Friday, September 26, 2014

Priests in the Church (part 1)

Did Jesus Give Priests to the Church?
By Kenneth J. Howell

OBJECTOR: The Catholic Church has priests who are distinct from the laity and even elevated above them. This is unscriptural because the New Testament nowhere sets certain men apart from the rest of God’s people to be priests.
CATHOLIC: Surely you would agree that the New Testament authorizes leaders of the Church to be pastors, deacons, maybe even bishops.
OBJECTOR: Yes, but the word priest is never used in the New Testament for the leaders of the Church. The words pastor, bishop, and elder are used, but never priest.
CATHOLIC: That’s almost correct. The word hiereus (priest) is not used of church leaders in the New Testament, but the cognate verb hierourgeo (to act as a priest) is used in Romans 15:16. There Paul speaks of himself in these words: "to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles in the priestly service of the gospel of God, so that the offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit."
OBJECTOR: Paul may have used the verb to describe his missionary work. You’ll notice that he speaks of the Gentiles as his offering. He is not offering something on behalf of the Gentiles; he thinks of the new people of God as the offering.
CATHOLIC: Paul’s use of "to act as a priest" (hierourgeo) fits with the Catholic Church’s understanding of a priest as one who intercedes for the people of God as an intermediary. The priest today, like Paul, offers the people back to God in union with the perfect sacrifice of Christ, the great high priest.
OBJECTOR: I have no problem with that understanding as long as we realize that Paul was one of the people of God. As an apostle, he guided the Church and was one of its pastors, but the priesthood was a concept that applied to all God’s people, not some select group of men.
CATHOLIC: We agree in one respect. The non-Catholic doctrine of the priesthood of all believers is not an idea that the Church rejects. In fact, the Catechism of the Catholic Church says clearly that all of God’s faithful people share in the priesthood of Christ by virtue of their baptism: "Christ, high priest and unique mediator, has made of the Church ‘a kingdom, priests for his God and Father’" (CCC 1546, cf. Rev. 1:6, 5:9–10). Further, it says, "The whole Church is a priestly people. Through baptism all the faithful share in the priesthood of Christ. This participation is called the ‘common priesthood of all the faithful.’ Based on this common priesthood and ordered to its service, there exists another participation in the mission of Christ: the ministry conferred by the sacrament of holy orders, where the task is to serve in the name and in the person of Christ the head in the midst of the community" (1591). In other words, the existence of a common priesthood for all God’s people does not exclude a special calling for the pastors of the Church to be priests.
OBJECTOR: But that’s not what the New Testament says. When Peter speaks of priesthood, he applies it to the whole people of God. "But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, that you may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light" (1 Pet. 2:9). As you can see, this expression "royal priesthood" refers to all of God’s people, not a special class of men.
CATHOLIC: Peter is, of course, speaking of the "common priesthood of all the faithful" of which the Catechism spoke. But why do you insist that this excludes a special role for those men chosen by God to serve as priests for and to God’s people?
OBJECTOR: Because it’s not part of the New Testament teaching on the government of the Church. The priesthood of Christ is unique and cannot be repeated. Christ appointed shepherds for the Church as Jesus taught Peter in John 21:15–19. As we said, these leaders are called elders (or presbyters) and deacons, but never priests except for the Romans 15:16 text you cited.
CATHOLIC: Perhaps you are unaware that priests in the Catholic Church are also called presbyters, which is usually translated as "elders" in most English Bibles. They are the elders who guide the Church under the authority of the bishops (called episkopoi in the New Testament).
OBJECTOR: Well, I didn’t know that, but I still don’t see how it changes anything. First Peter 2:9 still applies to the whole Church and not to some select group of leaders, be they presbyters or bishops.
CATHOLIC: You will notice that 1 Peter 2:9 is quoting from a number of Old Testament texts. One of them is Exodus 19:6, where the people of Israel are called "a kingdom of priests." Isaiah 61:6 says that in the New Covenant times, the restored people of God will be called "priests of the Lord."
OBJECTOR: Yes, these texts from the Old Testament just confirm my point that all the people of God are considered priests in the Bible and especially in the New Testament. This is what we call the "priesthood of all believers."
CATHOLIC: But surely you must agree that, just because the people as a whole in the Old Covenant played a priestly role, it did not exclude a special calling for the Levites as priests. As I am sure you know, there is abundant evidence in the Old Testament for a special priesthood for the one tribe of Levi. Deuteronomy 18:1–8 is just one among many such passages. This special priesthood could not be held by just anyone. It was restricted to those who were called. The author of Hebrews speaks of this Old Covenant priesthood in these terms in Hebrews 5:1–4. Now, if there were two kinds of priesthood in the Old Covenant—we might call them "the priesthood of the faithful" and "the
ministerial priesthood"—then why can there not be this same distinction in the New Covenant?
Taken from:

God Bless

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Apostolic Succession

Since we know that all of Scripture is profitable for teaching (2 Tim 3:16), how about we have a look at what the Old Testament has to say on the subject of forgiveness of sins.
And it shall be, when he shall be guilty in one of these things, that he shall confess that he hath sinned in that thing: And he shall bring his trespass offering unto the LORD for his sin which he hath sinned, a female from the flock, a lamb or a kid of the goats, for a sin offering; and the priest shall make an atonement for him concerning his sin. (Lev 5:5-6, KJV)
We see that the sinner would confess his sin to the priest and offer a sin offering, what we would now call a penance. So one would confess sin, offer a sin offering (penance) and the priest makes atonement for him. This fits extremely well with the Catholic practice of the Sacrament of Penance.
But beyond the Old Testament, has this practice stopped? Let’s see what the New Testament has to say.
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all iniquity. (1 John 1:9, DRB)
Confess our sins to whom? God? Yes, but could it be through men?
Confess therefore your sins one to another: and pray one for another, that you may be saved. For the continual prayer of a just man availeth much. (James 5:16)
It only makes sense that James would ask us to confess our sins to each if there are individuals who could do something about them. Some who could forgive us our sins. So now we know that we must confess our sins to others but can some men forgive sins? Those individuals who agree with the Scribe that said: “Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” should take heed in remembering that to be on the side of the Scribes is usually not a group you want to be associated with. In fact, in the same incident as told by Matthew we have a little more details given to us.
“And he got into a boat and went across and came to his town. And they took to him a man stretched on a bed who had no power of moving; and Jesus, seeing their faith, said to the man who was ill, Son, take heart; you have forgiveness for your sins. And some of the scribes said among themselves, This man has no respect for God. And Jesus, having knowledge of what was in their minds, said, Why are your thoughts evil? For which is the simpler, to say, You have forgiveness for your sins; or to say, Get up and go? But so that you may see that on earth the Son of man has authority for the forgiveness of sins, then said he to the man who was ill, Get up, and take up your bed, and go to your house. And he got up and went away to his house. But when the people saw it they were full of fear, and gave glory to God who had given such authority to men.” (Matt 9:1-8)
Scripture tells us that MEN (plural) were given the authority on earth to forgive sins (Mat 9:8). But which men is Matthew speaking of? Look no further than John 20.
“Peace be to you. As the Father hath sent me, I also send you. When he had said this, he breathed on them; and he said to them: Receive ye the Holy Ghost. Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them: and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained.” (John 20:21-23, DRB)
The Father sent Jesus with the power on earth to forgive sins (Mat 9:6) and Jesus sends His Apostles in the same way as He was sent…with the power on earth to forgive sins. Context tells us that Jesus is speaking to the Apostles only. Please notice also that these apostles were sent in the same way as Jesus was sent (John 20:21) therefore these Apostles also have the authority to confer this same authority to others as Jesus did to them. Our Bishops were sent by others who were sent in the same way as Jesus was sent.
 Paul commented in his letter to the Romans that for one to preach, one has to be sent (Rom 10:14-15 “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? 15 And how can anyone preach unless they are sent?”  Well, our bishops were sent by other, previous bishops who they temselves were sent  by previous bishops all the way back in history beginning with Jesus sending out the Apostles and the Apostles sending out their successors which we call bishops.
Today’s bishops are sent by the successors of Jesus and the Apostles.  If anyone tries to convince you that they know the true teachings of Jesus, just ask them who sent them?  Who sent their pastor?
God Bless

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Contemplating the Cross

There is a tree planted by God which we call Love.                 
You there, you I see up in its branches-                                            
Show me where I can begin to climb,                                         
That I might leave this darkness behind.

I climb so slowly that if I stop to speak to you                                 
A puff of wind will blow me down.                                     
I have a long way to go;                                                           
Indeed, there’s a hard struggle ahead.                        

The glory of the ascent, I know, is God’s not yours,                          
But help me work free of this swamp-                                                        
If thanks to your aid I come to serve God                                            
It will be you who has won me back for Him.              

To the praise of God I tell you,                                         
And as a friend,                                                                            
That in fear of the Enemy                                                             
Was I lead to this tree.

I looked at it in my mind’s eye

Meditated on it at length,

And burned with the desire

To climb that measureless height.

I could not even guess

How high the branches reached;

The trunk was straight and smooth.

I saw no place where I could get a hold,

Except for one branch

That curved down to the ground;

A poor despised little bit of a branch,

It bore the mark of humility.

I was ready to climb when suddenly

I heard a voice: “Do not touch me

Unless you have first confessed,

Cleansed yourself of all mortal sin.”

Contrition flooded my heart,

I cleansed myself with confession

And with the help of God

Made satisfaction.

Coming back to the tree I felt fear and misgivings,

In anticipation; of the exhausting effort;

I devoutly prayed to God for help,

For without His aid I could not climb the tree.

“Sign yourself with the sign of the cross,”

Said a voice that came from Heaven,

“And take hold of the shining bough,

A branch that is pleasing to God.”


Source: Magnificat ( Brother Jacopone Da Todi, O.F.M. – was a Franciscan poet born in Italy.)

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Fraternal Correction

23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time—September 7, 2014

Being responsible for others in charity

Purpose: We bear a responsibility toward others. We must help them to avoid wrong, and encourage them in choosing the good. All of this we must do in love. St Gregory the Great provides an example of this.

Readings: Ezekiel 33:7-9; Psalm 95:1-2, 6-7, 8-9; Romans 13:8-10; Matthew 18:15-20

Earlier this week, the Church celebrated the feast of St. Gregory the Great, who has some interesting and insightful words on our first reading today.

In the first reading, the Lord speaks of the role of a prophet as a watchman. A watchman is, as the name suggests, a lookout, someone who keeps watch for approaching danger. He warns people of impending danger so that they can take appropriate action.

Like a watchman, the prophet Ezekiel must also warn people of approaching dangers—spiritual dangers. He is given the responsibility of warning people about what is right and wrong, about what brings them closer to God, and what leads rhem away from God. If they heed his words, they will be safe. If they ignore his words, they are held responsible for their actions. But if Ezekiel fails to warn the people, and neglects his responsibility, then he is held responsible for their fate.

This passage has often been applied to the responsibility that bishops, priests, and deacons—preachers of the Gospel—have. Not only St. Gregory the Great, but St Augustine, as well as other great saints, and fathers of the Church, wrote at length on these and subsequent verses from Ezekiel.

This awesome responsibility, however, is not only for the shepherds of the Church. In the Gospel today, Jesus talks about the responsibility that each one of us has toward our brothers and sisters. And, fortunately, Jesus gives us an appropriate and tactful way of offering correction: if we notice a person’s fault, we don’t go around telling everyone else about it. Rather, we go to them privately and say something.

Isn’t this so often the opposite of what we do? If we feel wronged by someone, don’t we usually tell everyone except that person? But, Jesus tells us to go to them, one-on-one, privately. This way we allow the opportunity for the person to offer an explanation for what they did; maybe they had no idea that what they were doing was wrong. This allows for the opportunity for a genuine and sincere reconciliation, without unnecessary humiliation.

This is often called “fraternal correction,” which is very different from judging. Judging comes out a sense of self-righteousness, thinking that I am better than another, or holier than another, and for that reason I have the right to point out another’s faults. Judging can also come out of a certain insecurity that seeks to point out another’s faults in order to make my own faults not look so bad. I am sure we have all come across people like that in our lives, and all of us have probably acted that way once or twice.

Fraternal correction is different; it has another motivation. Its goal is, as Jesus says, “to win over your brother.” The goal is not to beat him or her down, nor is it to humiliate them. Fraternal correction comes out of genuine concern for another; it is out of a desire to see a friend or loved one become even better than they already are. The motivation is love, and nothing else. “Owe nothing to anyone, except to love one another,”as St Paul said today. Its goal is to bring about deeper bonds of communion between the other person and Christ, and between you and the other person.

As I mentioned earlier, St. Gregory the Great commented on those previous verses from Ezekiel. In his commentary, Gregory shows us the right attitude that should go along with fraternal correction. When he speaks of his own responsibility as a watchman, St. Gregory says, “how hard it is for me to say this, for by these very words I denounce myself … I myself do not live my life according to my own preaching.” He then goes on to say how, when he lived in a monastery, before becoming Pope, it was so much easier for him to be attentive to prayer, to control his tongue in conversation with others, but that all this is more difficult now that he has been given the responsibility of the papacy. He is well aware of his own shortcomings, and asks: who is he to serve as a watchman, what gives him the right to speak? And he answers himself saying: “Because I love him (Jesus), I do not spare myself in speaking of him.”

Now, I know I havesaid a lot about correcting others, but let’s remember something that we should do even more often than we correct: that is, we should encourage others. St. Paul says, “Encourage one another and build one another up”(1 Thes 5:11). However much we might be called upon to offer some gentle correction to another person, we should make sure that even more often we find ourselves encouraging and commending another’s good deeds. Because our faith is not, first and foremost, about what we’re doing wrong. But it is a “yes”—a “yes” to Christ, and a “yes”to the life, the mercy, the joy he offers us. Through both encouragement and correction, we are freed up in order to offer a more generous “yes”to Jesus.


God Bless