Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Once Saved, Always Saved

I once was challenged by an email correspondent to show him where is the book / chapter / verse that supports my claim that a believer in full possession of the gift of eternal life can be cut off.


Now, before I could answer him though, I needed him to clarify what he meant exactly by the phrase “a believer in full possession of the gift of eternal life”.  This turn of phrase was something new that he introduced and so I needed to make sure I understood exactly what he meant before we could go ahead and debate the truth or falsehood of the doctrine of “Once Saved, Always Saved” (OSAS).


And so I asked him a yes or no question.  I asked him that “if one receives the Grace of God and is described as being a member of the Body of Christ, would you call that person 'saved', ie to have full possession of the gift of eternal life?”


I’m unsure if my question unnerved him or that he knew where I was going with this but instead of answering with a yes or no he avoids my question altogether and in its place brings other verses that he believes proves his position.


Rather than show him that these new verses don’t prove what he thinks they prove, I kept pressing him on answering my question so that we may move on.  My question was rather simple.  From the perspective of my Protestant friend, an individual who he considers to be ‘saved’, is that individual a member of the Body of Christ and therefore in full possession of the gift of eternal life?


If he answered no, then I would ask him to clarify exactly what he means by having “full possession of the gift of eternal life.”  But if he answered that yes, when one is a member of the Body of Christ then he is in “full possession of the gift of eternal life”, which I suspect he would have to if he were honest with himself.  Then all I would have to do is bring a verse which shows that even when one is a member of the Body of Christ, i.e. in full possession of the gift of eternal life, can still be cut off from the Body of Christ.


That verse is in John 15.  Jesus said: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower.  He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit […] I am the vine, you are the branches.  Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing.  Anyone who does not remain in me will be thrown out like a branch and wither; people will gather them and throw them into a fire and they will be burned.” (John 15:1-6)


Notice that Jesus is talking about those ones who are the branches while He is the vine.  The branches are part of the body of the vine.  These branches, these people therefore are in ‘full possession of the gift of eternal life’ by virtue of being members of the Body of Christ.  These ‘branches’, these ‘saved’ individuals though can still be taken away and burned (v.6).


Rest assured that if he ever comes back to start a new subject that I will bring back this exact exchange so that he might finally answer my question.  If he won’t then he will show his true colors to all the others who are reading along of his intentions of not of finding the truth but to avoid all that might confuse him of his current mindset that “Once Saved, Always Saved” must be correct.


And that is the reason that I continue in my efforts to evangelize on internet groups.  I don’t put so much time and effort in this to convince those that I’m talking to but for those many who might be reading along that I may not ever know are there.


God Bless


Thursday, April 23, 2015

The Good Shepherd

The image of the Good Shepherd seen in the Gospel reading is a powerful image of Jesus’ role. This powerful image is so abundant in the Old Testament that this short article cannot begin to recount all the references. Suffice it to say that the Hebrews were a nomadic-shepherd people, and the images of the lamb and the shepherd are woven in and through their story at every glance. From the beginning God himself is seen to be the shepherd of his people.

In Genesis 48 the old man Jacob, before blessing his sons, says that the Lord God of his fathers has been his shepherd his whole life long. The prophet Micah sees the people of Israel as "sheep without a shepherd," and the shepherd King David calls the Lord his shepherd (Ps 23 et al). The prophet Isaiah says that the sovereign Lord will "tend his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms, and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young" (Is 40:11).

The theme of the Lord being the Good Shepherd reaches its Old Testament climax in the Book of Ezekiel. Earlier, Jeremiah the prophet had raged against the corrupt leadership of the people of Israel. They were wicked and abusive shepherds, but in the Book of Ezekiel God himself promises to be the shepherd of his people Israel. 

So the Lord says,

As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on a day of clouds and darkness . . . I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak, but the sleek and the strong I will destroy. I will shepherd the flock with justice. (Ez 34:12,16)

Finally, the Lord’s servant, the Son of David, will come and be the shepherd of the lost flock.

I will save my flock, and they will no longer be plundered. I will judge between one sheep and another. I will place over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he will tend them; he will tend them and be their shepherd. I the Lord will be their God, and my servant David will be prince among them. (Ez 34:22-24)

One of the clearest signs, therefore, of Christ’s self-knowledge as the Son of God is when he calls himself the Good Shepherd. In story after story Jesus uses the image of the Good Shepherd to refer to his own ministry. He explicitly calls himself the Good Shepherd (Jn 10:11,14) who has come to the lost sheep of the house of Israel (Mt 15:24). He tells the story of the lost sheep, placing himself in the story as the divine Shepherd who fulfills Ezekiel’s prophecy (Lk 15). The author of the Letter to the Hebrews calls Christ the Great Shepherd of the Sheep (Heb 13:20). Peter calls Jesus the Shepherd and overseer of souls (1 Pt 2:25), and in the Book of Revelation, the Lamb on the throne is also the Shepherd of the lost souls (Rv 7:17).

When Jesus Christ, after his Resurrection, then solemnly instructs Peter to "feed my lambs, watch over my sheep, feed my sheep" (Jn 21:15-17), the ramifications are enormous. Throughout the Old Testament, God himself is understood to be the Good Shepherd. He promises to come and be the shepherd of his people through his servant David. When Jesus Christ, the Son of David, fulfills this prophecy, God’s promise is kept. Then before Jesus returns to heaven, he commands Peter to take charge of his pastoral ministry. Now Peter will undertake the role of Good Shepherd in Christ’s place.

The term ‘vicar’ derives from the fact that the vicar is a priest appointed to do a job in the stead of the official parish priest. One priest might oversee various parishes, and so he appoints vicars to do the job when he can’t be there.

Many non-Catholic Christians object to the pope being called the Vicar of Christ. But the word vicar simply stands for one who vicariously stands in for another person. A vicar is someone to whom a job is delegated. The three strands of biblical imagery—rock, steward, and shepherd—show in three different ways that Jesus intended Peter to exercise his ministry and authority here on earth—in other words, to act as his vicar.

The fact that there are three images is important because the authors of Scripture believed the number three to be one of the perfect numbers. A statement was most authoritative when it was expressed three times in three different ways.

We see this in the passage in John 21. Jesus gives his pastoral authority to Peter with three solemn commands: "Feed my lambs, take care of my sheep, feed my sheep." Here Jesus delegates his authority three times in three different ways, using imagery found throughout the Old Testament. In so doing he clearly reveals his delegation of authority to Peter.

History shows that from the earliest days Christians considered Peter to be the very rock, steward, and shepherd that Jesus proclaimed him to be. Furthermore, from the earliest days they considered his successor to be the Bishop of Rome, and that Bishop of Rome endures today as rock, steward, and shepherd—just a few hundred yards from the site of Peter’s death and burial.

Adapted from:

God Bless

Friday, April 17, 2015

Mercy Sunday Reflections

This past Sunday was Mercy Sunday.  Our priest gave a great homily on the necessity of the Mercy of God through the Sacrament of Confession but also for us, being members of the Body of Christ, our necessity of doing His work.  Works like feeding the hungry, clothing the poor, burying the dead and so on.


I was incredibly moved by his homily because when he began speaking on the need of protecting the defenseless I couldn't help but picture a young person in the womb whose heart is being stopped intentionally through abortion.  Who is more defenseless than a baby not yet born?  And what are we doing to defend him or her?  You see, a 6 week-old embryo is just that, a baby.  A young one but a baby nonetheless. 


This young one, this person who was conceived into this world only six weeks prior already has a beating heart.  This living organism is growing, therefore is alive.  Its parents are human beings therefore IT is a human being.  A living human being growing in the womb with its own distinct DNA, different from either of its parents.


Our call as Christians is to have mercy on those who need it.  This entails us to DO something to those who need our support and protection.  How much have we done to help these defenseless human beings from dying horribly?


These babies not only have a beating heart at 6 weeks gestation, they also develop earlobes, fingers, have a brain and can even move their limbs.  These babies even have fingernails by the end of the twelfth week of gestation which is the end of the first trimester when most abortions occur.  


Let us not neglect our Christian duty by ignoring this holocaust.  It is indeed a holocaust of massive proportions.  Around 6 million Jews died during those years while there are about 1.5 million abortions A YEAR in this country alone.  That comes to about 55 million dead babies since Roe v. Wade passed in 1973.


Let’s stand up and be counted.  Let’s do whatever we can to reduce the number of abortions a year by voting for those who have pro-life stands into office that they may institute pro-life laws.


God Bless

Wednesday, April 8, 2015


Are all of our sins—past, present, and future—forgiven once and for all when we become Christians? Not according to the Bible or the early Church Fathers. Scripture nowhere states that our future sins are forgiven; instead, it teaches us to pray, "And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors" (Matt. 6:12). 

The means by which God forgives sins after baptism is confession: "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9). Minor or venial sins can be confessed directly to God, but for grave or mortal sins, which crush the spiritual life out of the soul, God has instituted a different means for obtaining forgiveness—the sacrament known popularly as confession, penance, or reconciliation. 

This sacrament is rooted in the mission God gave to Christ in his capacity as the Son of man on earth to go and forgive sins (cf. Matt. 9:6). Thus, the crowds who witnessed this new power "glorified God, who had given such authority to men" (Matt. 9:8; note the plural "men"). After his resurrection, Jesus passed on his mission to forgive sins to his ministers, telling them, "As the Father has sent me, even so I send you. . . . Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained" (John 20:21–23). 

Since it is not possible to confess all of our many daily faults, we know that sacramental reconciliation is required only for grave or mortal sins—but it is required, or Christ would not have commanded it. 

Over time, the forms in which the sacrament has been administered have changed. In the early Church, publicly known sins (such as apostasy) were often confessed openly in church, though private confession to a priest was always an option for privately committed sins. Still, confession was not just something done in silence to God alone, but something done "in church," as the Didache (A.D. 70) indicates. 

Penances also tended to be performed before rather than after absolution, and they were much more strict than those of today (ten years’ penance for abortion, for example, was common in the early Church). 

But the basics of the sacrament have always been there, as the following quotations reveal. Of special significance is their recognition that confession and absolution must be received by a sinner before receiving Holy Communion, for "[w]hoever . . . eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord" (1 Cor. 11:27). 


The Didache
"Confess your sins in church, and do not go up to your prayer with an evil conscience. This is the way of life. . . . On the Lord’s Day gather together, break bread, and give thanks, after confessing your transgressions so that your sacrifice may be pure" (Didache 4:14, 14:1 [A.D. 70]). 


The Letter of Barnabas
"You shall judge righteously. You shall not make a schism, but you shall pacify those that contend by bringing them together. You shall confess your sins. You shall not go to prayer with an evil conscience. This is the way of light" (Letter of Barnabas 19 [A.D. 74]). 


Ignatius of Antioch
"For as many as are of God and of Jesus Christ are also with the bishop. And as many as shall, in the exercise of penance, return into the unity of the Church, these, too, shall belong to God, that they may live according to Jesus Christ" (Letter to the Philadelphians 3 [A.D. 110]). 

"For where there is division and wrath, God does not dwell. To all them that repent, the Lord grants forgiveness, if they turn in penitence to the unity of God, and to communion with the bishop" (ibid., 8). 


"[The Gnostic disciples of Marcus] have deluded many women. . . . Their consciences have been branded as with a hot iron. Some of these women make a public confession, but others are ashamed to do this, and in silence, as if withdrawing from themselves the hope of the life of God, they either apostatize entirely or hesitate between the two courses" (Against Heresies 1:22 [A.D. 189]). 

"When you shall have been baptized, keep to a good life in the commandments of God so that you may preserve your baptism to the very end. I do not tell you that you will live here without sin, but they are venial sins which this life is never without. Baptism was instituted for all sins. For light sins, without which we cannot live, prayer was instituted. . . . But do not commit those sins on account of which you would have to be separated from the body of Christ. Perish the thought! For those whom you see doing penance have committed crimes, either adultery or some other enormities. That is why they are doing penance. If their sins were light, daily prayer would suffice to blot them out. . . . In the Church, therefore, there are three ways in which sins are forgiven: in baptisms, in prayer, and in the greater humility of penance" (Sermon to Catechumens on the Creed 7:15, 8:16 [A.D. 395]). 

God Bless

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Proof of the Resurrection

Using the very early Christian writings as reliably historical records only and not inspired texts helps us to show that our belief in Christianity is not based solely on a book but on a man, a God-man Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. 


There is evidence that Jesus’ disciples had real experiences with one whom they believed was the risen Christ.  We find in 1 Cor 15:3-8 an ancient creed spoken by Paul to the Corinthians. 


For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born. (1 Cor 15:3-8 NIV)


This creed is generally agreed that Paul received it from Peter and James between 3 and 5 years after the crucifixion.  Since they are the ones who gave the creed to Paul, Jewish Scholar Pinchahs Lapide says this creed “may be considered the statement of eyewitnesses.”  Here’s something more to consider that is often overlooked from this passage.  The large number of witnesses of Christ after that resurrection morning, over 500 people is another statement worthy of consideration.  Paul reminds them that the majority of those people were still alive and could be questioned.  He says in effect, ‘If you don’t believe me, you can ask them.’  Such a statement in an admittedly genuine letter written within thirty years of the event is almost as strong evidence as one could hope to get for something that happened nearly two thousand years ago.


Just because the disciples think they saw Jesus though, doesn’t mean they really did.  There are three possible alternatives.


  1. They were lying
  2. They hallucinated
  3. They really saw the risen Christ
    Which of these is the most likely?  Were they lying?  If they were lying, it meant that the disciples knew that Jesus had not really risen, that they made up the story about the resurrection.  But then why did 10 of the disciples willingly die as martyrs for their belief in the resurrection?  People often die for a lie they believe is true.  But if Jesus did not rise, the disciples knew it.  They wouldn’t have just been dying for a lie that they mistakenly believed was true.  The disciples were willing to give up their lives for a lie they KNEW was a lie.  Ten people will not all give their lives for something they know to be a lie.
    To suggest that the disciples were lying is considered today by all prominent New Testament scholars as an absurd theory.  We can see why almost all scholars today admit that, if nothing else, the disciples at least believed that Jesus appeared to them.  But to believe something does not make it true.  Maybe the disciples were wrong and had been confused by an hallucination.
    The theory of mass hallucinations is another attempt at explaining the claims of the appearances of Jesus after the resurrection.  The disciples record eating and drinking with Jesus, as well as touching him.  This cannot be done with hallucinations.  Second, it is highly unlikely that they would all have had the same hallucination.  Hallucinations are highly individual, and not group projections.  And what about Paul’s conversion?  Was Paul, the persecutor of Christians, so hoping to see the resurrected Jesus that his mind invented an appearance as well?
    Since the disciples could not have been lying or hallucination, we have only one possible explanation left:  the disciples believed that they had seen the risen Jesus because they really had seen the risen Jesus.  So the resurrection appearances demonstrate the reality of the resurrection.  And the proof in the claim that Jesus called Himself God (John 8:58 referencing Exo 3:14) is found in the Resurrection.  He is Risen!
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    Written by a St. Denis parishioner.