Friday, May 24, 2013

How the Eucharist brought me to the Catholic Church

I was very poorly catechized as a child.  I left the Catholic Church when I was 15 and started attending a Baptist church with my friend, and I didn't even know that the Catholic Church believed that communion they received every day was truly the body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus.  So when I started watching "The Journey Home" on EWTN over 15 years after leaving the CC and heard guests talking about the Eucharist and what it is and one guy even talking about longing for the Eucharist, I was shaken.  And come to find out, this truth they talked about is in the very Bible I wholeheartedly professed to believe in!  

In John 6 Jesus says, "Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.  For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink." (John 6:53-55).  Obviously this was not a favorite verse of my Evangelical pastors over the years, because I never. heard. this. verse. before.  

Well, surely there was some misunderstanding.  Surely this couldn't be true.  I had to find out.  Then I heard guests on "The Journey Home" talk about the "early church fathers" and claimed that the writings of these early Christians was further evidence to back up the Catholic belief of the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist.  I had never in my years of being in Evangelical churches heard anyone mention anything about writings from the early Christians.  I had been in churches who claimed to be as true to what the early church was like as any church could be, but they never mentioned any historical writings or evidence to back up their interpretation of what the early church was like.  

For the first time I heard people mentioned such as Ignatius, Justin Martyr, Clement of Rome, Eusebius, Iraneus, Tertullian, and Polycarp.  I had never heard these names before, and I had to use the DVR to pause and replay over and over and try to write these names down as best I could.  I did my best to decipher how their names must have been spelled so that I could look up this information.  Then I wanted to make sure to look these people up from non-Catholic websites, because I wasn't very convinced that I could trust what Catholics would say about these so-called "people", if they really did exist.  

Wikipedia became my new best friend.  I then came across what these early church fathers had to say about the Eucharist in the early years of the church, some during the age of the Apostles.

Ignatius of Antioch, Epistle to the Smyrnaeans, Chapter 6, 110 A.D.:Take note of those who hold heterodox opinions on the grace of Jesus Christ which has come to us, and see how contrary their opinions are to the mind of God ... They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer because they do not confess that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, flesh which suffered for our sins and which that Father, in his goodness, raised up again. They who deny the gift of God are perishing in their disputes.
 St. Ignatius of Antioch, Epistle to the Romans, 7, 110 A.D.:
I desire the Bread of God, the heavenly Bread, the Bread of Life, which is the flesh of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who became afterwards of the seed of David and Abraham; I wish the drink of God, namely His blood, which is incorruptible love and eternal life.
 Justin Martyr, Apology, I.66-67, 2nd century:Communion in the Body and Blood of ChristIt is allowed to no one else to participate in that food which we call Eucharist except the one who believes that the things taught by us are true, who has been cleansed in the washing unto rebirth and the forgiveness of sins and who is living according to the way Christ handed on to us. For we do not take these things as ordinary bread or ordinary drink. Just as our Savior Jesus Christ was made flesh by the word of God and took on flesh and blood for our salvation, so also were we taught that the food, for which thanksgiving has been made through the word of prayer instituted by him, and from which our blood and flesh are nourished after the change, is the flesh of that Jesus who was made flesh. Indeed, the Apostles, in the records left by them which are called gospels, handed on that it was commanded to them in this manner: Jesus, having taken bread and given thanks said, ``Do this in memory of me, this is my body.'' Likewise, having taken the cup and given thanks, he said, ``This is my blood'', and he gave it to them alone.

Tertullian's The Resurrection of the Dead [8,2] A.D. 208-212:The flesh, then, is washed, so that the soul may be made clean. The flesh is anointed, so that the soul may be dedicated to holiness. The flesh is signed, so that the soul too may be fortified. The flesh is shaded with the imposition of hands, so that the soul too may be illuminated by the Spirit. The flesh feeds on the Body and Blood of Christ, so that the soul too may fatten on God. They cannot, then, be separated in their reward, when they are united in their works.
There are many other writings to back up the belief that Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist.  Pay particular attention to the dates.  I always gave more credence to the earliest writings, because in my mind these had the highest probability of being true since they were the closest to the date of when Christ lived (and therefore had the lowest probability of being tainted by false doctrines).

And once I had settled it in my mind that the evidence proved what the Catholic Church taught about the Eucharist, I let my guard down and let my heart soak it in.  Then I, too, began to long for the Eucharist.  It became a longing that I couldn't escape.  I loved Jesus, and I wanted all that He had to offer. 


Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Pope declares now even atheists can go to heaven!

Did you hear that Pope Francis said that atheists can go to heaven?  He didn't.  But that's how some of the news reports frame the pope's comments yesterday from his residence.

The fastest growing religion in American now in the "none"s.  He's reaching out to them.  How wonderful!  Except people everywhere are trying to spin his words.  The secular media is reporting that he's declaring that atheists are good enough to get to heaven.  Not that the atheists care, because they don't believe in heaven.  But if a pope were to declare that anyone who does good can get into heaven, wouldn't that make the message of redemption through Christ null and void?  Oooooh - the secular world would LOVE to hear the message of Christ made null and void.

Then there are Protestants who are shaking their heads (I know because I used to be one of them), thinking, "Those poor Catholics.  Don't they know good works will never get anyone into heaven?"  To which I now want to scream from the rooftop - YES!  Yes, we know good works will never get a single person into heaven!

Pope Francis is gently trying to communicate to atheists.  His incredible humility and love can help win could for Jesus!  Love will bring them in!  How does one win the soul of an atheist?  He has to convince the atheist that he needs Jesus.  You can shout and shout and shout all you want to an atheist and tell him he needs Jesus or he will go to hell, and the atheist will just shrug his shoulders and laugh as he walks away.  Instead, Pope Francis is extending his hand to atheists and gently leading them to Christ.  Yelling at them that they are going to hell will not win their souls.  But extending a friendly hand, meeting them where they are, and loving them as Christ loves then will break down the walls that keep their minds and hearts closed to the message of the Gospel.

Pope Francis is NOT saying that atheists can work their way to heaven or that they are "OK" where they are.  That is not what the Bible says and it's not what the Church has taught for 2,000 years.  And a pope CANNOT contradict what the Bible says and what sacred Tradition has has handed down to us. It just cannot be done.  

Jesus' redemption is available for atheists.  They have to accept it to receive it, but it is always available to them.  Pope Francis is acknowledging that, as they are made in God's imagine, they are inherently designed to do good and have a will to do good.  It's in the way they are designed (whether or not the atheist wants to acknowledge that about themselves or not.)  

I am very excited about our new Pope.  There is something special about him, and the whole world sees it.  I believe his humble spirit and love will win souls for Christ.  I believe he will change the Church in a big (big and humble, that is) way.  All for the glory of God.


Friday, May 17, 2013

The Apostles' Creed

The fact that no one really knows when the Apostles' Creed was created or who created it means that it goes WAY back in history.  Legend has it that the 12 Apostles composed it on the day of Pentecost.  Based on historical evidence, it's very possible this is true.  But no one really knows for sure.  Either way, it is an important confession we pray at Mass every Sunday.  It is oh so easy to just recite it like a robot, making it void of any meaning in our lives.  But it is something special when you let it penetrate your heart.  Make it mean something this Sunday.