  as the beloved Son of God (Matthew 3:17),  would have been powerful enough for God to hear and answer him. NOT because of the words themselves, but because who was praying them! 

Now, what James is actually trying to convey in James 5:16 is the following: Since all righteous persons are favoured by God (Psalms 37:29-32), He hears them (Matthew 13:43). In the following verses James  goes on to make his point clear using Elijah as an example, who, unlike Jesus, was not the Son of God but a very righteous man and a mortal human being, like the rest of us:

“Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain;[…]. 18 And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit”. 

With his example of Elijah, James is clearly encouranging us to hold fast to God’s commandments and be righteous people if we want Him to hear our prayers. The righteousness in each individual is the ‘key’ to being heard, this teaching complements very well what John said in John 9:31: God doesn’t listen to sinners.

Therefore, dear reader, I might be ‘tired’ of fundamentalism, but I will never tire of voicing the dangers of mixing fundamentalism in religion!!

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I have always been fascinated by languages, and this interest has led me to  become a  fluent speaker of various languages. Unfortunately, I do not speak Greek, but if I did it would had been extremely useful in case I ever decided to embark  on writing a linguistic essay on Matthew 16:18.  I am glad other people do speak it and  have done just that! 

However, even though I do not speak Greek, being proficient in other languages helps me to have a rather good understanding of some common grammatical possibilities that many European languages allow.  As an introduction to this post, let me use a hypothetical situation to illustrate a grammatical peculiarity that some languages have, which doesn’t exist in English.

Imagine I wanted to name a male child ‘Rock’, say in Portuguese; I would have to name him Pedra, which is the word for rock in that language. However, such choise of word would sound  odd in Portuguese, considering that the word Pedra is a feminine noun in Portuguese and, therefore,  unsuitable for a male child. To make a simple analogy,  it would be like calling a boy “Rockina”  in English.

Therefore,  the logical thing to do would be to change the  feminine ending  ‘a’ in Pedra  for a masculine one: ‘o’. This would result into a new word: Pedro, which in effect would become a proper name, derived from the root word pedra, stone or rock in Portuguese.

Similarly, this is how I look at the exegetical examination of the noun ‘petra‘ in Greek in Matthew 16:18, which was transformed into a proper name Petros. Here is an explanation by a renowned scholar, B. Brunette:

kaiV ejpiV tauvth// th’/ pevtra/- ‘upon this rock’: The kaiv merely serves as a connective conjunction, so it should simply be translated as “and.” When used with the dative, ejpiv can be understood in a spatial, temporal, or causal sense.72 Here, a spatial understanding works best, and the word may be understood as “on, upon”.73 The object of ejpiv should be understood as pevtra.

The tauvth (“this”) also refers to pevtra. The use of the article th/’ with the demonstrative pronoun tauvth, which is in the predicate position, indicates attributive function.74 So, the phrase may be translated as such: “and upon this rock.” The word pevtra means “rock, stone”; literally, it refers to the rock out of which a tomb is hewn.75 According to Cullman, in the LXX, pevtra can be used to signify the following: a. “rock or cliff” (Exod 17:6; Ps 80:16); b. place-name or geographical note, (1 Βar 23:28); c. fig. (Isa 8:14), of an unbending character (Isa 50:7) or the hardened mind (Jer 5:3); d. occasionally a name for God (2 Βar 22:2).76 The word occurs fifteen times in the New Testament77; nine of those fifteen occurrences are in the Gospels78; five of the fifteen are in Matthew.79 Only in Matt 16:18 are pevtra and Pevtro” used in the same verse.

While the argument from Aramaic would work well in proving that the pevtra in question is Peter, it is not certain that Jesus spoke Aramaic here.80 Given the possibility that Jesus may have spoken Greek here, and given the fact that Matthew’s verses are in the Greek, one might do well to stick to a Greek understanding of the pevtra-Pevtro” word-play. If this is done, a wide variety of interpretations may be obtained. Gundry, for example, argues that the pevtra is the teachings of Jesus. He argues that Matthew essentially quotes 7:24, so the pevtra consists of Jesus’ teaching (i.e., the law of Christ).81

Scholars such as Keener, Carson, and Ridderbos argue that the pevtra is Peter. Against Caragounis, Ridderbos argues that the difference between pevtra and Pevtro” is rather insignificant. He asserts:

The explanation for the change from petros (“Peter”) to petra is that petra was the normal word for “rock.” Because the feminine ending of this noun made it unsuitable as a man’s name, however, Simon was not called petra but Petros. The word Petros was not an exact synonym of petra, as it literally meant “stone.” Jesus therefore had to switch to the word petra when He turned from Peter’s name to what it meant for the church. There is no good reason to think that Jesus switched from petros to petra to show that he was not speaking of the man Peter but of his confession as the foundation of the church. The words “on this rock [petra]” indeed refer to Peter. Because of the revelation that he had received and the confession that it motivated in him, Peter was appointed by Jesus to lay the foundation of the future church. Only Peter is mentioned in this verse, and the pun on his name of course applied to him alone.91

Cullman agrees with Ridderbos’ assessment. He also maintains that since the word pevtra is feminine in the Greek and has a feminine ending (-a), the New Testament chose a less usual Greek word which had the masculine ending (-o”) for the apostle: Pevtro”.92 Cullman goes on to state that there is no essential difference between pevtra and Pevtro“, for even though pevtra denoted a “live rock” and Pevtro” meant a “detached stone,” the distinction was not strictly observed.93 In several instances, pevtra is used with the meaning “piece of rock” or “stone.”94

Exegetically, it seems least probable that Jesus is referring to himself as the pevtra. Carson maintains that if Matthew wanted to say no more than that Peter was the stone while Jesus was the rock, then the more common word to use would have been lithos (which denotes a “stone” of almost any size) and no pun would have existed.95 It is true that there are numerous instances of God the Father being described as “rock” in the OT  and Jesus being described as “rock” or “foundation” in the NT (1 Cor 3:11, 10:4); however, that does not necessarily mean that Jesus is referring to himself (or the Father) as the “rock” of Matt 16:18.96 As a chapter, Matthew 16 does concentrate heavily on the theme of Jesus’ identity, but vv. 17-19 seem to focus particularly on Peter and his statements regarding Jesus’ identity. Therefore, it would seem likely that the pevtra of v. 18 either refers to the man or to his confession of faith.

In all of the Synoptic Gospels, Peter is named first in the lists of the apostles (Matt 10:2-4; Mark 3:16-19; Luke 6:14-16); the same is true for the book of Acts (see 1:13). Peter, along with James and John, is included among the innermost circle of Jesus’ apostles; even among this band, though, Peter is listed first (Matt 17: 1-8; 26:37; Mark 5: 37; 9:2-8; Luke 9: 28-26; 13:3). Peter asks questions for the disciples (15:15: 18:21), and on one occasion, outsiders addressed him instead of Jesus (17:24).115 It is Peter who is the leading character in the story of the miraculous catch (Luke 5: 1-11).116 It is Peter who tries to imitate Jesus by walking on water (Matt 14:28).117 It is Peter who is called “blessed” for confessing that Jesus is the Christ (Matt 16:17), and it is Peter who is reprimanded for rebuking Jesus when the latter spoke of his impending death (Matt 16:23). It is Peter who cuts off Malchus’ ear in order to defend Jesus (John 18:10); it is Peter who is rebuked for doing so (John 18:11). It is Peter who denies Jesus three times (Matt 26:69-75; Mark 14:66-72; Luke 22:55-62; John 18:16-18, 25-27); it is Peter who receives a special commission from the post-resurrected Jesus (John 21:15-18). The occurrence of phrases such as “Peter and those who were with him” (see Mark 1:36 and Luke 9:32) is worth noting.118 On the morning of the resurrection, even the angel singled out Peter by saying: “Go and tell the disciples and Peter” that Jesus had risen from the dead. All four of the gospel writers, then, seem to attribute a unique position to Peter.119

Peter is also featured prominently in the first half of Acts. He guides the process of choosing Matthias as a replacement for Judas (Acts 1:15-26); he functions as a preacher within the Jerusalem Church and as a missionary to those who are outside (Acts 2:14-36; 3:12-26; 4:8-12; 5:29-32; 10:34-43); he is a miracle worker and (as in the case of Paul) some of his miracles resemble that of Jesus (Acts 3:1-10; 5:1-11, 15; 9:32-42); he is the object of divine care and receives visionary or heavenly guidance (Acts 5:17-21; 10:9-48; 12:6-11); and he is a spokesperson for the Jerusalem community (Acts 8:14-25; 11:1-18; 15:7-11).120 Despite the fact that it is James who becomes the leader of the Jerusalem Church, he is not consistently singled out like Simon Peter. Even with James’ eminent position in Jerusalem, it appears that Peter was the leader of the “apostolic band” that is, of the Twelve. It should also be noted that James’ rise in the Jerusalem Church did not occur until after Peter began his missionary work.121 Whether the interactions were positive or negative, it appears that Peter became a central apostolic figure because of his close and unique relationship to Jesus.122 Even though the position has its weaknesses, the interpretation of pevtra as Peter the apostle still seems most likely.

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I struggle to accept the Protestant argument for their belief in Sola Scriptura,  and I have not yet encountered a Protestant brother in Christ who could prove to me, without a doubt, that indeed Sola Scriptura is the rule of faith that Jesus Christ gave us. This is because, as Catholic, I acknowledge that when Jesus gave his authority to his disciples he was instituting the teaching authority of his Church.

 “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to OBEY everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Mattew 28:17-20)

Protestants wrongly accuse the Catholic Church to value tradition over the Scripture, to despise the Bible and even discourage its reading. So lets us first have a look at what the Church actually says about the Divine Revelation and the word of God. 

“Therefore, since everything asserted by the inspired authors or sacred writers must be held to be asserted by the Holy Spirit, it follows that the books of Scripture must be acknowledged as teaching solidly, faithfully and without error that truth which God wanted put into sacred writings (5) for the sake of salvation. Therefore “all Scripture is divinely inspired and has its use for teaching the truth and refuting error, for reformation of manners and discipline in right living, so that the man who belongs to God may be efficient and equipped for good work of every kind” (2 Tim. 3:16-17, Greek text). Vatican II, Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation, n 11

Most Protestants also reject the authority of the Church of Rome and, as I understand it, their view is based on one single scripture passage from which they concluded that the ‘Bible is complete, authoritative, and true‘. 

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). 

The problem with the protestant interpretation of this passage is that it does not declare that the Scripture alone is sufficient or the exclusive means to receive the Divine Revelation. Rather, it says that it is useful. Logic prompts us to ask ourselves: If truthful oral transmission of Jesus’ teachings were not good, but Scripture alone, why would Jesus command the Apostles to ‘go and teach’ and not ‘go and write’? And what can we make of scriptures that actually contradict what protestants say 2 Timothy 3:16 intends to convey? 

What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. (2 Timothy 1:13). 

” guard what have been entrusted to you” […] (1 Timothy 6:20)

Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. (Jn 21:25) 

So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter. (2 Thessalonians 2:15)  

As I discussed this issue with a protestant brother, he referred me to an apologetic website were it stated: “For centuries the Roman Catholic Church had made its traditions superior in authority to the Bible. This resulted in many practices that were in fact contradictory to the Bible.”

Firstly, we can see from this statement that there is a profound lack of knowledge of the Catholic Church’s teachings. It  indicates  that the understanding of the definition of ‘Infallible Doctrine’ and ‘Dogma’ is lacking here. Furthermore, it is easy to prove that no Doctrine proclaimed by the Roman Catholic Church lacks scriptural support.

The Catholic view is that the Word of God is the Truth, and that the only way for believers to know God and His will  is to stay truthfully loyal to what He has revealed through the Scriptures.  Protestants argue that all believers are perfectly and equally equipped to have an accurate understanding of the Truth, because they are aided and guided by the Holy Spirit, regardless of  any external conditions or interference, such as the individual’s level of commitment to attain an accurate understanding of the Scriptures or even the danger of an evil influence, that might play a role on the individual’s outlook on matters of faith and morals. 

The protestant argument collapses, however, when it fails to explain why there are different ramifications of Christians with so many conflicting views and interpretations of the same scriptures, where each and every one of them reflect the interpretation of mortal men, such as Luther, Calvin and others.

If the Word of God is self-explanatory and if we always succeed to follow the Holy Spirit’s guidance; surely all Christians should have a perfectly consensual interpretation of what the Scriptures convey, which as said, is not the case. Now, in practical terms, Protestants seem to believe that God  intended for us to perpetually re-invent the wheels (meaning, individually  ‘re-learn’ the truth conveyed in the Scriptures), since we cannot trust what others who came before us received from Jesus’ very Apostles, and handed on to humanity either through writings or oral teachings.

So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?”And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. (Acts 8:30-31) 

There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures. (2 Peter 3:15)

About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. (Heb. 5:10-13) 

The examples above seem to confirm two things to us: 1- Oral transmission is not only acceptable, but necessary; 2- we ought to be aware of the risk of misinterpreting the Scripture, otherwise it would be the same as to state that the Constitution of a given country is the sole authority for civil conduct of all citizens, and that civil affairs are subject only to the interpretation of each individual. Each person can have their understanding of any specific law without the authority of an appointed judge/law expert to interpret the law. 

Catholics believe that we not only need such an authority, but that Jesus bestowed a special ‘Teaching Authority’ onto the Apostles to lead all Christian in the honest, truthful way to God. 

And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. (Acts 2:2-4)

If Christians have failed to ’listen’ to the Holy Spirit, or at least some of us have, since there is no consensus between Catholics and Protestants ( or even amongst Protestant), can we really believe that Jesus expected each individual to be born on earth to be responsible not only for the task of seeking the truth, but also understating it with unerring accuracy? 

The Catholic Church, through the Fidei Depositum, has been a guardian of both the Divine Revelation contained in the Scriptures and of the oral teachings handed on to her by the Apostles. The Church has fought through the centuries not only for the proclamation of the Gospel worldwide; but has also shed blood to protect it. 

The Authority of the Catholic Church, in the light of the Apostolic Succession, comes not from man-made tradition but from the Bible itself! In Acts 15:1-14 we read how Peter solved a doctrinal issue without referring to the Scripture, but in the authority given to him as leader by Jesus, as well as through the wisdom of the Holy Spirit bestowed upon him at Pentecost. The truth revealed to the Apostles by Jesus and the Holy Spirit has indeed been transmitted through the centuries in the history of the Church with the backing of Jesus’ promise to the Apostles to be with His Church to the end of time. Note here that Jesus is not only promising this to the Apostles, who we know did not live in the world perpetually, rather ‘the end of time’ indicates that He refers even to their successors and followers yet to come. Therefore, there can be no doubt that the Catholic Church is indeed the instituted authority on earth to teach and protect the teachings of Lord. 

“We can know, beyond the shadow of any doubt, that Scripture is true, authoritative, and reliable. The same cannot be said of tradition.” 

This is another serious misconception and distortion of facts, since neither does the Catholic Church deny that the Bible is the complete revealed truth nor does she base any of her Doctrines merely on Tradition.

Some protestants, not all, recognize the conditions that early Christians faced in early days of Christianity, when there was no Bible, and therefore the need for them to accept the oral teachings of the Apostles. In fact, Jesus did not commission the Apostles to write, or even to circulate the Scriptures. Instead he commanded them to go and make disciples of all nations (Mark 16:20). Amongst the seventy-two disciples, and early followers of Christ, only eight have left any sacred writings. This proves to us that from the early days Christian believers accepted the living authority of the disciples, not private interpretation of the Scriptures.

When protestants are confronted with historical facts, such as non-existence of printing press, which caused the Bible to be very rare for over a thousand years, or the very high rates of illiteracy throughout history, and so on, they are left no convincing argument, except for acknowledging the role of an early teaching authority, namely, the Church. 

The website I mentioned above fails to explain how the early Christians living under such conditions could still be in accordance with the concept of Scripture alone. Instead it blames the Catholic Church for not ensuring Bibles were widely available: 

Further, rather than this being an argument against sola scriptura, it is actually an argument for what the church should have done, instead of what it did. The early church should have made producing copies of the Scriptures a high priority. […] . Instead of building traditions upon traditions and passing them on from generation to generation, the church should have copied the Scriptures and taught the Scriptures (2 Timothy 4:2). 

Firstly, I can’t see how 2 Timothy 4:2 can support such claim: “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching”, for it states exactly what the Catholic Church has been doing for 2 millennia. Secondly, history proves this statement to be thoroughly untrue, in fact the Church has not only always protected the Scriptures from destruction but encouraged Scriptural reading: 

St. John Chrysostom
Doctor of the Church. 

“To become adult Christians you must learn familiarity with the scriptures” 

[On the Letter to the Ephesians – Education of Children.] 

“But what is the answer to these charges? ‘I am not,’ you will say, ‘one of the monks, but I have both a wife and children, and the care of a household.’ This is what has ruined everything, your thinking that the reading of scripture is for monks only, when you need it more than they do. Those who are placed in the world, and who receive wounds every day have the most need of medicine. So, far worse even than not reading the scriptures is the idea that they are superfluous. Such things were invented by the devil.”
[St. John’s Second Homily on Matthew section 10 (which is sometimes labelled as section 5.)] 
Bishop and Doctor of the Church 

“Holy Scripture is invested with supreme authority by reason of its sure and momentous teachings regarding the faith. Whatever, then, it tells us of Enoch, Elias and Moses — that we believe. We do not, for instance, believe that God’s Son was born of the Virgin Mary simply because He could not otherwise have appeared in the flesh and ‘walked amongst men’ — as Faustus would have it — but we believe it simply because it is written in Scripture; and unless we believe in Scripture we can neither be Christians nor be saved.” [S. Aug., Contra Faustum, 26, 3, 6.] 

 Pope St. Gregory I 

“The Emperor of heaven, the Lord of men and of angels, has sent you His epistles for your life’s advantage—and yet you neglect to read them eagerly. Study them, I beg you, and meditate daily on the words of your Creator. Learn the heart of God in the words of God, that you may sigh more eagerly for things eternal, that your soul may be kindled with greater longings for heavenly joys.”
[Letters, 5, 46. (EnchBibl 31)] 

So here we are faced with a never-ending disagreement that, to my view, will only end through the divine intervention. For this I see no other way but pray, in the meaning time I keep thank God and praising him to have placed me in the holy Mother Church.

For more evidence on the early Catholic Church and the Bible click here. 

(died 604 AD)Saint Augustine (354-430 AD) (344/354 – 407 AD)

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“‘They are a power, a command given by God through Christ to all of Christendom for the retaining and remitting of the sins of men.’”  (Reformer Martin Luther on confession, 1531)

Modern day Protestants, especially  Evangelicals,  have a problem with  many  teachings of the Catholic Church. But most of all, for them the claim that the Catholic Church makes as being the ultimate guardian of the Divine Revelation on earth, can sound not only offensive, but arrogant. The fact is that the Catholic Church indeed claims  to be the guardian of the Truth revealed to the Apostles and that she received such  Authority from Christ Himself. Many secondary issues spring from the protestant rejection of the Catholic claim for her Authority, such as the existence or the need  for Popes,  or simply the authority for a priest to forgive sins. 

Pastors and teachers are in charge of interpretation of the Scriptures to keep doctrine whole and pure among believers (Book 4 . 3. 4 – Reformer John Calvin)    

We admit therefore that Ecclesiastical pastors are to be heard just like Christ himself.  (John Calvin – letter to Sadoleto)
 

Before I go on discussing this, for the sake of clarity, since many non-Catholics lack some basic understanding of what Catholicism actually teaches; I feel that I need to address some fundamental concepts in order to answer this properly: 

I-Ecclesiastical Authority  
II- Apostolic Succession   

Whenever someone says “this” or “that” teaching/doctrine of the Catholic Church is not Biblical; for the sake of discussion, I must to ask them to consider a couple of important points:      

1- For almost 400 years Christianity had no published Bible, in fact, for the next thousand years after the Bible was compiled, until the printing press was invented, there were scant few Bibles available, in a world almost completely illiterate and impoverished. Needless to say that the few lucky ones who possessed a Bible were a wealthy, privileged and literate minority.      

This surely must prompt any reasonable person to ask themselves: how did the early Christians, especially those living in the first centuries of Christianity, learn the Gospel if there was no Bible?      

History tells us that they HAD to rely on the  Oral Tradition, which was passed onto them by the Apostles and then their elected disciples. This is what the Catholic Church calls Sacred Tradition ( with Capital T), which some Protestants prefer to call man-made tradition.      

2- The Church declares she is Apostolic – this is historically documented and can be proven (for instance, we can refer to the oldest document of Christianity,  The Didache 50 AD, discovered in 1886) – and that therefore, her teachings are infallible.  Since the Church is Apostolic, she proclaims also that her Authority comes from Christ. Why does she say that?      

Because Christ founded His Church upon one of the Apostles, Simon Peter or Cephas, who was the first  *overseer of the early Church ( *episcopos in Greek or bishop in English) and thus a Pope (which means father – 1 Cor 4: 14-15), and also because of Jesus’ promises to the Apostles:          

“Then Jesus also said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matt 28:18-20).      

Before I give further evidence to this, let us stop here to analyze what his last sentence (in Matt 28:20) means:      

Why would Jesus say: I am with you always, to the end of the age? Surely Jesus knew that the Apostles, like the rest of us, would expire (die) one day. This is because His promise applied not only to the Apostles themselves, but also to the disciples or successors that He, Jesus, had commanded them to make in all nations.  Obviously Jesus, in His Divine wisdom, was foretelling the history the Apostolic Succession in the Church.     

Then we see Jesus promising the Apostles the necessary wisdom to teach the Truth:      

“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit comes, he will guide you into ALL TRUTH.” (Jn 16:12-13)  

“This things I have spoken to you, ABIDING with you. But the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and bring all things to your mind, whatsoever I shall have said to you… When the Paraclete comes, whom I will send you from the Father, the Spirit of Truth, who proceeds from the Father, he shall give testimony of me. And you shall give testimony, because you are with me from the beginning. ( Jn 14:25-26 ; 15:26-27)      

This is where the Catholic & Apostolic Church takes her assurance for her Authority, as well as the comfort for the accuracy of her teachings. Because the truth of the Gospel was received without error by the Apostles, who in turn, transmitted it without error to their disciples (2 Tim 2:2), who are the successors who later formed the Catholic Chuch in the 1st century – As, for instance, St Ignatius of Antioch, who was a disciple of the Apostle John and became the Catholic bishop of Antioch. The Catholic & Apostolic Church has preserved the Apostolic teachings throughout the centuries, and her discernment on dogmas and doctrines comes from the Holy Spirit as per Jesus’ promise, and are, therefore,  free of error.      

Furthermore, Jesus said: As the Father has sent me, I also SEND you. ( Jn 20:21). After giving the Apostles authority and reassurance of wisdom, Jesus makes it clear that His Church, which He founded upon Cephas, His Rock, is to be no less of a teacher than He Himself was.      

Our brothers Protestants may argue that Jesus was giving His authority to the whole body of believers, which was going to become His Church, not only to the Apostles. Well, this is not what Scriptures tell us. Jesus was talking to His chosen disciples not to the crowds. Had He meant that the Teaching Authority of the Church was to be given to the whole body of believers, Jesus would have either told it to all believers or commanded the Apostles to do so. He did neither.  

Furthermore, we can clearly verify how the Apostles embraced this Teaching Authority given to them in the Scripture themselves. Paul talks about this in his letters, when he says that only some have been placed in the Church as TEACHERS, not all (1Cor 12:28-29).      

For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. I am your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel. (1 Cor 4: 14-15)    

3- Confessing to a Priest

Having discussed the issues of Authority as well as Succession, I would like to reiterate that all priests in the Catholic Church are anointed in the Spirit and are, in their priestly ministry, successors of the Apostles.

But why does the Church declare the need for Confession?      

Because Jesus instituted it Himself:      

Those whose sins you forgive are forgiven, and he whose sins you retain, are retained (Jn 20:22-23)      

Jesus gave the Apostles authority to forgive sins just as He had authority given by the Father to forgive sins on earth as the Son of Man (Matthew 9:6), not as Son of God.  Jesus forgave sins while He was in the world in spite of the Pharisees’ contempt for His authority, because up until that point only God could forgive sins!      

Now, Jesus gave the Apostles the authority to forgive sins, but He did not confer to them the ability to read the minds of the sinners. How could we expect the Apostles to be able to exercise their authority to forgive without accepting that the believer would have to verbally express their sins and repentance to the Apostles?    As we can see in St. Paul’s epistoles  the Apostles did take their role seriously:

[…] ‘What I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been [forgiven] for your sake in the presence of Christ.’ (2 Cor 2:10)     

There are plenty of evidence in the writtings of the ealry Christians that the new-believers, just as the Jews would confess publicly their sins, they embraced this Sacred Tradition and confessed their sins. The problem is that many Sola Scriptura Protestants will not accept any historic document that can prove this fact, because they are ruled only by what is explicitly written in the Sacred Scriptures.

Jesus Christ arranged things so that the Sacramental forgiveness would come through the ministry of the priest. If someone argues against that he is not so much arguing with the Catholic Church, but with Christ Himself.  (P. Madri)    

Catholics are members of an Apostolic Church and for this reason we take the Apostolic character of the Church very seriously because the Lord said  to the Apostles:    

“Whoever listens to you, listens to me. Whoever rejects you, rejects me“. (Lk 10:16).     

Lastly, I is important to point out that whenever a Catholic confesses to a priest, he is confessing to Our Lord Jesus through a priest, just as St Paul tells us in (2 Cor2:10). The forgiveness comes from God, not from the priest, who is acting as a ‘alter Christus’ because of the Scriptural authority given by Jesus.   

In spite of private confession, Catholics preserve an ancient Tradition, as the Jews of the OT would do, to admit our sins  at   Mass everyday, when we recite a public Penitential Prayer:      

I confess to almighty God, and to you, my brothers and sisters, that I have sinned through my own fault in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done, and in what I have failed to do; and I ask blessed Mary, ever virgin, all the angles and saints, and you, my brothers and sisters, to pray for me to the Lord our God.      

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But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’sbook of life. Rev 21:27

The word purgatory is not mentioned anywhere in the Bible in the same way that terms such as ‘Incarnation’, ‘Holy Trinity’ or even the word Bible, do not appear in the Scriptures. This, however, is no reason to deny the existence of a ‘purging place’, which is indeed mentioned in the Bible.

There are a few passages that indicate to us the existence of such a cleansing place, but let us take a look at 1 Cor 3:12-15, which unlike other biblical references to purgatory,  cannot be talked away by protestants. We will analyze  an excerpt from King James version, a popular protestant Bible translation.

12Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; 13Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. 14If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward.15If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.

If we look at this passage within the context of Chapter 3, we will notice that it addresses members of the Church of Christ, as  it deals with  Corinthians believers regarding their sinful actions, such as divisions and jealousy.  In chapter 3, Paul not only states that our works are rewarded, but he also deals with the quality of man’s works, for which each of us will be either rewarded or punished.

The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor. 1 Cor3:8

If we look at verse 15 in the same chapter, we have a man whose works have been judged and  burned, this man ‘suffers loss’ but is ultimately saved by fire. In order to clarify what this means we need to define what ‘suffer loss’ represents.  The expression ‘suffer loss’ is a form of the Greek word Zemio. Forms of this same Greek word also appear in the context of the Old Testament to mean PUNISHMENT [ Ex. 21:21, Proverbs 17:26, 19:19 , etc…].  This means that Zemio, translated in  1 Cor3:15 as ‘suffer loss’ can mean punishment. Therefore, 1Cor3:12-15 gives us a clear description of Purgatory because that is what Paul is referring to.  Even more so when we consider, as stated above, the context of the whole Chapter 3, where Paul rebukes the Corinthians believers for their bad works or sins.

 

 

 

Paul makes an analogy to the  quality of our works where gold, silver, precious stones represent a more perfect or better adherence to the Gospel of Christ and wood, straw and stubble which are burned and for which the man ‘suffers loss’ or ‘punishment’ but he is saved, yet so as by fire. Therefore, in 1 Corinthians 3:12, the wood, hay and stubble (which are burned) signify the works of a man who has died in the state of justification and has been forgiven of any mortal sins he might have committed. He is therefore eventually saved, but he hasn’t made satisfaction for sins committed after baptism.

Christians understand that once a soul is condemned into hell it cannot be saved anymore. In this context, the Old Testament demonstrates that indeed Purgatory, which is the place where those who did justified by not yet purfied go,exists:

Psalm 49:15 15 But God will redeem me from the realm of the dead;  he will surely take me to himself.

 

The passages above agree perfectly with the Catholic teaching on Purgatory. The Catholic Council of Lyons II defined Purgatory this way:

Pope Gregory X,

Council of Lyons II, 1274: “Because if they die truly repentant in charity before they have made satisfaction by worthy fruits of penance for sins committed and omitted, their souls are cleansed after death for purgatorial or purifying punishments….” (Denzinger 464)

A great example of a man who has been forgiven of his serious sin, but hasn’t made satisfaction for it, is found in the case of David. In 2nd Samuel 11 (2 Kings 11 in the Douay-Rheims Catholic Bible), we read that King David committed adultery with Bathsheba. David also had her husband killed. These are mortal sins. If David would have died in that state, he would have gone to Hell. 1 Cor. 6:9 shows us that no adulterers or murderers will enter Heaven. But David repented of his sin when convicted of it by Nathan in 2 Samuel 12.

2 Samuel 12:13- “And David said unto Nathan, I have sinned against the Lord. And Nathan said unto David, the Lord hath forgiven thy sin, thou shalt not die.

The Lord took away David’s sin, and Nathan said that he would not die. This means that he would not eternally die. The guilt of the sin was forgiven because David truly repented and turned from it, but was that the end of it? No, full satisfaction for this mortal sin had not been made. We read in 2 Samuel 12:14-15 that David had to suffer the loss of his child to make satisfaction for his sin; a sin that had already been forgiven.

2 Samuel 12:14-15- “… because by this deed thou hast given great occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme, the child also that is born unto thee shall surely die. And Nathan departed unto his house. And the Lord struck the child that Uriah’s wife bare unto David, and it was very sick.”

This provides undeniable proof that the guilt of a sin of a believer can be forgiven without the entire punishment being taken away. The Council of Trent put it this way:

Pope Julius III,

The Lord also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die.” David had to suffer the loss of his child to make satisfaction for his sin – a sin which had already been forgiven. because by this deed thou hast given great occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme, the child also that is born unto thee shall surely die. And Nathan departed unto his house. And the Lord struck the child that Uriah’s wife bare unto David, and it was very sick.” Council of Trent, on the Sacrament of Penance, Sess. 14, Chap. 8, Nov. 25, 1551- “… it is absolutely false and contrary to the word of God that the guilt [of a sin] is never forgiven by the Lord without the entire punishment also being remitted. For clear and illustrious examples are found in the Sacred Writings [cf. Gen. 3:16 f; Num. 12:14; Num 20:11; II Kings 12:13 f.; etc.].” (Denzinger 904)

There are various references to the existence of purgatory in the Old Testament, which I intent to discuss here, as well as other references in the New Testament, but as seen in 1 Cor 3:12-15, Purgatory was taught in Scripture and was believed by the earliest Christians. Why did the ancient Christians believe in Purgatory and prayers for the dead? It’s obviously not because this was a man-made doctrine, but because they clearly saw that it was taught in the Bible and was part of the Tradition received from the Apostles.

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Christ the Redeemer - Symbol of Brazilian Christianity

Brazil is the largest Catholic country  in the world, with a whopping 74% of its population declaring themselves as Roman Catholic Christians. Since 1889, when the Brazilian Constitution was written, Brazil ceased to have an official religion as the Constitution guarantees absolute freedom of religion. Therefore, the make up of Brazil’s population is  a Roman Catholic majority, and a mix of Denominational Christians, Jews and Muslims, as well as a surprising 7.5% of the population who declare themselves to believe in God but  not to have a formal religion.

The growth of Protestantism in Brazil has taken place mainly in the past three decades, especially in urban Brazil. The two generations of Protestant missionary work have gained about 1,000,000 adherents to various churches: Lutheran, Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Congregational, Episcopal, Pentecostal. Fourteen-fifteenths of the work goes on in a 300-mile-wide coastal zone extending from Rio Grande do Sul to Para; the tiny remainder lies in the vast inland rural areas. Rural Brazil, however, remains predominantly Catholic.

Recently, I watched an interview with a former American Protestant pastor, now  Catholic, who declared to have been involved in setting up a mission to go to Brazil and ‘convert’ Catholics to his denomination. I found his statement disturbing as it made me ponder on what motivations may lead anyone to set out to convert people who already believe in Jesus rather than non-believers elsewhere! There are over 38 thousand Christian denominations in the world today, of which  not a single one is fully in agreement with the others. With that in mind, one can ask oneself, which one of the 38 thousand churches is the right one, which one has the right interpretation of the Gospel? Sadly, the one point on which almost the totality of these denominations seem to agree, it appears, is an unfair contempt for  Catholicism.

Obviously, I am not refuting the value of Christian missions. Rather, I commend all well-meaning missionaries who,  in the name of Jesus, travel to remote parts of the world to spread the Gospel of peace to nations and people who have not yet come to know God. In this fashion the Catholic Church did a  great service to Christianity, as it not only fought for Christianity in Europe producing many martyrs who shed their blood for Christ and helping establish the Christian heritage of the Western world,  but also promoted countless missions worldwide  for the evangelization of pagan nations e peoples, including indigenous  people in Brazil. We can still see the symbol of this commitment in the vestment of  modern Cardinals, who wear a collar representing their willingness to die for Christ and for the Faith.

Evangelizing Native Pagans - Catholic missionaries in Brazil say first Mass in the year 1500

I suppose my point is to question the legitimacy of missions that, rather than bring the Gospel to those who are ignorant of it, set out to ‘convert’ people who already declare a genuine Christian faith such as Catholicism. Isn’t it time we begin to practise true Christian values and be faithful to the Gospels and the will of God rather than to our self motivated opinions of what is right and wrong? I can’t help the feeling that some of these missionaries are missing the point of Jesus’ command to us when the focus of their missions becomes expanding a particular church’s domain, as opposed to preaching the Gospel to the ends of the world.

 So from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum, I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ. 20 It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else’s foundation. 21Rather, as it is written: “Those who were not told about him will see, and those who have not heard will understand.” 22 This is why I have often been hindered from coming to you. ( Rom 15:20-22)

 

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Evangelical and other Christian Leaders join Pope for Ecumenical Prayer Service

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7When you are praying, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do. For they think that they will be heard because of their many words. 8Do not be like them, for your Father know what you need before you ask him.’ (Mt 6:7)

The passage above is clear about how we should not pray, and at the same time that  it reminds us of our lowliness before God, even as we address Him to ask for His intervention, ‘for your Father know what you need before you ask Him’.

 7“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. (Mt. 7:7-8) (more…)

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