Who was Melchizedek?

Bible Study – October 30th 2918 – 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Who was Melchizedek?

Hebrews 5:6 – You are a priest of  the order of Melchizedek, and for ever.

Melchizedek makes one appearance in the bible in Genesis 14:17-20.

When Abram came back after the defeat of Chedor-laomer and the kings who had been on his side, the king of Sodom came to meet him in the valley of Shaveh (that is the Valley of the King).  Melchizedek king of Salem brought bread and wine: he was priest of God Most High.  He pronounced this blessing:

Blessed be Abram by God Most High, creator of heaven and earth, and blessed be God Most High for handing over your enemies to you.

And Abram gave him a tithe of everything.

From this we are told five things about Melchizedek;

  1. He is king of Salem, that is the king of peace (shalom). (The church fathers associated him with Jerusalem.)
  2. He was priest of God Most High, in Hebrew El Elyon, one of the names of God used in the Old Testament.
  3. He brought an offering of bread and wine, an offering unique in the Old Testament.
  4. He pronounced a blessing.
  5. Abram gave him the tithe which is reserved for the Lord.

There are some parallels with Christ here which makes Melchizedek a type of Christ.

When we say that someone is a type of Christ, we are saying that a person in the Old Testament behaves in a way that corresponds to Jesus’ character or actions in the New Testament.  https://www.gotquestions.org/typology-Biblical.html

Melchizedek is mentioned again in Psalm 110:4.

You are a priest of the order of Melchizedek, and for ever.

Which is quoted in the letter to the Hebrews.

Hebrews 7:1-3 goes on to explain;

You remember that Melchizedek, king of Salem, a priest of God Most High, went to meet Abraham who was on his way back after defeating the kings, and blessed him; and also that it was to him that Abraham gave a tenth of all that he had.  By the interpretation of his name, he is, first, ‘king of righteousness’ and also king of Salem, that is, ‘king of peace’; he has no father, mother or ancestry, and his life has no beginning or ending; he is like the Son of God.  He remains a priest for ever.

It’s always helpful when the bible interprets itself.

So, Melchizedek is a type of Christ.  He prefigures and points to Jesus.

He is a man without beginning or end.

Hebrews 13:8 – Jesus Christ is the same today as he was yesterday and as he will be forever.

As it says in Eucharistic Prayer No 1;

Be pleased to look upon these offerings with a serene and kindly countenance,  and to accept them as once you were pleased to accept the gifts of your servant Abel the just, the sacrifice of Abraham, our father in faith, and the offerings of your high priest Melchizedek,

And in the previous liturgy of 1975;

Look with favour on these offerings and accept them as once you accepted the gifts of your servant Abel, the sacrifice of Abraham, our father in faith, and the bread and wine offered by your priest Melchizedek.

 

 

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Bible Study 23rd October 2018 – 29th Sunday, Focus – Isaiah 53

Bible Study – October 23rd 2018 – 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Opening Prayer – from the Divine Mercy

Eternal Father, I offer you the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Your Dearly Beloved Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world.

For the sake of his sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.

Holy God, Holy Mighty One, Holy Immortal One, have mercy on us and on the whole world.

Readings – Isaiah 53:10-11,  Psalm 32,  Hebrews 4:14-16,  Gospel – Mark:10:35-45

The old testament reading takes us to one of the most wonderful chapters in the entire bible.  It is of the utmost importance to Christians and the words really leap off the page.

Isaiah 52:13 – 53:12

52:13 See, my servant will prosper, he shall be lifted up, exalted, rise to great heights.

14 As the crowds were appalled on seeing him – so disfigured did he look that he seemed no longer human-

15 So will the crowds be astonished at him, and kings stand speechless before him, for they shall see something never told and witness something never heard before.

53:1 ‘Who could believe what we have heard, and to whom has the power of the Lord been revealed?’

2 Like a sapling he grew up in front of us, like a root in arid ground.  Without beauty, without majesty (we saw him), no looks to attract our eyes;

3 A thing despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and familiar with suffering, a man to make people screen their faces, he was despised and we took no account of him.

4 And yet ours were the sufferings he bore, ours the sorrows he carried.  But we, we thought of him as someone punished, struck by God and brought low.

5 Yet he was pierced through for our faults, crushed for our sins.  On him lies a punishment that brings us peace, and through his wounds we are healed.

6 We had all gone astray like sheep, each taking his own way, and the Lord burdened him with the sins of all of us.

7 Harshly dealt with, he bore it humbly, he never opened his mouth, like a lamb that is led to the slaughter-house, like a sheep that is dumb before its shearers never opening its mouth.

8 By force and by law he was taken; would anyone plead his cause?  Yes, he was torn away from the land of the living; for our faults struck down in death.

9 They gave him a grave with the wicked, a tomb with the rich, though he had done no wrong and there had been no perjury in his mouth.

10 The Lord has been pleased to crush him with suffering.  If he offers his life in atonement, he shall see his heirs, he shall have a long life and through him what the Lord wishes will be done.

11 His soul’s anguish over he shall see the light and be content.  By his suffering shall my servant justify many, taking their faults on himself.

12 Hence I shall grant whole hordes for his tribute, he shall divide the spoil with the mighty, for surrendering himself to death and letting himself be taken for a sinner, while he was bearing the faults of many and praying all the time for sinners.

 

Questions

  1. Who is this passage about?
  2. What does he look like?  (There are 2 descriptions)
  3. What does a shoot in arid ground mean?
  4. What event does this passage describe?
  5. What is it that he takes upon himself?
  6. What is the purpose of his doing this?
  7. What does he shall be lifted up mean?

I’m deliberately not answering these questions.  I am more interested in what you make of it.

Exercise

Take a highlighter (or underline) all the references to the crucifixion.

 

Tie in with the Gospel

Mark 10:45 – ‘For the Son of Man himself did not come to be served but to serve and give His life as a ransom for many.’

Bible Study – October 16th 2018

Bible Study – October 16th 2018

Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful

And kindle in them the fire of your love.

Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created

And you will renew the face of the earth.

 

Let us pray.

Lord, by the light of your Holy Spirit you have taught the hearts of your faithful.

In that same Spirit help us to relish what is right

And always rejoice in your consolation.

We ask this through Christ our Lord.

Amen.

 

Scripture readings from 28th Sunday in ordinary time

Wisdom 7:7-11

Psalm 89

Hebrews 4:12-13

Gospel, 10:17-30

 

Is there a common theme?

Wisdom comes through in the first reading and the psalm.

 

There are also some good pointers for how to go about Bible Study.

Wisdom 7:7 – I prayed and understanding was given me.

Hebrews 4:12 – The word of God is something alive and active.

This takes us to another verse in the bible concerning scripture.

2 Timothy 3:16 – All scripture is inspired by God and can profitably be used for teaching, for refuting error, for guiding people’s lives and teaching them to be holy.

 

In summary Scripture, the Word of God, reaches into our innermost being.

 

The Gospel Reading – Mark 10: 17-30

  1. 17 – Good master, what must I do to inherit eternal life?

Bible pointer – John 3:16, God loved the world so much that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him may not be lost but may have eternal life.

 

  1. 19 – You know the commandments

Bible pointer Exodus 20:1-17 to see all 10 commandments and note who is speaking.

& Exodus 31:18 – When the LORD finished speaking to Moses on Mount Sinai, he gave him the two tablets of the covenant law, the tablets of stone inscribed by the finger of God.

 

vs 21 – Come, follow me

After Jesus says, to his disciples, how hard it is for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God the disciples ask;

vs 26 – who can be saved

Let’s consider some more Bible pointers;

John 3:16

Acts 2:38 repent…and be baptised

Romans 10:9 – If your lips confess that Jesus is Lord and you believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, then you will be saved.

 

How might we summarise this message of salvation?

  1. Believe
  2. Repent
  3. Be baptised
  4. Be filled with the Holy Spirit
  5. Persevere – come, follow me (walk the talk and live the life)

 

Or to put it in Catholic terms;

  1. Having receive the Sacrament of Baptism as an infant
  2. Believe – stay true to that baptism
  3. Repent – avail yourself of the Sacrament of Reconciliation
  4. Be filled with the Holy Spirit – Confirmation (and keep on being filled)
  5. Persevere – attend Church and receive the Blessed Sacrament regularly                        put your belief into action in your daily life

 

Bible Pointers – James 2:26, Faith is dead if it is separated from good deeds.

Ephesians 2: 10, For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ                                              Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

The Vocation of the Laity

Catechism of the Catholic Church

ccc901 The Participation of lay people in Christ’s priestly office

“Hence the laity, dedicated as they are to Christ and anointed by the Holy Spirit, are marvellously called and prepared so that even richer fruits of the Spirit may be produced in them.  For all their works, prayers and apostolic undertakings, family and married life, daily work, relaxation of mind and body, if they are accomplished in the Spirit – indeed even the hardships of life if patiently born – all these become spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.  In the celebration of the Eucharist these may most fittingly be offered to the Father along with the body of the Lord.  And so, worshipping everywhere by their holy actions, the laity consecrate the world itself to God, everywhere offering worship by the holiness of their lives.”

 

I was struck by the words of Preface IV of the Sundays in Ordinary time;

It is truly right and just, our duty and our salvation,

always and everywhere to give you thanks,

Lord, holy Father, almighty and eternal God,

Through Christ our Lord.

For by His birth He brought renewal

to humanities fallen state,

and by His suffering cancelled out our sins;

by His rising from the dead

He has opened the way to eternal life,

And by ascending to You, O Father,

He has unlocked the gates of heaven.

And so with the company of Angels and Saints,

we sing the hymn of your praise,

as without end we acclaim:

Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of hosts.

          Heaven and earth are filled with your glory.

          Hosanna in the highest.

          Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.

          Hosanna in the highest.

 

Closing Blessing

May the Lord bless you and keep you;

May the Lord let his face shine on you and be gracious to you;

May the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.

Amen

 

Holy Souls Parish Bible Study 27th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Bible Study – October 9th 2018

Opening Prayer

Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful

And kindle in them the fire of your love.

Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created

And you will renew the face of the earth.

Let us pray.

Lord, by the light of your Holy Spirit you have taught the hearts of your faithful.

In that same Spirit help us to relish what is right

And always rejoice in your consolation.

We ask this through Christ our Lord.

Amen.

 

Scripture readings from 27th Sunday in ordinary time

Genesis 2: 18-24

Psalm 127

Hebrews 2: 9-11

Gospel, Mark 10: 2-16

 

Is there a common theme?

 

One theme could be ‘The Human Family”

 

It is easy to see a link between the Old Testament reading and the Gospel; the foundational nature of marriage and what Jesus has to say about divorce.  The Psalm also has the theme of marriage about it.

The notes on the front of the bulletin are helpful in understanding the gospel.

If we look at a similar passage in Matthew’s Gospel we can see what the response of the disciples was.  Matthew 19: 10 ‘If such is the case between a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.’

Strange that they don’t see marriage as something wonderful, special and precious.

Why is this?

We could look at a problem which has existed between men and women since the fall.  It is called the Adamic curse.  Genesis 3: 11-19 and in verse 16 God says to the woman ‘your desire will be for your husband and he shall rule over you.’

 

The reading from Hebrews is harder to fit in with the theme of the Gospel.  The book of Hebrews was written to a Jewish Christian church.  We don’t know who wrote it though some think it was Paul because the name Timothy is mentioned at the end.  We have letters from Paul to Timothy in the bible.  The scholars say the style is very different to Paul’s other letters and so think it was written by somebody else.

I don’t think it was an accident the Father Neil used Eucharistic Prayer IV at Sunday evening’s mass.  Let’s have a look at that and see if it ties in with the reading from the letter to the Hebrews.

 

Closing Prayer

May the Lord bless you and keep you;

May the Lord let his face shine on you and be gracious to you;

May the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.

Amen

 

“Except there come a falling away first” – in relation to the Abuse scandal in the Catholic Church

The verse above is from the Second Letter of St Paul to the Thessalonians Chapter 2 Verse 3.  It is in relation to the second coming of Christ and that that can’t happen “except there be a falling away first”.  King James Bible

In the Jerusalem Bible this is called the Great Revolt.  “It cannot happen until the Great Revolt has taken place…”

Jesus speaks of this in the Gospel of Matthew Chapter 24 Verse 10 “…many will fall away…”

How might people fall away?  Let’s have a look at the parable of the sower.

Matthew 13: 4-9  He said, ‘Imagine a sower going out to sow.  As he sowed, some seeds fell on the edge of the path, and the birds came and ate them up.  Others fell on the edge of the path, and the birds came and ate them up.  Others fell on patches of rock where they found little soil and sprang up straight away, because there was no depth of earth; but as soon as the sun came up they were scorched and, not having any roots, they withered away.   Others fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them.  Others fell on rich soil and produced their crop, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.  Listen, anyone who has ears!’

And the explanation;

Matthew 13: 19-23  ‘You, therefore, are to hear the parable of the sower.  When anyone hears the word of the kingdom without understanding, the evil one comes and carries off what was sown in his heart: this is the man who received the seed on the edge of the path.  The one who received it on the patches of rock is the man who hears the word and welcomes it at once with joy.  But he has no root in him, he does not last; let some trial come, or some persecution on account of the word, and he falls away at once.  The one who received the seed in thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this world and the lure or riches choke the word and so he produces nothing.  And the one who hears the word and understands it; he is the one who yields a harvest and produces now a hundredfold, now sixty, now thirty.’

In Matthew 24 the “falling away” which Jesus mentions is in relation to persecution.

How else might people fall away?  How does this relate to the current abuse crisis in the Catholic Church?

People might fall away through disillusionment.   Something happens which leaves them very disappointed in the church or very hurt by it.  They might question why they are in this church at all.

People might fall away because there is a challenge to their faith which is just too much too bear.

People might fall away because the church has lost credibility.  They feel like the foundation under them has been taken away or shown to be irretrievably rotten.

People might feel they are being put in a position of defending the indefensible and walk away.

All these four things are consequences of the abuse scandal in the Catholic Church.  We could be seeing that “falling away” which is a prelude to the very last days.

What might our response be?

This is a time to be sure and certain in our faith in Jesus Christ.  From the parable of the sower we want to deeply rooted in Christ to withstand all these things and heal the church and those damaged by it.  When we are speaking with others we should remember that it is Jesus we are presenting as Lord and Saviour and only secondarily the Church.  We do not defend the indefensible but continue to present Jesus to the world.  My personal take on this is that if after an encounter with Jesus a person wants to become a Catholic then that is a good thing, but if they want to go to some other church that is okay with me.  I’m not trying to be particularly ecumenical here just acknowledging the reality of those who proclaim that “Jesus Christ is Lord” in other churches.  All Christians who proclaim “Jesus Christ is Lord” can recognise each other without consciously practising ecumenism.

Having been on a personal journey through a number of other Churches, all of whom experienced scandals of one kind or another why do I remain with the Catholic Church. Answer – I love the mass.

If I can use a scripture at the risk of being misunderstood – In John’s Gospel Chapter 6, Jesus presents himself as the bread of life and says “If you do not eat of the flesh of the Son of Man and drink of his blood, you will not have life in you.”  Many find this teaching unacceptable and leave him.  He then says to the apostles, “What about you, do you want to go away too?”  Simon Peter answered,  “Lord, who shall we go to?  You have the message of eternal life.”

Now bearing in mind that Jesus is all truth, he is the one to stay with.

What might I say of a damaged Church?  Well, that the Church may be compromised but the message isn’t.  The Church has the message of eternal life and points to Jesus.  There is much work to do and it will be a long haul.  It is always much harder to build than it is to destroy.

On a flight to Portugal, to visit Fatima, on 11th May 2010 Pope Benedict XVI took questions from the media.  This was one of them;

Your holiness, what meaning do the Fatima apparitions have for us today?  In June 2000 when you presented the text of the third secret in the Vatican Press Office, a number of us and our former colleagues were present.  You were asked if the message could be extended, beyond the attack on John Paul II to other sufferings on the part of the popes.  Is it possible, to your mind, to include in that vision the sufferings of the Church today for the sins involving the sexual abuse of minors.

Here is an extract from Pope Benedict’s answer;

The Lord told us that the Church would constantly be suffering, in different ways, until the end of the world….  As for the new things which we can find in this message today, there is also the fact that attacks on the Pope and the Church come not only from without, but the sufferings of the Church come precisely from within the Church,  from the sin existing within the ChurchThis too is something we have always known, but today we are seeing it in a really terrifying way, that the greatest persecution of the Church comes not from her enemies without, but arises from sin within the Church, and that the Church thus has a deep need to relearn penance, to accept purification, to learn forgiveness on the one had, but also the need for justice, forgiveness does not replace justice.

Telling words, attacks on the Church from within and without.  Even Jesus experiences  this when Judas betrays him.

To close I would recommend reading Matthew 24.  We have been in the last days since Jesus’ resurrection.  Could we be at the beginning of the very last days?

Except there be a falling away

Also have a look at the Third Secret of Fatima.

Reference

https://www.catholicfamilynews.org/blog/2018/7/2/sexual-abuse-and-the-third-secret-a-timely-reminder

 

The Catholic Church, the Abuse Scandal and the Miracle of Lazarus

For a while I have been wanting to write an article about male leadership and all the time there is this huge elephant in the room, the sexual abuse of children involving some Catholic priests, which only seems to get bigger as time passes.

I have heard Catholics say that it is very hard to be a Catholic at the moment in the light of all that has happened and the behaviour of the hierarchy in the way it has been dealt with or rather hidden these things.  I don’t want to get into the why or the how for this can seem to be defending the indefensible and that would never do.  Even though these crimes have been committed by a minority the effects are way  beyond the numbers.

To be honest none of my friends, family or work colleagues have given me a hard time about this and we have all agreed about how terrible this is.  Primarily to those who have been abused and secondarily to the church’s reputation.  The damage these manipulative individuals cause is immense and it is of little compensation to those affected that these paedophiles are storing a judgement up for themselves.  If I can take a liberty and paraphrase some scripture about harming children “it would be better for him to have a large millstone tied around his neck and be drowned in the sea.”  Matthew 18:6.

Trying to hide it or cover it up will only make matters worse for;

“He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men’s hearts.”  1 Corinthians 4:5

St Paul is clear about what should be done in such cases;

“Expel the wicked man from among you.”  1 Corinthians 5:13.  Read all of chapter 5 for the complete context.

If the appropriate action is not taken God will shake the church to remove what is not of him.  Hebrews 12:25-29.  I believe we are seeing this.

Before this scandal within the Catholic church it seemed we were always hearing about wayward American evangelicals who had fallen bigtime.  There was a church where this had happened and the faithful were reeling under the effects of the scandal.  A visiting Christian gave them this prophetic word, ” I have a word for you.  It is the miracle of Lazarus.  (John 11:1-44)   God took something that was dead and stinking and brought it back to life again.  This is what God is going to do with your church”.  These words both contained hope and a stinging slap for what had happened.

Now I don’t feel that the Catholic church is a stinking corpse,  there are too many faithful people, lay and clergy, within it, but I am certain it is being shaken and what has been hidden is being revealed.

This has not been easy to write but I think it is important before going on with what I want to cover next.  It may not be popular and it may get me in trouble but I think the matter has to be addressed if we want to see the damage, both to individuals and to the church, repaired.

 

 

An Objection to the Doctrine of Purgatory

The case against Purgatory

A bible verse often quoted to refute the Doctrine of Purgatory is Luke 23: 39-43 The Crucifixion of Christ and the comments of the Good Thief.

One of the criminals hanging there abused him. “Are you not the Christ?” he said.  “Save yourself and us as well.”  But the other spoke up and rebuked him.  “Have you no fear at all?” he said.  “You got the same sentence as he did, but in our case we deserved it: we are paying for what we did.  But this man has done nothing wrong.  Jesus,” he said, “remember me when you come into your kingdom.”  “Indeed, I promise you,” he replied “today you will be with me in paradise.”

Because Jesus says to the good thief “today you will be with me in paradise”  there is no suggestion of any delay in the good thief entering heaven.  You may have thought that a criminal’s profession of faith at the last, i.e. a deathbed type confession, makes him a perfect candidate for purgatory.  No such delay is evident here.  “Today you will be with me in paradise.”

Looking at Jesus’ words here paradise is used rather than heaven.  Now while you would expect heaven to be paradise, is paradise heaven?

Another problem, indeed a biblical contradiction, is in Jesus saying, “Today you will be with me in paradise”, is that Jesus does not ascend to his Father until 40 days after the resurrection.  In John 20:17 (Jesus says to Mary of Magdala) “Do not cling to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father.”

How can we resolve the issue of purgatory and the promise to the good thief and Jesus not having yet ascended to heaven?

A consideration of the word Paradise’ used in Luke 23: 43.  Why does Jesus use the word ‘Paradise’ (Greek transliteration – paradeiso) rather than the word ‘Heaven’ (Greek transliteration – ouranos)?

There are three occurrences of the word paradise in the New Testament;  Luke 23: 43 – Jesus to the good thief,  2 Corinthians 12:4 – Paul describes being caught up to paradise, Revelation 2:7 – Jesus refers to the tree of life which is in the paradise of God.

Jesus uses the word paradise twice, once in Luke 23: 43 and again in Rev 2: 7.  Jesus uses heaven many more times in all four gospels.  To illustrate here are some extracts from J.B. Smith’s Greek-English Concordance.

P1020625(1)

P1020626

From Young’s Analytical Concordance we can see this again with an emphasis on the occurrences of the word heaven in Luke;

P1020616(1)

P1020614(1)P1020613(1)

Note how in Luke 11: 2 the word heaven in the Lord’s prayer is from the Greek ouranos.

Strong’s Concordance gives a number to the Greek and Hebrew words used in the bible and this refers to a lexicon for a definition.  Then Paradise has the strong’s number 3857 and the definition –

P1020618(1)

and for heaven –

P1020617(1)

So overall then there are only three occurrences of the word paradise (paradeisos) in the New Testament and 284 for heaven (ouranos).  There is only one occurrence of paradise in the Gospel of Luke and 37 of heaven.  From the definitions we can see that paradise is described as a place of blessedness and heaven as the place where God dwells.

So now what.

Let’s look at another scripture, Luke 16: 19-31. The rich man and Lazarus.

Jesus is speaking,

‘There was a rich man who used to dress in purple and fine linen and feast magnificently every day.  And at his gate there lay a poor man called Lazarus, covered with sores, who longed to fill himself with the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table.  Dogs even came and licked his sores.  Now the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to the bosom of Abraham.  The rich man also died and was buried.  In his torment in Hades he looked up and saw Abraham a long way off with Lazarus in his bosom.  So he cried out, “Father Abraham, pity me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in agony in these flames”.  “My son,” Abraham replied “remember that during your life good things came your way, just as bad things came the way of Lazarus.  Now he is being comforted here while you are in agony.  But that is not all; between us and you a great gulf has been fixed, to stop anyone, if he wanted to, crossing from our side to yours, and to stop any crossing from your side to ours.”

The rich man replied, “Father, I beg you to send Lazarus to my father’s house, since I have five brothers, to give them warning so that they do not come to this place of torment too”.  “They have Moses and the prophets,” said Abraham “let them listen to them.”  “Ah no, father Abraham,” said the rich man “but if someone comes to them from the dead, they will repent.”  Then Abraham said to him, “If they will not listen either to Moses or the prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone should rise from the dead”.’

 

This scripture shows that, pre-resurrection, there are two places in hell (hades); one a place of comfort and the other a place of torment.  There is a chasm between them which cannot be crossed but each place is visible from the other.

The place where Lazarus is comforted, the bosom of Abraham, is a paradise, a place of comfort and blessing, but it is not heaven.  It is a place of waiting.  Waiting for what or rather who?  Those who have died in faith, pre-resurrection, await Jesus to set them free.

Now let’s have a look at the Apostle’s Creed and what the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) has to say.

The Apostle’s Creed

I believe in God, the Father almighty, Creator of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ, His only son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried;

He descended into hell; on the third day he rose from the dead;

He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from there he will come to judge the living and the dead.  I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Holy Catholic Church, the communion of Saints, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting.  Amen.

He descended into hell, on the third day he rose again.

CCC631 – Jesus ” descended into the lower parts of the earth.  He who descended is he who ascended far above all the heavens.”  (Ephesians 4:9-10)  The Apostle’s creed confesses in the same article Christ’s descent into hell and his Resurrection on the third day.

CCC632 – The frequent New Testament affirmations that Jesus was “raised from the dead” presuppose that the crucified one sojourned in the realm of the dead prior to his resurrection.  This was the first meaning given in the apostolic preaching to Christ’s descent into hell: that Jesus, like all men, experienced death and in his soul joined the others in the realm of the dead.  But he descended there as Saviour, proclaiming the good news to the spirits imprisoned there.

CCC633 – Scripture calls the abode of the dead, to which the dead Christ went down, “hell” – Sheol in Hebrew or Hades in Greek – because those who are there are deprived of the vision of God.  Such is the case for all the dead, whether evil or righteous, while they await the redeemer: which does not mean that their lot is identical, as Jesus shows through the parable of the poor man Lazarus who was received into “Abraham’s bosom”  It is precisely these holy souls, who awaited their Saviour in Abraham’s bosom, whom Christ the Lord delivered when he descended into hell.  Jesus did not descend into hell to deliver the damned, nor to destroy the hell of damnation, but to free the just who had gone before him.

Also have a look at CCC634, 635 & 636, it’s all good.

CCC637 – In his human soul united in his divine person, the dead Christ went into the realm of the dead.  He opened heaven’s gates for the just who had gone before him.

This song from youtube gives an illustration of all this;

 

So there we have it.  “Today you will be with me in paradise”  refers to the place of waiting, “Abraham’s bosom” and it is a paradise but it is not heaven.  Those who were there, having died in faith, pre-resurrection, were released by Jesus to ascend to heaven.  Ever since, that part of hell has remained empty as heaven was opened to those who were waiting, those who have died in faith since, those who will die in faith in the future and those who are alive and in faith when he comes again.

As “Abraham’s bosom” was not heaven, neither was it purgatory.  Purgatory being that process of purification as we journey from earth to heaven.  As I heard the Baptist preacher David Pawson say, “My wife finds it hard to believe that one day her husband will be perfect.”  As David is now quite elderly this would suggest that this perfection is completed after death, and though he wouldn’t say so,  this is what Catholics call purgatory.

 

 

 

A Little Look at the Doctrine of Purgatory

I have often come across comments from non-Catholic theologians saying that the doctrine of purgatory is not biblical – but is this actually the case?

Some people seem to see it as a second chance or a back door into heaven.  This can’t be the case as there are only two categories of people; the saved and the damned.  As Jesus is the “way” (John 14:6) and the “door” (John 10:7 & 9), only thieves and robbers try to get in by any other way.

It is often described in terms which recall the mediaeval imagery of suffering as described in Dante’s “Divine Comedy” of three volumes; Inferno, Purgatory, Paradise.  A more modern view might see it as a “Wash and Brush-up” on the way to heaven which may be trivialising it somewhat.  Can we get beyond this imagery into a clearer view of what purgatory is?

 

Firstly – What does the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) say?

CCC1030 – All who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.

CCC1031 – The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned.  The Church formulated her doctrine of faith on Purgatory especially at the Councils of Florence and Trent.  The tradition of the Church by reference to certain texts of Scripture, speaks of a cleansing fire (1 Cor 3:10-15, 1 Peter 1:7):

As for certain lesser faults, we must believe that, before the Final Judgment, there is a purifying fire.  He who is truth says that whoever utters blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will be pardoned neither in this age nor the age to come (Matt 12:31).  From this sentence we understand that certain offenses can be forgiven in this age, but certain others in the age to come.  St Gregory the Great

So Purgatory is not a second chance or a back door, it is not a substitute for being saved.  Those who have accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour in this life are saved and members of the Church Militant.  On entering the next life they remain saved whether in Purgatory, the Church Suffering, or Heaven, the Church Triumphant.

CCC954 – The three states of the Church.  “When the Lord comes in glory, and all his angels with him, death will be no more and all things will be subject to him.  But at this present time some of his disciples are pilgrims on earth.  Others have died and are being purified, while still others are in glory, contemplating ‘in full light, God himself triune and one, exactly as he is'”.

All of us, however, in varying degrees and in different ways share in the same charity towards God and our neighbours, and we all sing the one hymn of glory to our God.  All, indeed, who are of Christ and who have his Spirit form one Church and in Christ cleave together.  (Lumen Gentium 49)

 

CCC1032 (carrying on from CCC1031 above) – This teaching is also based on the practice of prayer for the dead, already mentioned in Sacred Scripture: “Therefore [Judas Maccabeus] made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin.” (2 Maccabees 12:46).  From the beginning the Church has honoured the memory of the dead and offered prayers in suffrage for them, above all the Eucharistic sacrifice, so that, thus purified, they may attain the beatific vision of God.  The Church also commends almsgiving, indulgences and works of penance undertaken on behalf of the dead:

Let us help and commemorate them.  If Job’s sons were purified by their father’s sacrifice (Job 1:5), why would we doubt that our offerings for the dead bring them some consolation?  Let us not hesitate to help those who have died and to offer our prayers for them.  St John Chrysostom

 

Note – The scriptures used in the last part CCC1032,   are 2 Macc 12:46 and Job 1:5.  The quote from Maccabees is from one of the seven deutero-canonical (second canon) books of the Catholic bible.  These books are regarded as Scripture by the Catholic church to this day and they have some very important things in them.  They were removed from the Canon by the protestant reformers at the reformation when they were consigned to the Apocrypha (hidden) writings and not considered by them as Scripture.  The removal of 1 & 2 Maccabees leaves a period of 500 years of silence at the end of the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament).  The quote from Job is interesting as in its context Job is not regarded as foolish or misguided in what he is doing and nowhere else does it suggest that that might be the case.

 

A Consideration of the Scriptural Case for Purgatory

Often when something is not explicitly stated in Scripture I will look for a hint or a flavour to see if something is in keeping with the spirit of Scripture.   Initially I thought the Doctrine of Purgatory was one of those things.  On further examination, including the scriptures cited above, I believe there to be a much stronger biblical case for the Doctrine of Purgatory.

A book I was reading recently has a very good chapter on Purgatory.   The book is “Fatima, The Signs and Secrets” by Marianna Bartold, 2014, publisher KIC (Keeping it Catholic) Lapeer, MI,  ISBN 978-0-9862203-0-2,  Chapter 32. Purgatory – The Doctrine of God’s Mercy and Justice.

Chapter 32 cites the following Scriptures;

Matthew 5:48  “You must therefore be perfect just as your heavenly Father is perfect.”  I would also add from the beatitudes; Matthew 5:8 “Blessed are the pure in heart: they shall see God.

Matthew 19: 26 “…with God all things are possible.”

2 Maccabees 12:46  “It is therefore a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they be loosed from their sins.”  Full passage 12: 38-46, worth a read.

Zechariah 13:9  “I will refine them as silver is refined, and I will try them as gold is tried.”

Also look at Malachi 2:2-3 which is eschatological in nature, “Who will be able to resist the day of his coming?  Who will remain standing when he appears?  For he is like the refiner’s fire and Fuller’s alkali.  He will take his seat as refiner and purifier, he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and then they will make the offering to the Lord as it should be made.”

When is the silver and gold ready?  When, after heating, the dross sinks to the bottom and the metal is revealed all shiny like a mirror.  When God can see his face in us, we’re done.  A very good description of Purgatory as a purifying fire.

Matthew 5:26  “I tell you solemnly, you will not get out till you paid the last penny.”

But you will get out.

Matthew 12:32  “…but let anyone speak against the Holy Spirit and he will not be forgiven either in this world or the next.”

Applying some reverse logic or reverse thinking here means that there are things that can be forgiven in the next world.

1 Corinthians 3:11-15 – For the foundation, nobody can lay any other than the one which has already been laid, that is Jesus Christ.  On this foundation you can build in gold, silver and jewels, or in wood, grass and straw, but whatever the material the work of each builder is going to be clearly revealed when the day comes.  That day will begin with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work.  If his structure stands up to it, he will get his wages, if it is burnt down, he will be the loser, and though he is saved himself, it will be as one who has gone through fire.

The passage is essentially eschatological, end times, whether this is collectively at the second coming of Christ or individually if death comes to us before that event.  We will pass through a purifying fire and what is not of God will be burnt up and what is of God will remain.  This is where we look to Jesus Christ as the “author and finisher of our faith”, our model and our pattern.  We want to build with materials which will withstand the fire, not wood, grass or straw.

Revelation 19:7-8 – …“Alleluia!  The reign of  the Lord our God Almighty has begun; let us be glad and joyful and give praise to God, because this is the time for the marriage of the Lamb.  His bride is ready, and she has been able to dress herself in dazzling white linen, because her linen is made of the good deeds of the saints.”

This would seem to be something we can enter into now, doing good deeds.  The problem is that if we try to do this of ourselves, we will be too selective about the things we choose to do.  Don’t worry God has this covered.

Ephesians 2:10 – For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

We can enter into this being guided by the Spirit in such a way as we won’t even be aware that we are doing it.  Matthew 25: 31-46 – vs 37 “When did we do these things?” – My paraphrase and summary.

I also wonder if this clothing, the righteous deeds of the saints, is something we both contribute to and have a share in.  Just a thought.

One of the best descriptions of Purgatory I ever heard was from a visiting Baptist Preacher at the Bethel Mission, Plymouth in the 1970s.  He didn’t mention Purgatory but to my Catholic ears that’s what it sounded like.  He talked about an ongoing soul life with ongoing salvation and sanctification.  He chose the Scripture of the Wedding Feast in Matthew 22:1-14.  If I summarise, a king is preparing a wedding feast for his son.  Those who are invited make excuses not to come so the king sends out his servants to invite other people to the wedding.  These are all then enjoying the feast clad in wedding  garments.  The king notices there is one man not wearing a wedding garment.  when questioned he makes no answer and is then bound and thrown out.   The preacher said that the man had stood out because his clothes were ragged and burnt on passing through the fire of purification, taking the wedding feast in an eschatological sense.  That sounded like Purgatory to me.  If I take this a bit further, the wedding guests have been invited at the last minute and haven’t had time to obtain wedding garments.  The king has provided wedding garments which are hanging up in the changing room waiting for them, the changing room is Purgatory and the garments are the righteous deeds of the saints.  The man without a wedding garment has treated this provision with contempt and left his wedding garment on the peg.  His own “clothes” were unable to withstand the fire of purification and were burnt up.  He had tried to get in by some other way and had failed.  Of course one has to be careful not to push parables too far as the fit is never perfect.  I like the picture of God’s provision of salvation which is complete and there for us to enter into.

Scripture often talks about salvation using all three tenses, past (2 Timothy 1:9), present (1 Corinthians 1:18) and future (Romans 5:9-10).  That is to say I have been saved, I am being saved and I will be saved.

 

Conclusions

Where have we got to now – re. purgatory?

Purgatory is not a second chance or a back door into heaven.

It is not the destination but a process.  The destination is heaven.

Purgatory is described as a purifying fire removing all the dross and leaving the precious metal.  It removes all those things in us which are not of God, leaving those things which are.

Purgatory can be likened to a changing room where a fine wedding garment is awaiting us.

We don’t have to wait for Purgatory for purification.  It can start now through the sacraments.  Reconciliation to restore our relationship with God.  The Eucharist to feed us with the “Bread of Life” the body and the blood, soul and divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ giving us new life.  The Holy Spirit given to us at Baptism and Confirmation (we might describe this as a fresh anointing or release of the Holy Spirit in our lives) when we are commissioned for evangelism.  We can renew our commitment each day, take up our cross and follow Him, allowing Him to work within us by a conscious act of surrender to the will of God.  We can remember than when we succeed it is by His grace, when we fail we have recourse to the sacrament of reconciliation, so that we don’t become at all puffed up when we succeed or feel crushed when we fail.

We can contribute to the wedding garment – the righteous deeds of the saints, deeds which God has prepared in advance for us to do.

Purgatory is not a cop-out from being all of the things we are meant to be in Christ.  “Never mind, there’s always Purgatory”, should not be a default position.  As I read a while back, “Aim for heaven and miss and there is Purgatory, but aim for Purgatory and miss – then what.”

Neither should heaven be a destination for the Saints and Purgatory for us lesser mortals, for we are all called to be saints (small s) that is followers of Christ here and now on earth in the Church militant.  I repeat heaven is the destination, not Purgatory for that is a process even if it occurs in a place, the Church suffering, it is not the destination which is the Church triumphant.

Purgatory as a simple wash and brush-up doesn’t convey the thoroughness of the purification.  I can remember a car wash where the car was pulled through on a chain, it was cleaned outside, soaped, scrubbed, dried, waxed, buffed and then a whole army of men jumped in and cleaned the inside.  It was thoroughly cleaned.  If I was that car I would feel I had been put through the wringer, but the end result was more than worth it.

There is strong Scriptural evidence for the Doctrine of Purgatory, more evidence than just hints and flavours.

 

Why is this necessary?

Because even when we have confessed our sin and been forgiven, we may have previously enjoyed the sin.  This is called an attachment and it needs to be removed so that we can fully enjoy heaven and not spoil it.  We shouldn’t get too hung up about how long it takes, just remain confident that it will be done.  It makes me think of a line from “Away in a Manger” which says “and fit us for heaven to live with thee there”.

 

“A bride without spot or wrinkle”

Ephesians 5: 25-27  …Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.

I would have to admit that even though Jesus has taken my sin and given me his righteousness, and is continuing to work in my life, I am still aware of having some spots and wrinkles.  Purgatory, this passing through a fire of purification, is therefore an assurance that all these spots and wrinkles will have been dealt with and removed before I take the place promised to me, through Jesus Christ, in heaven.

Philippians 1:6  “And so I am sure that God, who began this good work in you, will carry it on until it is finished on the Day of Christ Jesus.” 

So there you are, Claude’s armchair take on Purgatory.

 

 

 

RCIA 2018 Last Session ‘Encouraging Words’  

RCIA 2018 Last Session ‘Encouraging Words’             10th April 2018

Psalm 86, 11

Teach me your way, O Lord,

that I may walk in your truth;

give me an undivided heart to revere your name.

 

Coming before God with open hands so that God can take things out and put things in.

Ref)  Book – ‘As Bread that is Broken” by Peter van Breeman S.J.

1974, Dimension Books page p37

abtibohands1

abtibohands2

We have a promise;

And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished …..  Paul’s letter to the Philippians 1:6

 For if we are faithful to the end, trusting God just as firmly as when we first believed, we will share in all that belongs to Christ.  Hebrews 3:14

 

 Our Daily Walk

What is good had been explained to you; this is what God asks of you; only this, to act justly, to love tenderly and to walk humbly with your God.  Micah 6:8

 If we live our lives in the light, as He is in the light, we are in union with one another, and the blood of Jesus, His Son, purifies us from all sin.  1 John 1

 For we walk by faith, not by sight. 2 Corinthians 5:7

 

 And what is faith?

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.  Hebrews 11:1

 

And so, to evangelism

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.  1 Peter 3:15

 

And the source of our confidence;

Yes, God loved the world so much that He gave His only Son, so that everyone that believes in Him may not be lost but may have eternal life.  John 3:16

 

And when doubts come;

If your lips confess that Jesus is Lord and if you believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, then you will be saved.  By believing from the heart you are made righteous; by confessing with your lips you are saved.  Romans 10:9-10

 No one can say “Jesus is Lord” except by the Holy Spirit.  1 Corinthians 12:3

 

A higher calling;

The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”  John 3:8

 

Baptism, Confirmation, Communion, New Life, Eternal Destiny

“I am telling you the truth,” replied Jesus, “that no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit.   John 3:5

 

 The Call to Holiness

Pope Francis has just published an Apostolic Exhortation (An Apostolic Exhortation is published to encourage the faithful to live in a particular manner (greater conversion to Christ) or to do something of virtue.)

It is called ‘Gaudate et Exsultate’, (Rejoice and be Glad), it is on the call to holiness in todays world.  The document is available through –

http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/apost_exhortations/documents/papa-francesco_esortazione-ap_20180319_gaudete-et-exsultate.html

as well as the Catholic Truth Society.

To get an idea of the flavour here’s a youtube clip;

 

Liturgy

 Reading – Paul’s letter to the Ephesians 6:10-17

 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His power.  Put on the whole armour of God, so that you may able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against all the spiritual powers of evil in the heavenly places.  Therefore, take up the whole armour of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.  Stand therefore, and fasten on the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness.  As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace.  With all of these, take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one.  Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

 

PrayerOur Father, Hail Mary, Glory be

 

THE PRAYER TO ST. MICHAEL

Saint Michael, the Archangel, defend us in battle; be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and do thou, O prince of the heavenly host, by the power of God, thrust into Hell, Satan and all the other evil spirits, who prowl throughout the world, seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.

(composed by Pope Leo X111, 1884AD)

 

And all God’s people said;

Amen, Alleluia, Praise the Lord

 

 

Reflection for Easter – The Great Gift of Salvation through Jesus Christ and what it cost Him.

You tube song – Graham Kendrick “Paid on the Nail”

“He paid what he thought you were worth.”

Let’s remember that this Free Gift of Salvation cost Jesus everything.

As it says in the song “When I survey the wondrous cross”;

Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.

Then there is the paradox of victory through an apparent defeat.

but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles,  1 Corinthians 1:23

but not just crucified but crucified, dead, buried, sealed in the tomb, risen, ALIVE.

And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.          I Corinthians 15:17

But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.  1 Corinthians 15:20.

Recommended reading 1 Corinthians Chapter 15.

Youtube song – Ishmael “King of Glory”

 

Christ is risen

He is risen indeed