Saturday, November 26, 2016

The Rapture


The Rapture is a term most commonly used to describe an event in certain interpretations of end-time studies where all true Christians are taken from Earth by Jesus Christ at His secret second-coming.  Although almost all forms of Christianity believe that those who are ‘saved’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven, the term ‘rapture’ is usually applied specifically to those theories saying the Christians alive before the end of the world will be taken into heaven.  These Christians believe they will be secretly translated, in the blink of an eye, into immortal bodies in the Rapture before the persecutions by the Harlot Church and before the Antichrist.  This period of time is called the Tribulation.  According to this view, the Church has no vital role of witness during this seven-year Tribulation.



This view is a recent addition to end-times interpretations.  In fact it is only about a few hundred years old.  Therefore the burden of proof rests on them.  The dramatic end-time scenario proposed by these pre-tribulation rapture theorists is heavily based on a few verses such as Paul’s First Letter to the Thessalonians, where he writes: “For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a shout of command, with the voice of an archangel and the trumpet of God.  The dead in Christ will rise first; then we, who are left alive, will be snatched up with them on clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and so we shall always be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17).



“With a shout of command…and the trumpet of God”, kind of goes against a ‘secret’ rapture doesn’t it?  And we can see here that Paul conjures up images of an emperor, a king or a distinguished person visiting a colony or province.  As was the custom at the time, the citizens go out to meet him in open country and then escort him into the city.  Paul’s image of the people “meeting the Lord in the air” should be read with the assumption that the people will immediately turn around and lead the Lord back to the newly remade world.  This verse taken into context is found to show that the ‘saved’ will be taken up for a time and brought back down to Earth.  But when did Paul believe this event takes place, before or after the Tribulation?  We find the answer to that in 2 Thessalonians 1:6-10



“…it is a righteous thing with God to repay with tribulation those who trouble you, and to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.  These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, when He comes, in that Day, to be glorified in His saints and to be admired among all those who believe, because our testimony among you was believed…”



For the apostle Paul, the punishment of the wicked and the reward of the righteous are to occur on the same day, immediately following the second coming of Christ.  Are the elect taken before the Tribulation as the Rapture theory says?  Take a look at John 6:40 “For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. 


So, those who are saved will be raised up at the last day.  Now look at John 12:48 “There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; that very word which I spoke will condemn him at the last day.”



As we can see the ‘saved’ will be raised up on the last day and those who reject Him will be condemned on the last day.  Therefore, if the saved are raised on the day before the start of the Tribulation, then those condemned will be sent to Hell on that same day.  It begs the question, who will be left to suffer through the seven-year Tribulation? 



This means that the ‘saved’, the believers in Christ will go through the Tribulation with the unbelievers.  We find support for this in Matt 13:24-30



“Jesus told them another parable: "The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared. The owner's servants came to him and said, 'Sir, didn't you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?'  'An enemy did this,' he replied. "The servants asked him, 'Do you want us to go and pull them up?' "No, he answered, 'because while you are pulling the weeds, you may root up the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.'”



Jesus’ explained what this parable meant at the apostles urgings. Here is His answer a few verses later in Matt 13:36-43



“Then he left the crowd and went into the house. His disciples came to him and said, "Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field." He answered, "The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels.

"As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.”



The good seed, which stands for the sons of the kingdom, the ‘saved’, will be living together with the weeds until the harvest where the weeds will be harvested first and thrown into the fiery furnace.  You will find an even clearer picture of this event in

Matt 24:37-41



As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.”



Noah and his family were left behind, those who listened to the word of God were saved, they were left behind.  Those who didn’t believe Noah or knew nothing of the incoming flood were taken, the unbelievers were taken.  As you can see, we find here also that the unbelievers are taken on the same day as the elect and are saved by being left behind.



In conclusion, I personally believe as the Church does that there is a rapture, but it will only come at the end of the world, at Christ’s second coming where the weeds and the wheat will be living together until Christ shall separate the ‘saved’ from the un-‘saved’ on the last day, that is the last day of the known world.



God Bless

Nathan

Monday, October 31, 2016

Non-Negotiables


Some issues allow for a diversity of opinion, and Catholics are permitted leeway in endorsing or opposing particular policies.  This is the case with the questions of when to go to war and when to apply the death penalty.  Though the Church urges caution regarding both of these issues, it acknowledges that the state has the right to employ them in some circumstances (CCC 2309, 2267).



Pope Benedict XVI, when he was still Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, spoke of this in a document dealing with when Catholics may receive Communion:



Not all moral issues have the same moral weight as abortion and euthanasia.  For example, if a Catholic were to be at odds with the Holy Father on the application of capital punishment or on the decision to wage war, he would not for that reason be considered unworthy to present himself to receive Holy Communion.  While the Church exhorts civil authorities to seek peace, not war, and to exercise discretion and mercy in imposing punishment on criminals, it may still be permissible to take up arms to repel an aggressor or to have recourse to capital punishment.  There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia” (WRHC 3).



The same is true of many other issues that are the subject of political debate: the best way to help the poor, to manage the economy, to protect the environment, to handle immigration, and to provide education, health care and retirement security.  Catholics may legitimately take different approaches to these issues while the same cannot be said for euthanasia and abortion, two actions which are always wrong no matter the circumstances.  The protection of innocent life always takes precedence to all other issues.  What good are all other rights if one does not have the right to life?



God Bless
Nathan

Ref: Catholic Answers, Voter’s Guide for Serious Catholics, Catholic Answers Press, 16 pgs, 2016

Sunday, October 9, 2016

The Church on Abortion`


The Catholic Church is pro-life.  She teaches that abortion is always wrong.  Where does this teaching come from?  It all starts “in the beginning.”  In Genesis chapter one – “God created man in his image; in the divine image he created him; male and female he created them.”  Every human person, from the moment of their conception, is created in the image and likeness of God.



Interestingly, the teachings on abortion in the  Catechism of the Catholic Church are in the section on the Fifth Commandment – “You shall not kill.”



This is not a new teaching, something that the Church has been trying to figure out for centuries.  Quite the contrary.  In the Catechism paragraph 2271, it says, “Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion.  This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable.”



What about exceptions for things like rape and incest?  Regardless of the circumstances surrounding its conception, the child in the womb is still a child of God.  In paragraph 2270, the Catechism puts it succinctly – “Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception.”



For further study:

CCC 2270-2273;  Genesis 1:26-28;
Exodus 20:13;
  Deuteronomy 5:17



Reference:
Gus Lloyd,
A Minute in the Church, Vol II,  p.9, 2010


God Bless
Nathan

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Apostolic Succession


The first Christians had no doubts about how to determine which claimant, among the many contending for the title, was the true Church. The test was simple: Just trace the apostolic succession of the claimants. This simple procedure worked every time. (Why not try it yourself?)

___________________________________________

Clement of Rome



"Through countryside and city [the apostles] preached, and they appointed their earliest converts, testing them by the Spirit, to be the bishops and deacons of future believers. Nor was this a novelty, for bishops and deacons had been written about a long time earlier.... Our apostles knew through our Lord Jesus Christ that there would be strife for the office of bishop. For this reason, therefore, having received perfect foreknowledge, they appointed those who have already been mentioned and afterwards added the further provision that, if they should die, other approved men should succeed to their ministry." (Epistle to the Corinthians 42:4-5, 44:1-3 [A.D. 80]).

________________________________________



Irenaeus



"It is possible, then, for everyone in every church, who may wish to know the truth, to contemplate the tradition of the apostles which has been made known to us throughout the whole world. And we are in a position to enumerate those who were instituted bishops by the apostles and their successors down to our own times, men who neither knew nor taught anything like what these heretics rave about....Surely they wished all those and their successors, to whom they handed on their authority, to be perfect and without reproach" (Against Heresies 3:3:1 [inter A.D. 180-199]).

________________________________________



Irenaeus



"For all these [heretics] are of much later date than are the bishops to whom the apostles handed over the churches, and this fact I pointed out most carefully in the third book. It is of necessity, then, that these aforementioned heretics, because they are blind to the truth, walk in devious paths, and on this account the vestiges of their doctrines are scattered about without agreement or connection. The path of those, however, who belong to the Church goes around the whole world, for it has the firm tradition of the apostles, enabling us to see that the faith of all is one and the same" (Ibid. 5:20:1).

________________________________________



Irenaeus



"Polycarp was instructed not only by the apostles and conversed with many who had seen Christ, but was also appointed bishop of the church in Smyrna by the apostles in Asia. I saw him in my early youth, for he tarried a long time and when quite old departed this life in a glorious and most noble martyrdom. He always taught those things which he learned from the apostles and which the Church had handed down and which are true. To these things the churches in Asia bear witness, as do also the successors of Polycarp even to the present time" (Ibid. 3:3:4).



________________________________________

Irenaeus



"It is necessary to obey those who are the presbyters in the Church, those who, as we have shown, have succession from the apostles, those who have received, with the succession of the episcopate, the sure charism of truth according to the good pleasure of the Father. But the rest, who have no part in the primitive succession [of bishops] and assemble wheresoever they will, must be held in suspicion....The true gnosis [knowledge] is the doctrine of the apostles, and the ancient organization of the Church throughout the whole world, and the manifestation of the body of Christ according to the succession of bishops, by which succession the bishops have handed down the Church which is found everywhere" (Ibid. 4:26:2, 33:8).

________________________________________



Jerome



"Far be it from me to speak adversely of any of these clergy who, in succession from the apostles, confect by their sacred word the Body of Christ and through whose efforts also it is that we are Christians" (Epistle to Heliodorus 14:8 [inter A.D. 374-379]).



For more:  http://www.catholic.com/thisrock/1992/9209frs.asp



God Bless
Nathan

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Tradition and Authority


In your worldview if one has a different understanding even on eternal matters of truth as in matters of faith and/or doctrine then they are the ones who must be wrong.  That makes YOU the ultimate authority, the pillar and bulwark of the truth if you will.



Protestant replies:
1. The word of God is the authority but you rob the authority with your tradition don't you? Matt:15:6


2. The called out separated ones (ecclesia) is the pillar and base of the truth aren't they?  1 Tim.
3:15





Catholic answers:
About comment #1
First, the Word of God is not wholly contained in Scripture (John 21:25). 

Second, I would only be robbing the authority of the word of God with our traditions IF I went against the Word of God instead of what you (mis)understand the written Word of God to mean. 

Third, the final authority given to us by God in understanding the Word of God (whether written or oral) is not Scripture or your understanding of Scripture but the Church.



About comment #2
Unless the Church is visible, somewhere to go to settle issues between the called out separated ones then the collection of called out separated ones cannot determine with authority what is true in such a matter as to settle the issue.  Without an authoritative Church, the Church is useless in settling issues making Jesus' directives moot in Mat 18:15-18 and Paul's description of the Church as useless in 1 Tim 3;15.



Protestant replies:
your spirit is dead.

END





What do you do when someone answers your well-thought out replies with something like this?  Sometimes the best thing to do is to just let it go.  You’ve done your job.  You’ve planted the seeds.  Hopefully, with the help of God and your ongoing prayers those seeds will germinate and grow.



God Bless
Nathan

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Consuming Fire: A Reflection

Consuming Fire:
Scott Hahn Reflects on the 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time

 
Readings:


Our God is a consuming fire, the Scriptures tell us (see Hebrews 12:29;Deuteronomy 4:24).
And in this week’s Gospel, Jesus uses the image of fire to describe the demands of discipleship.
The fire he has come to cast on the earth is the fire that he wants to blaze in each of  our hearts. He made us from the dust of the earth (see Genesis 2:7), and filled us with the fire of the Holy Spirit in baptism (see Luke 3:16).
We were baptized into his death (see Romans 6:3). This is the baptism our Lord speaks of in the Gospel this week. The baptism with which He must be baptized is His passion and death, by which He accomplished our redemption and sent forth the fire of the Spirit on the earth (see Acts 2:3).
The fire has been set, but it is not yet blazing. We are called to enter deeper into the consuming love of God. We must examine our consciences and our actions, submitting ourselves to the revealing fire of God’s Word (see 1 Corinthians 3:13).
In our struggle against sin, we have not yet resisted to the point of shedding our own blood, Paul tells us in this week’s Epistle. We have not undergone the suffering that Jeremiah suffers in the First Reading this week. 
But this is what true discipleship requires. To be a disciple is to be inflamed with the love of God. It is to have an unquenchable desire for holiness and zeal for the salvation of our brothers and sisters.
Being His disciple does not bring peace in the false way that the world proclaims peace (see Jeremiah 8:11). It means division and hardship. It may bring us to conflict with our own flesh and blood.
But Christ is our peace (see Ephesians 2:14). By his cross, he has lifted us up from the mire of sin and death—as he will rescue the prophet Jeremiah (see Jeremiah 38:10).
And as we sing in the Psalm this week, we trust in our deliverer. 

Yours in Christ,Scott Hahn, PhD

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Is Missing Mass a Mortal Sin?


Rather than just approaching this question from the angle of "missing Mass is a sin," we should first call to mind the importance of the Mass. Each Sunday, we gather together as a Church with hearts filled with joy to worship Almighty God. We remember and profess our faith once again in the mystery of our salvation,that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, suffered, died, and rose for our salvation. The saving actions of Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday coalesce in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy of the Vatican Council II asserted, "For it is the liturgy through which, especially in the divine sacrifice of the Eucharist, 'the work of our redemption is accomplished,' and it is through the liturgy, especially that the faithful are enabled to express in their lives and manifest to others the mystery of Christ and the real nature of the true church" (#2).

Moreover, at Mass, each faithful Catholic is fed with abundant graces: First, we are nourished by the Word of God — God's eternal truth that has been revealed to us and recorded under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. We then respond by professing our Holy Catholic Faith as presented in the Creed, saying not simply “I believe" as a singular person, but “we believe" as part of the Church.

Second, if we are in a state of grace, then we have the opportunity to receive our Lord in the Holy Eucharist. We firmly believe that our Lord is truly present in the Holy Eucharist, and that we receive His body, blood, soul, and divinity in Holy Communion. Not only does the Holy Eucharist unite us intimately with the Lord, but also unites us in communion with our brothers and sisters throughout the universal Church. The Holy Eucharist is such a precious gift!

With this in mind, no one should simply think of attending Mass as fulfilling an obligation. To attend Mass is a privilege, and any faithful Catholic should want to attend Mass. Our perspective should not be, "I have got to do this"; rather, we should think, "I get to do this."

Nevertheless, because the Mass offers such precious gifts, provides the nourishment of great graces, and unites us as a Church, we do indeed have a sacred obligation to attend Mass. Remember that the Third Commandment stated, "Keep Holy the Sabbath." For the Jewish people, the Old Testament Sabbath was on Saturday, marking the "Day of rest" after creation. For Christians, we have always kept holy Sunday, the day of the resurrection. Just as creation unfolded on the first day of the week with God commanding, "Let there be light," our Lord, the Light who came to shatter the darkness of sin and death, rose from the dead on that first day marking the new creation.

Given how precious the Mass is plus the Old Testament precedent which was rightly adapted by the Church, the Code of Canon Law (#1246) proscribes, "Sunday is the day on which the paschal mystery is celebrated in light of the apostolic tradition and is to be observed as the foremost holy day of obligation in the universal Church." Moreover, "On Sundays and other holy days of obligation, the faithful are bound to participate in the Mass..." (#1247). Therefore, the Catechism teaches, "Those who deliberately fail in this obligation commit grave sin" (#2181), and grave sin is indeed mortal sin. Recently, our Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, repeated this precept in his apostolic letter Dies Domini (Observing and Celebrating the Day of the Lord, #47, 1998).

Of course, serious circumstances arise which excuse a person from attending Mass, such as if a person is sick, has to deal with an emergency, or cannot find a Mass to attend without real burden. A pastor may also dispense a person from the obligation of attending Mass for serious reason. For instance, no one, including our Lord, expects a person to attend Mass who is so sick he cannot physically attend Mass; there is no virtue in further hurting one's own health plus infecting everyone else in the Church. Or, in the case of a blizzard, a person must prudently judge whether he can safely travel to attend Mass without seriously risking his own life and the lives of the others. When such serious circumstances arise which prevent a person from attending Mass, he should definitely take time to pray, read the prayers and readings of the Mass in the Missal, or watch the Mass on television and at least participate in spirit. Keep in mind when such serious circumstances arise, a person does not commit mortal sin for missing Mass.

In examining this question, a person must really reflect on how valuable the Mass and the Holy Eucharist is. Every day, faithful Catholics in the People's Republic of China risk educational and economic opportunities and even their very lives to attend Mass. In mission territories, people travel many miles to attend Mass. They take the risk and they make the sacrifice because they truly believe in the Mass and our Lord's presence in the Holy Eucharist.

When a person negligently "bags Mass," to go shopping, catch-up on work, sleep a few extra hours, attend a social event, or not interrupt vacation, the person is allowing something to take the place of God. Something becomes more valuable than the Holy Eucharist. Sadly, I have known families who could walk to the Church but choose not to attend Mass; ironically though, they send their children to the Catholic school. Yes, such behavior really is indicative of turning one's back on the Lord and committing a mortal sin.

God must come first in our lives. On Sunday, our primary duty is to worship God at Mass as a Church and to be nourished with His grace. The Didascalia, a third century writing, exhorted, "Leave everything on the Lord's Day and run diligently to your assembly, because it is your praise of God. Otherwise, what excuse will they make to God, those who do not come together on the Lord's Day to hear the word of life and feed on the divine nourishment which lasts forever?" Yes indeed, what excuse will they make?




God Bless
Nathan