Faith Check – with Greg Youell
Faith Check/Greg Youell

Faith Check/Greg Youell

Purgatory

Few Catholic doctrines are more disputed than that of purgatory.  And yet, if it is properly understood, we see that purgatory is a gift of God’s mercy. 

Jesus did not come to merely forgive the penalty for our sins, but to cleanse us and make us His new creations.

Revelation 21:27 says, “nothing impure will enter heaven.”  Those of us who die in a state of grace—or are “saved”—and still have selfishness and sin remaining on our souls, must undergo a purification before entrance into heaven is possible.

So purgatory is not a second chance at heaven, but simply a final stage of growing in holiness.19

Notice that Jesus in Matthew 12 speaks of sins that will “not be forgiven in this age or in the age to come.” 1  And in 1 Corinthians 3, St. Paul writes that on Judgment Day there will be some who “suffer loss… [they will still] be saved, but only as through fire.”2

C.S. Lewis, the famous Anglican Christian writer, believed in purgatory and compared it to the burning sensation of mouthwash after having one’s tooth pulled at the dentist’s office.3

Indeed, while purgatory may involve pain, it will not be without joy, for it is the threshold to the gates of paradise.

1 –  12:32

2 –  3:15

3 –  Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer, 107-109.



Faith Check/Greg Youell

Faith Check/Greg Youell

Confession is Good Medicine

FC 16 – Confession is Good Medicine
A trip to the doctor’s office can be a scary thing, but it’s often necessary to go there to get the healing and treatment that we need.
Likewise, going to the confessional can be intimidating, but it’s often the very thing that we need to get us back on the pathway to the Lord.

While we should also privately repent of our sins to God, Jesus instituted the sacrament of reconciliation or penance for our own good. Statistics show that Catholic populations have historically had lower rates of suicide and depression than non-Catholics, which many psychologists attribute directly to the healthy practice of vocally confessing one’s sins.

Few things can be as liberating as getting all of the junk from our lives out there on the table. The priest stands as Christ’s representative whose words of absolution, “I forgive you in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,” act as a sweet healing balm upon our souls. Priests are not their to scold you, but to offer healing and a fresh start.
So be not afraid, come unload your burdens before the Lord in confession today.


Confession to Priests

Faith Check/Greg Youell

Faith Check/Greg Youell

On this Faith Check let’s take a look at a common question: why confess your sins to a priest instead of straight to God?

First, Catholics are encouraged to privately confess our sins to God all the time and every single Mass begins with a penitential rite in which we do exactly this.

Still we should regularly go to the sacrament of confession or reconciliation.  Remember that in the Old Testament a Hebrew was to publicly go to the temple and offer a sacrifice for his sin.  In John 20, our Lord gives the apostles authority to forgive sins in his name, when He breathed the Holy Spirit on them and said “whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.” 1  In 2 Corinthians Paul also notes that the apostles are Christ’s ambassadors who have been given the ministry of reconciliation.2

Early Christian records show that the early Church always understood this according to the Catholic view3:those who sinned gravely after baptism could be reconciled to the Church through confession to the priests, who do not stand as barriers to Christ, but as his ambassadors, who lovingly take us by the hand and restore us to grace after we have fallen.

1 –  Jn. 20:23

2 –  5:18-20

3 – See Catholic Answers website on subject: http://www.catholic.com/library/Confession.asp


Temporal Consequences for Sin

Common sense tells us that our sins have consequences.  If after committing a sin, we confess, then God promises to forgive us.  Yet there can still remain what the Church calls a “temporal punishment,” or consequence, for our sin.

For instance, in 2 Samuel 12 after David confesses his sin of adultery, the prophet Nathaniel tells him that the Lord has forgiven him, but nevertheless he will suffer the death of his child as a consequence of his sin.1  Our relationship with God is a personal one and our sins are not just rule violations, but personal offenses that need to be mended.

We can fulfill the temporal punishments for our sins through sincere sorrow for our sins, prayers, sacrifices, and acts of charity.

But as part of the Body of Christ, we can also assist in coming to the aid of our brothers and sisters, both living and dead.  This is the basic principle of the Church’s practice of indulgences, and undoubtedly what St. Paul has in mind in Colossians 1:24 where he says, “I rejoice in my sufferings, and complete what is lacking in Christ’s affliction for the sake of his body, the Church.”  Or perhaps it’s put best in 1 Peter 4:8, which simply states, “love covers a multitude of sins.”

1 –  2 Sam. 12:13-14


Faith Check/Greg Youell

Faith Check/Greg Youell

Sacramentals

In the minds of non-Catholics, Catholicism often conjures images of Catholic stuff: candles, crucifixes, rosaries, statues, holy water, oils,
and the like.  These are called sacramentals—not to be confused with the seven sacraments, they are material items that the Lord uses as conduits of his blessing.
Because of our belief in sacramentals, Catholics have sometimes been accused of practicing magic.  But magic is the pagan or new age belief that an object has power in and of itself.  Sacramentals are the Christian belief that the living and true God uses His creation as instruments of grace and healing.

Sacramentals appear all throughout the Scriptures.  James speaks of anointing with oil.1 Acts of the Apostles tells us that Paul’s handkerchiefs brought healing power to those they touched.2In the Old Testament, Elisha’s bones were used to bring a dead man back to life.3

And of course the Gospels portray Our Lord himself often using water, mud or even his own spit to perform mighty works of healing and cleansing, a power which Jesus passed on to his priests to be continued to this day.4  Sacramentals are neither magic nor make believe, but powerful weapons to be utilized in our spiritual journeys.

1 –  Js. 5:14

2 –  Acts 19:11-12

3 –  2 Kgs. 13:21

4 –  cf. Mt. 10:7-8; Lk. 10:18-20; Jn. 20:21-23, etc.


Faith Check/Greg Youell

Faith Check/Greg Youell

Development of the Living Church

The celebrated English convert, John Henry Cardinal Newman, pointed out that the Catholic Church can be likened to a tiny acorn which grows into a tree—though it looks entirely different, it remains in its essence, the same thing.  Likewise, a human grows from a tiny child to an adolescent through adulthood to old age, yet he remains the same person with the same DNA.

So too the Church grows and develops as the living Body of Christ.  Of course, the Church of over one billion people today is not a mirror image of the relatively tiny Church in the first century Mediterranean we read about in the New Testament—nor should it be.  The Church’s organization and outward forms are dynamic, not static, and must change to meet the needs of the age—yet the Church remains the same Church believing the same Faith.

The Church’s doctrine also grows and develops—never contradicting itself, but deepening with years of reflection and clarification.  For instance, it was not until Christ’s divinity was denied that the Nicene Council gave us the Creed we profess each Sunday at Mass, which states precisely what we do and do not believe about our Lord. And so the grows the Church until the consummation of time.


Eucharistic Miracles


For 2,000 years, Catholics have believed that the Holy Eucharist more than a mere symbolic reminder, but the actual Body and Blood of Christ.  Of course, the Eucharist still looks and tastes like bread and wine, but a miraculous change takes place that our eyes cannot perceive.

Throughout history, however, God has sometimes worked Eucharistic Miracles, in which the Eucharist physically appears as flesh and blood.

One of the most famous such events occurred in the year 700 A.D. at Lanciano, Italy.  During Mass one day, a monk who had been doubting his Faith was shocked as the bread and wine suddenly changed into flesh and blood before his very eyes.  News of the miracle spread rapidly, and the miraculous flesh and blood have been preserved to this day in the church.

In the 1970s, this same flesh and blood were submitted to a rigorous scientific examination. The study determined that there they contained no preservatives; that the flesh was of human heart tissue; while the blood was human blood, type AB. It was also noted that the receptacle that contained them for centuries had not been hermetically sealed, meaning that they had been exposed to the elements and otherwise would have decayed or spoiled within days. The study concluded that there was no scientific possibility of fraud, confirming the belief of the faithful that Eucharistic Miracle at Lanciano was authentic.


Lectio Divina

When the Holy Father says that the practice of a certain devotion would lead to nothing less than the renewal of the Church,1 we do well to sit up and take notice.

Pope Benedict XVI said exactly this about the practice of lectio divina, which is an ancient form of praying over the Scriptures.  In lectio divina, a passage is read and followed by silence.  The hearers focus on a single word or phrase that jumps out at them and allow the “still small voice of the Lord” to speak to their hearts.  The same passage is read another two or three more times, with each reading followed by another period of silence, and a time of sharing may follow for the edification of all.

Many parishes are starting groups for lectio divina and it can also be done during individual prayer time.  Sacred Scripture is our spiritual food, the lamp unto our feet and director of our steps.  But this can’t happen if God’s Word remains on our bookshelf collecting dust.

Let us crack open our Bibles and not only read God’s Word, but prayerfully and slowly listen to what the Holy Spirit is speaking personally to us this day.

1 –  From Address of Pope Benedict XVI to the Participants of the International Congress Organized to Commemorate the
40th Anniversary of the Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation ‘Dei Verbum’: “If [Lectio divina] is effectively
promoted, this practice will bring ot the Church – I am convinced of it – a new spiritual springtime.”


 


Mortal Sin

You know, we shouldn’t kid ourselves that we can’t earn God’s love.  That’s about as foolish as a kid down the street trying to earn his way into my family by mowing my lawn every week.  To be reborn in Christ is to be adopted as God’s son or daughter, 1 something that could never be purchased or earned.

Nevertheless, there are still certain requirements for remaining part of that family.  Just as a child can get himself kicked out of the house or even disinherited, so too we can separate ourselves from God’s grace through what the Church traditionally calls mortal sin.2  These sins can take the form of co-mmission, such as hatred or adultery, or o-mission, such as ignoring those in need or refusing to forgive someone.

Paul exhorts us in 1 Corinthians 10 to not be like the Israelites, who, in spite of having been liberated from the slavery of Egypt, baptized in the Red Sea, and fed with manna from heaven in the desert, failed to enter the Promised Land because of their disobedience.3

So if today you hear his voice, brothers and sisters, harden not your hearts!

1 –  cf. 1 Jn. 3:1

2 –  cf. Mt. 7:21; Rom. 6:21; 8:12; 1 Cor. 6:9-10; 7:19; Gal. 5:17-21; Js. 1:15; 1 Jn. 2:4; 3:22; 5:3; Rev. 2:5, 12:17; 14:12;
22:11; etc.

2 –  1 Cor. 10:1-6

 



God’s Plan for Marriage


Apostolic Succession of Bishops

There are many forms of church governance among Christians today.  In some churches congregations vote to make decisions; in others the church is run by a group of elders; and in still others, authority resides with bishops.

While all Christians point to Scripture to support their church structure, it is very difficult to determine the precise way the early Church was governed from the Bible alone.

But in the year 110 A.D., only about 50 years after most of the New Testament was written, St. Ignatius of Antioch described the early church leadership in his letters:  Each area was led by a single bishop who was accompanied by priests and deacons in ministry.

Ignatius wrote, “let no one do anything of concern to the Church without the bishop.  Let that be considered a valid Eucharist which is celebrated by the bishop or by one whom he appoints. … [T]his … is pleasing to God, so that whatever is done will be secure and valid.”1

Ignatius himself was with the apostle John, so we have every reason to trust that this basic church structure which the Catholic Church has to this day comes from the apostles themselves.

1 – Letter to the Smyrnaeans 8:1



Born Again in Baptism

Are you born again? It’s a question that Catholics aren’t quite sure how to respond to, but those who are living out their faith should answer with a whole-hearted Yes.baptism1

The term “born again” comes from John 3 when our Lord tells Nicodemus, “Amen, Amen, I say to you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above,”1 or “born again,” as some translations put it. Nicodemus is confused, thinking that Jesus is referring to a 2nd physical birth, so Jesus clarifies that “no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit.”2 The early Church unanimously interpreted this as a reference to the sacrament of baptism, 3 which is no mere symbolic ritual, but the normative instrument that Christ instituted for our spiritual rebirth.
Romans 6 says that in baptism our old natures are buried and we are raised to new life in Christ. 4 And 1 Peter 3:21 puts it plainly, “baptism now saves you.”
Salvation is a lifelong process, a race to the finish line. But baptism is where it all begins, where we are born again, if you will.
1 – Jn. 3:3
2 – Jn. 3:5
3 – See Catholic Answers website on subject: http://www.catholic.com/library/Born_Again_in_Baptism.asp
4 – Rom. 6:3-4


Works of the Law

In Romans and Galatians, St. Paul warns about those trying to justify themselves before God by following the works of the Law. 

To properly understand this, we must look at the historical context.  As we read in the Acts, there was a group in the early Church called the “Judaizers,”1 which taught that Gentile converts to Christianity must be circumcised and follow the kosher laws.

Paul says in no uncertain terms that those trying to be saved through these Old Testament works of the Law have rejected Christ and lost their salvation.

The attitude of the Judaizers is contrasted with the faith of Abraham,2 who trusted and obeyed God even to the point of offering his own son, Isaac.  Paul’s point is not that our works have no bearing on our salvation, but rather that these particular Jewish rituals were not necessary for eternal life.

For the same Romans that teaches “a man is justified by faith apart from works of the law,”3 also says that God “shows no partiality … [for] he will render to everyone according to his works..” 4

There is no contradiction, as long as we correctly understand what Paul meant by the works of the law.

1 –  cf. Acts 15:1-6, etc.

2 –  Rom. 4:1ff

3 –  3:28

4 –  2:6-10


Liturgy of the Hours


For centuries Catholic priests, monks and nuns sanctified their days by praying the Psalms.  This practice was inherited from the Jews, who prayed at set times in the temple.  The Western Church was largely influenced by the Benedictine monks, who immersed themselves in the Psalms seven times each day, in addition to Mass and private prayer.

The Church today encourages the laity to pray a shorter form of this called the “Liturgy of the Hours.”  The two major parts of this are called morning prayer and evening prayer, and there are also readings for each day corresponding to the seasons of the Church’s liturgical calendar.

Praying the Liturgy of the Hours can be a powerful tool.  It helps us acquire the discipline of regular prayer and fills our hearts and minds with Scripture as we go about our days.  I once heard a priest say every single one of the priests he knew who had left the priesthood had stopped praying their daily office of prayer.

For more info talk to your priest or Catholic bookstore, and cover your household in spiritual protection each day with Mass, rosary, and the Liturgy of the Hours


Canon of Scripture

On this Faith Check, let’s talk a little about how we got God’s Holy Word.

The early Christians relied on the Greek translation of the Old Testament, which is the version most often quoted in the New Testament and the one Jesus probably heard growing up.  This version also includes the books that Protestants call the “Apocrypha” and typically don’t include in their Bibles.

It took a while for the Catholic Church to compile the New Testament.  Some books such as the 4 gospels were accepted by all, and others, such as the spurious gospels one hears about in The DaVinci Code were rejected by all. However, other books were completely orthodox but disputed, including some that weren’t ultimately included such as The Didache and others that were like Hebrews and Revelation.

The “canon”, which is the list of books that belong in the Bible, was determined primarily to say which books could and could not be read at the liturgy, and was largely settled by a series of Church councils approved by the Pope and bishops in the late 300s.1

Hence, when you trust in the inspiration of the Bible, you are trusting a Spirit-led decision of the Roman Catholic Church.

1 –  Council of Rome under Pope St. Damasus I [A.D. 382], Council of Hippo [A.D. 393], Council of Carthage [A.D. 397],
Epistle of Pope St. Innocent I to Bishop Exuperius [A.D. 405]