Crossing The Tiber– Three Years Later and Going Strong

Crossing The Border

It is an interesting divide at times since I became a Catholic.  There are some in my professional field of social work/counseling that would see me as a cultural throwback and obstinate to change.  My brothers and sisters in Christ in the Protestant communities would say that I have gone way back to Mosaic law and yet that I would attempt to not be in a black and white Christianity.

One such well meaning brother I will call Bob would like to see me come back into the light and see things clear.  The catalyst for this letter is that he wanted me to respond on the verse “I am the way, the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father but through me” (John 14:6).  I did not want to respond to this on my iPhone.  I also thought about how we do not communicate with each other as well as I wish.  That is me with him but many of his other friends that are in the loop.  One of many things I hope to point to is the sense of mystery that God has in the Christian faith and particularly in the Catholic Church.  I also address below a sense of the need for the right authority on doctrinal matters.  Ultimately, I would say that if there is no standing authority to sort out what the Bible “clearly says” then I would have to question the Lord part in Jesus Christ.  After all, he said “upon this rock I will build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.”

Last, before my Protestant brethren read my retort below, please know that I appreciate what I got out of the Protestant communities over the years I was in them.  I learned to appreciate the Bible, I learned first about the power of community, prayer and the many roles of the Holy Spirit.  Most importantly I was first formed in my walk with Jesus there.  I do not wish to offend anyone.  But please know that if you still will not “cross the Tiber” into the Catholic Church that you will consider that we could be brothers in Christ right now.

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So now that I have time on my hands and the kids are quiet (by the way, I hope you and “Janet” had a Happy Easter), I can write out better on my response with my Mac rather than my iPhone.

A few things are coming to mind where it seems we are talking past each other.  The first is the role of Sacred Tradition (which lends itself to apostolic succession).  I immediately recoiled at the Catholic Church when I remembered that I would be heading into “the traditions of men” and that I “did not want to be religious”.

This worry dissipated after considering several things.

!: Protestants have about as many traditions as Catholics.  It’s just that Catholics are better at writing them down.

1: There are Traditions and there traditions.  I know a married priest in the Byzantine rite who does not personally do the rosary.  He is not against it.  It is just not his thing.  And they have rosaries in his rite.  The canon of the New Testament is an example of Tradition.  I assume you agree with that one.

2:  Christianity has survived for 2,000 years.  It survived until 402 when Pope Donasus ratified the canon.  But it did not do it alone.  Jesus set up a Magisterium with a line of succession and that line of succession including the popes discerned under the guidance of the Holy Spirit the Bible.

3:  You can deny that last premise.  But like RC Sprout said in that matter “We have a fallible list of infallible books”.  This is difficult.  Hebrews almost did not make it in.  The Epistle of Barnabas, 1 Clement and the Shepherd of Hermas almost did.  Maybe the apostasy had started already and those books are meant to be in.  I am a big fan of two of those non-canonical books but I trust the sovereignty of Jesus working through the Church that he has preserved from dogmatic error including the pope when he speaks ex cathedra.

4:  Just as I said about traditions are on both sides, there are magisteriums as well.  Below are leaders in these respective denominations who stated their cases of where the Bible is very clear.  Remember, I am not quoting people on the social fringe like David Koresh or the Westboro Baptist Church of Kansas.  Their titles and statements speak for themselves and show that sola scriptura is found wanting.

“The Bible clearly teaches, starting in the tenth chapter of Genesis and going all the way through, that God has put differences among people on the earth to keep the earth divided.” – Bob Jones III, defending Bob Jones University’s policy banning interracial dating/marriage. The policy was changed in 2000.

“The right of holding slaves is clearly established by the Holy Scriptures, both by precept and example.” – Rev. Richard Furman, first president of the South Carolina State Baptist Convention.

“People gave ear to an upstart astrologer who strove to show that the earth revolves, not the heavens or the firmament, the sun and the moon. This fool…wishes to reverse the entire science of astronomy; but sacred Scripture tells us that Joshua commanded the sun to stand still, and not the earth.” – Martin Luther in “Table Talk” on a heliocentric solar system.

He added the word “alone” to Romans 3:28, to make it read “Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith ALONE without the deeds of the law.  This was to buttress his new philosophy that we are “saved by faith alone.” He also kicked out 7 books of the Old Testament that he didn’t like – Sirach, Wisdom, Baruch, 1 Maccabees, 2 Maccabees, Judith, and Tobit. These books were all included in the very first printed bible, the Gutenberg Bible, in the century before Luther was born. He also changed the nuanced meaning of other verses to make them more “German,” and more in line with Luther’s thinking of what God should have said. Imagine if some Pope did this!  The Protestants would be up in arms, and rightly so. But because Luther did it, and stuck it to the Catholic Church in the process, he gets a pass.

“If your Papist annoys you with the word (‘alone’ – Rom. 3:28), tell him straightway, Dr. Martin Luther will have it so:  Papist and ass are one and the same thing.  Whoever will not have my translation, let him give it the go-by: the devil’s thanks to him who censures it without my will and knowledge.  Luther will have it so, and he is a doctor above all the doctors in Popedom.”, from J. Dollinger, La Reforme et les resultants quelle a produits. (Trans. E. Perrot, Paris, Gaume, 1848-49), Vol III, pg. 138.

“Sometimes the Scripture declareth women and children must perish with their parents…We have sufficient light from the Word of God for our proceedings.” – Captain John Underhill, defending the Puritan decimation of the Pequot tribe.

“The evidence that there were both slaves and masters of slaves in churches founded and directed by the apostles, cannot be got rid of without resorting to methods of interpretation that will get rid of everything.” – Rev. Leonard Bacon, in defense of American slavery. (Christian ministers wrote nearly half of all defenses of slavery, often citing Scripture to make their case.)

“The Bible is the revealed will of God, and it declares the God-given sphere of woman. The Bible is, then, our authority for saying woman must content herself with this sphere…Who demand the ballot for woman? They are not the lovers of God, nor are they believers in Christ, as a class. There may be exceptions, but the majority prefer an infidel’s cheer to the favor of God and the love of the Christian community.”  – Rev. Justin Dewey Fulton in his treatise against women’s suffrage.

“Wherever we have the races mixed up in large numbers, we have trouble….These religious liberals are the worst infidels in many ways in the country; and some of them are filling pulpits down South.  They do not believe the Bible any longer; so it does not do any good to quote it to them.  They have gone over to modernism, and they are leading the white people astray at the same time; and they are leading colored Christians astray.  But every good, substantial, Bible-believing, intelligent orthodox Christian can read what the Word of God and know that what is happening in the South now is not of God.” – Bob Jones Sr., in his treatise against integration entitled, ‘Is Segregation Scriptural?’

Someone needs to be a body of interpretation.  Like the Protestant JND Kelly said about Moses, “Moses taught without error”.

Now this gets practical in what is called a theological normative.  This term applies to a doctrine or practice that is the norm but allows for God to work in a mysterious way.

“If you confess with your mouth Jesus is Lord and believe that God has raised him from the dead you will be saved”.  Great! Hallelujah!  But what if you were born without a tongue?  Hell for you.  The thief on the cross did not know about the resurrection.  No belief?  Hell.

“It is appointed once to die…after that, the judgment”.  Amen!  Except what about Lazarus, the son of the widow of Nain, Jairus’ daughter and Dorcas?  It’s a miracle!  They have to be alive today!  We should find them.   Hope they speak English.

Now as to John 14:6.  “I am the way, the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father but through me.”  But how can an unborn baby or severely mentally disabled comes to God?  What if there is a mystical encounter with Christ that comes in the twinkle of an eye between life and death?  Then through that encounter with Jesus that we in our flesh can’t witness Jesus brings them to the Father with all their faculties intact.  This is why I have confidence that the three children I have lost are in heaven.  As a Catholic I have hope.  I see not under a God of law or the courthouse.  I have a God who is gracious yet holy.  If the day came that I embraced again your theology I would have to accept that my innocent children are in the lake of fire for all eternity.  I would then lose 7 books of the Bible, sacraments that were founded by Jesus in the scripture (I can give you verses if you wish) and by default embrace a Christianity that died after Carthage but was revived by an anti-Semite named Martin Luther.  I would also have to question if Jesus is Lord because then there is no evidence of this “True Church” between Carthage and Luther though Jesus said the gates of hell would not prevail.

As a member of the Body of Christ, my eyes are fixed on Jesus.  But my ears are not he successors to the apostles.  After a while in my discernment I was down to  Catholics, Orthodox and maybe Coptics.  Now I enjoyed all of Jesus’ grace and am more free to love God and love my neighbor standing on Jesus and “the church, the pillar and foundation of truth”.

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Continuity of Good News

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PARAGRAPHS 74-141 OF CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH

1. What are the central themes or ideas the Catechism is communicating in this week’s readings?

The central themes communicated in the first week’s reading from the Catechism are about the existence of God and  the transmission of Sacred Tradition in harmony with the Magisterium and Sacred Scripture.  To compliment the manifold experience of the believer in those points, there is a brief introduction to proper biblical hermeneutics.

There is also an important theme of the believer responding in taking in the truth of the above and specifically regarding scripture. The tone is set for all in the Church to participate in the deposit of faith.

The Church “forcefully and specifically exhorts all the Christian faithful. . . to learn the surpassing knowledge of Jesus Christ, by frequent reading of the divine Scriptures. Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ (para.133).

It cannot be plainer than that.  And by using the quote from St. Jerome of the 4th century, one can see the responsibility the Catholic Church puts on people to study the Bible for themselves.

2. What does this contribute to our understanding of who God is, and who we are as His children?

This teaches us that the Church in the trifecta of the Magisterium, Tradition and Scripture stand as an ongoing instrument of proposing His enduring love in salvation to be accepted in the gospel.  This gospel is applicable to all peoples in all generations. The figurative translation of “catholic” is universal while the literal one is “according to the whole”.  In this reading there are indications of both definitions as they are appropriated in and through the Church founded and maintained by Jesus free from all dogmatic error as shown below.

The Father’s self-communication made through his Word in the Holy Spirit, remains present and active in the Church: “God, who spoke in the past, continues to converse with the Spouse of his beloved Son. And the Holy Spirit, through whom the living voice of the Gospel rings out in the Church – and through her in the world – leads believers to the full truth, and makes the Word of Christ dwell in them in all its richness” (para.74).

The beautiful inference here is that the proposal of God’s love is in fatherly and nuptial language. I can anticipate later how liturgical language comes in as part of our response to the proposal.  This also contributes to my understanding of God where it involves proposing versus imposing.   And this proposition is best presented in the character of Christ as demonstrated in the Penn Jillete clip played in class.

3. What was it about these sections of the Catechism that resonated with me, personally?  Why?

Coming out of Protestantism there was a constant duel with either/or paradigms one God’s election and man’s free will in soteriology. However, I find the approach in these paragraphs of the CCC to be altogether holistic and with humility to the mystery of God’s grace.  But that is not to say that it is entirely a mystery.  The message in the Gospel is the unveiling of God’s nature and explicit in the flesh and blood historical Savior.

I would also like to highlight much of my entire Christian journey before and after becoming a Catholic has been centered in Acts 2:42.  In paragraph 84 of the CCC, I see an ideal of the early Church called to grow under the guardianship of the Magisterium.

The apostles entrusted the “Sacred deposit” of the faith (the depositum fidei),45 contained in Sacred Scripture and Tradition, to the whole of the Church. “By adhering to [this heritage] the entire holy people, united to its pastors, remains always faithful to the “teaching of the apostles, to the brotherhood, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” [Acts 2:42]. So, in maintaining, practicing and professing the faith that has been handed on, there should be a remarkable harmony between the bishops and the faithful (para. 84).

Reading this is a humbling blow to the restorationist man I used to be.  The part on “the teaching of the apostles, to the brotherhood, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” is a verse (Acts 2:42) that I used to think I had figured out.  Now I read this and remember that my instructor points to the four sections of the Catechism of The Catholic Church and shows how they nail each of those line items of scripture.  When I consider how the Church has nailed those essentials continually for two thousand years I am humbled that I could have found Acts 2:42 in its proper implementation at a Catholic (or possibly Orthodox) parish down the street when I noticed this verse in 1989.

As I reflect on the “should” there, I am inspired all the more to at least be a bridge to ecumenism and hopefully be even more effective in seeing my separated brethren come into the fulness of the truth in the Catholic Church.

From my degree in the social sciences I would say there is no logical explanation that this institution would last for two thousand years against so much opposition and much less be able to guard the “Sacred deposit”  so well.  But it has.  The oak tree looks different from the seed but the DNA is the same.

As I write this in my beginning of a two year journey in the Kino Catechetical Institute, and possibly seven if I go towards the diaconate ministry, I can do no less than cover my mouth and ask for God to teach me all that I can proclaim his love.

Lighthouse for Now and Always

lighthouse_in_the_640_02As I go further in this week’s readings for my homework the term “laying down the gauntlet” comes to mind.  I have heard that term when I was in school about different theories of psychology.  Some would come and go but some seem to have staying power to describe or explain the psyche of humanity.  That is essentially what psychology is with theories that can be tested by observation 100% of the time or they will not have credibility.  In fact, true of almost any “logy”.

Where theology from a Christian perspective is the exception is that it involves the explanation of God’s nature in relation to humanity with professionals or amateurs (like myself).  This is incredible in the sense that it is no discipline by the rules of observation described above.

Only the light of divine Revelation clarifies the reality of sin and particularly of the sin committed at mankind’s origins. Without the knowledge Revelation gives of God we cannot recognize sin clearly and are tempted to explain it as merely a developmental flaw, a psychological weakness, a mistake, or the necessary consequence of an inadequate social structure, etc. Only in the knowledge of God’s plan for man can we grasp that sin is an abuse of the freedom that God gives to created persons so that they are capable of loving him and loving one another (Catechism of The Catholic Church, para. 387, 1994).

I am reminded of the saying from GK Chesterton that “When is a train most free?  On its tracks”.  Seems silly in wording but holds reason.  I use that quote sometimes with my clients in recovery and illustrate how silly it really is to say that we have set a train “free” if we knock it over.  So in the spiritual realm I can say the same about when we know the plan of God in our lives in what the Gospel states and fail to conform as designed.  If we submit to that plan we are then free to be “capable of loving him and loving one another”.

“At the heart of catechesis we find, in essence, a Person, the Person of Jesus of Nazareth, the only Son from the Father. . .who suffered and died for us and who now, after rising, is living with us forever.” To catechize is “to reveal in the Person of Christ the whole of God’s eternal design reaching fulfillment in that Person. It is to seek to understand the meaning of Christ’s actions and words and of the signs worked by him.”‘ Catechesis aims at putting “people . . . in communion . . . with Jesus Christ: only he can lead us to the love of the Father in the Spirit and make us share in the life of the Holy Trinity ” (CCC, para. 426, 1994).

Catechesis is the handing down of Sacred Tradition that began with the apostolic preaching of the 12 apostles who were witnesses of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.

Because one of my goals is to pass on the teachings of the Church to others, starting with my children, I really take this to heart.  My favorite line is how “Catechesis aims at putting ‘people . . . in communion . . . with Jesus Christ’ “. This is rich to me because in recent years I have seen conversion as an ongoing process that is sustained by God’s grace.

In catechesis “Christ, the Incarnate Word and Son of God,. . . is taught – everything else is taught with reference to him – and it is Christ alone who teaches – anyone else teaches to the extent that he is Christ’s spokesman, enabling Christ to teach with his lips. . . Every catechist should be able to apply to himself the mysterious words of Jesus: ‘My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me’ “ (CCC, para.427)

This brings to mind the fine line of authority.  Frequently in the New Testament the giving of power to the followers of Jesus is exhousia which is specifically delegated authority.  The above paragraph implores the one who would teach the Sacred Scriptures and/or Sacred Tradition to remember that they are answerable to God and the delegated authority that is over them.  The teacher is not the plan but just passes it on.

But in stepping out of this wonderful bubble of the Kingdom of God, there is always a reminder that there is an ugly world out there.  It is one of people loving things and using people instead of loving people and using things as ways to love people (Pope John Paul II).

From the beginning of Christian history, the assertion of Christ’s lordship over the world and over history has implicitly recognized that man should not submit his personal freedom in an absolute manner to any earthly power, but only to God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Caesar is not “the Lord”. “The Church. . . believes that the key, the center and the purpose of the whole of man’s history is to be found in its Lord and Master” (CCC, para. 450).

Whenever possible, the wisdom of historical Christianity does well with “both/and” and often does not try to instigate conflicts.  But when the Church is consistent with the deposit of faith in practice down to the most humble believer we must declare out of the divine revelation in the Gospel that Caesar, secular humanism, materialism, ISIS and convenience are not lord but Jesus is Lord.  I am growing further in the belief that the further the Body of Christ grows in the centrality of Jesus Christ and His divine nature shining through us, the more distinction will be on the darkness of this world.

Tradition—Not Just For Fiddler On The Roof.

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As a new Catholic, one of the things that I appreciate the most of the Church is the universality to the world in the application of her liturgy and sacraments.  This Tradition, despite some of the anti-Catholic hysteria that is out there, is not from way later but early in history.  Today I am reflecting how this Tradition is universal, prophetic and effective for an authentic Christian life.

Irreneus about 195 AD said—

“For though languages differ throughout the world, the content of the Tradition is one and the same. The Churches established in Germany have no other faith or Tradition, nor do those of the Iberians, nor those of the Celts, nor those of the East, of Egypt, of Libya, nor those established at the center of the world. . .” The Church’s message “is true and solid, in which one and the same way of salvation appears throughout the whole world (Catechism of the Catholic Church, para. 174).”

Were all of the books in his time that were read in the mass what we have in the Bible today?  No.  But those books that were read in some areas but not others were certainly not contradicting those that were.  First Clement and the Epistle of Barnabas would still point to a Christianity that was apostolic in succession and eucharistic in practice.

The reference to “throughout the whole world” is important not only in light of Church history but salvation history.  Malachi wrote the following passage that makes room for a valid sacrifice to God in the future that would be beyond the confines of a levitical priesthood.

“From the rising of the sun to its setting,

my name is great among the nations;

Incense offerings are made to my name everywhere,

and a pure offering;

For my name is great among the nations,

says the Lord of hosts” (Malachi 1:11).

Up to the time of Malachi, any offerings to God had to be in a constructed tabernacle in an ordered way with animal sacrifice and centered on one ethnicity.  With Jesus and his salvation re-presented in the mass the de facto segregation of salvation history is over.

As zealous as I am to be a new Catholic in continuation of my long-term life as a Christian, I recognize an emphasis in this week’s homework that the Catholic Church is not an end to itself but a means to the end that comes in relationship to Jesus.

Salvation comes from God alone; but because we receive the life of faith through the Church, she is our mother: “We believe the Church as the mother of our new birth, and not in the Church as if she were the author of our salvation.” Because she is our mother, she is also our teacher in the faith (CCC, para. 169).  As Augustine put it, ‘I would not believe in the Gospels were it not for the authority of the Catholic Church’ (Against the Letter of Mani Called “The Foundation” 5:6)

For those that have left the Catholic Church saying that they could not have a relationship with Jesus and/or the Bible, I would challenge them to consider how much of the practices and teachings were either passed on properly or practiced.

Faith is first of all a personal adherence of man to God. At the same time, and inseparably, it is a free assent to the whole truth that God has revealed. As personal adherence to God and assent to his truth, Christian faith differs from our faith in any human person. It is right and just to entrust oneself wholly to God and to believe absolutely what he says. It would be futile and false to place such faith in a creature (CCC, para.150).

Did you both go to mass and pay attention?  If you did, there is an ordered lectionary where you would get four separate readings from the Bible each Sunday.

Did you try the Rosary in its fullness?  This sacramental that is inspired by the Sacred Tradition relies on 20 mysteries centered on rich Christology.  19 out of 20 are explicitly in Scripture.

Did you lack a sense of the Holy Spirit?  With no danger of contradicting the continuity of Sacred Tradition there has been a living charismatic renewal since at least the 1960’s in the Catholic Church.  And even if you do not have a Pentecostal temperament the witness of the Catholic Church is very much centered on the pursuit and fruits of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

There is nothing stopping the individual but themselves.

http://www.catholic.com/tracts/whats-your-authority

Integrity Versus Despair

LighthouseI heard a story once about what I might call “The Worst Sermon Ever Told”.  Abraham Lincoln went to a church one time where the preacher went on for a while with fancy language and flowery illustrations.  After it was over he was asked what he thought of it.  He said, “That was the worst sermon I ever heard….it did not call me to action.”  As we know from history he indeed went and did action motivated by his Christian faith.  Ipso facto that solid words lend to solid actions for short term and long term.

A psychoanalyst named Erick Erickson laid out in his theory that there are several conflicts in a person through life depending on the stage they are in.  The last one for someone’s life according to his theory is integrity versus despair.  One way I could sum up the “integrity” is this:  on ones deathbed they feel that their values and choices were generally not in contradiction from one another.  If not they feel “dis-integrated” with an overwhelming sense that they are out of do-overs.

As Jesus comes to a close on the Sermon on The Mount, the words that had been shared were highlighted with the fine point of application with the understanding that all have values and actions.  Looking from the outside I would say that is a morally neutral and universal statement about anyone with a formed conscience.  What Jesus does here is contrast the foundation and results between one who builds on the values of true wisdom and those who do not.  Then what is implied on some subtle wording is that one can be tied to a continued living authority on what right values are for real life.

 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.  But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law (Matthew 7:24-29).

Jesus in all His teachings is not some used car salesman trying to speak in a material realm for getting rich quick or any other empty pursuit.  Jesus wants to build each individual into a saint who lives a holy life despite the fact that there are hardships to live through.  With hardships being a morally neutral but universal certainty Jesus talks about rain coming, streams rising, winds blowing and a house falling. With Jesus meaning soul preservation in place of house maintenance the application is on where someone has their hope and how they live it out.  The foundations of a persons life will be things like prayer, favor of people, sexuality, forgiveness, discerning good spiritual leaders and many other things that Jesus addresses on the mountainside.    If you hear the words of Jesus and put the words into practice then your values will be both correct, internalized, lived out and preserve the integrity as described above.  If one hears those words, chalks them up to a cafeteria run through on truth at best and walks away then despair is bound to come.  And not just at the deathbed but with any storms of life does the “wind” hit and so goes the crash.

But as much as Jesus wants to build the individual listening on the mountainside, He wants to break ground for a long standing assembly.  Hearing Jesus teach, sitting down, reflects a crowd hearing a rabbi.  “Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them” (Matthew 5:1-2).  But by referring to Himself a moment ago as Lord on Judgment Day, the kingship of Jesus is implied.  The crowd sits down to hear just another rabbi and get surprised by the manner that the teaching comes out.

Jesus indeed challenged them to action with kingly overtones.  Jesus speaks of wisdom and building  a house.  God built what was understood at the time as the divine house with the temple on a rock.  Jesus had the goal to build His Church.

When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law—- But this day Jesus was just breaking ground for three prisms of truth that would be in that Church: Tradition, Magisterium and Scripture.  Jesus was speaking with the authority not of the scribes.  This was obvious because Jesus spoke with a different method and emphasis.  Repeatedly Jesus says, “You have heard this but I say to you….”.  Jesus was the beginning of a new tradition that Christians of today can see now as Sacred Tradition.  The authority of Jesus can be inferred to be delegated by God the Father as seen from Strong’s Concordance.

1849 eksousía (from 1537 /ek, “out from,” which intensifies 1510 /eimí, “to be, being as a right or privilege”) – authority, conferred power; delegated empowerment (“authorization”), operating in a designated jurisdiction.

In the NT, 1849 /eksousía (“delegated power”) refers to the authority God gives to His saints – authorizing them to act to the extent they are guided by faith (His revealed word).

So Sacred Tradition needs The Magisterium.  This would be a governing teaching authority on faith and morals.  This was a an integral part of salvation history since Moses.  The scribes and the Pharisees have taken their seat on the chair of Moses. Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example. For they preach but they do not practice” (Matthew 23:2-3).

Jesus left room in the gospels to be ones “personal Lord and Savior”.  This is a beautiful aspect of conversion.  But instead of being left to be a disciple of Jesus according to ones personal interpretation Jesus has a display for the crowd and us if one looks to the verses preceding the words of the Sermon On The Mount.

“Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them” (Matthew 5:1-2).  Yes Jesus is very personal but the delegated authority goes on to His disciples of the apostolic context. Jesus does not present to us a Gospel of Nice but a Gospel of the The Kingdom.  My hope and prayer for myself and the reader is that the follow through of Jesus words will help us all to hold together in the form of His making and even thrive.

But we ought to give thanks to God for you always, brothers loved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in truth. To this end he has [also] called you through our gospel to possess the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.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.” (2 Thesolonians 2:13-15).

Light On Gospel of Nice

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Truth, by very definition, supposed to be at the exclusion of other perceptions that are not truth.  The kinds of truths that make this world run on the material, philosophical and spiritual truths.  Many things that are material can challenge the intellect and are not for everyone.  Math truth seems to have waved bye-bye to me a long time ago.  But there is plenty of room for grasping philosophical and spiritual truths for the Forest Gumps and Einsteins of the world.  One of the many things I love about Jesus is that the teachings are so accessible.  When they are not there is even a follow up explanation.

But in the teachings and ultimately the authority of Jesus Christ as Lord is that in the gospels He is continually breaking ground or building something in His Church.  Jesus was not running for anything but the cross by which He would redeem the world as the atoning Lamb of God and form a holy community.

But in casting a vision of truth in the Sermon On The Mount Jesus knew that there were deceivers coming to people in the assembly of the day and of days to come so He addresses this.

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but underneath are ravenous wolves. By their fruits you will know them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Just so, every good tree bears good fruit, and a rotten tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a rotten tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. So by their fruits you will know them” (Matthew 7:15-20).

Beware of false prophets— Obviously they could be ones who predict something and it does not happen.  But comparing within the same book of Matthew we see in chapter 24 that there would be ones who say, “I am the Christ”.  They are wanting to be the beginning and end of God’s kingdom in place of Jesus.  Jesus is unique and anyone trying to usurp that and elicit worship that belongs only to Him is false where Jesus is truth.

come to you in sheep’s clothing—- Many Christian may know a thing or two from when they have seen deceivers come into the world or even into Christian fellowship.  In the first appearance they seem good.  Maybe they do some good works or speak a dialect of “Christian-ese” fluently.  A deceiver that draws people from the simplicity and devotion to Jesus may fool some leaders some of the time even.

But what are some basic fruits that Jesus says we should look for?  We are informed on what to look for in John 10.

“Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever does not enter a sheepfold through the gate but climbs over elsewhere is a thief and a robber. But whoever enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens it for him, and the sheep hear his voice, as he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has driven out all his own, he walks ahead of them, and the sheep follow him, because they recognize his voice. But they will not follow a stranger; they will run away from him, because they do not recognize the voice of strangers.”

So Jesus said again, “Amen, amen, I say to you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came [before me] are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them.  I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture.  A thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy; I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly. I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. A hired man, who is not a shepherd and whose sheep are not his own, sees a wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away, and the wolf catches and scatters them. This is because he works for pay and has no concern for the sheep.” (John 10:1-5, 7-13).

We learn here that they get among God’s people without respect to the authority of Jesus.  We learn later in the gospels that Jesus delegates authority to others who likewise pass it on to others. It could be implied that they are the “gatekeeper”.   If someone is self-appointed and wants to exercise new truth we ought to be alert right there.  What we also see is that they will not have a healthy view or endurance when hardships come like the specter of death or persecution.  Whereas the DNA of the Church that Jesus builds is that it is “the pillar and foundation of truth”.  Jesus and the true gatekeepers will open and close the books on truth without error but the false shepherds will pollute everything.

I would like to point to the life versus destruction that Jesus speaks of.  Life more abundantly respects the dignity of the human soul and body.  If the reader here is checking out Christianity, take a look at the fruits of its teachings when followed correctly.  I emphasize “when followed correctly” because, as GK Chesterton said, one should judge a medicine for when it is taken.  Christianity, as can be seen in history, supports real life in all its forms.  Moral relativism will only plant ones feet firmly—in mid-air.  Its fruit is death to the dignity of the person and the family.

Last, on discernment, I challenge the reader to be careful about their sources in light of the real deal of Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition.  Do your influences state something about right living based mostly on “I feel”?  At the time that I write this there has been a Supreme Court decision that has ruled that same-sex marriage must be recognized as a constitutional right.  I am seeing on Facebook many Christians who have openly defied Jesus the Shepherd under the “Gospel of Nice” with the new holy sacrament of “I’m okay, your okay”. They celebrate the ruling for the wisdom of the age in place of the wisdom of the ages. If for a moment someone begins to wonder if they have been deceived, look at the fruit of the prophets of this age.  What is the fruit of no-fault divorce and later remarriage?  What is the fruit of abortion with the people involved?  The wisdom of the age seemed so convincing at the time. Could the fruit be bad in the long run about gay marriage if natural law and spiritual law is violated.  I have my not so wile guess.

Make no mistake: sheep are dumb.  We need Jesus and His chosen, broken servants to walk right and not the false prophets of moral relativism scattered in the media. It is up to each of us to see truth with the right eyes.