Pope Benedict XVI addresses Baptists


Check out this article: Pope to Baptists.

Advertisements

The Christian Lifestyle:I Peter 3:8-15


Finally, all of you, be of one mind, sympathetic, loving toward one another, compassionate, humble. Do not return evil for evil, or insult for insult; but, on the contrary, a blessing, because to this you were called, that you might inherit a blessing. For: “Whoever would love life and see good days must keep the tongue from evil and the lips from speaking deceit, must turn from evil and do good, seek peace and follow after it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears turned to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against evildoers.”  Now who is going to harm you if you are enthusiastic for what is good? But even if you should suffer because of righteousness, blessed are you. Do not be afraid or terrified with fear of them, but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts.

All of you, be of one mind… is this such a tall order? Doesn’t Peter understand, this is to idealistic? I mean come on, it sounds good but it isn’t very practical. What does he mean all of you anyway?

Many say it is idealistic, that this kind of church can not exists. But it can….and it does. Certainly, in writing this letter, Peter thinks back to when Jesus told him, face to face, “upon this rock I will build my Church and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.” Meaning that the Church itself isn’t just a human institution (as discussed last week) but that it was created by God Himself. I’m sure his memories also turned to the early days of the Church, as everyone was of “one heart and mind” (Acts 2:44, 4:32) knowing this is the way it was intended to be done, that it can still be done and must be done this way, in order to please our Father. If you look objectively at history, you will see this is the way it was done until 1517, when this “oneness” this “unity” was ruptured, and remains ruptured to this day. The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains it this way in paragraphs 811-813:

“This is the sole Church of Christ, which in the Creed we profess to be one, holy, catholic and apostolic.”These four characteristics, inseparably linked with each other,indicate essential features of the Church and her mission. The Church does not possess them of herself; it is Christ who, through the Holy Spirit, makes his Church one, holy, catholic, and apostolic, and it is he who calls her to realize each of these qualities.Only faith can recognize that the Church possesses these properties from her divine source. But their historical manifestations are signs that also speak clearly to human reason. As the First Vatican Council noted, the “Church herself, with her marvellous propagation, eminent holiness, and inexhaustible fruitfulness in everything good, her catholic unity and invincible stability, is a great and perpetual motive of credibility and an irrefutable witness of her divine mission.”

The Church is one because of her source: “the highest exemplar and source of this mystery is the unity, in the Trinity of Persons, of one God, the Father and the Son in the Holy Spirit.” The Church is one because of her founder: for “the Word made flesh, the prince of peace, reconciled all men to God by the cross, . . . restoring the unity of all in one people and one body.” The Church is one because of her “soul”: “It is the Holy Spirit, dwelling in those who believe and pervading and ruling over the entire Church, who brings about that wonderful communion of the faithful and joins them together so intimately in Christ that he is the principle of the Church’s unity.” Unity is of the essence of the Church:

What an astonishing mystery! There is one Father of the universe, one Logos of the universe, and also one Holy Spirit, everywhere one and the same; there is also one virgin become mother, and I should like to call her “Church.”

 

Being of one mind and all that entails [sympathetic, loving toward one another, compassionate, humble. Do not return evil for evil, or insult for insult] is what we, as Christians , are called to! If we are not living in this manner, how can this be pleasing to our Father?

By quoting Psalm 34:14-17 here, Peter reminds us that God’s standards for His children haven’t changed. He still requires us to turn from evil and do good to  inherit a blessing. In this case, our inheritance is eternal life in the presence of the Blessed Trinity, provided through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ our Lord. Because you see, if we truly put our faith in Jesus Christ, we will live according to His commands (John 15:10,14). We maybe able to fool others and even fool ourselves – but we will never be able to fool God.

Peter then encourages us to continue living a righteous life (who is going to harm you) for even the pagan societies have laws, rules and order. Doing good isn’t just some abstract concept either, it’s required for civilizations and societies even cultures to survive. The point being that, if you are doing good things you are probably not going to suffer. But if you do suffer, blessed are you. I’m sure that Peter’s mind thought back to Jesus’ sermon on the mount, when He said, “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 (falsely) because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven. Thus they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matt.5:10-12).

So, Peter reminds us not to be afraid or terrified with fear of them, but rather sanctify [set apart] Christ as Lord [Master] in our hearts. For if Jesus is our Master, our lifestyle will show it. We are not called to “sin, so that grace may abound” we are called to let Christ live through us, in the power of the Holy Spirit, choosing to do good rather than evil.

So this week, let us live a righteous life before all people, doing good and seeking peace. There is nothing to fear, for God has promised a blessing to those who follow after Him in obedience as Lord of the lives.

Amen.

What A Connection!!


What town was Jesus born in?

Bethlehem, the name Bethlehem means “house of bread.”

What was Jesus’ first bed?

A manger, a manger is a feeding trough.

The connection?

It’s the Eucharist, of course!

The “Bread that came down from heaven,” revealed in the “house of bread” and laid in a feeding trough for the world to be “fed”.

God does nothing by accident!

Merry Christmas, everyone!

The Conduct Of Our Lives:I Peter 3:1-7


Likewise, you wives should be subordinate to your husbands so that, even if some disobey the word, they may be won over without a word by their wives’ conduct when they observe your reverent and chaste behavior. Your adornment should not be an external one: braiding the hair, wearing gold jewelry, or dressing in fine clothes, but rather the hidden character of the heart, expressed in the imperishable beauty of a gentle and calm disposition, which is precious in the sight of God. For this is also how the holy women who hoped in God once used to adorn themselves and were subordinate to their husbands; thus Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him “lord.” You are her children when you do what is good and fear no intimidation. Likewise, you husbands should live with your wives in understanding, showing honor to the weaker female sex, since we are joint heirs of the gift of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.

The “likewise” that  Saint Peter uses here, reflects back on his command to slaves in the previous chapter.

In our study of the Domestic Church in August of 2006, we examined carefully the roles of both wives and husbands in Saint Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. Saint Peter says the same thing here, but gives different emphasis as to it’s result.  

Wives should be subordinate to your husbands so that, even if some disobey the word, they may be won over without a word by their wives’ conduct. This word “conduct” is anastrophe in Greek and is also translated as behavior and conversation. Using the “conduct” or “behavior” definition, better explains this sense being won over without a word.Some people have given a proper title to this action, lifestyle evangelism, and rightly so. Our lifestyles should lead our (unbelieving) spouses (and others) to faith in Christ, if indeed we find ourselves in this situation. But what about those spouses who already believe? After all, Saint Peter was addressing wives who had converted to Christianity (most likely) after their marriages, for Saint Paul teaches us in II Corinthians 6:14, not to be “unequally yoked together with unbelievers.” So what about those who already believe? If the “behavior” of the believer can lead an unbeliever to faith in our Lord, how much more will our “behavior” lead our believing spouses into a deeper faith in our Lord? If we are willing to do this, will not our marriages be strengthened and our families be more solidified? Of course they would!

I will not get into the historical details of women’s dress and pagan worship in the first century, because what Saint Peter is really addressing is the hidden character of the heart. A gentle and calm disposition, is precious in the sight of God, like Sarah had with Abraham. Saint Peter says, you are her[Sarah’s] children when you do what is good. This is not a foreign concept for us Catholics- as Sarah can be called a “mother of obedient wives”- so Mary can be called all believers [or the Church’s] spiritual Mother. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches in paragraph 969 and 970:

“This motherhood of Mary in the order of grace continues uninterruptedly from the consent which she loyally gave at the Annunciation and which she sustained without wavering beneath the cross, until the eternal fulfilment of all the elect. Taken up to heaven she did not lay aside this saving office but by her manifold intercession continues to bring us the gifts of eternal salvation. . . . Therefore the Blessed Virgin is invoked in the Church under the titles of Advocate, Helper, Benefactress, and Mediatrix.”

“Mary’s function as mother of men in no way obscures or diminishes this unique mediation of Christ, but rather shows its power. But the Blessed Virgin’s salutary influence on men . . . flows forth from the superabundance of the merits of Christ, rests on his mediation, depends entirely on it, and draws all its power from it.” “No creature could ever be counted along with the Incarnate Word and Redeemer; but just as the priesthood of Christ is shared in various ways both by his ministers and the faithful, and as the one goodness of God is radiated in different ways among his creatures, so also the unique mediation of the Redeemer does not exclude but rather gives rise to a manifold cooperation which is but a sharing in this one source.”

 

 Alright guys, it’s our turn!

We must show honor to our wives. That means showing them special esteem or respect and reverence. If we do this we are told that our prayers may not be hindered. This should inform us as to the importance of the Sacrament of Matrimony to our Father. If we do not respect our spouse, a visible sign of the unity of the Trinity, God will not hear our prayer. Is this not like Saint Paul’s description of prayer without love, “a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal” (I Cor. 13:1)? Is your prayer life ineffective? Examine your relationship with your spouse. Are you showing her honor and respect? Are you treating her as a joint heir? It would do us all well, to take Saint Peters words to heart here.

So this week, let us (wives) be subordinate to our husbands, and men (husbands) let us honor and respect our wives. Let us test the truth of God’s word, that our conduct will lead others to (or deeper in) a faith walk with Jesus Christ. And that our conduct toward our spouses, will not only enhance our relationships with each other, but will find favor in God’s eye’s and He will receive our prayers.

Amen.

 

A Legacy of Faith:The Last Thoughts From My Grandmother


This is a letter written by My Grandmother, Ollie Mae Wilbanks, shortly before her death on August 2, 2007. I love you and I miss you Mam-maw.

“My first thoughts are how I wish I had something to leave each of you to make your life as rich as mine has been for me. This is it.

I do leave, or have tried to leave a pattern of faith in my Lord Jesus Christ for each of you to follow. Only make it stronger and each of you do a lot more for our Lord than I have. I just hope and pray that each one will receive a crown and many stars to meet Jesus with when you go home. I probably won’t even have a crown. I feel I do so little for Him. But you have so much more time to do things for Him. I was 32 years old  before I became acquainted with my Lord and Savior. I feel I wasted many years by not going to hear His word. He did so much for me when I did get to know Him and He still does. I couldn’t live without Him. In fact, I didn’t know what it meant to live before I met and accepted Him as my Lord and Savior. His love for me was worth it all. I had so many disappointments, but He lived in my heart and made all of them disappear. And the dearest thing in my life was when I could go to Him in prayer, and my prayers would be answered. I had the peace that passeth all understanding. I even loved your children, your grandchildren and  great-grandchildren and even your great-great-grandchildren with the love of my Jesus. I have even learned to love unlovely people by letting Jesus love them through me. For He is wonderful to me. He counsels me at times, He is the Mighty God of my life. He is my everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace for me. Without Him I couldn’t live. That is what I want to leave each of you. Just reach out in faith and He will be all these great things for each one who will only turn to Him and ask. He gives peace when there is turmoil. He gives a song in your heart when you are heartbroken and restores you. He is there for you when you are lonely and keeps you from being lonely. He is just the most precious One you can count on anytime. More than that, He loves you more than I can or can possibly tell you. This One, is the One I want you each to love and treasure in your hearts and teach the little ones to love Him. You can count on Jesus so much more than any human being. When we trust humans we are a great risk. When we trust Jesus it means peace that passeth all understanding without a risk. This is my prayer for everyone I leave.

Love always, Mother.

Dear Father God, place a hedge around each one I leave here so evil can’t get to them, so each one can work and get close to him and tell others who don’t know Jesus to love Him. This is the main thing He leaves us here to do. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.”

The Pope On Purgatory


Expressed in his new encyclical, Spe Salvi [Saved in Hope] He explains his view, which happens to be the view of the Church:  

Some theologians are of the opinion that the fire which both burns and saves is Christ himself, the Judge and Saviour.  The encounter with him is the decisive act of judgement [sic].  Before his gaze all falsehood melts away.  This encounter with him, as it burns us, transforms and frees us, allowing us to become truly ourselves.  …His gaze, the touch of his heart heals us through an undeniably painful transformation ‘as through fire.’  But it is a  blessed pain, in which the holy power of his love sears through us like a flame, enabling us to become totally ourselves and thus totally of God.  In this way the inter-relation between justice and grace also becomes clear:  the way we live our lives is not immaterial, but our defilement does not stain us forever if we have at least continued to reach out towards Christ, towards truth and towards love.  …The pain of love becomes our salvation and our joy.  It is clear that we cannot calculate the ‘duration’ of this transforming burning in terms of the chronological measurements of this world.  The transforming ‘moment’ of this encounter eludes earthly time-reckoning—it is the heart’s time, it is the time of ‘passage’ to communion with God in the Body of Christ.  The judgement of God is hope, both because it is justice and because it is grace.  If it were merely grace, making all earthly things cease to matter, God would still owe us an answer to the question about justice—the crucial question that we ask of history and of God.  If it were merely justice, in the end it could bring only fear to us all.  The incarnation of God in Christ has so closely linked the two together—judgement and grace—that justice is firmly established:  we all work out our salvation ‘with fear and trembling’ (Phil. 2:12).  Nevertheless grace allows us all to hope, and to go trustfully to meet the Judge whom we know as our ‘advocate,’ or parakletos (I Jn. 2:1).      [Spe Salvi, n. 47]

Christ Our Example: I Peter 2:11-25


Beloved, I urge you as aliens and sojourners to keep away from worldly desires that wage war against the soul. Maintain good conduct among the Gentiles, so that if they speak of you as evildoers, they may observe your good works and glorify God on the day of visitation.  Be subject to every human institution for the Lord’s sake, whether it be to the king as supreme or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the approval of those who do good. For it is the will of God that by doing good you may silence the ignorance of foolish people. Be free, yet without using freedom as a pretext for evil, but as slaves of God. Give honor to all, love the community, fear God, honor the king. Slaves, be subject to your masters with all reverence, not only to those who are good and equitable but also to those who are perverse. For whenever anyone bears the pain of unjust suffering because of consciousness of God, that is a grace. But what credit is there if you are patient when beaten for doing wrong? But if you are patient when you suffer for doing what is good, this is a grace before God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in his footsteps. “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.” When he was insulted, he returned no insult; when he suffered, he did not threaten; instead, he handed himself over to the one who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body upon the cross, so that, free from sin, we might live for righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you had gone astray like sheep, but you have now returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.

Keep away from worldly desires and maintain good conduct among the Gentiles, these two things, seem not to be able to co-exist, according to Peter. For if we don’t keep away from worldly desires we can then be accused of acting as evildoers. But if our good conduct can be seen not only is God glorified by it, we reveal the hearts of our accusers!

Be subject to every human institution for the Lord’s sake, this should be our lifestyle, even in the political arena. This isn’t a suggestion that Peter offers, it’s a command! And a hard one to live up to at that. I certainly do not agree with all the legislation and actions of our politicians today, and some of the governments decisions. I also know it is merely a human institution. I do not put my faith or trust in what they say or do, even though I abide by their laws. Instead, I put my trust and faith in Jesus Christ, who established an institution that is both divine and human; His Holy Catholic Church. For it is Jesus’ Church which has proclaimed the Gospel, from the beginning and will continue to proclaim it after we are long gone – or until He returns for His Church. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states in paragraph 771:

“The one mediator, Christ, established and ever sustains here on earth his holy Church, the community of faith, hope, and charity, as a visible organization through which he communicates truth and grace to all men.” The Church is at the same time:

  •  a “society structured with hierarchical organs and the mystical body of Christ;
  • the visible society and the spiritual community;
  • the earthly Church and the Church endowed with heavenly riches.”
These dimensions together constitute “one complex reality which comes together from a human and a divine element”:
    The Church is essentially both human and divine, visible but endowed with invisible realities, zealous in action and dedicated to contemplation, present in the world, but as a pilgrim, so constituted that in her the human is directed toward and subordinated to the divine, the visible to the invisible, action to contemplation, and this present world to that city yet to come, the object of our quest.O humility! O sublimity! Both tabernacle of cedar and sanctuary of God; earthly dwelling and celestial palace; house of clay and royal hall; body of death and temple of light; and at last both object of scorn to the proud and bride of Christ! She is black but beautiful, O daughters of Jerusalem, for even if the labor and pain of her long exile may have discolored her, yet heaven’s beauty has adorned her. 

Peter continues his exhortation in doing good and even says it is God’s will for us stating, that by doing good you may silence the ignorance of foolish people.

He then goes on to give the “freedom and responsibility” speech, that every teenager has heard and every parent has given. Again, the command is to not use our freedom as an excuse for sinning. The freedom that Christ has given us is, in fact, the freedom to say “NO” to sin. Before our baptism, we were powerless to say “NO” to sin, but Jesus baptizes us with “the Holy Spirit and fire” (Matt. 3:11). This fire, as a refiners fire, purifies our souls, making it possible to say “YES” to Jesus and “NO” to sin.*

Peter also tells us this freedom allows us the grace to endure suffering as Christ did, for in all things He is our example. If we bear the pain of unjust suffering because of consciousness of God, that is a grace, if we are patient when you suffer for doing what is good, this is a grace before God.

For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in his footsteps…. This is something I didn’t hear preached in my former faith tradition, “Called to suffer.” Who wants to hear about that? “By His stripes we are healed!” That’s what the people want to hear! And therein lies the problem; the people want to hear it so the preacher has to preach it, that is, if he wants to remain their preacher!

Because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in his footsteps. So not only have we been called to live as Christ lived, we’ve been called to act in our sufferings as Christ acted in His sufferings. It’s so easy to bless those who come to you and ask you for help, but it’s much harder to say, “Father forgive them, they no not what they do” in our times of persecution and trials. Do we really act like Jesus then, or do we act like spoiled children, stomping our feet and screaming at the top of our lungs, “It’s not fair!!” or “Why me?!?”

Peter also tells us that Jesus  bore our sins in his body upon the cross, so that, free from sin*[as stated above], we might live for righteousness. He is our example in every aspect of our lives, whether in peaceful times or times of suffering.

So this week, let us evaluate where we are in developing our Christian “lifestyle.” Is Jesus my example? Can people see Him in me, through my life in suffering or contentment? Let us also reflect on our Baptismal promises and determine ourselves to walk in “newness of life.” Quoting the Catechism of the Catholic Church 1694:

Incorporated into Christ by Baptism, Christians are “dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus” and so participate in the life of the Risen Lord. Following Christ and united with him, Christians can strive to be “imitators of God as beloved children, and walk in love” by conforming their thoughts, words and actions to the “mind . . . which is yours in Christ Jesus,” and by following his example.

Amen.