Will you Ascend or Descend?

For over a decade, standing at the altar I had a beautiful stained glass window of the ascension right in front of me. The disciples, all gathered, looking heavenward as Jesus ascends to the right hand of the Father. This represents not only Jesus’ victory over death and the grave, but also gives us hope of bodily resurrection ourselves.

But is that all? Standing looking at the ascension window for over a decade gave me time to think. Yes there is the obvious hope of resurrection, and that hope gave me joy. But it also gave me pause to think, “how can I make certain that I can also one day ascend to heaven”?

Protestants believe that one can be assured of ascending to heaven if they will proclaim Jesus as Lord. I found this problematic on the surface, as there have been some very evil people in history that proclaimed Christ as their Lord while perpetrating evil works on their fellow man. But as we go deeper into reformation theology we find that the reformers believed (and currently hold) that man is created evil, irredeemable. Nothing we can do through works can justify our brokenness to the Lord; except proclaim Him as Lord. The word “nothing” to me is pretty absolute, so how can such an action, or dare I say work, (proclaiming Jesus as Lord) justify us with God? If we can do nothing of our own accord; how is it possible to walk to the front of the church and say a prayer and be saved? Of course the more savvy protestant will bring predestination to the table in order to fix this problem. It was not your “work” of saying that Christ is Lord that saved you, you were created for God, where as others where created for the devil. Those who claimed Christ as Lord were predestined to do so, it was no work on your part. This did not sit well with me. If I were predestined, that is made for God, while others, maybe even a family member, was made for the devil, why then did I have to do anything? I was made for God, case closed. Even if I lived the most deplorable life, and my brother who was made for the devil lived the most holy life, I would still ascend and my brother would be thrown into the eternal fire. Of course, the reformer would return with irresistible grace. If saved, I could not help but do godly actions. But if this is true, I have another issue; please raise your hand if you have never sinned. Irresistible seems to be a different word than what I learned in grade school, perhaps it’s resistible for “minor” mortal sins but irresistible for “major” mortal sins? And lets not even bring up the idea of free will!

Catholics are justified by faith through baptism and subsequent good works. As we are all born in the image of God and all meant for good, we all are called to do the works of the Father as He lays out. Some of us choose to pick up these works, some of us chose not to. As we work with the Father, at times we fall short of the mark. At these times we have by the grace of God through the work of Jesus on the cross an opportunity for complete and final forgiveness through the sacrament of confession.

As we look at the ascension, and wonder how we too might be taken into heaven, we should all to readily see that God has made us for Himself. He wants nothing more than for us to be with Him…all of us! He wants us in heaven so badly that He has not only given us His only Son as a living sacrifice, but He also gave us the sacraments of the Church as supernatural steps back to Him. But we must choose this path, it is not chosen for us. If we wind up in hell, it is because we chose to be there. If we wind up in heaven likewise, it is because we took advantage of all the graces God has given us in the Church.

Please do not think that your life has already been written, and that you simply are who you find yourself to be right now. It may well be beyond your personal ability to change, but it is not beyond God’s ability. Within the Catholic Church there has been made available to us grace upon grace, all of which are there to help us change for the better.

As we look at the ascension we should all make the choice that we too will be ascended. We should then act upon that choice by making frequent confessions (monthly…or at the occasion of mortal sin) and going to mass habitually. We should pray daily and do the works God has called us to do.

Let us rejoice in the ascension, knowing that Christ has gone before us preparing the way not for a few, but for all who chose to follow Him.

God Bless

Fr Scott

Prepare for disaster!!

Prepare for uncertain times.

I was just listening to the radio, and as usual, I had to turn it off after a half an hour. What I learned in a short time is that we are soon to have shortages and hyper inflation. Evidently everything from chlorine to gasoline, bread to beer, sodas to peanuts will become rare commodities and priced so high we will need a wheel barrow of money to purchase anything. So I thought I would write a public service note so to help everyone know what they must have for the pending doom.

The first “must have” is a book of litanies. As we all know the first order of business in any crisis is to keep a level head. “Nothing going on here, everyone just stay calm” is a great punch line these days, but it is based on truth. The calm mind finds a way; through any tragedy. How do we stay calm through troubled waters? We pray. I have found through the years that in crisis it is hard to pray. Our minds are so gripped by what is taking place that all we can get out is a mess of “Lord help me’s”. We need calm, and that calm is found in true prayer. Litanies are excellent for calming the mind. There are litanies to God, to Christ, to the Holy Ghost, to Mary…to all the saints, individually or en-masse. Have two or three of these books around at all times, and pray them every time you feel over whelmed. For an added spiritual bonus, rosaries work wonders to calm an unsettled mind also.

The next must have is a monthly confession schedule. Every-time we are faced with crisis, our own mortality confronts us. Nobody is ready to die, so we panic. The easy answer here is be ready to die. OK…I don’t mean to be anxious to die, just ready. Be in a state of grace. I hate planes. The thought of one person in the front making a decision of life or death for the rest of us on the plane ….that nobody can opt out of…makes me uncomfortable. So before I board, I make certain I am ready to die; I make my confession. Knowing this, coupled with the fact that nobody gets out of this world alive (unless you are assumed into heaven…) allows me to have a reasonable hope that if the worst does happen, I am ready for eternity. Make your confession often! I have noticed that too many in the Catholic Church believe that most sins are venial, and so they do not confess them, or just do not go to confession. Most of the sin we do can boarder on mortal, so why not get rid of it? Called the driver that cut you off a name, might be mortal. Watched a show that would have been R rated in the 70’s and X rated in the 50’s but now is on network prime time? Likely boarders on mortal. Talked about your neighbor in a not so flattering way? It needs to come to the confessional.

Lastly, put mass on your calendar, as close to daily as you can afford. Go to mass. Everyone knows that going to mass will usually pep us up. Daily mass will do super natural things to your attitude. There is a peace that is found in mass, that once multiplied by daily reception, really does help you see God and His workings around you. Give it a try! What’s more, we are starting adoration from 4-6:30pm on Wednesdays, give it a try, I think you will find a new person in the mirror after a few months.

Prayer, confession, mass, this should top your list of things to have during the next crisis…and maybe a stash of toilet paper. When life gets serious, it is time to get serious about our relationship with God.

God Bless

Fr Scott

Catholics and Salvation

A few days ago I received a small, colorful little pamphlet. It was well written and in my opinion was quite attractive, I wanted to open it. Inside I was taken through a series of pages that lead me to the penultimate page that told me that I was assured salvation if I proclaimed that Christ is Lord. Just to be honest, I knew that was where this little pamphlet was headed towards, and I was hurt. I am guessing this was placed where I could find it by someone who believes Catholics are not saved…or even Christian.

This always makes me sad first, mad second. I do get mad, mainly because knowing that I am Catholic, the black clothes with white collar gives it away, they must believe that we need salvation. We have all run into this in our lives, and we should not shy away from giving answer; if you have been shy you need to be more vocal about the faith Christ has gifted you!

But how do we respond? I really wish I had some small pamphlets to leave around the area I found the one I now possess. I am sure someone makes them, I just do not have one. But this all got me thinking about what I would put in a small pamphlet if I had the time to write it.

First, I would state an undeniable truth, the Catholic Church has been in existence since the time of the apostles, Christ founded it Himself.

Matthew 16:18  And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it1

There are many that will question this, whether or not Jesus is founding the Church on Peter, or on his faith. My question is, how can you take Peters faith from him? Can you separate Peter’s faith from Peter? On this rock, even if it was his faith (it is not) would still be Peter’s faith. But the word play here is “rock”, which is Petra, Peter, and thereby Jesus is founding his church on the first of the apostles, Peter.

Next I would speak about the authority of scripture, which is where the author of my little pamphlet got his thoughts on salvation. The bible was inspired by God, written by Catholics (New Testament), and then canonized by Catholics. If there were Baptists there in the 4th century someone needs to supply proof of their presence. So if scripture was of God through Catholics, who better to explain it’s contents but Catholics; specifically the Church. Questions about what is “in” or not “in” scripture, and what it means, can only be answered by one source, the Catholic Church. All other churches hold votes on what scripture says, could anyone please find in scripture where God takes a vote on what He wants done?

Next, salvation.

… because, if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 2

Romans 10:9

This is one of the favorite verses used by protestants to assure themselves of salvation. We should look first at what Paul is speaking of. Paul is confronted by Jews who turned Christian who make the claim that without circumcision there is no hope of salvation. Paul is trying to teach that there needs be no outward work done to believe, we have but to say, “I believe”. All Catholics at every baptism and confirmation are required publicly to make this proclamation. But is this the end? Is this all we need for salvation? If it is then why does Christ give the apostles the ability to forgive sins? If all that needs to be done is to proclaim Christ, then there needs to be no absolution, just proclamation. Why do we need baptism at all for that matter, there just needs to be a proclamation. Why does Christ ask us to enter by the narrow door? If all who proclaim Christ are saved, sounds like there better be a large door to heaven for all that will be entering. Why does the rich young man have to sell all he has? Why not just proclaim his faith? In fact, if salvation by proclamation is the rule, we only need Romans 10 and perhaps the Beatitudes in the New Testament, all else seems unnecessary if we can simply proclaim and be saved.

Instead, it would seem that the sacraments are the door to salvation, as we see in John:

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; 54 he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. 55 For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. 56 He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me. 58 This is the bread which came down from heaven, not such as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live for ever.” 59 This he said in the synagogue, as he taught at Capernaum. 3

John 6:53-59

All through the Bible we see either the pre-configuration of the sacraments or the sacraments themselves being shown as the way to heaven. Jesus is baptized, Jesus participates in the marriage at Cana, Jesus speaking of the Eucharist, Jesus breathing the Holy Spirit upon the disciples to ordain them, Jesus giving the apostles the ability to forgive sins, Jesus being anointed before His crucifixion, and finally the apostles confirming believers and sending them out for ministry.

Scripture, if taken as an entirety, is all about sacraments. The catholic Church just so happens to be all about sacraments. This has lead many over the 2000 years since Christ to make the proclamation that it is only through the Catholic Church that we can be saved. We need to be pastoral but vocal on this matter.

Fr Scott

1Catholic Biblical Association (Great Britain). (1994). The Holy Bible: Revised Standard Version, Catholic edition (Mt 16:18). New York: National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA.
2Catholic Biblical Association (Great Britain). (1994). The Holy Bible: Revised Standard Version, Catholic edition (Ro 10:8–9). New York: National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA.
3Catholic Biblical Association (Great Britain). (1994). The Holy Bible: Revised Standard Version, Catholic edition (Jn 6:53–59). New York: National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA.

Can you Believe in Jesus and Still go to Hell?

Can you believe in Jesus and still go to hell? The short answer is yes. The longer answer has many more nuances, which we need to look at as we traverse through lent. Lent is the time for us all to look at our Christian walk and make changes. These are not supposed to be simple idle changes in various behaviors, but changes that will assure us that we will be saved on the last day from eternal damnation.

Romans 10: 8-9 The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart (that is, the word of faith which we preach); because, if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

This is the verse from Romans that many have used to espouse the “once saved, always saved” theology. This is a false theology. The fact that we simply say something, does not believe that we have altered our lives to conform to whatever we spoke. If you listen to yourself on a normal day, we say things we don’t truly believe all the time. “How are you?” This is a normal greeting. The answer is, 99% of the time, “Oh I’m fine, thanks for asking.” Most of the time this is not the case, yet we say it because it would be unreasonable to give everyone we meet in the day our long laundry list of issues each one of us faces in the day. We speak but do not believe. Believing with your heart, as the verse clearly states is life changing.

2Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if any one is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come

We are a new creation; totally changed. The moment we come out of the font, even if we are baptized as an adult, we are gifted the Holy Spirit and adopted as God’s own, but we have yet to be a new creation. Empowered by the Holy Spirit, though, we can change. This is a process called sanctification.

Ephesians 4: 25 Therefore, putting away falsehood, let every one speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. 26 Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and give no opportunity to the devil. 28 Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his hands, so that he may be able to give to those in need. 29 Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for edifying, as fits the occasion, that it may impart grace to those who hear. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, in whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, with all malice, 32 and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

We are called to be a new creation, to change our lives. It is that change, that new creation which emerges, that is found good in the sight of God. We should look at our conduct in our overall lives this lent and see if we need changes to become truly new.

Galations 5: 16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you would. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit you are not under the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are plain: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissension, party spirit, 21 envy, drunkenness, carousing, and the like. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

Put away the things of this world, as difficult as that may be, and live only to God. We are all convicted by Paul’s writings to the Galatians, what can you change right now that would make you a new creation?

But all this is personal, we also have each other to worry about. Yes, if we truly believe in Christ we will want to spread His word AND help each other in our walk, this means meet together; or in other words, come to church!

Hebrews 10: 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful; 24 and let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

We are called to evangelism, and if we are truly confessing Christ, we are unable to hide our light. We should be drawn to spreading the Gospel just as we are drawn to eat daily. (and in my case that is a pretty strong draw!) Who is the last person you spoke to about Christ, or about your church? If you are to be a new creation, you must be evangelical.

Lastly, put God first, Jesus’ parable gives us fair warning.

Luke 14 16 But he said to him, “A man once gave a great banquet, and invited many; 17 and at the time for the banquet he sent his servant to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come; for all is now ready.’ 18 But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it; I pray you, have me excused.’ 19 And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them; I pray you, have me excused.’ 20 And another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’ 21 So the servant came and reported this to his master. Then the householder in anger said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and maimed and blind and lame.’ 22 And the servant said, ‘Sir, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.’ 23 And the master said to the servant, ‘Go out to the highways and hedges, and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled. 24 For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet.’”

We are all busy; we have busy lives. But if we truly believe in Christ, in our hearts, we will become new creations in how we calendar our lives; giving God our first priority above all else.

Do you confess Jesus with your lips? Good! If we do this and believe in Him with our whole hearts than we will be compelled to be new creations in Christ, and we will embody the scripture we just looked at in this article. Let us all this lent make the basic changes in our lives to become saved through life long sanctification and works.

Go to Mass…Your Life Depends on It!!

We need never fear that the Mass hinders us in the fulfillment of our temporal affairs; it is altogether the other way around. We may be sure that all will go better and that even our business will succeed better than if we have the misfortune not to assist at Mass.
– St. John Vianney

Do we have time to go to mass today? There are a few good memories I will hold from my time between the Episcopal Church and the Catholic Church. For those who do not know the process, one does not leave Episcopal Church ministry one day and pick up Catholic ministry the next, there are at least two years of discernment and study that go on in the interim. During that interim, each candidate for orders must find employment, as mortgages and car payments do not wait for a few years…in fact they really want payment each month!

One memory I will enjoy from that interim period is the fact that Stephanie and I worked in the same office, trying to make my small business get off the ground. We would often look up at 11:30am, and ask if we should go to mass at St Patricks. Our stock answer was “well of course”! In what was a very hectic and financially uncertain times, daily mass was the only anchor we had, and it was a very real blessing for us.

After almost a year, I found myself in roofing, which is a long story that I won’t recount here. Stephanie found herself dealing with aging parents, both hers and mine. I had a boss that seemed to time his calls to 11:30am each morning, and Stephanie found herself working her own meals on wheels for lunches for our parents. We were extremely busy! Guess what immediately became rare…our going to mass at noon.

We found a routine where I would go daily to St Patricks 7am mass, and then maybe catch a noon mass with Stephanie once a week. In all this rush and business, it can come to mind, “should we be spending this much time in church”? All I could remember is that when I was blowing up my life, (best phrase I could think of for quitting a 20 yr career at age 53) the daily mass was my only place for strength and serenity. As work got more and more hectic, again it was mass that brought me solace. I honestly am not certain if I could have gotten through the interim without it.

So when I saw St John Vianney’s words this morning, I thought back to those uncertain days; and I thought to the strength I gained from the mass. Never let the devil tell you that you don’t have time for mass; in all honesty you don’t have the luxury of missing daily mass. If you are like me, life can get scary at times, and we need the comfort of the sacraments.

Come to mass daily. But don’t expect to get a reward such as new business, or untold riches. Expect comfort and wisdom. Comfort in a hectic world and wisdom in knowing how to navigate it.