Saturday, January 28, 2012

FMI Annual Congress Presentation 2 - Practically Apologetic Part I of V: St. Peter and Papal Authority

Photo: Cyrus D'Souza
Before we begin it’s important to point out that you will most commonly hear arguments against these things from fundamentalist Christians, i.e. those who subscribe to the “doctrine” of “Sola Scriptura” (Bible Alone) which basically means that these types of Christians believe that the Bible is the ONLY source of authority for faith and morals. So using scripture against THEM is going to be quite effective since they - on principle - can’t deny or reject it’s authority. So let's begin: 

St. Peter and the Papacy Peter - What’s in a name? 
As Catholics we know that St. Peter is the "rock" on which the Catholic Church is built (Matthew 16:18), but often anti-Catholics will argue that Catholics mis-translate the original text of the Gospel of Matthew to come to the "St. Peter the rock" conclusion. 

The most common anti-Catholic argument looks at the Greek translation of the Gospel of Matthew (the oldest known manuscript of the Gospel of Matthew is written in Greek but is believed to have been translated from Hebrew). The argument suggests that while Jesus did refer to St. Peter as "rock", it was akin to a type of rock that could be used as a foundation and that Jesus was in fact referring to himself as the foundation of the Church. Anti-Catholics believe that the Greek word used to describe St. Peter as "rock" was the feminite form (languages that are Latin or Greek based have "male" and "female" workds; a word ending in an 'o' is a masculine word and a word ending in an 'a' is feminine) "petra" which would translate to "small rock" "stone" or "pebble", so the anti-Catholic would argue that St. Peter couldn't possibly be the foundation of the Church because how could a "small rock" (et al) be the foundation of such an important institution like the Church? 

Let's read Matthew 16:18 and full and examine the problem with this argument. Note the specific use of the pronouns in the verse (bolded for emphasis): 

"And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it." - Matthew 16:18 

Jesus is talking to and referring to St. Peter rather acutely here, don't you think? What's further of note is that since Jesus was talking to St. Peter who was obviously a man, the Greek word used for rock would have been "petros", i.e. the Greek masculine derivative of "rock" not the feminine. 

What also needs to be taken into consideration - and this is the kicker - is the fact that Jesus would have been speaking to St. Peter in Aramaic. All credit for this tidbit of information goes straight to Karl Keating, by the way; I didn't know about this part until I read it in his books. We'll do this bit in steps: 

1. The Greek word for "stone", "pebble" or "little rock" is "lithos" not "petra" or "petros"; 
2. The Aramaic word for "stone", "pebble" or "little rock" is "evna"; 
3. The Aramaic word for "rock" is "kepha" ("cephas" in Hebrew). 

"What's your proof?" the anti-Catholic might then ask. 

Don't forget that St. Peter's name wasn't always "Peter"; he was a "Simon" before that and was sometimes referred to as Simon-Peter. the Gospel of John emphasises this name change and notes the translation from Hebrew to Greek (bolded for emphasis): 

"One of the two who heard John speak, and followed him, was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother. He first found his brother Simon, and said to him, 'We have found the Messiah' (which means Christ). He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him, and said, 'So you are Simon the son of John? You shall be called Cephas' (which means Peter)." - John 1:40-42 

Want more (these are just a handful)? 

"As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon who is called Peter and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen." - Matthew 4:18 

"The names of the twelve apostles are these: first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zeb'edee, and John his brother" - Matthew 10:2 

"Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest's slave and cut off his right ear. The slave's name was Malchus." - John 18:10 


Authority - the significance of the keys 
The verse of scripture that will shock the nerve of the anti-Catholic's brain, no doubt, is the use of Matthew 16:18-19 when used in defence of the establishment of the Catholic Church and the primacy of St. Peter, the first pope. This is what Matthew 16:18-19 says: 

"And I say to thee: That thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven. And whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose upon earth, it shall be loosed also in heaven." 

It's verse 19 that I want to pay particular attention to in this blog entry, however, namely because there is a significance behind the handing on of the "keys to the kingdom", and for Peter the responsibility being the key bearer entails. Let's explore the significance in layman's terms first. 

When someone is given the "keys to the city" (traditionally an American custom) in contemporary times, it is because they have done something to earn them, i.e. they are awarded the keys to the city in recognition of some sort of achievement or accomplishment. It's not uncommon today for olympic athletes, humanitarians, civil servants, etc., to receive the keys to the city. In medieval times when when walled cities were guarded during the day and locked at night, key bearers could enter and leave the city as they pleased as trusted friends of city residents. 

In more simpler terms, let's say I go away for a while and I need someone to look after my house while I'm gone, I'm going to give my house keys to someone I trust without reservation, right? My house holds my treasures and while I'm not physically present, I would the "best person for the job" to be my key bearer. I might even trust the person enough to have a house key cut for them so that they may enter my home any time if they so desire. A person entrusted with a key to another person's home, obviously, must be responsible and must not abuse this privilege, much like in the case of the key bearer in medieval times. 

The key bearer's role was authoritative as the honour of being the key bearer brought with it culpability and responsibility. 

And now, the scriptural significance of the "keys to the kingdom". 

In Isaiah chapter 22, the prophet (Isaiah) laments the devastation of Judah. He foretells the deprivation of Sobna ("Shebna" in other translations), and the substitution of Eliacim ("Eliakim" in other translations) as steward of the kingdom: 

"And I will drive thee out From thy station, and depose thee from thy ministry. And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will call my servant Eliacim the son of Helcias, And I will clothe him with thy robe, and will strengthen him with thy girdle, and will give thy power into his hand: and he shall be as a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to the house of Juda. And I will lay the key of the house of David upon his shoulder: and he shall open, and none shall shut: and he shall shut, and none shall open." - Isaiah 22:19-22 (D-R) 

Broken down, verse by verse (http://www.scripturecatholic.com/the_church.html#the_church-III; John Salza, 2001-2007): 

Isaiah 22:19 - Shebna is described as having an "office" and a "station." An office, in order for it to be an office, has successors. In order for an earthly kingdom to last, a succession of representatives is required. This was the case in the Old Covenant kingdom, and it is the case in the New Covenant kingdom which fulfills the Old Covenant. Jesus our King is in heaven, but He has appointed a chief steward over His household with a plan for a succession of representatives. 

Isaiah 22:20 - In the old Davidic kingdom, Eliakim succeeds Shebna as the chief steward of the household of God. The kingdom employs a mechanism of dynastic succession. King David was dead for centuries, but his kingdom is preserved through a succession of representatives. 

Isaiah 22:21 - Eliakim is called “father” or “papa” of God's people. The word Pope used by Catholics to describe the chief steward of the earthly kingdom simply means papa or father in Italian. This is why Catholics call the leader of the Church "Pope." The Pope is the father of God's people, the chief steward of the earthly kingdom and Christ's representative on earth. 

Isaiah 22:22 - we see that the keys of the kingdom pass from Shebna to Eliakim. Thus, the keys are used not only as a symbol of authority, but also to facilitate succession. The keys of Christ's kingdom have passed from Peter to Linus all the way to our current Pope with an unbroken lineage for almost 2,000 years. 

St. Peter, in Matthew 16:18-19 was named, under the authority of Christ the Lord himself, steward of the seat of the earthly kingdom of heaven, what would be the visible sign to the world that Christ dwells with us still and that his message is to be heard by and disciples made of all nations and that all may be baptised in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19). 

Many anti-Catholics will argue that St. Peter is not the foundation of the church, but Christ is. This is an argument of semantics: Christ is the foundation of Christendom; Christianity. St. Peter, however, as it tells us quite clearly in Matthew 16:18, is the foundation, the rock, on which Christ builds his church! 

Think of it this way: Jesus is the project manager, and St. Peter is the contractor. Jesus gives St. Peter the authority to build ("And whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose upon earth, it shall be loosed also in heaven", Matthew 16:19) and St. Peter and the disciples are given instructions (Matthew 28:19-20) and guidance (John 14:23-29) to expand their developments throughout the world ("...called 'Catholic' because it extends over all the world, from one end of the earth to the other" - Cyril of Jerusalem, 315-386AD). 

Elucidation: The key symbolises trust and authority, ergo, the keys to the kingdom of heaven are given to one that is most trusted, a "first among firsts", a reliable and beloved character, and this character is given binding authority. 

And note the wording of Isaiah 22:22... 

"... And I will lay the key of the house of David upon his shoulder: and he shall open, and none shall shut: and he shall shut, and none shall open." 

Jesus Christ is himself of the House of David, and these keys in the New Testament were given to St. Peter. St. Peter (and successive popes) acts as a steward for this kingdom until Christ's return and has been given the authority to "bind and loose" or as it is termed in Isaiah 22, to "open and shut". 

There is no authority greater than that given by the Lord Jesus Christ, and for almost 2000 years the key has been passed on from one pope to the other, starting with St. Peter and now sitting with Pope Benedict XVI. This is why the Vatican's own flag has a set of keys on its canvas: The Church on which the successor of St. Peter sits, to this day carries out the instructions given by Christ and will do so until the day of Christ's return. 

The Church remains a light to the world (Matthew 5:14), giving witness to the good news that Christ and the heavenly Father desires for all men (sic.) to hear and allowing his Holy Spirit to work in each of us, so that the heavenly kingdom may be filled with souls filled with love for God, made possible with the price His Son paid for us and our salvation. 

"That they all may be one, as thou, Father, in me, and I in thee; that they also may be one in us; that the world may believe that thou hast sent me." - John 17:21

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

FMI Annual Congress Presentation 1 - Apologetics: What it is and why we need it


It is an unfortunate reality that a majority of Catholics in the world today cannot adequately explain and defend the faith that they hold dear to. Catholics are very good at "being" Catholic, but there are those in the world today who want nothing more than for Catholics churches around the world to have empty pews and Catholics must be able to make a solid defense.

Apologetics. What is it and why we need it. Before I get into the meat of this presentation I want to share a little bit about myself to give you some context. I am, as the program indicates, an apologist. I wasn’t always an apologist; so let me tell you where it all began.

I was born and raised in a traditional Catholic Maltese family. Malta, as you may or may not be aware, was one of the many places St. Paul visited in his journeys, but with Malta he was shipwrecked. Let me read to you this account found in the Book of Acts, just after St. Paul had been delivered as prisoner to a centurion named Julius in Acts 27:

“After we had escaped, we then learned that the island was called Malta. And the natives showed us unusual kindness, for they kindled a fire and welcomed us all, because it had begun to rain and was cold. Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks and put them on the fire, when a viper came out because of the heat and fastened on his hand. When the natives saw the creature hanging from his hand, they said to one another, ‘No doubt this man is a murderer. Though he has escaped from the sea, justice has not allowed him to live.’ He, however, shook off the creature into the fire and suffered no harm. They waited, expecting him to swell up or suddenly fall down dead; but when they had waited a long time and saw no misfortune come to him, they changed their minds and said that he was a god.” - Acts 28:1-6

And they since that day that the vipers (the snakes) In Malta have never since been venomous.

Malta, prior to the visit of St. Paul was a pagan nation; a place of many gods from the Neolithic age. The Maltese were devout and highly superstitious yet Christianity influenced the Maltese people very quickly and deeply. So much so that up until a matter of years ago, Malta was 100 per cent Catholic (nowadays it’s more like 90 per cent); Catholicism is the official religion of the country. Malta was a country untouched and unaffected by the Protestant Reformation. The Maltese remain devout to the Catholic faith and the only challenge they face in this era is globalisation; the influence of non-Catholic Christian faith traditions and non-Christian religions, i.e. Islam. By the grace of God Malta overcame the Ottoman invasion in 1565AD thanks to the Knights Hospitallers and the Spanish Empire. Malta’s Catholic way of life was under siege and under threat. The Knights Hospitallers - also known as the Knights of the Order of St. John, of which I am a descendant - defended that Catholic faith of the island and people of Malta.

So this is my history; I am descendant of Catholic knights; defenders of the Catholic faith. And as I went through the years I found myself defending myself in a variety of ways. As a school kid I was bullied for being “odd” or “different”, and as a young Catholic I defended my devotion to my faith. At this very Catholic College, I was mocked and ridiculed for attending Mass every Friday morning before classes and I was even mocked for choosing to read the Bible during free time in Religious Education classes! As a matter of fact by the time graduation came around I was voted the one most likely to become a priest, something I wish I had taken as a compliment at the time. This was and is the kind of world we live in; we are under attack for merely practicing our faith! But more about that in a moment; more on how I came to be an apologist…

I’ve always had a love for fact and for truth. I remember as a youngster being handed a book by my mother. It wasn’t a book about Christianity or religion; the title was ‘1000 Questions and Answers’. And as the title suggests there was in that book 1000 questions and answers. During school holidays and weekends when my brothers were either fighting over the Commodore 64 or fighting outside over who had to get the cricket ball that landed over the fence, I was reading that book. I must have read that book from cover to cover a dozen times whilst I had it and took in pretty much everything. I could tell you when the Battle of Hastings was (1066AD), when the Gutenburg Press was invented (1439AD), and when the Chinese invented and utilised gun powder (9th century AD), etc., etc. I was and still am a seeker and lover of truth and this is why I am madly and deeply passionate about my Catholic faith today; I am a lover of Catholic truth.

Now speaking of defense of the Catholic faith - and I know you’ve been waiting to hear it now - the answer to the pressing question: What is apologetics?

The word “apologetics” comes from the Greek word “apologia” which - when translated literally form classical Greek - means “to give reason” or “to give a defense”. So the next time your spouse does something wrong and offers an apology with a simple “sorry”, you tell them “No… not good enough; I want an explanation!” But no, an apologist is not someone who goes around saying “sorry” for being Catholic. “Hi, I’m Catholic… sorry!” or “Sorry; I’m Catholic”. No! A Catholic apologist is someone who gives reason or gives a defense for the Catholic faith; they explain and defend Catholicism because Catholicism has many critics and many enemies. Do I need to give a few examples? Where do I start?

- Atheists;
- Agnostics;
- Non-Catholic Christians;
- Secular society; and
- Particular forms of government

… just to name a few, and we might brand these group under the title of “anti-Catholic”. But it’s not just enemies outside of the city gates that criticise and attack. How many of you have had fellow Catholics attack a particular doctrine or discipline of the Church? So yes: even our Catholic brothers and sisters may call us to give a defense, and on what matters? And these are Catholics who may have been poorly taught and catechised over the years, or simply have not bothered to seek out the answers themselves from a reliable Catholic source.

The questions may be about why Catholics have to go to Mass every Sunday, why the Holy See has apparently “done nothing” (and they have taken measures) about clergy found guilty of sexual abuse, or why the Church apparently hates gay people (for the record, it doesn't; we're just opposed to homosxual behaviour and other sins, the things that Christ came to save us from).

Unfortunately the people asking these questions have not even bothered to go to a reliable Catholic source for the answer. They move with the grain; they follow the popular media, they would rather listen to a well-meaning, softly spoken, concerned, and Jesus-loving, “I just wanna help you get saved” anti-Catholic than an educated Catholic him or herself! They’re worried about Catholic “bias”. Excuse me?!? What about the anti-Catholic bias? And since when was “bias” such a dirty thing? I am a biased Catholic because I love my Catholic Church biasedly! I’m pro-Catholic! Amen??

Let me put this in perspective just on the whole “bias thing”: if you’re sick and you go to a doctor, you’re going to want to find out what’s wrong with you; the doctor is going to be biased because he or she knows what they’re talking about! You’re there for the truth, right?!? If I don’t hear what I like I’m not going to accuse the doctor of being biased; all I want as a seeker of truth is accuracy and consistency, and if more questions spring from my original questions then Amen… a further opportunity for me to learn and understand more. And isn’t that what we want? Answers? The truth? Don’t let Jack Nicholson fool you; YOU CAN HANDLE THE TRUTH! You wouldn’t be seeking it in the first place if you thought you couldn’t handle it. And if it’s not what you wanted to hear, deal with it, because I promise you it’s a golden opportunity to ask more questions. As scripture says:

“And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” - John 8:32

And they don’t speak about the Catholic Church as having the “fullness of truth” right? Amen? And being of the “fullness of faith”? Amen?



So why apologetics? What’s the scriptural motivation for it? I can guarantee you that your average atheist or anti-Catholic would prefer for Catholics to just be seen and not heard, like that old adage: “live and let live”. I’m sorry, but that just screams “I choose to sit on the fence” to me. Guess who owns the fence, folks, and it’s not God! But scripture - and not to mention the Church herself (it is in fact Church law)- actually exhorts us to defend our faith and have answers for those who bring it to question:

“… but in your hearts reverence Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to make a defense to any one who calls you to account for the hope that is in you, yet do it with gentleness and reverence.” - 1 Peter 3:15

And I’ll talk about that “gentleness and reverence” a bit later, but Church law - and I’ve become somewhat of a geek for canon law over the last few months, and when I read this I just about jumped out of my socks:

Can. 748 §1 All are bound to seek the truth in the matters which concern God and his Church; when they have found it, then by divine law they are bound, and they have the right, to embrace and keep it. 

That’s the “always be prepared…” part. As Catholics we have an obligation to seek truth in Catholic matters. How many of you can honestly say that you proactively seek for the truth? Do you go out of your way? Do you search unrelentingly? Unfortunately many Catholics today are perfectly content with “coasting along”. If the majority of us Catholics are good at anything, it’s being sacramental, i.e. going to Mass and receiving the Eucharist, getting married in the Catholic Church, attending Confession, and so on, but do the majority of the Catholics know why they should be doing these things? Imagine if one day you’re asked by an anti-Catholic of some stripe and they ask you, “Why do you attend the Catholic Mass?” Guess what: responding to them with just “Because I want to” as noble and admirable as that answer may be, it’s not enough! Right now I want a Double Whopper with Cheese but that doesn’t tell you why I want one. Always be prepared …

Can. 748 §2 It is never lawful for anyone to force others to embrace the catholic faith against their conscience. 

This is the “… yet do it with gentleness and reverence” part. To force someone to be Catholic is not what apologetics is all about or how evangelisation works. Apologetics is about presenting the truth; winning debates and arguments in pursuit of the truth, yes, but straight talking truth. Nothing more, nothing less. Present the facts, and do it respectfully. I’ve seen other Catholics engage in debates and while they were knowledgeable, they were downright arrogant and belittled the other person. Jesus didn’t win anyone over by being rude; he was quick and witty, yes, but he spoke the truth; the bare bones truth; that’s how he won hearts over. For us, we present the truth and make an attempt to make others fully Catholic on an intellectual level; the Holy Spirit does the rest.

So why do we need apologetics? So many are opposed to Catholicism today both on an intellectual and spiritual level. We need fired up Catholics to defend the faith in the spirit that the Church exhorts all its faithful, that is to know your religion and always be prepared to make a defense in a gentle and reverent manner. And the key to apologetics is not to know everything, but even to know a few things very well and work with those; you can always learn more later. And if there ever is something you don’t know about, don’t side step the question. You will win hearts over sooner by being honest, and believe me: even in my years of teaching I’ve had to use this one a few times. It’s as simple as saying, “I don’t know the answer to that question right now, but I’m going to find the answer for you”. The trademark of a good apologist is their desire to always want to know and learn more. And to conclude I would like to leave you with something Bishop Fulton J. Sheen once said which sums up the need to defend our Catholic faith today:

“There are not more than 100 people in the world who truly hate the Catholic Church, but there are millions who hate what they perceive to be the Catholic Church.”

Amen.

Audio of my presentations and others from the congress will be available for purchase from the Flame Ministries International online store very, very soon.

Monday, January 16, 2012

I know a guy who knows a guy: Sticking up for the Saints...



Another day another encounter with an anti-Catholic who thinks they know it all about our faith. It was a Facebook discussion with a pastor based in the USA; I'm going to show it to you here with his name changed (I'll call him "Caecus" for all intensive purposes) to as to avoid any embarrassment on his end. And why am I being that kind to him? Well he is, after all, the pastor of some church in the USA and you'll notice throughout the dialogue his repeated requests to debate via email. What has he got to hide, I wonder? I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed taking part in this lively discussion. By my own admission, I was a tad aggressive in this discussion, but I pictured myself as an impassioned boxer jumping out of the corner pumped up and landing kidney punches on an opponent shielding their face. Anyway, you be the judge. I'd appreciate your feedback.


Caecus: Roman Catholics do pray to saints. They are taught that they, those who pray, are not worthy to approach God themselves, so they, Roman Catholic Church followers, are taught to pray to the saints to intercede for them. But, you know what? I believe that in God's infinite mercy, He hears their prayers because they are not responsible for what they are taught. "No one goes beyond what they are taught." 


Stephen Spiteri: Caecus, where are you getting that information from? I'm a Catholic and it's complete news to me. As Catholics we are fully aware that it is God alone who hears all and answers all prayers, but this does not mean that we cannot have others praying for us. We are, as we read in Hebrews, "... surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses..." (Hebrews 12:1) and who are these "witnesses"? They are they angels and the saints; those who are fully united with Christ in Heaven. And how do they pray for us? God allows them to, for God is God of the living, not the dead (Luke 20:38). Does St. Paul no ask others to pray for him in his letters to Timothy (1 Timothy 2:1-8)? If mere earthly men have the power to pray for others, then why should there be an impediment to those united with Christ in Heaven to pray for us also?


Caecus: Stephen, I'm sorry if I offended you. It wasn't my intention. I lived in a Roman Catholic boarding school upstate NY and in the Dominican Republic. I know all about Roman Catholicism. My information comes from experience. I am not surprise all of this "is complete news to you." Incidently, we are all "catholics," but we are not all Roman Catholic. You are Roman Catholic & I respect it and identify with you because I was one once as well and most devoted. I was an altar boy throughout all of my childhood and came to a knowledge of God's Word via a Roman Catholic priest. There's a big difference between being "catholic" and being a "Roman Catholic.". We have doctrinal differences in reference to the cloud of witnesses and all that. email me & I will tell you more about our doctrinal differences.


Stephen Spiteri: Btw, I've been to Norway but that doesn't make me an expert on things Norwegian. When it comes to Catholicism, I've been a Catholic all of my life, I have a degree in theology and I teach theology. Wouldn't it be more fair on someone to learn about Catholicism from someone with these sort of credentials as opposed to a person with mere "experience"? And I say that will all due respect; no offense intended. 


Caecus: Stephen, my most deared brother in Christ, I too have a degree in theology and I am an ordained minister. But, please,I much welcome a topical discussion on doctrine via email, not of FB. And you are right, I may not have the Roman Catholic based training/credentials. but wouldn't your guidance be biased as opposed to instructions from someone who has uh.. experiencial knowledge on Roman Catholicism and an extensive knowledge on Scripture?


Caecus: Please email me Stephen. Thanks.


Stephen Spiteri: I'm not going to accuse a doctor of being biased when he's trying to figure out what's wrong with me, Caecus; all I want is accuracy and consistency.


Stephen Spiteri: P.S. My knowledge of scripture is also quite extensive. 


Caecus: I know. I think it would be profitable for us to communicate (via email) and discuss these issues inteligently and calmly. I choose to believe there is enough respect between us to be able to agree to disagree if not change thinking patterns when the obvious is logically and intelligently presented.


Stephen Spiteri: I understand what you're asking, Caecus, but here's what's puzzling me: you keep making requests to discuss matters of doctrine in private via email, yet you were rather acute and transparent in discussing doctrine pertaining to the Catholic understanding of the saints, furthermore you make Catholics sound oblivious and ignorant with comments such as "He hears their prayers because they are not responsible for what they are taught".


Stephen Spiteri: You've misrepresented the Catholic faith publicly, and I made an effort to correct that representation publicly.


Caecus: Misrepresented? That is not the term I would use to describe how I ansewerd a question presented on a public forum.


Stephen Spiteri: If you're speaking for someone (or a group of people) and if the information you have presented is false or inaccurate, then that - in my humble opinion - warrants a misrepresentation.


Caecus: I am not speaking on behalf of any group. And it is YOUR opinion my information is false and inacurate. Why would I need a saint to speak to God on my behalf when I can & much rather do it myself. I only need & have one advocate Jesus Christ (I John 2:1)


Stephen Spiteri: To be very frank, Caecus, it is YOUR opinion that the information you have supplied is true and accurate, but let me entertain your question for a moment. Based on that premise, you shouldn't then ask any of your friends, family, loved ones, etc. to pray for you for anything since you they seem to interfere with Christ's advocacy.


Stephen Spiteri: And Caecus, I say this will all due respect, but when you effectively say "... this is what Catholics do/believe" you ARE speaking on behalf of all Catholics. Don't be naive, sir.


Caecus: email me Stephen, email me.


Stephen Spiteri: What do you have to hide, Caecus? What do you have to say that cannot be said here? 


Caecus: It is your opinion the information is false and inacurate. Why would I need a saint to speak to God on my behalf when I much rather and can do it myself? The only advocate I need and have is Jesus Christ (1 John 2:1)


Stephen Spiteri: I can play the copy and paste game too, Caecus. As Catholics we are fully aware that it is God alone who hears all and answers all prayers, but this does not mean that we cannot have others praying for us. We are, as we read in Hebrews, "... surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses..." (Hebrews 12:1) and who are these "witnesses"? They are they angels and the saints; those who are fully united with Christ in Heaven. And how do they pray for us? God allows them to, for God is God of the living, not the dead (Luke 20:38). Does St. Paul no ask others to pray for him in his letters to Timothy (1 Timothy 2:1-8)? If mere earthly men have the power to pray for others, then why should there be an impediment to those united with Christ in Heaven to pray for us also?


Caecus: Now you are being offensive.


Stephen Spiteri: And for the record: NO Catholic is explicitly taught or told that they MUST pray to the saints. We believe it is efficacious to but it is not mandatory. "Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man has great power in its effects" (James 5:16).


Caecus: Hide? you are being offensive. The definition or Roman Catholic rendering of the word "saints" is different from the Biblical definition.


Stephen Spiteri: There are two different understandings/uses of the word "saints". There are the living saints - Christians - whose desire it is to be sanctified in the Lord; and then there are the saints in Heaven who HAVE been sanctified in the Lord and made fully holy in communion with Christ.


* * * * *


Pax vobiscum.

Saturday, January 07, 2012

A pre-figurement of the Trinitatian blessing


At Mass last Sunday when I wasn't being distracted by my son, I was able to catch the First Reading and absorb it. With a fire lit in my heart I returned home and went straight to my Bible to have a closer read of the passage, from Numbers (parts bolded for emphasis):


"The LORD said to Moses, 'Say to Aaron and his sons, Thus you shall bless the people of Israel: you shall say to them, The LORD bless you and keep you: The LORD make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you: The LORD lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace. So shall they put my name upon the people of Israel, and I will bless them.'" - Numbers 6:22-27


Segmented:


1. "The LORD bless you and keep you"
2. "The LORD make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you"
3. "The LORD lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace"


When I had a closer look at this blessing, I couldn't help but notice the orchestration of it and how it appears to be a pre-figurement of the Trinitarian blessing and in itself represents Trinity: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Here's how by lining them up with New Testament verses of scripture:


1. "The LORD bless you and keep you" - The Father: "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God." - 2 Corinthians 1:3-4


2. "The LORD make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you" - The Son: "And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain apart. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his garments became white as light." - Matthew 17:`-1


3. "The LORD lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace" - The Holy Spirit: "For the kingdom of God is not food and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit." - Romans 14:17


Further to this, we read in verse 27 of Numbers 6 that "... they shall put my name upon the people of Israel, and I will bless them". What is it that we do as Catholics before we pray, begin the Mass, etc.? We make the Sign of the Cross; we pray in the name of the Father, in the name of the Son, and in the name of the Holy Spirit. Prayer is made in the name of God acknowledging the distinct personhoods of His triune being; we are blessed and have the name of the Lord put upon ourselves.


Neat, huh?


"Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and for ever." - Hebrews 13:8


Amen.