Aug 4, 2016

Pillar Focus Mulitple - some thoughts on the essentials


Ultimately our relationship with Jesus needs to be based on faith. We commit to this faith, we reassure and renew this faith regularly, we respond to this faith.. This in turn produces more and more faith and a beautiful life lived on the road of eternal salvation. But what about reason? What about common sense? Is there room for these? Taking that "leap of faith" of giving one's whole life to the Lord may difficult for some. Again, ultimately, our trust in the Lord sprouts from the seed of the faith, but maybe there are some among us that need to go through some logic first, some fact checking, a little historical research.. Here's a little sample of the that logic, a little "Soul Food" for you this week:

What about the Resurrection? 

As Catholics, we don't believe in a mere "spiritual resurrection," where Christ's followers, after witnessing his cruel death, would then "feel his presence" in a unique and powerful way, so much so, that they would be filled with the zeal to spread the Gospel message to the point of cruel martyrdom.. Nope. That's not it at all. We as Catholics believe in Christ's bodily resurrection. His followers witnessed this in the realest sense, physically seeing him, sharing a meal with him, and even touching him (i.e. Mary Magdalene at the tomb, doubting Thomas..).

This belief in Christ's bodily resurrection is essential to our faith. As St. Paul put it, "..if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain, your faith also is in vain." (1 Cor 15:14). Again, a little reasoning is in order here. Consider the following:
  • Would you die for something you weren't sure of? How many people gave up there lives preaching and/or living this gospel message of Christ risen? Look at the Apostles, almost every one suffered a horrific death. Look at the countless other martyrs over the centuries. Look at the last century, which experienced the largest slaughter of Christians since the beginning of Church history.. Would you give up your life for something that you were "iffy" on? 
  • The Jewish people in Jesus's time were expecting a "messiah" to save them from the hands of their enemies and to rule as "Lord of the Nations." Who's the key enemy of the Jews?- The Romans. And did this messiah "put the smack down" on these enemies. Uhhhhhh... well, no, not in the obvious sense. Jesus was brutally and publicly killed by this enemy. So why then would a first century Jew say, "AMEN, we have found the Messiah!," and then give up their lives for him? They'd be fools to do so, unless this "defeat of the enemy" was accomplished in the Resurrection (source and further elaboration).
  • Here's a popular internet resource: Evidence for the Resurrection
Again, the Lord wants us to be in relationship with Him. He wants us to put our Faith in Him. This is the only way to live consistently as a follower of Christ. But what if we need a little "kick start?" first? What if we need a little help with our logic before taking that giant leap of faith of committing our whole lives to the Lord? Well then, the field of apologetics (which is what all this logic stuff is), may be something worth looking into. 


Have you every spent time pondering the meaning of the "Our Father?" We've all said this prayer at least a thousand times, but have we really sat with it, deeply meditating on it? This prayer is the Church's "prayer par excellence," and the "summary of the whole Gospel." It is the prayer given to us by the Lord himself when his disciples asked him, "Lord, teach us to pray," (CCC 2773, Lk 11:1). Here are some resources that could help us understand the deeper meaning of this essential and powerful prayer:
  • The Lord's Prayer from The Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (see #578-598).
  • The Lord's Prayer from The YOUCAT (gotta scroll all the way down to page 326, start reading from paragraph 511). The YOUCAT is short for "Youth Catechism," and for those who don't know, a "catechism" is just a book that teaches the essentials of a given faith. The ones we use for our Catholic religion are very consistent and reliable.. 
  • Want a quicker version? Check Pillar IV above.
I highly suggest studying the Our Father from the Church's perspective. After you feel very comfortable with its deeper meaning, take some time to meditate on it. In fact, do this as often as possible. You may find that a chapel or an empty church are suitable. You may find that nature is more your thing. Or how about during those long drives?! The car is a great little prayer space (hard to turn off that radio though!!). Once you've found your place, pray the Our Father carefully and slowly. Stop to saber each piece remembering that you are entering into the prayer that God himself has taught us and which the Church teaches is the "Summary of the Whole Gospel." It may take you some time to get through it all..  

The Mass

Covenant. That's the "word of the day." What does it mean that we are in a covenant relationship with God? It basically means this: through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we have entered into a very special relationship with the all power and ever-living God. We, though sinful, have been given the ultimate sacrifice that has the power to continually wash away our sin and therefor the consequence of eternal death. After being baptized to enter into this covenant, Catholics in a unique way are called to renew this sacred and unfailing bond each time we attend Mass, each time we receive the Eucharist.

What the Church teaches on the Eucharist is profound. Fully understood, Catholics come to realize what is truly the "Source and the Summit of the Christian life."(CCC 1324). What we see in the Eucharist through the eyes of faith goes much deeper than what most recognize with mere senses.. 

Here's some good resources: 
  • The Eucharist and the Mass (from Just scroll down to find things like - answers to basic questions, apologetics, Bible verses..
  • Draw Near - A Video Guide to the Catholic Mass - The Mass is the same here in Sacramento as it is in other parts of the country, and even other parts of the world. In a nutshell, and as I teach my students, "The Mass is all about the Bible and the Eucharist, that's pretty much it." This video is a little lengthy by Youtube standards, but well worth it if you really want to learn the parts of the Mass. 

Sep 14, 2013

The Summary of the Gospel

Pillar Focus The Lord's Prayer - Introduction
In response to his disciples' request "Lord, teach us to pray" (Lk 11:1), Jesus entrusts them with the fundamental Christian prayer, the Our Father (CCC 2773)
"The Lord's Prayer is truly the summary of the whole gospel," The "most perfect of prayers." It is at the center of the Scriptures (CCC 2774)
It is called "the Lord's Prayer" because it comes to us from the Lord Jesus, the master and model of our prayer (2775).
All the Scriptures - the Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms - are fulfilled in Christ. The Gospel is this "Good News." Its first proclamation is summarized by St. Matthew in the Sermon on the Mount; The prayer to our Father is at the center of this proclamation. It is in this context that each petition bequeathed to us by the Lord is illuminated:
The Lord's Prayer is the most perfect of prayers.... In it we ask, not only for all the things we can rightly desire, but also in the sequence that they should be desired. This prayer not only teaches us to ask for things, but also in what order we should desire them (CCC 2763)
The Lord’s Prayer is the prayer of the Church par excellence... (Compendium #581)
For a video reflection by the Venerable Fulton J. Sheen, Click Here

Study the Catechism
part 4, section 2
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Aug 12, 2013

Born of the Virgin Mary

Pillar Focus Apostles Creed "He was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary"

From the Compendium:
95. “...Born of the Virgin Mary”: Why is Mary truly the Mother of God?
Mary is truly the Mother of God because she is the Mother of Jesus (John 2:1, John19:25). The One who was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and became truly her Son is actually the eternal Son of God the Father. He is God himself.

96. What does the “Immaculate Conception” mean?
God freely chose Mary from all eternity to be the Mother of his Son. In order to carry out her mission she herself was conceived immaculate. This means that, thanks to the grace of God and in anticipation of the merits of Jesus Christ, Mary was preserved from original sin from the first instant of her conception.

97. How does Mary cooperate in the divine plan of salvation?
By the grace of God Mary was kept free from every personal sin her whole life long. She is the one who is “full of grace” (Luke 1:28), “the all holy”. When the angel announced to her that she would give birth to “the Son of the Most High” (Luke 1:32), she freely gave her consent with “the obedience of faith” (Romans 1:5). Mary thus gave herself entirely to the person and work of her Son Jesus, espousing wholeheartedly the divine will regarding salvation.

98. What does the virginal conception of Jesus mean?
The virginal conception of Jesus means that Jesus was conceived in the womb of the Virgin solely by the power of the Holy Spirit without the intervention of a man. He is the Son of the heavenly Father according to his divine nature and the Son of Mary according to his human nature. He is, however, truly the Son of God in both natures since there is in him only one Person who is divine.

99. In what sense is Mary “ever Virgin”?
Mary is ever virgin in the sense that she “remained a virgin in conceiving her Son, a virgin in giving birth to him, a virgin in carrying him, a virgin in nursing him at her breast, always a virgin” (Saint Augustine). Therefore, when the Gospels speak of the “brothers and sisters of Jesus”, they are talking about the close relations of Jesus, according to the way of speaking used in Sacred Scripture.

100. In what way is the spiritual motherhood of Mary universal?
Mary had only one Son, Jesus, but in him her spiritual motherhood extends to all whom he came to save. Obediently standing at the side of the new Adam, Jesus Christ, the Virgin is the new Eve, the true mother of all the living, who with a mother's love cooperates in their birth and their formation in the order of grace. Virgin and Mother, Mary is the figure of the Church, its most perfect realization.

Study the Catechism
part 1, section 2, chapter 2, article 3
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Aug 8, 2013

The Commandments

Pillar Focus The Commandments: Intro

File:Brooklyn Museum - The Lord's Prayer (Le Pater Noster) - James Tissot.jpg
James Tissot, 19th Century
Jesus teaches us in his Sermon on the Mount:
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place. Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do so will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the kingdom of heaven. I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter into the kingdom of heaven (Mt 5:17-20)."
We follow the Commandments (and the Sermon on the Mount) to the best of our abilities (see CCC 1724). God provides us with the grace we need to accomplish this.

What God commands he makes possible by his grace (CCC 2082).

The Sacraments play an important role in this. We receive Christ in a unique and privileged way in Baptism, Confirmation, the Holy Eucharist, Confession, Matrimony... these unite us ever more closely to our Lord because it is he who acts in them (wow!!). Participating in the Sacraments equip us well for the practice of the Christian moral life. (see CCC #1691-1696).
..What the symbol of faith professes, the sacraments communicate. Indeed, through them the faithful receive the grace of Christ and the gifts of the Holy Spirit which give them the capability of living a new life as children of God in Christ whom they have received in faith.. (Compendium #357)
In the end, we follow the commandments to be liberated from sin that leads to spiritual death. We don't want death, we want life. God knows how to provide this life for his own creation.

Additional Links
[A young man asks Jesus] "What good deed must I do, to have eternal life?" [Jesus responds] "If you would enter into life, keep the commandments" (see Mt 19:16-17). Click here for a great sermon concerning this scripture passage. 

Click here for an entry that discusses the relationship between law and grace.

Click here for brief summaries of each commandment

Study the Catechism
part 3, section 2
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Aug 7, 2013

The Sacraments

Pillar Focus The Seven Sacraments - Intro

There are seven sacraments celebrated in the Catholic Church: Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Eucharist, Penance, Anointing of the Sick, Holy Orders, and Matrimony. These sacraments, instituted by Christ and entrusted to the Church, are efficacious* signs of grace perceptible to the senses . Through them divine life is bestowed upon us (Comp 224). 
*capable of producing the desired effect

Celebrated worthily in faith, the sacraments confer the grace that they signify. They are efficacious because in them Christ himself is at work: it is he who baptizes, he who acts in his sacraments in order to communicate the grace that each sacrament signifies... (CCC 1127).

..."the sacrament is not wrought by the righteousness of either the celebrant [i.e. priest] or the recipient [i.e. you], but by the power of God." From the moment that a sacrament is celebrated in accordance with the intention of the Church, the power of Christ and his Spirit acts in and through it, independently of the personal holiness of the minister. Nevertheless, the fruits of the sacraments also depend on the disposition of the one who receives them (CCC 1128).

Check out these links:
The Sacraments
Not Magic: On the Fruitful Reception of the Sacraments
Are Sacraments Necessary for Salvation? (video)
These are the Sacraments by Fulten J. Sheen (entire book; read "The Sacraments")

Study the Catechism
part 2, section 1
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