Monthly Archives: February 2016

Truth and Consequences

The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us, in paragraph 2051, that the infallible teaching authority of the Church extends to “all the elements of doctrine:”

The infallibility of the Magisterium of the Pastors extends to all the elements of doctrine, including moral doctrine, without which the saving truths of the faith cannot be preserved, expounded, or observed.

The reason for this should be obvious to Catholics. Without this great gift of an infallible teaching authority, we would be, as St. Paul says in Eph. 4:14, “… children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the cunning of men, by their craftiness in deceitful wiles.” Yet, too many Catholics take for granted the great gift of the Magisterium of the Bishops in union with the Bishop of Rome that has safeguarded the truth of the Faith for 2,000 years. In fact, there is no human way to explain the reality of “one Lord, one faith, one baptism” (Eph. 4:5) that we have experienced in the Catholic Church for two millennia apart from this supernatural gift. But perhaps even fewer of us consider some of the consequences that have come as a result of the absence of this great gift.

In my DVD, Truth and Consequences, I gather multiple examples of what happens when you don’t have the infallible gift of what the Catechism calls “the [infallible] Magisterium of the Pastors.” by way of the real-life teachings of the sons and daughters of the “reformation.” I will toss out three here for us to consider:

Denying Mary, Mother of God

I can remember when the thought of believing Mary to be Mother of God was absolutely crazy to me when I was Protestant. And on the surface, one can perhaps understand the problem: If we say Mary is “the Mother of God” wouldn’t she have to be God? If a dog begets a dog, a cat begets a cat, would not Mary have to be God in order to give birth to God?

In truth? Not at all.

The error here is rooted in a failure to understand that Mary was not the source of Jesus’ divinity, nor was she the source of his human soul. She was merely the source of his Jesus’ body. But that does not mean she was and is not his mother because she did not give birth to a body, a soul, a nature, or even two natures; she gave birth to person, and that person is God. Therefore, Mary is the Mother of God.

But more fundamentally here, we have to ask this question to those who deny Mary is the Mother of God: “If you deny Mary is the Mother of God, who is Jesus?” As I point out in my book, Behold Your Mother – A Biblical and Historical Defense of the Marian Doctrines, Dr. Walter Martin gives us an example of what happens when you get this wrong on page 103 of his classic, Kingdom of the Cults (1977 edition):

… there cannot be any such thing as eternal Sonship, for there is a logical contradiction of terminology due to the fact that the word “Son” predicates time and the involvement of creativity. Christ, the Scripture tells us, as the Logos, is timeless, “… the Word was in the beginning” not the Son!

Think about this: In the process of denying Mary to be Mother of God, Dr. Martin lost Jesus. Jesus is no longer the eternal Son. But it gets worse, if that is possible. He also says on that same page:

The term Father incidentally never carries the descriptive adjective “eternal” in Scripture… the words Father and Son are purely functional…

Now he lost the Father. The immediate question arises: Who, then, is God in eternity before there was a creation? I suppose we would have to call God, “The Blah, the Word and the Holy Spirit!”

Double Predestination

In their 1997 book, What Unites Presbyterians, Dr. Clifton Kirkpatrick and William Hopper (Kirkpatrick was, at the time, the highest ranking staff member, “the stated Clerk” as they call it, of the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A., the largest Presbyterian body in the United States), on page 17, state:

Presbyterians have endorsed this conviction (Double Predestination), but with Calvin we have always had trouble with it for two reasons: First, if God predestines every person, and not all are called, elected, or predestined for salvation, then God has predestined some persons to Hell or eternal damnation. Second, if God has determined the ultimate fate of all persons, then the individual has no power to make any important decisions.

Presbyterians have learned to believe, also, in free will, realizing that these two doctrines are logically impossible to hold at the same time, but that each is free as taught in the Westminster Confession.

Those persons who can with a clear conscience accept what they are taught, regardless of apparent inconsistencies, are in some ways better off than those who think. It is almost unfortunate that Presbyterians are a thinking people…

There is always a creative tension between these two because we DO believe both even when we know that they are logically inconsistent.

The Catholic Response can be found in Vatican II, Gaudium et Spes 22 (the Pastoral Constitution on the Church), para. 5:

For, since Christ died for all men, and since the ultimate vocation of man is in fact one, and divine, we ought to believe that the Holy Spirit in a manner known only to God offers to every man the possibility of being associated with this paschal mystery…

I Tim. 2:4 tells us God positively wills “all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth,” while II Peter 3:9 tells us God does not will “that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.”

To put it simply: In order to go to Hell, the Catholic Church teaches, a person must reject God’s salvific will for him.

I am truly grateful to God that the Catholic Church never asks me to park my brains on the doorstep before I enter the Church.

Abortion

“Thou shalt not kill” is not a Catholic only club. Pope St. John Paul II tells us, when it comes to abortion, in Para. 60 of Evangelium Vitae:

But in fact, “from the time that the ovum is fertilized, a life is begun which is neither that of the father nor the mother; it is rather the life of a new human being with his own growth. It would never be made human if it were not human already. This has always been clear, and… modern genetic science offers clear confirmation…”

Indeed, it is so clear. And when we consider that the moral law is something that is knowable, at least in theory, by the light of natural reason alone, apart from revelation (though God gives us revelation so that the moral law can be known with facility, certainty, and without the admixture of error), it was all the more disturbing to me that when I was doing the research for Truth and Consequences, I found 18 denominations that teach abortion to be licit in at least some circumstances. And my research was in no way exhaustive. Due to the limits of a blog post, I will cite just half of them here:

1. The Salvation Army

From their international website:

… termination can occur only when: Carrying the pregnancy further seriously threatens the life of the mother; or Reliable diagnostic procedures have identified a foetal abnormality considered incompatible with survival for more than a very brief postnatal period.

In addition, rape and incest are brutal acts of dominance violating women physically and emotionally. This situation represents a special case for the consideration of termination as the violation may be compounded by the continuation of the pregnancy.

2. The Mormons (LDS)

In the February 1973 edition of: “The Priesthood Bulletin,” the First Presidency (Spencer W. Kimball, N. Eldon Tanner, Marion G. Romney), p. 1-2:

The Church opposes abortion and counsels its members not to submit to or perform an abortion except in the rare cases where, in the opinion of competent medical counsel, the life or good health of the mother is seriously endangered or where the pregnancy was caused by rape and produces serious emotional trauma in the mother.”

Got to give the “prophet” credit, he held out for 1 month after Roe vs. Wade!

3. The United Church of Christ

If you are not familiar with this sect, just remember Rev. Jeremiah Wright and “Obama’s Church.” That’s them!

This sect has supported the legalization of abortion at least since 1973. They are an official member of the “Religious Coalition for Reproductive Rights.” They are so radical that they joined with NARAL (the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League) in supporting President Clinton’s veto of the ban on partial birth abortion in 1996 and 1997.

4. The American Baptist Churches

The General Board of American Baptist Churches affirmed that this matter is up to the individual in 1988 and reaffirmed it in 1994.

5. The Southern Baptist Convention

The largest Baptism denomination in the U.S. declared in 1971 that Southern Baptists should “work for legislation that will allow the possibility of abortion under such conditions as rape, incest, clear evidence of severe fetal deformity, and carefully ascertained evidence of the likelihood of damage to the emotional, mental, and physical health of the mother.”

Thank God, they back-pedaled on that in 1980 and declared abortion to be permissible only “to save the life of the mother.” But when you okay murder in any cases, you’re not just on a “slippery slope;” you’ve slid to the bottom of it.

6. Presbyterian Church (USA)

This is the largest Presbyterian body in the United States. They condemned abortion outright in 1965. In 1970, a study report concluded that abortion could well be a “help” in cases of unwanted pregnancies.

Really? A “help?”

By 1983, the Presbyterian Church USA General Assembly adopted an official policy in favor of abortion calling it a “stewardship responsibility.” Today, they are official members of the “Religious Coalition for Reproductive Rights.” In 1992, the General Assembly stated “there is a basis in our tradition not only for a woman’s difficult choice for abortion, but also for the preservation of the lives of the unborn…”

In that same year, the Assembly also declared: “Possible justifying circumstances [for abortion] would include medical indications of severe physical or mental deformity, conception as a result of rape or incest, or conditions under which the physical or mental health of either woman or child would be gravely threatened.”

7. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA)

The ELCA, the largest Lutheran body in the United States, in 1990, adopted a statement that declared abortion to be acceptable in cases of danger to mother’s life, extreme fetal deformity incompatible with life, and in cases of rape and incest. They also declared that they neither support nor oppose abortion-restricting legislation. In 1997, they voted down a proposal to restrict abortion funding to cases of rape, incest, life of the mother. As a result, ELCA now funds elective abortions in their health care coverage and offers elective abortion in some Lutheran-affiliated hospitals. Today, on their website, the ELCA declares, in a 1991 statement of faith declared by a Church-wide Assembly of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America:

A developing life in the womb does not have an absolute right to be born, nor does a pregnant woman have an absolute right to terminate a pregnancy.

I suppose the truth is found somewhere in-between?

8. The United Methodist Church

The largest Methodist body in the United States, they helped organize and are members of “The Religious Coalition for Abortion Rights,” founded in 1973 and re-named “The Religious Coalition for Reproductive Rights” in 1993.

How euphemistic of them!

Along with the United Church of Christ, this denomination officially joined NARAL in supporting President Clinton’s veto of the Partial Abortion Ban in 1996 and 1997. Their “Book of Discipline” remains pro-abortion to this day.

9. The Episcopal Church

In 1958 they issued a strongly pro-life statement. However, at their 1967 General Convention they officially supported pro-abortion legislation for the first time. They stated abortion to be morally acceptable in cases of rape, incest, fetal deformity, or danger to the physical or mental health of the mother. In 1994, the 71st General Convention expressed:

… unequivocal opposition to any… action… that [would] abridge the right of a woman to reach an informed decision about the termination of her pregnancy, or that would limit the access of a woman to a safe means of acting upon her decision.

In 1997, at their 72nd Convention, they expressed their support of partial birth abortion, but only in what they called “extreme situations.”

Their words speak for themselves.

In a future blog post, I will cite some examples among the 25 denominations I found that now support homosexual unions mimicking marriage. Stay tuned!

These are just some of the consequences that follow when you don’t have “the infallibility of the Magisterium of the Pastors” in union with the Bishop of Rome.

Are the Ashes of “Ash Wednesday” Contrary to Scripture?

Every Lent I get this question: Matt. 6:16-18, Jesus said:

And when you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by men. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by men but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

“Why in the world would you Catholics directly contradict Jesus’ words by putting ashes on your foreheads on Ash Wednesday?”

The Catholic Answer

The Sermon on the Mount has several verses that are similarly taken out of context to make them seem to contradict Catholic belief and practice. In a blog post back on July 25, 2014, I pointed out how Matt. 7:1 is misused from this same Sermon on the Mount: “Judge not lest you be judged.” I argued this may well be the most misunderstood verse in all of Sacred Scripture. Well, then in my last blog post, I argued that  the “turn the other cheek” passage from Matthew 5:39 is unfortunately not far behind and misunderstood today by large numbers of both Christians and non-Christians alike.

Well, in the words of Ronald Reagan, “There you go again.” Matthew 6:16-18, while not as common as the other two, is yet another example of parts of the Sermon on the Mount being taken out of context.

A Little Review

As I’ve said before, the truth is, Jesus was using a common rabbinical teaching tool known as “hyperbole” in order to accentuate an important point. He did not intend that line to be taken in a strict, literal, and absolute sense. In fact, Jesus uses hyperbole throughout the Sermon on the Mount as well as at other times in the Gospels. For some reason, the “judge not,” “turn the other cheek,” and “fast and pray in secret” passages get an inordinate amount of air-time. But again, let me list here some other examples that are not as well known:

1. If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and throw it away… (5:29)

Do we really think Jesus wants us to pluck out our eyes and throw them away? No! He is speaking hyperbolic to emphasize the fact that we must eliminate all obstacles to serving God.

2. … if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away… (5:30)

Is anyone out on the stump encouraging folks to cut off hands in the name of Jesus?

3. But I say to you, Do not swear at all… Let what you say be simply “Yes” or “No”… (5:34-37)

Jesus himself honored the oath the High Priest placed him under in Matt. 26:63: “I adjure thee by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God” (in Leviticus 5:1, we have a reference to the “oath of adjuration” where the High Priest is revealed to have the authority to place someone under an oath to testify). If Jesus taught oaths to be unlawful or immoral, he would not have responded or he would have protested and made clear that he did not agree with the concept of oaths.

St. Paul swore oaths, or at least did not present everything as a simple “yes” or “no” as Jesus said in Matt. 5:37, in multiple places in the New Testament (see Phil. 1:8; II Cor. 1:23; 11:31; 12:19; Gal. 1:20). Jesus’ actual meaning was that oaths should not be necessary among the faithful because we should be known for our honesty; however, because of the evil that exists in the world oaths are very necessary. But you don’t get this from the actual words of Matt. 5. At least not overtly.

4. … if any one would sue you and take your coat, let him have your cloak as well… (5:40)
5. Give to him who begs from you, and do not refuse him who would borrow from you (5:42).

Do we really believe Jesus meant we have to loan or give money to anyone and everyone who asks us? And if someone sues us, do we really have to capitulate and then give him more than he even asked for? All Christians would be broke and unable to raise families! No! He uses hyperbole in teaching Christians should be known for their generosity.

6. … when you give alms do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be in secret… (6:3-4)

Did Jesus really mean no one should ever know what we give? Then why would Jesus have commended the poor widow who gave the now famous “widow’s mite” in Mark 12:42-43? Or, why would the apostles have had a very public display of giving in Acts 5 when Ananias and Saphira were condemned for lying about how much they actually gave? This implies that everyone knew what each was giving!

The truth is, Christ was emphasizing that we should give for love of God and neighbor’s sake, not to be seen of men as a matter of pride.

7. This one is very closely related to Jesus’ admonition against “public fasting.” This time, it’s public prayer.

… when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret… (6:6)

Did Jesus really condemn praying in public here? If so, he would have been condemning himself! He prayed publicly in the Garden of Gethsemane (See Mark 14:36); he prayed publicly when he raised Lazarus from the dead in John 11:41-43. The apostles often prayed in public (see Acts 1:24; 4:31; 6:6; 20:36, etc.).

Jesus was here using hyperbole to emphasize that prayer should never be a performance to be seen by men.

8. Do not lay up treasures for yourselves on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasure in heaven… (6:19-20)

Do we really believe that Jesus condemned banks and bank accounts here? This would hardly square with Jesus’ “Parable of the Talents,” in Matt. 25:27: “Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest.”

9. … do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat, or what you shall drink… Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they (6:25-26)?

10. And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin; yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these… will [God] not much more clothe you, O you of little faith (6:28-30)?

If we are going to argue that “turn the other cheek,” “judge not,” or now, “fast in secret,” must be taken in a strict, literal, and absolute sense, then it would seem we would also have to say Jesus is condemning farms, farming, or even planting seeds to grow food in these verses. After all, the birds don’t do that and God takes care of them!

Jesus would also be condemning the making of clothing. I suppose we should all remain naked and wait for God to clothe us, right?

The Secret Fast

Obviously, those that take 6:16-18 to mean Jesus condemns any public fasting are making the same mistake. Jesus himself fasted publicly in Matt. 4:1-2:

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And he fasted forty days and forty nights…

He had to tell someone about this in order for the Apostles to know about it. It is recorded in both Matt 4 and Luke 4. This was a public fast!

Jesus is operating in the mode of the prophet like we see in Isaiah 58:3-6, when the prophet Isaiah declares:

Why have we  fasted, and thou seest it not? Why have we humbled ourselves, and thou takest no knowledge of it?’ Behold, in the day of your  fast you seek your own pleasure, and oppress all your workers. Behold, you  fast only to quarrel and to fight and to hit with wicked fist. Fasting like yours this day will not make your voice to be heard on high. Is such the  fast that I choose, a day for a man to humble himself? Is it to bow down his head like a rush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? Will you call this a  fast, and a day acceptable to the LORD? Is not this the  fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?

Is Isaiah here condemning the notion of fasting with ashes? It may seem so with a surface reading just as a surface reading of Jesus may appear to condemn the use of ashes as well. But this is obviously not so because God himself would later say through the Prophet, Jeremiah:

Thus says the LORD… O daughter of my people, gird on sackcloth, and roll in ashes;  make mourning as for an only son, most bitter lamentation; for suddenly the destroyer will come upon us (Jer. 6:22-26).

The Prophet Daniel’s prayers with “fasting… sackcloth, and ashes” resulted in God granting him grace and favor.  God seemed to be just fine with prayer in sackcloth and ashes:

Then I turned my face to the Lord God, seeking him by prayer and supplications with fasting and sackcloth and ashes… While I was speaking and praying, confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my supplication before the LORD my God for the holy hill of my God; while I was speaking in prayer, the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the first, came to me in swift flight at the time of the evening sacrifice. He came and he said to me, “O Daniel, I have now come out to give you wisdom and understanding. At the beginning of your supplications a word went forth, and I have come to tell it to you, for you are greatly beloved; therefore consider the word and understand the vision (Daniel 9:3-23).

There is nothing wrong with using a public fast that includes ashes. What is wrong is doing these things simply to be seen by men. That is what Jesus condemns. If you liked this, and would like to learn more, click here.

 

 

Turn the Other Cheek?

As a father of eight (two in heaven, and six on earth), I have the perfect excuse to watch children’s movies. “I just happened to be nearby and just happened to see…”

Actually, some of the kids’ movies we have are really good. And among my favorites are the Veggie Tales series of movies and television shows. The characters are all vegetables of differing sorts, e.g., celery, broccoli, etc., and the themes are always Christian with a moral to challenge young people to walk with the Lord in their everyday lives. There is no doubt that the writers of the series knew parents would be watching because there is no lack of humor mixed in that is obviously aimed at an older audience, but overall these episodes are extremely well done and my kids absolutely love them.

Having said that, however, the theology in some of these DVD’s is found wanting. In one episode, for example, titled “Minnesota Cuke,” Jr. Asparagus and his friends are bullied by a bigger kid (a giant squash, no less) on the playground. He demands them all to leave “or else,” and tells them they can never come back without his permission first.

When Jr. asks his father for advice, his father tells him we must “turn the other cheek,” meaning, we just have to “get pounded” sometimes and take it because that is what Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount. Thus, Jr. and his friends “stand up to the bully” by informing him that he will have to beat all of them up because none of them will fight back, but none of them will oblige him in his demands either.

The good news is, of course, that the bully can’t bring himself to beat all of them up so he backs down with his demands and all is well that ends well.

After watching this, I thought, “What a horrible lesson to teach children!” Does Jesus really mean that we have to be doormats as Christians and let anyone who so wills to “pound us” at will? Even kill us?

The Catholic and Biblical Response to Sr. Asparagus

In an earlier blog post, I pointed out another verse, Matt. 7:1, that is similarly misused from this same Sermon on the Mount: “Judge not lest you be judged.” I argued this may well be the most misunderstood verse in all of Sacred Scripture. Well, the “turn the other cheek” passage from Matthew 5:39 is unfortunately not far behind and misunderstood today by large numbers of both Christians and non-Christians alike.

The truth is: Jesus was using a common rabbinical teaching tool known as “hyperbole” in order to accentuate an important point. He did not intend that line to be taken in a strict, literal, and absolute sense. In fact, Jesus uses hyperbole throughout the Sermon on the Mount. For some reason, the “judge not” and “turn the other cheek” passages get an inordinate amount of air-time. But here are some other examples that are not as well known:

1. If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and throw it away… (5:29)

Do we really think Jesus wants us to pluck out our eyes and throw them away? No! He is speaking hyperbole to emphasize the fact that we must eliminate all obstacles to serving God.

2. … if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away… (5:30)

Is anyone out on the stump (bad pun, I know) encouraging folks to cut off hands in the name of Jesus?

3. But I say to you, Do not swear at all… Let what you say be simply “Yes” or “No”… (5:34-37)

Jesus himself honored the oath the High Priest placed him under in Matt. 26:63: “I adjure thee by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God” (in Leviticus 5:1, we have a reference to the “oath of adjuration” where the High Priest is revealed to have the authority to place someone under an oath to testify). If Jesus taught oaths to be unlawful or immoral, he would not have responded or he would have protested and made clear that he did not agree with the concept of oaths.

St. Paul swore oaths, or at least did not present everything as a simple “yes” or “no” as Jesus said in Matt. 5:37, in multiple places in the New Testament (see Phil. 1:8; II Cor. 1:23; 11:31; 12:19; Gal. 1:20). Jesus’ actual meaning was that oaths should not be necessary among the faithful because we should be known for our honesty; however, because of the evil that exists in the world oaths are very necessary. But you don’t get this from the actual words of Matt. 5.

4. … if any one would sue you and take your coat, let him have your cloak as well… (5:40)

5. Give to him who begs from you, and do not refuse him who would borrow from you (5:42).

Do we really believe Jesus meant we have to loan or give money to anyone and everyone who asks us? All Christians would be broke and unable to raise families! No! He uses hyperbole in teaching Christians should be known for their generosity.

6. … when you give alms do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be in secret… (6:3-4)

Did Jesus really mean no one should ever know what we give? Then why would Jesus have commended the poor widow who gave the now famous “widow’s mite” in Mark 12:42-43? Or, why would the apostles have had a very public display of giving in Acts 5 when Ananias and Saphira were condemned for lying about how much they actually gave? This implies that everyone knew what each was giving!

The truth is, Christ was emphasizing that we should give for love of God and neighbor’s sake, not to be seen of men as a matter of pride.

7. … when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret… (6:6)

Did Jesus really condemn praying in public here? If so, he would have been condemning himself! He prayed publicly in the Garden of Gethsemane (See Mark 14:36); he prayed publicly when he raised Lazarus from the dead in John 11:41-43. The apostles often prayed in public (see Acts 1:24; 4:31; 6:6; 20:36, etc.).

Jesus was here using hyperbole to emphasize that prayer should never be a performance to be seen by men.

8. Do not lay up treasures for yourselves on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasure in heaven… (6:19-20)

Do we really believe that Jesus condemned banks and bank accounts here? This would hardly square with Jesus’ “Parable of the Talents,” in Matt. 25:27: “Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest.”

9. … do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat, or what you shall drink… Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they (6:25-26)?

10. And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin; yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these… will [God] not much more clothe you, O you of little faith (6:28-30)?

If we are going to argue that “turn the other cheek” (or “judge not”) must be taken in a strict, literal, and absolute sense, then it would seem we would also have to say Jesus is condemning farms, farming, or even planting seeds to grow food in these verses. After all, the birds don’t do that and God takes care of them!

Jesus would also be condemning the making of clothing. I suppose we should all remain naked and wait for God to clothe us, right?

Now, this last may seem really ridiculous. We all know God is condemning forgetting about our Lord and his providence in all of these affairs. But if we are going to take some of the Sermon on the Mount in a strict, literal sense, why not all of it?

Conclusion

The entire Sermon on the Mount can be summed up in tthree texts: First, Matt. 5:16: “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” Second, Matt. 5:44-48: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you?… You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” And third, Matthew 6:33: “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well.” Jesus uses radical language to say we must put God first in every aspect of our lives, we must love everyone, and let the world see how different we are because of who we follow.

So when it comes to turn the other cheek, Jesus is not saying we should be doormats and pacifists. In fact, Jesus himself makes this clear in Luke 22:36-38 when he tells the apostles to “take up a sword” for self-defense. And while it is true that Jesus tells St. Peter to put away his sword later in verses 50-51, this was only after Peter lashed out offensively and against Jesus’ manifest will. Jesus had already told the apostles that it was God’s will that he suffer and die (see Luke 9:44; 18:32, etc.). Peter was acting contrary to Jesus’ revealed will. But this does not negate the fact that it was Jesus himself that told Peter and the apostles to take up a sword to begin with. This implies the liceity of legitimate self-defense.

Jesus also praises the faith of the Roman centurion in Matt. 8:8ff. Never does he say that serving in the military is wrong, which it would be if he was teaching pacifism. The truth is: Jesus was using hyperbole once again in order to tell us that we are to be peace-makers. We should always seek peace even though sometimes self-defense or even war becomes necessary (cf. Eccl. 3:3, 8).

Are All Christians Saints?

In Colossians 1:1-2, St. Paul says:

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, to the saints and faithful brethren in Christ at Colossae: Grace to you and peace from God our Father.

The question is: why do Catholics only refer to canonized “saints” in heaven as “saints” when St. Paul seems to refer to all Christians as “saints”?

Revelation 5:8 adds:

And when [the Lamb, Jesus Christ] had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and with golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints…

Here, we have “the twenty-four elders,” representing the people of God from both Old and New Covenants (12 Patriarchs + 12 apostles = “24 elders”) receiving and communicating “the prayers of the saints” ascending from earth as incense. So again, we have Christians this side of the veil referred to as “saints.”

Some Catholics will argue the term “saints” is being used in the sense of an aspiration. St. Paul wills the Colossians to be saints so he refers to them here in accordance with their ultimate calling rather than their present state. I have never found that line of reasoning to be compelling. It doesn’t seem to work for either text, especially Rev. 5:8.

But even more importantly, that doesn’t seem to jibe with Church teaching.

So what gives?

The Catholic Answer

When both Col. 1 and Rev. 5 refer to “the saints,” it seems clear they are referring to Christians who are presently “walking[ing] through the valley of the shadow of death” as the Psalmist says. At least, in some sense. But I find many among the non-Catholics I converse with regularly to be surprised when I tell them the Catholic Church acknolwedges that all of the baptized can be referred to as “saints.” CCC 1475 says:

In the communion of saints, “a perennial link of charity exists between the faithful who have already reached their heavenly home, those who are expiating their sins in purgatory and those who are still pilgrims on earth. Between them there is, too, an abundant exchange of all good things.”

In this wonderful exchange, the holiness of one profits others, well beyond the harm that the sin of one could cause others. Thus recourse to the communion of saints lets the contrite sinner be more promptly and efficaciously purified of the punishments for sin.

CCC 946-948 makes it even more clear that all of God’s faithful can be referred to as “saints.”

After confessing “the holy catholic Church,” the Apostles’ Creed adds “the communion of saints.” In a certain sense this article is a further explanation of the preceding: “What is the Church if not the assembly of all the saints?” The communion of saints is the Church…

(948) The term “communion of saints” therefore has two closely linked meanings: communion in holy things (sancta)” and “among holy persons (sancti).”

Sancti,” by the way, means “saints,” or “holy ones.”

The Catechism then continues:

Sancta sanctis! (“God’s holy gifts for God’s holy people”) is proclaimed by the celebrant in most Eastern liturgies during the elevation of the holy Gifts before the distribution of communion. The faithful (sancti) are fed by Christ’s holy body and blood (sancta) to grow in communion of the Holy Spirit (koinonia) and to communicate it to the world.

So now the question becomes: “Then why do Catholics refer to canonized ‘saints’ as ‘saints,’ but not one another this side of the veil? This seems to be a contradiction.”

The Clarity of Scripture

I find St. Paul himself to be the best place to go for the answer to this question. In Col. 1:1-2, as I said above, St. Paul definitively refers to all of the faithful at Colossae as “saints.” And I should note here that the Greek word for “saints” (hagioi) is comparable to “sancti” in Latin. It simply means, “sanctified, set apart, or holy.” It means “saints.”

From a Catholic perspective, we would say of course St. Paul would refer to these Christians, and by allusion, all Christians, in this way because “being set apart and made holy” is precisely what baptism accomplishes in the life of every Christian. We “have been baptized into Christ Jesus” (Romans 6:3) who is the source of all holiness.

But here’s the rub.

The Catholic Church also acknowledges what Col. 1:12 says,:

Giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.

The Greek word for “share” in this text is merida, which means “to partake in part or a portion.” According to St. Paul, “the saints” on earth partake in part in what “the saints” in heaven possess in fullness. Thus, it is fitting that the Catholic Church reserves the title of “saint” to those she has declared to be in heaven. They alone (“the saints” in heaven) possess sainthood, if you will, in its fullness.

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