Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Is "Sola Scriptura" Valid?

One of the foundational principles of the Protestant Reformation was that Sacred Scripture is the only valid source of Christian beliefs. Martin Luther made this one of his primary claims against the validity of Papal authority, purgatory, and many other Catholic teachings that had been held since the time of the apostles. Many Protestant denominations still cling to this belief.

There are several problems with this assertion. The first is that there is no basis for saying that Scripture alone is the authoritative source of Christian doctrine. Certainly there is no mention of this in Scripture itself. Secondly, this belief has caused many protestants to examine the Bible and through their own interpretation, claim that certain Catholic doctrines are in error. Thirdly, due to the lack of an authoritative source of interpretation of the Scriptures, we have seen the splintering of the Protestant denominations because each has its own interpretation of the Scriptures. We shall attempt to examine each of these issues in the light of Scripture and the Sacred Tradition of the Catholic Church in order to understand the problems associated with each.

First, when trying to understand the concept of Sola Scriptura, we would logically look for some basis for this belief in Scripture itself. We would be looking for a long time, because there is no evidence for it in the Bible. On the other hand, there are several passages in Scripture that show us that Sacred Scripture is to be understood in the light of Sacred Tradition. This Tradition, which has been handed down to us since the apostles, gives us a rich source of understanding of the words and intentions of Jesus. The first and most obvious verse to affirm the Catholic position on this matter is found in 2 Thessalonians 2:15, “Therefore, brothers, stand firm and hold fast to the traditions that you were taught, either by an oral statement or by a letter of ours.” This verse clearly indicates the authority of oral tradition in forming doctrine.

Consider John 20:30, “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of (his) disciples that are not written in this book”. What about John 21:25? It states “There are also many other things that Jesus did, but if these were to be described individually, I do not think the whole world would contain the books that would be written.” These things that Christ did are handed down in the form of Sacred Tradition.

When Protestants interpret Scripture, they commonly claim that certain Catholic doctrines are against Scripture. This is what happens when Scripture is interpreted without guidance. One excellent example of a Catholic practice that is supposedly against Scripture is the sacrament of Confession. They claim that no man has the power to forgive sins. However, in John 20:23, Jesus says, “Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.” This is clearly an indication of the validity of Catholic Confession. Protestants claim that the Bible does not affirm the authority of the Pope. They fail to consider the full passage in the Gospel of Matthew when making this claim, however. In Mt. 16:13-19, we have a dialog between Jesus and His disciples:

"Who do people say that the Son of Man is?" They replied, "Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets." He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" Simon Peter said in reply, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God." Jesus said to him in reply, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."
We see that the people had no idea what to believe. They thought Jesus may have been John the Baptist, or a prophet. They were seriously in error. Then there was Peter, who knew Jesus. He did not know Jesus because he heard it from someone else, but because the Holy Spirit guided him. This passage gives us the beautiful promise that Jesus made to us that He would never abandon His Church to confusion. He gave us a leader, Peter, who was the first Pope. We see that we need a moral leader who can speak with authority.

There are thousands of Christian denominations. Each one claims to have the truth. Logic dictates that only one religion can have the fullness of the truth. There is only one Truth, who is God Himself. Private interpretation of Scripture can be faulty, and this is even conveyed in the Bible. Acts 8:30-31 says, “Philip ran up and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and said, ‘Do you understand what you are reading?’ He replied, ‘How can I, unless someone instructs me?’ So he invited Philip to get in and sit with him.” Here, the Bible clearly shows us the error of private interpretation of Scriptures. Philip sits down to guide the man through them so that they may be understood in the proper light.

These are just some of the reasons that Sola Scriptura, which is the belief that Scripture alone is the source for all Christian doctrine is wrong. We can only understand the Scriptures in the light of Sacred Tradition. The Bible itself does not dictate Sola Scriptura, but rather warns against it.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Happy Easter

May the Lord Bless you and all of your loved ones on this joyous day! May you rejoice in Jesus' rising from the dead and His conquering of sin!

Happy Easter!

Friday, April 6, 2007

What is the Meaning of Good Friday?

Good Friday is the solemn commemoration of the passion and death of Jesus Christ. This day is the most sorrowful of any day in the history of the world for Christians. Jesus, innocent and without sin, freely offered His life for the redemption of the sins of the entire world.

How is this possible? How can the sacrifice of one man be enough to redeem the gruesome sins of mankind? The sacrifice on the cross was the offering of God Himself. God, the almighty and infinite master of the universe made an infinite offering by His sacrifice on the cross. Our sins, though many and serious are finite. They are limited, though they are numerous. We cannot count them. They are too many, but God, knowing and seeing all knows all of our sins.

His sacrifice is an eternal one, by which we receive an eternal reward. By our sins beginning in the Garden of Eden and continuing throughout the history of humanity, we sentenced ourselves to separation from God for eternity. God is perfect, and through our sins, we blemished ourselves such that we could not be united with God in Heaven.

God, however, is compassionate and gave us a redemption from our sins. The death of Jesus on the Cross is the eternal sacrifice that removes the eternal consequences of our sinful nature. Christ in His mercy opened the Gates of Heaven for us.

There are many who freely choose to reject this gift. There are also many who accept it. Regardless of our response to this offering of His life, the gift was generously offered for the redemption of all. This gift is the manifestation of perfect love. Jesus was innocent of all sin. He gave the most precious gift that anyone could give: His Life. For, as it says in the Gospel of John, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends.” (John 15:13).

This is the day when that famous verse, quoted in all corners of the world, written on signs at sporting events, and written on the hearts of all mankind came to fulfillment. John 3:16 tells us, “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.”

Let us not forget this amazing gift. Let us not reject this gift whether outright or through our sinfulness. Our Lord spared no pain, retained no shred of human dignity. He was scourged, crowned with thorns, spat upon, made to carry a cross through the streets, filled with a hostile crowd, nailed to a cross and killed for our sins. There is no sacrifice we can make that can even compare to His. For though we suffer, we are sinful. Our Lord was perfect and was tortured and killed for us.

We must conform our lives to goodness. We must sacrifice the pleasures of sinfulness so that we may be united with Him in Heaven. For though He died to redeem our sins, we must still accept this gift in our lives. We must live for Christ.

Monday, April 2, 2007

No Gift is Too Great for Our God

During this time of Lent, one of the areas of focus in our lives should be the sacrifice of a lesser good for a greater good. The reason we fast and give alms is that by our sacrifice, we recognize the proper hierarchy of goods. God is the first and greatest good. All other goods are secondary. Money, comfort, time, and fame are all subordinate goods to the love of God.

Today, the readings at mass convey this idea. The prophecy in Isaiah sets Jesus apart as the chosen one, with whom the Father is pleased. The Lord is identified as our ultimate goal. He is the greatest good, in whom we should place all of our trust and energy.

The gospel reading affirms this concept. A woman begins to wash the feet of Jesus with rare and expensive oil. She then uses her own hair to dry His feet. As she is doing this, Judas becomes upset and asks why the oil is wasted and not used to help the poor. We know that Judas really intended to steal the money from the proceeds of the sale of that oil. Jesus then gives us perspective on the dispute. He silences Judas by reminding him that “You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me."

Here we see that social justice certainly has its place. It is a very worthwhile cause, but it is still subordinate to the greater cause, which is the glorification of God. We must not forget the proper order of our priorities. God must always be first in our lives.

Friday, March 30, 2007

On the Watch for Any Misstep

Today’s readings are bound together by the common theme of hatred by sinful people toward the just. In the first reading we hear the phrase "All those who were my friends are on the watch for any misstep of mine." In the gospel, the Jews are trying to stone Jesus because He announced His divinity.

The witness given to us in the book of Jeremiah today rings true in our times. Those who profess the Catholic faith are attacked on all sides by people professing "freedom of religion" and "separation of church and state". These people do not seek to prevent the government from imposing religion. They seek to prevent the faithful from publicly acknowledging their religion. They seek to remove the idea of religion from public life. While true separation of church and state is necessary for the practice of our faith, the perversion of this principle is an attack on our freedoms.

Secular progressives are not the only ones heading attacks on our faith. The woefully uninformed and deliberately defiant Catholic dissident groups are also mounting attacks on our faith. While secular society attacks from outside, the dissident Catholics attack from within. Our Church is under attack on all fronts. We are engaged in an epic battle. Spiritual warfare is present in our midst.

What is the answer? It is simple: prayer and fasting. Only through these practices can we begin to turn the tide against our persecutors. Even at present, the work of so many faithful is bearing great fruit. We must listen to the words of the psalmist: “In my distress I called upon the Lord, and he heard my voice.” Our petition for help in the battle will not fall on deaf ears. Our Lord gives us grace to fight the battle. We must ask Him for it.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

The Fruits of the Sacraments

The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines the sacraments in the following way:

“The sacraments are efficacious signs of grace, instituted by Christ and entrusted to the Church, by which divine life is dispensed to us. The visible rites by which the sacraments are celebrated signify and make present the graces proper to each sacrament. They bear fruit in those who receive them with the required dispositions.” CCC 1131
Through the sacraments, we take part in the grace dispensed by Christ Himself in the signs He instituted. We see that “They bear fruit in those who receive them with the required dispositions.” Now ordinarily, when we think of disposition, we think physically and spiritually, such as whether we observed the one-hour fast and we are in the state of grace before receiving the Eucharist, or if we have made a proper examination of conscience before confession. These are very necessary to the proper reception of the sacraments, but there is also another dimension that we do not always consider.

This dimension is our attitude and understanding of the sacrament we are about to receive. In order to fully receive the graces flowing from the sacraments, we must have an ardent desire to receive them.

Simply going to mass because we are required to go is not enough to fully benefit from the Eucharist. We must WANT to go to mass, to be in the presence of the Lord our God. We must yearn for the sacrifice of the mass.

We must truly desire to be freed from the burden of our sins in order to receive the graces of the sacrament of reconciliation. We cannot simply resign ourselves to committing a grave sin thinking that we can just go to confession later. This is a serious abuse of the grace of the sacrament.

The sacraments require us to believe in them. They require faith. Before we can receive the Eucharist, we must fully understand that it is the Real Presence of Christ. It is truly the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus. It is not a symbol. It is our faith! How can we profess a faith, but refuse to believe it? How can we profess a faith, but be woefully ignorant of it? As Catholics, we must understand and adhere to the basic principles of our faith.

Just as the sacraments require faith from us, they also work to increase our faith. The frequent reception of the sacraments builds us up in grace, so that we may grow closer to the Lord. The Catechism of the Catholic Church gives us the following guidance on this relationship:
"The purpose of the sacraments is to sanctify men, to build up the Body of Christ and, finally, to give worship to God. Because they are signs they also instruct. They not only presuppose faith, but by words and objects they also nourish, strengthen, and express it. That is why they are called 'sacraments of faith.'" CCC 1123
It is with utter amazement that we witness the changes in our faith by the simple act of a good confession and reception of the Eucharist. When we receive these sacraments with the proper disposition, our lives become noticeably changed. The saving grace of God is awe-inspiring. If only all Catholics would come to the sacraments with fully-developed faith and knowledge, our Churches would be over-filled and our society would be immeasurably more hospitable to a devout way of life.

EU: Poland May NOT Have Right to Protect Children from Homosexual Propaganda

Catholics in Poland are again the target of the European Union. The EU is stepping up pressure on Poland to prevent a law that forbids homosexual propaganda in schools. The Committee on Civil Liberties of the European Parliament is behind this most recent action against the mostly Catholic nation.

According to the article listed below, “Several days ago, the Poland’s Minister of Education together with the Polish League of Families proposed a law protecting children in the country’s schools from aggressive and obscene homosexual propaganda that presents the gay lifestyle as ‘normal and acceptable.’”

The EU now wants to review that proposed law. If the law is passed and the committee finds it to violate discrimination laws, the EU could bring action against Poland. We must pray for the faithful in Poland that they may remain strong in their resolve. We must also pray for the conversion of those in power within the EU, that they may come to an understanding of the truth of the Catholic faith.

Here is the story from CatholicNewsAgency.com