Sunday, February 28, 2016

Fruits of the Fig

In the Church, we are made children of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob - the God who makes known His name and His ways to Moses in today's First Reading.

Mindful of His covenant with Abraham (see
 Exodus 2:24), God came down to rescue His people from the slave-drivers of Egypt. Faithful to that same covenant (see Luke 1:54-5572-73), He sent Jesus to redeem all lives from destruction, as today's Psalm tells us.

Paul says in today's Epistle that God's saving deeds in the Exodus were written down for the Church, intended as a prelude and foreshadowing of our own Baptism by water, our liberation from sin, our feeding with spiritual food and drink.

Yet the events of the Exodus were also given as a "warning" - that being children of Abraham is no guarantee that we will reach the promised land of our salvation.

At any moment, Jesus warns in today's Gospel, we could perish - not as God's punishment for being "greater sinners" - but because, like the Israelites in the wilderness, we stumble into evil desires, fall into grumbling, forget all His benefits.

Jesus calls us today to "repentance" - not a one-time change of heart, but an ongoing, daily transformation of our lives. We're called to live the life we sing about in today's Psalm - blessing His holy name, giving thanks for His kindness and mercy.

The fig tree in His parable is a familiar Old Testament symbol for Israel (see 
Jeremiah 8:324:1-10). As the fig tree is given one last season to produce fruit before it is cut down, so too Jesus is giving Israel one final opportunity to bear good fruits as evidence of its repentance (see Luke 3:8).

Lent should be for us like the season of reprieve given to the fig tree, a grace period in which we let "the gardener," Christ, cultivate our hearts, uprooting what chokes the divine life in us, strengthening us to bear fruits that will last into eternity.

Yours in Christ,
Scott Hahn, PhD

Thursday, February 18, 2016

The Glory in Sight

The Glory in Sight: Scott Hahn Reflects on the Second Sunday of Lent


In today's Gospel, we go up to the mountain with Peter, John and James. There we see Jesus "transfigured," speaking with Moses and Elijah about His "exodus."

The Greek word "exodus" means "departure." But the word is chosen deliberately here to stir our remembrance of the Israelites' flight from Egypt.

By His death and resurrection, Jesus will lead a new Exodus - liberating not only Israel but every race and people; not from bondage to Pharaoh, but from slavery to sin and death. He will lead all mankind, not to the territory promised to Abraham in today's First Reading, but to the heavenly commonwealth that Paul describes in today's Epistle.

Moses, the giver of God's law, and the great prophet Elijah, were the only Old Testament figures to hear the voice and see the glory of God atop a mountain (see
 Exodus 24:15-181 Kings 19:8-18).

Today's scene closely resembles God's revelation to Moses, who also brought along three companions and whose face also shone brilliantly (see Exodus 24:1;34:29). But when the divine cloud departs in today's Gospel, Moses and Elijah are gone. Only Jesus remains. He has revealed the glory of the Trinity - the voice of the Father, the glorified Son, and the Spirit in the shining cloud.

Jesus fulfills all that Moses and the prophets had come to teach and show us about God (see
 Luke 24:27). He is the "chosen One" promised by Isaiah (see Isaiah 42:1; Luke 23:35), the "prophet like me" that Moses had promised (see Deuteronomy 18:15; Acts 3:22-23; 7:37). Far and above that, He is the Son of God (see Psalm 2:7; Luke 3:21-23).

"Listen to Him,"the Voice tells us from the cloud. If, like Abraham, we put our faith in His words, one day we too will be delivered into "the land of the living" that we sing of in today's Psalm. We will share in His resurrection, as Paul promises, our lowly bodies glorified like His.

Scott Hahn, PhD

Friday, February 12, 2016

Contracept or Not

What to do?  Is it ok to use artificial methods of contraception?  That can be a difficult question to answer honestly and objectively looking at both sides of the issue.  Many love the convenience of artificial birth control and therefore neglect to objectively evaluate the pros and cons of artificial birth control for fear of what they might find.  Today, this author will try to remedy this situation by looking at the reasons why we shouldn’t be using artificial contraception.

At first I avoided the issue of an authoritative Church because I knew what the Catholic Church taught on the subject of contraceptive use.  And in this way I could claim ignorance of Her authority, I never took the time to find out why she taught as She did.  I was fooling myself that I wasn’t doing anything wrong.  For we Catholics know that to use contraception is against the teachings of the Church on moral grounds.  God joined the aspect of unity between two married people with the aspect of procreation in a single act of marital love.  What God has joined together let no man separate.

Then, one day I took the bull by the horns and looked at why the Catholic Church taught what She did on the issue.  I could deny it no longer and told my wife that I no longer believed in artificial contraceptive use. 

There are many Scriptural reasons why using contraception is wrong, the main verse demonstrating the misuse of the mans seed making the sex act infertile (spilling it on the ground as seen in Genesis 38:9-10) was the withdrawal method and in doing so the man was killed for it.  Now some will tell you that Onan was killed because 1)he did not produce offspring for his deceased brother and that’s why God killed him.  And others will tell you that it was because 2)he did not do as Jacob, his father, had told him to do.  But that is simply not the case. 

First let us look at the passage in question:

Then Judah said to Onan (Judah’s son), Go into your brother's wife(Tamar) and do what it is right for a husband's brother to do; make her your wife and get offspring for your brother.  But Onan, seeing that the offspring would not be his, went in to his brother's wife, but let his seed go on to the earth, so that he might not get offspring for his brother.  And what he did was evil in the eyes of the Lord, so that he put him to death, like his brother. (Gen 38:8-10)

What we see here is a brothers duty to produce an offspring with the wife of a dead brother, this duty is called the levirate law.  Both in Gen 38:8-10, the Onan incident, and in Deuteronomy (hereafter Deut) 25:7-10 we find someone refusing to give offspring to their dead brothers wife.  And yet one is killed the other is not.  The difference in methods on how these men refused to give offspring will determine the reason for the difference in penalty.  The man in Deut. simply did not take the woman and therefore avoided giving offspring while Onan did take her and spilled his seed to avoid giving offspring.  The spilling of seed is the difference in the act and explains the difference in penalty.  Death instead of humiliation.

In fact any misuse of the mans seed is extremely condemned by God.  We find that any spilling of the seed in any unsuitable receptacle (ie inhospitable to the propagation of life) brings about the penalty of death.  The penalty for a man to lie with a man as with a woman is death and yet nowhere in Scripture do we see such a penalty for two women.  Levitical Law tells us that the wasting of seed with non-regenerative sexual acts warrants death, even the wasting of animal seed warrants death(Lev 18:22-23; 20:13).  That’s why there is no such death penalty anywhere in Scripture for the sexual pleasure of two women…because there is no wasted seed.

This idea of wasting seed to be sinful can be seen in mountains of Christian writings from the very beginnings of Christianity itself.  But today I’d like to ask a simple question.  Since the use of contraception was condemned as going against God’s law by Christians for over 2000 years, why would we now believe that God changed His mind on the subject? Since we know that God doesn’t change when reading Malachi 9:6 “For I am the Lord, and I change not”.  What was a truth of God revealed to man 2000 years ago will remain the same today. 

God Bless

Monday, February 8, 2016

Purgatory, where's that in the Bible?

              It’s true the word Purgatory does not come up once in the Bible.  But that’s not a reason for rejecting the idea.  The word Trinity appears nowhere in the Bible but no one denies that it is taught throughout the Holy Writ.  Catholics simply contend the same for the doctrine of Purgatory.

              How do you explain the doctrine of Purgatory to a Christian who confronts you with it?  It seems that the Protestant Christian believes that one is saved once you accept Jesus into your heart as you personal Lord and Savior (the born-again experience).  This born-again experience can be explained as different processes already done in our Catholic life: How much better to accept Jesus then to take Him onto our tongues and into our very beings when swallowing the Eucharist? 

              Jesus’ salvific work was complete once He died on the cross.  He offered Himself up as the perfect sacrifice for our sins.  Jesus’ earthly work is complete, we need only ask with a perfectly repentant heart and our sins are forgiven.  But what happens to our souls when we sin?  Sinning ‘stains’ our soul, or it ‘muddies’ the soul, it becomes harder to see God through those stains, through the mud caused by our sins.  The water in the mud is pure, but the floating dirt dims God’s rays of sunshine.  Whenever you ask forgiveness with a contrite heart, you shall be forgiven, but the soul is still stained, still muddied from that sin.  There is restitution to be done as we see in Luke 12:59 “…I say to you, you will not be released until you have paid the last penny”.  To ‘clean’ yourself up you need to do penance (ie. Do good works for the Glory of God, read Scripture, say some prayers, etc…).  These deeds are to be done only to bring you closer to God, they are not technically needed for your salvation.  If you do not ‘cleans’ yourself perfectly in this life, God shall finish the job of your perfectedness by trial by fire as in 1 Cor 3:15 “But if someone’s work is burned up, that one will suffer loss (pain); the person will be saved, but only as through fire.”  You need to be perfectly ‘clean’ before you can enter into the presence of God (Rev 21:27).

              Most of us will never reach a level of perfect union with God in our lifetimes.  How then can you ensure your salvation?  You are saved!  Nothing can change that short of committing a mortal sin without repenting before the end of your earthly life.  Purgatory is just a way-station to clean up your stained soul before meeting the Father.  There is nowhere to be read that this process is instantaneous or that it has a duration.  There is no way to deny either lengths of time.  Both Protestants and Catholics agree that absolute holiness is necessary to enter heaven.  Disagreements arise when the question of duration comes up.

              How long does this purification, or sanctification take?  Some Protestants believe it is instantaneous, while Catholics believe that there is a possibility of duration involved in the sanctification process.  It seems that Catholics and Protestants believe the same thing but name it differently.  Because does anybody know how time works in the afterlife?  How is time viewed in light of eternity?  Nobody really knows, and whether it is instantaneous or not, Catholics name this process of cleansing as purgatory.

God Bless