How Rediscovering the “Plot” of Sacred Scripture is Essential to Evangelization | Archdiocese of Washington

One of the most significant losses in the modern era has been the loss of the Biblical narrative in the hearts and minds of most people. Scripture is the story of the human family, told by God himself. In story form He tells us how we were made and why, what happened why that things are the way they are today. Why do we have infinite longing in a finite world? Why do we struggle with sin so much? How can we be rescued from sin and death and find our hearts true satisfaction? The Biblical narrative answers these sorts of questions and more.

Read more . . .

Transformative Preachers: Hildegard of Bingen and Jean Marie Baptiste Vianney – Homiletic & Pastoral Review

Every preacher faces a choice. One can preach stability, promoting the existing spiritual situation of the congregation. This is preaching what the congregation desires to hear: they are doing well and they are headed for salvation. On the other hand, one can decide to preach transformation, promoting a higher level of spirituality for a congregation so it can recognize the need to move closer to the Triune God. Most congregations do not like to hear preaching that tells them to change, making them uncomfortable with the lives they lead. Transformative preaching takes courage and skill. A quick review of the preaching lives of two historical preachers might put this concept into better focus.

Read more . . .

The crisis of a second Obama administration

President Obama’s re-election and the prospect of a second Obama administration, freed from the constraints imposed by the necessity of running for re-election, have created a crisis for the Catholic Church in the United States. In the thought-world and vocabulary of the Bible, “crisis” has two meanings: the conventional sense (a grave threat) and a deeper sense (a great moment of opportunity). Both are applicable to the Church in America these next four years.

The immediate threat, of course, is the HHS (Health and Human Services) mandate requiring Catholic institutions and Catholic employers to include coverage of contraceptives, sterilizations, and abortifacient drugs in the health insurance offered to their employees. The legal challenges mounted against this obvious violation of the first freedom, religious freedom, may well be vindicated. But with Obamacare now seemingly set in concrete, the Church will face a host of such implementing “mandates” and it will be imperative to contest those that are morally unacceptable, time and time again. Authentically Catholic health care in America is now in mortal danger, and it is going to take a concerted effort to save it for future generations.

Read more . . . GEORGE WEIGEL COLUMN.

The Catholic Vote

A voting booth

”We are called by Christ to be salt and light to the world, and to infuse the culture around us with the values of our faith. And so I urge you to take your Catholic beliefs, values and consciences into the voting booth with you.

“I would not tell you how to vote or who to vote for, but it is my responsibility to remind you that, for us Catholics, some issues are simply never morally acceptable. The taking of an innocent human life, whether inside the womb or not, and up until natural death, is always and everywhere intrinsically evil. Such issues as embryonic stem cell research and attempts at human cloning are also direct attacks against the dignity and uniqueness of human life made in the image of God. Finally, preserving the dignity of traditional marriage is of central importance and must never be undermined because marriage is a cornerstone of any stable society. Any attempts to re-define marriage as something other than between a man and a woman, should be vigorously opposed by a Catholic as contrary to reason, the natural law, and the divinely revealed truths of the Bible.”

via THE REMNANT NEWSPAPER: The Catholic Vote.

Senseless Sermons | First Things

I haven’t found anything about the world’s record for the shortest sermon. But there is the story from tradition reported by St. Jerome of St. John to whom the fourth gospel is attributed.By the time he was old, frail, infirm, and had to be carried into the sanctuary John was down to the one same sermon, repeated Sunday to Sunday until he reached his death bed. His sermon was: “Little children, love one another.”It’s a timely sermon for any congregation, anywhere, and it hardly takes ninety-three hours to say it. But I suspect it requires a lifetime to do it, maybe longer.

via Senseless Sermons | First Things.

Why Matthew Vines Is Wrong About the Bible and Homosexuality | First Things

Why Matthew Vines Is Wrong About the Bible and Homosexuality | First Things.

There is always somebody willing to play scriptural gymnastics with the Bible to justify a position that they hold from a purely personal desire of perhaps to make a name for themselves.

The Flight from Hell | First Things

The lake of fire

The Flight from Hell | First Things.

Are we so sure of our salvation that we run through life giggling and laughing toward the brink of eternal damnation? It seems we no longer believe that hell exists or even if it does, we will surely not go there: the incredible optimism of a misguided world running headlong toward the abyss with reckless abandon.

The Lamb of God Theme: Second Model

Lamb of God

The Lamb of God

 

Abridged from a work by: Rev. Msgr. Donald C. Hamburger

Model Two: Noah’s Altar, Ark and Rainbow – Genesis 5:28-7:28 – Prehistory

The rainbow is a sign of the eternal covenant God made with mankind: that He would never again destroy the world’s creatures by flood as He did in the days of Noah.

A Sketch of Noah’s Life: God looked down from the heavenly heights and saw how evil the people had become. This predates Moses who includes the story in the first book of the Bible about 1200 years before Jesus was born.

In Genesis 5:28 we read how Lamech became the father of a son and called him, Noah. The people of the world had become so wicked that God repented of having created them, so He decided to drown them with a great flood. But God found Noah to be a just man, so He told Noah to build a large ark and to take his wife, his three sons, and their wives into the ark as well as pairs of all the living animals and seven pairs of the “clean animals.”

God promised that He would establish a covenant with Noah. So Noah did all that God commanded him. Rain fell on the earth forty days and forty nights and all flesh on the earth died. The waters rose over the mountain tops but finally the rain subsided and the ark settled upon the earth.

Noah sent a raven out, then a dove. When the dove returned she had a green olive branch in her beak and the second time she was sent out, she did not return. So Noah, his family and all the animals went out of the ark.

Then Noah built an altar to the Lord and offered sacrifices in thanksgiving; sacrifices of all the “clean” animals which he had taken into the ark. God then established His covenant with Noah, as mentioned earlier, using the Rainbow as an everlasting sign of His promise.

Pertaining to the Lamb of God theme, I perceive a development in two ways: 1) Noah built the first altar described in the Bible and 2) he specified that the sacrifice is offered in “thanksgiving.”

Hints: Since Noah used “every clean animal” for his sacrifice, he would have included the offspring of sheep and goats both of which were referred to as “lambs.”

After the waters of the flood subsided, Noah offered the sacrifice of “thanksgiving.” After experiencing the waters of baptism, a follower of the “second Adam” is able to offer the sacrifice of the Holy Eucharist. It is noteworthy that the Greek word from which “Eucharist” is derived also gives us the word “thanksgiving.”

With Noah’s safe deliverance from the floodwaters, there is a certain renewal of the human race; a second beginning. God repeats, almost word for word, the blessing given to our first parents: “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth . . .”

Noah as a Prototype of Jesus: Because the flood destroyed all mankind except Noah and his family, the human race received a new beginning from him. Through Noah’s ark the family is saved from the floodwaters just as by our baptism by water we enter into the barque of Peter and the hope of our salvation; for mankind was redeemed by Jesus, the second Adam who shed His Blood on the Cross. Thus we are washed by the blood of the Lamb, the “cleanest of all God’s creatures,” speaking only of His human nature.

The waters of baptism had just been poured over Jesus by John the Baptist when at the Jordan he announced, “Behold, the Lamb of God.”

So today, Baptism by water precedes the worthy reception of the Holy Eucharist, the Lamb of God’s sacramental Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity.

St. Peter alluded to Noah: “It was in the spirit also that (Jesus) went to the spirits in prison (hell, in the Apostle’s Creed). They had disobeyed as long ago as Noah’s day, while God patiently waited until the ark was built. At that time, a few persons, eight in all, escaped in the ark through the water. You are now saved through a baptismal bath which corresponds to this exactly . . .” (I Peter 3:18 ff.)

Because of God’s blessing to Noah and his family, they gave birth to a new generation of human beings. God repeated the blessing almost verbatim which He gave to Adam and Eve. Therefore, Noah is likened to a “new Adam.” So too, does Jesus, through the water of Baptism (spiritual rebirth), beget a new generation and Whom St. Paul calls a “new Adam.”

God cleansed the world of evil and sin by washing humanity in His great flood. This should remind us of the spiritual effects of our own Baptism. God accepted Noah’s sacrifice and used the rainbow as a sign of His new and everlasting covenant. Let the rainbow also remind us of God’s other covenants and especially the new and everlasting covenant which was made at the Last Supper; Holy Eucharist.

The CCC (71) says of God’s covenant with Noah:

“God made an everlasting covenant with Noah and with all living beings (Cf. Gen. 9:16). It will remain in force as long as the world lasts.”

Finally, it is interesting to discuss whether the story of the flood and Noah’s ark is concerning a universal flood over the whole earth or only covering that part of the world known by Noah and his contemporaries. Galileo later quoted by Pope John Paul II, gives us a good piece of advice: “The Bible tells us how to go to heaven, not how the heavens go.”

The Lamb of God Theme: Intro, Preface and First Model

Lamb of God

The Lamb of God

 

Abridged from a work by: Rev. Msgr. Donald C. Hamburger

Many years ago (17 years to be exact) I was privileged to help an old retired priest write a small booklet about something he had thought through for many years: the Lamb of God Theme in the Bible. I have searched high and low without having any luck looking for the original disks so that I might turn it into a PDF file for people to download. I know it would have made the now deceased Monsignor very happy; for he used his own money to print many thousands of copies which he handed out to anyone and everyone he met. It was printed during the 51st anniversary of his priesthood. With great love and admiration for this holy man of God, I will attempt to abridge his original work into a series of posts. God grant that I do this servant of God justice in my attempt.

Monsignor Hamburger took as his personal motto the following words from (John 10:10): “I am come that they may have life, and may have it more abundantly.”  And indeed he succeeded in giving a more abundant life to any who had the privilege to know him. This little booklet was just a small portion of that mission which he took so seriously.

Reverend Monsignor Donald C. Hamburger opened his little book with a letter to his friends that expressed how this theme developed in his mind. It began with his being involved in the enlarging of our church and specifically with his design of a huge stained glass window with a depiction of the Lamb of God and many of the early prototypes or types that were used in the Bible which were fulfilled in Christ. Next, he discussed this theme often with Rev. Walter Miller Crowe a good friend and pastor of the local Presbyterian Church. Together they decided to use this theme as a suitable topic for use as a joint adult study back in 1988. In 1992 he also used this theme to give talks in our parish as a Lenten Series. It was during the preparations for these talks, that he began to develop a strong desire to put in print this thematic reflection of the Bible for a wider consideration. May you rest in peace my dear friend and may your love of this theme lead others to love it as well and develop this theme even further; for you wrote it specifically for the enjoyment and spiritual insight that it might give to all of us. This theme brought you great joy. May it also bring others to your joy as well! So, we will begin:

The Preface:

He quotes the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) 53. The divine plan of Revelation is realized simultaneously “by words which are intrinsically bound up with each other” and shed light on each other. It involves a specific divine pedagogy: God communicates himself to man gradually. He prepares him to welcome by stages the supernatural Revelation that is to culminate in the person and mission of the incarnate Word, Jesus Christ.

The Contingent Plan: Monsignor asks us here to remember and to reread the first 3 chapters of Genesis and to remember the special gifts that were given to Adam and Eve.

Scripture scholars have distinguished these sets of gifts given to our first parents: 1) natural, 2) supernatural, and 3) preternatural. Suffice it to say that Adam and Eve are said to have lost the supernatural and preternatural gifts, and even the use of the natural gifts are impaired by their act of disobedience. We can see from this that the present earth in its entirety is not the original plan of the Creator but a contingent one following upon the Fall of Adam and Eve.

The first section of Bl. Pope John Paul II’s Splendor of Truth says: “As a result of that mysterious original sin, committed at the prompting of Satan, the one who is ‘a liar and the father of all lies’ (Jn. 8:44), man is constantly tempted to turn his gaze away from the living God in order to direct it toward idols (Cf. I Thes. 1:9), exchanging ‘the truth about God for a lie’ (Rom 1:25). Man’s capacity to know the truth is also darkened, and his will to submit to it is weakened.” (Section I)

Cardinal John J. O’Connor spoke of this from the pulpit in 1994 saying: “In this extraordinary mystery that we don’t pretend to understand we find that Adam and Eve transmitted this sin through human nature. We receive human nature and receive the corruption, the destruction, the devastation of Original Sin. When we are baptized, it becomes possible for us to get back into heaven because Christ came and suffered and died for us and gave us the Sacrament of Baptism to open the gates of heaven. Unfortunately, we’re still left with all of the other faults that accrued because of Original Sin. We’ve lost what are called the ‘preternatural’ gifts of God: freedom from death, from suffering, from temptation, and so on.”

Prelude A: The Promise – Genesis, Chapter 3 – Prehistory.

Here Monsignor enumerates the fall of the angels from grace; those we now call Satan and the other devils. He posits that they were lost due to pride and that some theologians have thought that they thought it beneath them to have to worship God as man, when God’s plan was revealed to them. Their pride then left them to be cast from heaven without any chance of future redemption.

However, unlike the pure spirits, Adam and Eve were spared from immediate damnation to hell. Instead, they were promised a redeemer and permitted a chance to work out their salvation so that they could re-enter heaven if they loved and served God. Ever since, Satan and the fallen angels have been jealous of humans and are one of the three great enemies that we humans have to struggle against: the world, the flesh, and the devil.

Note: Almighty God delivered the sentences of punishment upon each in turn: the punishment given to the serpent was the first. It was also our Good News, namely, that eventually an offspring of woman will crush Satan’s power. God will accept this as restitution for Adam’s sin and reopen the gates of Heaven. What was not revealed at the time was what I mentioned above, namely, that the son of woman was also going to be the Son of the Triune God. No wonder the Liturgy of Holy Week refers to the original sin as: “O, Felix Culpa” (O, Happy Fault) that has merited so great and such a Redeemer! And now, we of the New Testament, “the Lamb of God people,” have learned that God did become man, in everything but sin; Emanuel, God with us.

The CCC sums it up as follows: 407. “The doctrine of Original Sin, connected with that of the redemption by Christ, illuminates the human condition and human activity in the world . . . Ignoring the fact that humanity has a wounded nature inclined to evil gives rise to serious errors in the areas of education, politics, social action and morals.”

We think we are going to create a perfect world but we forget about Original Sin. The final paragraph in this section says: “After the fall, man was not abandoned by God. On the contrary, God called him and in a mysterious way heralded his victory over evil and the recovery from his fall – the first announcement of the coming of the Messiah and Redeemer, that of a struggle between the serpent and the Woman, Mary, and of the final victory of the one descending from Her (Jesus). (Gen. 3:15)”

Prelude B: The Good News – Genesis 3:15 (Proto-evangelium) – Prehistory

What we call the Proto-evangelium or first gospel is the forerunner of all the reappearances of the Lamb of God in the Bible; the written word of Divine Revelation. The Proto-evangelium is God’s first intimation in the Bible of His grandiose plan to show His limitless love for mankind: He Himself will become the Lamb when blood-shedding will pay the price of redemption from the offense of Original Sin. It is the first telling of the Good News that will bring “Joy to the World” when the offspring of a woman will crush the power of mankind’s adversary, the serpent known as Satan.

Genesis 3:15 is but a sketch perhaps of God’s plan and draft of the model as seen by John in the book of Revelation: “I saw a Lamb standing as though slain . . . “ (cf Rev. 5,6)

But what a long time it took in years, as man counts them, between the first telling of the Good News and the actual accomplishment of the fact! How long it was from that Proto-evangelium in the Garden of Eden to the night when the Angels sang in the Shepherd’s Field outside of Bethlehem: “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to men of good will.”

Many centuries would pass with the Great Designer filling in, line by line, the various types before the Great Fulfillment finally appears. We read of the first model in Genesis 4:1-16: the Acceptable Sacrifice of Abel.

Model One: Abel’s Acceptable Sacrifice – Genesis 4:1-24 – Prehistory

Introduction:  Somewhere in the murky mists of many millennia, before history came to be written, Adam and Eve had two sons named Cain and Abel. Each offered a sacrifice to their Maker. The sacrifice of the younger was acceptable to God while the other was not.

Their story was passed down for many centuries by word of mouth. It was used by Moses under Divine Inspiration when he composed the first five books of the Bible; i.e. the Pentateuch or as the Jews know it, the Torah.

As the Divine Liturgy came to be formed, Abel’s sacrifice received “pride of place” because of its invaluable characteristic: Purity of Intention. It is the first account in the Bible of the Lamb of God Sacrifice.

Jesus Himself referred to “Abel the just” (Cf. Mt. 23:35) as did several of the Apostles. In our own day the Council Fathers, too, mentioned Abel (Cf. Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Ch. 1, 2). No wonder modern liturgists employed its reference in Eucharistic Prayer #1, called the Roman Canon:

“Look with favor on these offerings and accept them as once you accepted the gifts of your servant Abel . . .”

Then there follows a prayer which certainly refers to John’s Apocalypse or Revelation:

“Almighty God, we pray that your angel may take this sacrifice to your altar in heaven . . .”

As we read John’s Revelation (Ch. 5, 6), we can easily derive that God’s plan is including it not only in every Mass we now offer but also in the eternal plan of heaven’s activities. Therefore, it has an eschatological meaning.

Since Abel’s sacrifice entailed the shedding of an animal’s blood, it would be good for us to consider briefly the part that blood played for centuries whenever God made a covenant with the Chosen People before the time of Christ. This will help us understand the shedding of Christ’s blood on the cross and the Sacrament of the Divine Liturgy. The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is a necessary part of the God-man’s development of this sign. In fact, it was spiritualized by transforming this sacrifice into a Sacrament, “the new and everlasting covenant” (I Cor. 11:23), at the Last Supper. And, again we see this sacrifice immortalized in St. John’s Apocalypse when in Heaven he “saw a Lamb standing as though slain” (Apoc. 5:6), as I mentioned earlier.

Indeed it was this need for “blood” that gave Jesus the motivation to use His divine power to change the wine of the Passover meal into His Precious Blood. This then, led to the institution of the priesthood of the Apostles.

Now we continue with the story: Paul refers to Jesus, in I Cor. 15:45-49, as the second Adam. We can see further analogy to His offspring as being like to the second attempt by God to raise up children pleasing to Him and of clean heart. The primitive example of this is the second son of Adam. The final example of this is those “born of the spirit” who followed Christ (Cf. John 1:13).

Although the elder brother Cain offered of his efforts to till the soil, it was the younger brother, Abel  and keeper of the flocks, whose sacrifice, though offered after Cain’s, was acceptable to God; it was offered with a clean heart.

God even gave Cain a second chance by suggesting that Cain be reconciled; for then his sacrifice would also be acceptable to God. Jesus laid down this same condition when He told His followers to leave their gifts at the altar and to first go reconcile themselves with their brothers; only then were they to come and offer gifts at the altar (Cf. Mat. 5:23 ff.). This is a good reason for our modern liturgists to move the “sign of peace” to the beginning of the Mass. The sign that God gave Cain served two purposes: 1) it would remain permanently as a sign of God’s special protection, reminding us of the spiritual character that is given by three of the sacraments instituted by Christ; Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Orders and  2) it assured Cain that God would save him from being slain by others.

Because Cain was forced to wander the face of the earth, he carried the message wherever he went; much like the future children of Abraham who carried the mark of their covenant with God in the flesh (circumcision). They also bore witness to the purity of God’s message into all the lands which they traveled.

So too, the early followers of Christ were driven out of the Holy Land by the Romans and the Jews after A.D. 70. It is interesting to note that only one Apostle died in Jerusalem; James, the brother of John. “The blood of a martyr becomes the seed of Christians!”

“Blessed are the clean of heart, for they shall see God.”  – The Beatitudes.

Catholicism: the Reason for My Hope Part IV

Church Fathers, a miniature from Svyatoslav's ...

Church Fathers

The History and Teachings of the Early Church Fathers

Nothing speaks to us better than getting to know the history of any enterprise that we undertake: we usually learn all we can about the company we work for so that we can relate to others how it came to be and what the philosophy was of the entrepreneurial beginnings of the company. Part of that history is learning about the founder and the early leaders of the company and their vision of the company and their successful leadership as well as their single mindedness in reaching the goal of the founder. At least that is something we salesmen study when we go to work for a new company with a long history. It lends credibility to the company that we are representing and unites us in some small way to a participation in the company’s goals.

It is no different in the new Catholic, who represents the Church in the world to all who meet and talk with them. Why then, do so few Christians spend almost no time at all looking at our history and the Early Church Fathers who forged the beginnings of the largest institution on the face of the planet: 1.2 billion members yoked to the teachings of the Church?

It is this history, which the Bible initiates as our first introduction or orientation to the Catholic Faith. Her structure and our adherence to doctrine were discussed somewhat in the last post; Part III. But for further information which is to our great benefit to read, we have the accounts of the earliest Christians and the beliefs that they held from the beginning. Even a cursory reading of these great men and pioneers of our Faith, add their mark of approval on most of our beliefs and practices still in place over almost 2 millennia.

The belief in the real presence of Christ residing, body, blood, soul and divinity in the Eucharist, our heightened honor that is afforded our Blessed Virgin Mary, our honoring of the saints and martyrs, our belief in the Pope as being the sovereign leader of the Church, the idea that a priest can forgive us our sins if we are contrite and sorry for them and willing to amend our ways, the need for Baptism and the efficacy of the other sacraments of the Church, the love and adherence that we give to the books of the Bible, the gravity of abortion and sins of the flesh, and the knowledge that we are bound to an authority that is beyond our mortal world but embodied in the ministry that was founded by Christ Himself. All of these things and more can be verified by the writings which came from the earliest Christians: these we call the Early Church Fathers.

The latest historical find which dates back as far as the oldest entries in the New Testament is called the Didache or Teaching of the Twelve. I would recommend that every Christian read the document and understand that it was a small handbook that was widely carried throughout the Christian world a mere 30 to 50 years after the death of our Lord and Savior.

Much, therefore, that I heard from non-Catholic sources, who mocked and ridiculed Catholic beliefs and practices were, besides being condescending, proved wrong: to be sure, the faith of our fathers is being faithfully carried forward into our modern age by the Catholic Church.

Since this is just a short post, for those who want to get into the meat of the proofs concerning the Catholic Tradition, one should at the very least read the Didache and the writings of the Early Church Fathers for illuminating insight into what our earliest Christians believed.

You will quickly come to the conclusion that the Catholic Church stands with these founding fathers and does not make up new and novel doctrines to force on their members. Without this tie to Christ, the apostles and the earliest known Christians, how could anyone have faith that their way of understanding, living or teaching a particular brand of Christianity is truly authentic? History provides us with that reassurance and gives me the Reason for My Hope within the Catholic construct of the Christian faith.