What’s it like?

Yo, Chris, what’s it like being Catholic?

Absolutely fantastic.

Too often we focus on the “you can’t do this, you have to do this” parts of the faith, and that’s what I’m trying to explain here. But let’s take a deep breath and take a look and see how amazing the Catholic faith is. Here’s a quite blunt summary:

God loves us.
Jesus died for us.
God desires that we are with Him in paradise.
God will forgive us of our sins if we come to Him contrite.
We can confess our sins and be forgiven according to His command.
We can receive Jesus in the Holy Eucharist every day.
We can adore Him in the Blessed Sacrament.
God allows us to be in His presence and even to receive Him.
God cares for each and every one of us, enough so He would have died just for one of us.
God instituted this universal Church to unite the entire world.
Catholics on the other side of the world believe the same exact thing.
We are united with the same Jesus in the Eucharist.
We are also united through time in Jesus in the Eucharist.
We are all one body as we are united in Jesus.
Jesus founded our Church.
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.
Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land.
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called Children of God.
Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you because of me.
There is always hope in God.
We have the strength for everything through Him who empowers us.
Who can stand against us, if God is with us?
We have the opportunity to serve Christ in everyone that we see.
We were created in the image and likeness of God.
We all have an inherent dignity as human beings, from conception to natural death.
We all have priestly, prophetic, and kingly roles.
We are called to serve all those in need.
We are called to feed the hungry.
We are called to teach the ignorant.
We are the world’s largest charitable organization.
We have educated the world for years and years.
We founded the first colleges.
We started the first hospitals.
All persons ought to be treated with respect and love.
We don’t just coexist with others, we love others, unconditionally.
Even the most hardened sinners have hope in Christ.
Both men and women have unique and important roles to fill.
Your worth is not determined by your “usefulness.”
There is hope even in the greatest sorrow and despair.
We are God’s people, and He is our God.
The Father will leave the 99 sheep in search of the lost one.
The Father forgives not seven times but seventy seven times.
God desires our participation in His plan of salvation.
Jesus gave us Mary as our mother.
The Saints are praying for us all.
The Lord is our joy.
We are happy who take refuge in the God.
The Lord hears when we call out.
The Lord is at our side, His rod and staff give us courage.
Only goodness and love will pursue us all the days of our lives.
We will dwell in the house of the Lord for years to come.

I’m Catholic and I’m proud. May God bless His Church forever and ever.

The Annunciation

Today Catholics celebrate the Annunciation, where the angel Gabriel was sent to Mary and with Mary’s yes, she conceived Jesus by the Holy Spirit. Notice how it’s March 26th, 9 months before December 25th (It is usually celebrated on March 25th but that was a Sunday this year). The following is the tale from the Gospel of Luke:

“In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary. And coming to her, he said, “Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” But Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?” And the angel said to her in reply, “The holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God. And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren; for nothing will be impossible for God.” Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.”

-Luke 1:26-38

And with that, I have a few quick reflections to share with you:

This, even more so than Christmas, was the actual moment when Jesus came to us. From this day forth, Jesus was growing in the womb of Mary. Think of the greeting between Elizabeth and Mary, where both Jesus and St. John the Baptist were in the wombs of their mothers (Luke 1:39-45).

God could have come to the world in so many different ways, but He chose to come by perhaps the most normal way possible. The only “supernatural” signs were the appearance of the angel Gabriel and Mary conceiving by the Holy Spirit. For anyone other than Mary and Joseph, these things would have went by unnoticed, even though GOD CAME INTO THE WORLD! (It’s really exciting, please excuse the caps.)

Jesus was conceived. He did not even start out as a fully grown baby. No, God reduced Himself not only to a human, but to mere cells in His mother’s womb, the same way that the rest of us begin our lives. God depended on Mary’s body to nourish and protect Him through those 9 months. And if Mary was alive in the United States today, she could have had an abortion and killed Jesus legally. Think about THAT for a second. Jesus could have been aborted if He was born in the USA anytime after 1973. Of course, the Holy Family had their own problems to avoid, notably when King Herod had all newborns around the time of Jesus’ birth killed. Anyways, I think that in and of itself tells us that God is pro-life. He could have been aborted when He was in the womb, so thank the Lord that He wasn’t.

Emmanuel. God is with us.

And Mary said:
“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
my spirit rejoices in God my savior.
For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness;
behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed.
The Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
His mercy is from age to age
to those who fear him.
He has shown might with his arm,
dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart.
He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones
but lifted up the lowly.
The hungry he has filled with good things;
the rich he has sent away empty.
He has helped Israel his servant,
remembering his mercy,
according to his promise to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”
-The Canticle of Mary

Stand Up For Religious Freedom!

Today I attended the Stand Up For Religious Freedom Rally in Chicago. What a fantastic experience! There was a good crowd in Daley Plaza, with a healthy dose of babies, priests, and other smiling faces. I had a lot of fun playing reporter: taking pictures and video and putting everything interesting up on my twitter feed. We were there to protest the HHS Mandate and rally for our right of religious freedom, which the mandate will negate. This really isn’t about abortion, contraception, or anything like that, this is about our fundamental conscience rights and freedom of religion. Listen to what DEMOCRATIC Representative Dan Lipinski said at the rally:

I found it especially funny that the pro life group that showed up had something like a pirate ship that a kid was riding on! Check out my pics below!

What a creative pirate ship!

Religious Freedom, Baby!

The inspiring scene on the Daley Plaza

“Let the church be the church, and the government be the government!”

God’s Will and Our Free Will- How Do the Pieces Fit?

God has plans for each and every one of us. His will for us is that we might be saints in heaven with Him. You probably are familiar with the famous statement by Jesus in the Gospel of John:

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.” -John 3:16

God’s plan is for us to partake in His divine plan of salvation. God has no needs that we can satisfy or more glory to gain from it, but rather, out of His infinite love, He desires the best for us: eternal life with Him.

Alright, that sounds all fine and dandy, but about our free will? How does that factor into this all? I do not think that many people doubt our free will, but in case you’re still skeptical, think back to the last time you thought something bad, you did something mean, etc. Did God smite you before you did it? Were you unable to do what you wanted to do? No. People can do some pretty cruel things to each other. Look at the situation where someone went up and shot 4 Jewish people in France the other day. God didn’t want that to happen, but God also didn’t interfere with the shooter’s free will in order to save the innocent, even the children. Every year countless children die from hunger around the world and God doesn’t suspend anyone’s free will to fix it. Remember how Jesus said:

“I am the way, the truth, and the life” -John 14:6

He meant it. If we really care about the starving children and all of the evil in the world, He is calling us to make that difference in the world. As partakers in His divine plan, we have to follow His will and PARTAKE in it! Starting to see what I’m getting at? How could we be doing His will if we are not doing our best to have

“your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven” -Matthew 6:10

as He said in the Lord’s Prayer? We help carry out God’s will by serving the poor and the needy, by being good friends, sons, daughters, husbands, wives, fathers, and mothers, by worshiping God and honoring His commandments.

Our free will is an opportunity for us to choose God over ourselves. In the same way you don’t want to marry someone who doesn’t want to be around you, I don’t think that God wants to invite people to His crib (way more pimped out than anything in Hollywood) for eternity if they don’t know how to “do the dishes” and “clean their room,” if you think of commandments the same way that you think of chores.

If we aren’t friends with God during our time on earth, why would He all of a sudden want to be our friend after we die? That’s the gist of it.

But how “engrossing” is God’s plan for us? I think that many people struggle with this sort of concept, and I’ll include myself in that category. Say I do something against God’s will. Does that mean that God’s plans won’t happen because of me? The simple answer is no. God’s plans will happen because God is God! God is all powerful and can do anything that He wants. God absolutely gave us free will so that we can love Him and others. (It requires free will to love, a conscious choice. Hope that makes sense.) That means that we can do things contrary to God’s will, and He will work with us and give us another chance to make it right. Look at salvation history with God’s relationship with Abraham, Issac, Jacob, Moses, etc. They messed up a lot. For example, as Moses was up on Mount Sinai receiving the 10 Commandments, the Israelites, whom God had just rescued from Egypt and taken through the Red Sea, gathered all of their jewelry together to melt down and make a golden calf, like one of the old Egyptian gods, and worshiped it. Even in that instance, God called an audible on the play and adjusted so they could still get the first down. God was not happy but showed mercy on them, and even didn’t destroy them even though they had sworn an oath never to worship another god. God made the Israelites do daily sacrifices for this mistake and changed other particulars too, but He worked with them and showed mercy. I believe that this is how God deals with us when we make mistakes. He adjusts, and often isn’t necessarily pleased, but He is always ready to give us second chances to convert our hearts to Him. Think of the Parable of the Lost Sheep:

“If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them goes astray, will he not leave the ninety-nine in the hills and go in search of the stray? And if he finds it, amen, I say to you, he rejoices more over it than over the ninety-nine that did not stray. In just the same way, it is not the will of your heavenly Father that one of these little ones be lost.” -Matthew 18:12-14

Fatherhood

In honor of the Solemnity of St. Joseph, it’s a fantastic day for another post on manhood, specifically fatherhood!

So I’d like to start by stating that many of the issues that we like to talk about nowadays are “women’s issues.” But as much as they might be seen as “woman’s issues,” many of these issues are created by the failures of men and fathers.

For example, the problem of abortion is created by a lack of maturity by men. The choice of having sexual relations with a woman is a major choice that you don’t just do for fun. No, a man should recognize that this action naturally could lead to pregnancy, and with that a greater call to self sacrifice for the mother of his child and his child.

The problem of prostitution and pornography is also created by a lack of self control by men. These “industries” hurt both women and men by treating women as objects of pleasure instead of dignified human beings and trapping men in addictions that are very hard to break. This openness that our society has to these industries also makes it hard for men to remember to treat all women with respect and dignity.

The problem of children growing up fatherless is quite obviously failure on the part of men. What a horribly selfish crime it is that a man would help bring a child into the world, in what is perhaps the most intimate act on earth, only to never be a part of raising and caring his child?

Many children may have fathers but they do not spend enough time with them. I found a fantastic study from the US Department of Health and Human Services on the impact of fathers on children here, that I will be referencing for the rest of this post. According to the study, the way that children see their father treat their mother goes a long way in how they learn to treat others themselves. Sons learn from the good example of their fathers to treat women with respect and dignity at all times, and daughters learn from their fathers’ example how they should be treated by men as they grow up. The study even shows how fathers who do not control their anger or treat their wives with respect often father children who are anxious, withdrawn, or anti-social. On the academic side, the study shows that children whose biological fathers are highly involved in their lives have higher IQ scores and get better grades. The study even notes how it is important for children to be raised not just in a household of cohabitating parents but in a household of married parents. The sad truth is that if the parents are not married yet even though they are living together, it is much less likely that they will ever get married. And if they don’t get married, it is much less likely that they will stay together. Men need to man up and commit, for the sake of their wives and children! The last issue that the study addresses is how children with an involved father are more emotionally and socially secure and outgoing, especially as youths. These children are less likely to suffer from depression or get involved with crime and drugs.

All Christians are called to priestly, prophetic, and kingly roles. As men, we are specifically called to provide for our families and those in need, to teach and instruct others, and to lead in what we say and do. We must follow the example of our Lord Jesus Christ, thinking of others first and ourselves last. It is very important in our modern age, where we see a void of strong and selfless men in society, that we encourage each other and challenge each other to man up and start living for others instead of ourselves. By doing this, we will be addressing many of the current hot topic issues of our society right at the source.

St. Joseph, pray for us, that we may be men of faith, love, and courage, caring for all of the women, children, and needy in our lives!

I’m pro-life. Why aren’t you?

Being pro-life is one of the most important things to me. I consider it to be perhaps the most important issue of our generation, with now the HHS Mandate situation also receiving consideration. This post is to explain why I am pro-life and why it is an important issue of our time.

The most fundamental reason why I am pro-life is because life begins at conception. As an engineer, it continues to amaze me how our modern “rational” society refuses to look at this issue from the scientific standpoint. This is something basic that I’d imagine we all learned in high school or even grade school. So what happens at conception?

“The two cells gradually and gracefully become one. This is the moment of conception, when an individual’s unique set of DNA is created, a human signature that never existed before and will never be repeated.” -In the Womb, National Geographic (2005)

“By all the criteria of modern molecular biology, life is present from from the moment of conception.” -Dr. Hymie Gordon, Chairman of the Department of Genetics at the Mayo Clinic

“The exact moment of the beginning of personhood and of the human body is at the moment of conception.” -Dr. McCarthy de Mere, medical doctor and law professor at the University of Tennessee

It’s simpler than you think. If you and I were not conceived, we wouldn’t be here right now. Right? So how did we get here? We were conceived, we grew in the womb, we were born, and we grew up to be who we are. The most important thing that everything hinges on is being conceived.

Did you know:

  • At 25 weeks, 79% of babies survive premature birth
  • At conception, your intelligence and personality is already set in your genetic code
  • Your heart started beating after just 18 days
  • Your hands formed at 3 weeks and your fingers formed at 6 weeks
  • As a fetus, you actually had a stronger sense of pain than you have now, you felt pain longer and more sensitively
  • As children mature, they lose this extra sensitivity for pain that fetuses have

A fantastic site to check out: Just The Facts

So there’s the scientific side of it. Now, if you’re a Christian, I’ve got some bible for you.

“Thou shalt not kill” -Exodus 20:13

Those who commit child sacrifice “he shall surely be put to death” -Leviticus 20:1-5

“What you did for the least of these, you did to me” -Matthew 25:40

Jesus repeatedly taught us to care for the poor, the weak, the defenseless. And who is more poor, weak, and defenseless than a child in the womb nowadays? To think that according to our national law, a fully grown man has more protection than a child in the womb, is sick. I don’t know about you, but that screams selfishness to me.

The right to life is one of the fundamental rights as listed in the Declaration of Independence, and it is appalling that our country would restrict this right. If we do not have the right to exist, what other rights can we assume the government will give us? It’s a scary situation. And now our government is continuing this abuse of our rights by taking away our right of religious freedom.

Abortion has been legal in the United States of America since 1973 even though it kills a fetus, it kills a human person. Over 50 million lives have been lost, and now 1 in 4 pregnancies end in abortion. Abortion disproportionately affects African Americans and Hispanics. If you really care about helping others and supporting those in need, you need to get involved in this struggle to restore our inherant right of life for all the unborn and end this tragedy that has taken many times more lives than the Holocaust. We have a modern day Holocaust of the unborn taking place across the globe that we must stand against to protect the defenseless and those in need. Was it cool to support the Jews during the Holocaust? No. Was the government and the establishment all for the civil rights movement in the 60’s? No. It’s taken time, but we are going to overcome this injustice. The facts don’t lie, Abortion is murder.

More info:
The Catholic Church’s take
The Bible’s take
Mother Teresa’s take
Life Site News
Students for Life

Sin

The concept of sin is essential for Christians and Jews, but often, from what I’ve experienced, many people aren’t completely sure what sin even is. Popular culture makes sin something that people shouldn’t do, based off of what the culture thinks. Sin seems pretty relative according to this definition, and with this in mind, what it really is is quite different.

Sin is rejection of God and His ways. I’m sure that you are aware of the first sin, as it is presented in Genesis, with Adam and Eve choosing to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and bad, even though God forbade them. It seems pretty straightforward there, as they literally chose to do something that God didn’t want them to do.

Sin is the abuse of the freedom that God gave us. Imagine if we did not have free will. Now in that case, how could it be possible for us to sin? Sin always requires a conscious choice. This is so much so that it is possible (emphasis on possible, this is all theoretical) for an ingrained alcoholic to not sin for drunkenness, since they have lost their self control. What would be a sin in that case were all of the choices that alcoholic had made beforehand of becoming drunk.

Unless you are Jesus or Mary the Mother of God, you’re a sinner. You, me, all of us. Well, that stinks doesn’t it? Yea. And God is very clear that of all things, worshiping Him and following His commandments are most important. Check out the first commandment:

“I, the Lord, am your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, that place of slavery. You shall not have other gods besides me. You shall not carve idols for yourselves in the shape of anything in the sky above or on the earth below or in the waters beneath the earth; you shall not bow down before them or worship them. For I, the Lord, your God, am a jealous God, inflicting punishment for their fathers’ wickedness on the children of those who hate me, down to the third and fourth generation; but bestowing mercy down to the thousandth generation, on the children of those who love me and keep my commandments.” -Exodus 20:2-6

But despite this whole sin problem, there is always hope. Immediately after the sin in the Garden of Eden, God made an awesome promise for us all, saying to the serpent:

“I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; He will strike at your head, while you strike at his heel.” -Genesis 3:15

Look at that! There’s a promise of Jesus, offspring of Mary (the woman mentioned), who will crush the serpent!

What is the need for Jesus, son of God, to come to be with us? Sin is the answer, Jesus came to atone for our sins, which He did on the cross. Because we turned against God by sinning, God gave us another chance with the salvation promised to us by Jesus. Before Jesus, sin offerings were sacrifices of animals in the Temple in Jerusalem. #weaksauce. But Jesus was our perfect and holy offering for all of humanity in order to give us a chance at salvation again. #score! Jesus forgave the people of their sins, and get this: He also instituted a sacrament to forgive us of our sins even today! #noway!

“Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.” -John 20:23

Sin still is a problem, but look at what solutions we have been given for this problem! So what are you waiting for? Get thee to the confessional! #rightnow

Also see:
Confession

Being Shy Helps..

Nobody.

Let me give you two profound examples from the past few days. In the first, I finally had the courage to have each of the guys in my bible study meet with me in the campus chapel for a little bit. What I wanted to do was to ask them in a more intimate setting how their faith was and if they knew Jesus. It was some really powerful stuff, they opened up and were honest with me, and through my tough awkward questions and their honesty, I was able to help them out a little bit and help them develop a game plan to help them grow in their faith lives. Praise the Lord! In my second example, just this morning I was praying at Planned Parenthood with our local sidewalk counselor and my friend Lauren when a man came up to us. This man really went at us as soon as we explained what we were standing there for, even saying that there aren’t enough abortions because of overpopulation. A few of his old girlfriends had had abortions because of him, and he was very much opposed to those who he called “anti-choicers.” But then our wonderful sidewalk counselor, God bless her, started talking with him very calmly and helped him to see the other side of the picture a little more clearly. We especially had a lot of progress with the point that since he was a secular humanist, he should be more open to protecting ALL humans, including the unborn. Through our dialogue, we earned his respect and he himself said that he respected what we were doing and wished us well. And he even gave us some prayer intentions so that we could pray for him! Please pray for him, his name is Scott. And get this: Scott recognized Lauren from the daily bread ministry, which Joy also used to work at and I weekly volunteer with. See!? Charities bring people together! It is through service and peaceful dialogue that we can come together and form strong friendships and help there be just a little bit more love in the world.

There are so many times in life where I have the opportunity to start up a good conversation, to ask a deep question, to go out of my way to help a stranger in need, and something gets in the way. It’s more than just being shy, but that’s what I’m going to call it for now. I don’t think that it’s healthy to live your life being too shy. What’s that going do for you anyways? No. Wrong question. More importantly, what’s that going to do for OTHERS? It’s not about us. When you’re on your deathbed and you’re looking back on your life, what are you going to think of? What do you want to be remembered for? I don’t know about you, but I want to be remembered for living my life to the fullest, by loving God and serving Him and by loving others and serving them to the best of my abilities. By the way, that’s the meaning of life. Check out the very first lines of the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

“God, infinitely perfect and blessed in himself, in a plan of sheer goodness freely created man to make him share in his own blessed life. For this reason, at every time and in every place, God draws close to man. He calls man to seek him, to know him, to love him with all his strength. He calls together all men, scattered and divided by sin, into the unity of his family, the Church. To accomplish this, when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son as Redeemer and Savior. In his Son and through him, he invites men to become, in the Holy Spirit, his adopted children and thus heirs of his blessed life.”

Boss. That’s some beautiful stuff right there.

So what are we called to do? We’re called to become CHILDREN of GOD and HEIRS of GOD! Sick nasty man! And that brings me back to my point. How in the world are we participating in this lifestyle by holding back and worrying about what others think of us? Others may have the power to hurt us and oppress us in this life, but they have NOTHING on us eternally. The only opinion that really matters is God’s, and He kinda thinks we’re cool..

Yea! God came to us in the incarnation, Jesus Christ, and He died for us, each and every single one of us individually. He loves us so much! So my point.. NEVER, NEVER, NEVER worry about what people think about you. God loves you, and there could be nothing better.

For this reason, we should not be afraid to stick our neck out a little. Do it for the Lord. When we do this, we will open up opportunities that we never could have had before. There are so many friendships that we can have, so many fantastic experiences of charity and love, so many things to learn and experience! And if we’re shy, we’re holding back on all of this potential.

We have so much to share with each other if only we let ourselves. Let your love be strong and live life to the fullest.

“The glory of God is man fully alive” -St. Irenaeus

Who is Jesus?

Jesus Christ is kind of a big deal.

I dare you to mention Him in a public school. What makes just mentioning Him controversial?

What year is it? 2012. Years after Christ. Why did people restart and make Him year 1?

“Jesus was a nice guy, but He never said He was God.” People who say this should think twice.

Those are just a few ways of pointing out how Jesus is a controversial figure who is kind of a big deal and made some pretty high claims. I’d like to introduce you to… *drumroll* Jesus!

Jesus was born in Bethlehem, relocated to Egypt for a couple of years, and then raised in Nazareth. Pretty exciting childhood. Course that’s what happens when the king decides to kill all newborns in the land. He worked as a carpenter like his foster father Joseph and stayed at his parents home until He began his ministry at about age 30. As far as I understand it, Jesus was actually born at about 3BC (BCE blah blah blah) and was crucified, died, rose from the dead, and ascended into heaven at 30AD. It’s a lot more interesting if you read it in this thing called the bible.

My first set of interesting stuff to say here is that Jesus really did exist and we don’t just have to look at the Christian bible spammage to find it out. So this is a great old webpage with a nice list of a whole bunch of non-Christian secular writers who mentioned Jesus and Christians. I especially think that the account in Jewish Antiquities of Flavius Josephus, a Jewish priest and historian, is interesting:

Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man, for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure.  He drew over to him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. He was the Christ, and when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men among us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again the third day; as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him.  And the tribe of Christians so named from him are not extinct at this day.”

Well, this sounds very familiar to this guy. So there you have it. Jesus is a historical figure who did exist and look, they even talk about the resurrection and stuff!

So now I’d like to show you some of the things that Jesus said about Himself.

“I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.” -John 11:25-26

“Everything that the Father gives me will come to me, and I will not reject anyone who comes to me, because I came down from heaven not to do my own will but the will of the one who sent me.” -John 6:37-38

They all asked, “Are you the Son of God?” He replied to them, “You say that I am.” -Luke 22:70

“Amen, amen, I say to you, before Abraham came to be, I AM.” -John 8:58

“All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” -Matthew 28:18-20

That’s plenty. See what He’s saying here? He’s saying some crazy stuff! In the first passage He claims to have the power to make people immortal. In the second passage He says that He came down from heaven. In the third He says that He is the Son of God. In the fourth He not only claims to be older than Abraham, born hundreds of years beforehand, but also uses the same name (I AM) that God used to describe Himself to Moses in Exodus 3:14. And then in the last passage that I shared with you, which takes place after the resurrection, Jesus claims to have all of the power in heaven and earth.

So what does this mean? Without getting too technical, this means that Jesus made some claims that most people who just call Him a “good guy” or a “social activist” nowadays wouldn’t be too comfortable with. We have to draw the line somewhere. Was Jesus God, as He claimed He was, or was He an insane liar? Do you accept how He taught us to love each other and refuse to believe His claim that “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink,” as he said in John 6:54-55?

Get to know Jesus. Spend some time in prayer daily, read the Gospels, go to mass, etc. This Jesus is the one,

“Who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross. Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” -Philippians 2:6-11

What’s the Bible?

As I have explored in previous posts, we can know that God exists from our everyday experiences, science, reason, and other methods of inquisition. We can also begin to find out traits about God from these methods. But there is a goldmine of knowledge about God that I haven’t explored with you yet: the Bible.

The Bible is a collection of 73 books, with 46 that make up the Old Testament, and 27 more make up the New Testament. These numbers actually vary between different Christian churches. Of course the Catholic Bible has the complete 73 books, but did you know that after the Protestant Reformation, the Protestants removed 7 books from the Bible? Now their Bibles only have 66 books. (If you know anything about the symbolism of these numbers, I’m sure you just did a double take.) The Protestants removed 7 books from the Old Testament, Sirach, Tobit, Wisdom, Judith, 1 and 2 Maccabees, and Baruch, and also removed segments of Daniel and Esther. These books were quite obviously removed because of doctrinal differences, since for ~1300 years prior Christians all had agreed on the same books in their Bible. It is interesting to note that Martin Luther himself did not remove those books from the Bible, it was only later on that these books were taken out. There are even other churches that added books to the Bible so that it numbers in the 80s!

Ok, back from that tangent. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Sacred Scripture is the speech of God as it is put down in writing under the breath of the Holy Spirit. God is ultimately the author: in order to reveal Himself to men, in the condescension of His goodness God speaks to them in human words.

I think of the Bible as dialogue between God and humanity over the course of time. There are so many different people in the Bible, but it is always the same God who is eagerly anticipating the men and women, who He allows to be the main characters, to repent and convert their ways to His. It is really interesting to see the way that He guides each of them in this journey and also to see how these people react to these attempts. We tend to mess up a lot, but God is always ready to give us another try.

It is important to note that, as the Catechism states, the Christian faith is not a “religion of the book,” but rather a faith of the “Word which is incarnate and living.” Recall that when Jesus was with His apostles and disciples, He did not go around passing out Bibles. He knew the Jewish scriptures, our Old Testament, but the Bible itself was not compiled until much later, and even the first New Testament texts were not written until at least 10 years after the Ascension of Christ.

The Old Testament, according to Henry G. Graham in Where We Got the Bible, was compiled sometime between 430BC and 100BC. This is the original Hebrew, but there was also a compilation of the Old Testament written in Greek, a universal language at the time, for the dispersed Jews which is called the Septuagint. The translation from the Hebrew to the Greek was begun in Alexandria somewhere around 280-250BC. This was actually the version that Jesus and the early Christians would have known and quoted.

The New Testament, again according to Henry G. Graham, was finally completed by St. Jerome in Latin at the request of Pope Damasus in 382AD. This version is called the “Vulgate,” as it is the common or accepted version. (As a side note, St. Jerome also translated the Old Testament to Latin at the beginning of the 5th century.) There were plenty of compilations of the New Testament  in different parts of the world by the 4th century that were pretty close, but the final compilation for the entire Church was not decided until the very end of the 4th century. The Council of Carthage, in 397AD, mainly through the influence of St. Augustine, settled the canon of the Scriptures after being approved by Rome, and finally Christians had their Bible! Pretty cool that we got the Bible from a council in Africa, huh? Bet you didn’t know that!

So what makes them right? What if they got the canon wrong? If you’re thinking the Holy Spirit, you got it! Remember when Jesus said that it was better that He left so that the Spirit may come? He really meant it. The Spirit guides the Church so that it can correctly make decisions of importance on these matters. Also, Jesus instituted a Church that has the power to bind and loose, and who would not be overcome by the gates of Hell. Sounds pretty legit to me.

A couple other things to mention. The Bible isn’t up to personal interpretation. Just as how it was guided by the Holy Spirit when it was written, it must also be guided by the Spirit to be read and understood. What St. Peter explains below shows how we need the teaching authority found in the Magisterium of the Church to be able to interpret scripture correctly:

“Know this first of all, that there is no prophecy of scripture that is a matter of personal interpretation, for no prophecy ever came through human will; but rather human beings moved by the holy Spirit spoke under the influence of God.”  -2 Peter 1:20-21

There is much more to say about Scripture, like how for example we must take into account the context of what we are reading in order to better understand it, but perhaps I will leave that out for a later post. God bless and thank you for reading!

“All Sacred Scripture is but one book, and this one book is Christ, because all divine Scripture speaks of Christ, and all divine Scripture is fulfilled in Christ.” -Hugh of St. Victor