Sunday, May 7, 2017

Bible Study for Youth: Acts 8-13

Well, I didn't get back to posting our Bible Studies like I had planned.  We've had some great ones, though, and I hope to get some more posted soon.  ["Soon", meaning, "no one really knows when, but it will happen one of these days".  ;-) ]  Here is a continuation of Acts.

Chapter 8

1) Who was the magician in Samaria, ans how did he react to Phillip's preaching?

2) Scripture says that, although the Samaritan converts had been baptized, the Holy Spirit had not yet fallen upon them. How did they receive the Holy Spirit, and by whom?
2a) Can you think of a Sacrament we have today, which is given after Baptism, where the Holy Spirit strengthens us to go out and bring the Gospel to others?

3) What did the magician try to do when he saw this?

4) How did Peter react? (Quote him in verse 20.)

5) When Philip asks the eunuch if he understands what he is reading, what is the eunoch's reply?
5a) Was the eunoch an educated person? (See verse 27.)

6) After learning of Christ from Philip, what does the eunoch request in verse 36?

Chapter 9

1) What are Christians referred to as being, during Saul's initial persecution? (See verse 2.)

2) Saul was obviously persecuting the early Christians and Christ's Church; but who does Jesus say that he is persecuting in verses 4-5?

3) What does Ananias do to Saul that he might regain his sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit?

4) Who brought Saul to the Apostles?

5) Name 2 people for whom Peter performs a miracle in Chapter 9; and what did he do for them?

Chapters 10-11

1) What was Cornelius' reaction to seeing the angel, and who did the angel tell him to summon?

2) What was the main message of the vision shown to Peter? (See verses 15 and 28.)

3) While Peter is speaking, the Holy Spirit comes upon all who were listening, and Peter orders them all to be baptized. Were there many people, and who were they? (Verses 24, 27.)

4) How did the circumcized believers initially react to Peter visiting Gentiles? Did they change after Peter explained everything to them?

5) In what place were the believers first called "Christians"?

6) In whose care do the disciples send relief to those in Judea?

Chapters 12-13

1) Who did the angel of the Lord free from prison prior to a trial for execution?

2) Describe how well he was guarded and secured on the night before his trial.

3) Did Herod have a peaceful and good death? What was he doing when he died?

4) Did the first century Christians fast? How do you know? (Acts 13: 1-3.)

5) What happened to the false prophet, and who prophesied that the hand of the Lord was upon the false prophet to make that happen?

6) To whom is Paul preaching in Acts 13: 13-41?

7) How did the Gentiles react when Paul rebuked the jealous Jews on the following sabbath?

Friday, April 21, 2017

Where is Purgatory in the Bible?

The question of purgatory is fairly common among inquiring non-Catholics and Catholic Christians alike. It can also be one of the most misunderstood. Some of the more common questions centered around the topic go like this:

1) Where is Purgatory in the Bible? I don't see it anywhere in the Scriptures.

2) Isn't it just a man-made doctrine for those who want to make a way for sinful people to get to heaven, bypassing the work of the Cross?

3) Is it supposed to be a second chance at heaven for people could not make it the first time around?

4) If we can add to the work of Christ, by paying for "some" of our sins in purgatory,
then why can we not pay for all of them, eventually, in hell, and at some future point in eternity, escape hell?

In order to answer the first question, I need to answer the third. Because what Purgatory is *not*, is certainly not in the Bible. But what it *is* is there as clear as day. And if you are only looking at what Purgatory *isn't*, it'd be pretty pointless to show you where it *is*.

3) Purgatory is *not* a second chance. It's also not a final place of existence that's somewhere between Heaven and Hell. It is not an alternative to hell, and it is not where someone can be forgiven from any sins. Purgatory, according to the Church that teaches it, is a purging or cleansing. It's for the saved who have already had their sins forgiven, are going to Heaven, but are not yet perfectly cleansed. It's the place or process whereby we are cleansed before entering into Heaven. Think of it like taking a bath before heading to your friend's wedding. Except, in this case, the wedding feast you are heading to is your Savior's.

All who die in God's grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1030).
The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned ” (CCC 1031).
This teaching is also based on the practice of prayer for the dead, already mentioned in Sacred Scripture: 'Therefore [Judas Maccabeus] made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin.'[2Macc 12:46]” (CCC 1032).

1) So, now that you know what Purgatory is *not*, and what it *is*, where is it in the Bible? The word "purgatory" isn't in the Bible, at least not that I know of, or without trying to translate back to the original languages. But the principle for it is there, quite clearly.

First of all, there is the explicit mention in 2Macc 12:46 of making atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from sin. "But wait!", you might say. "My Bible doesn't have the books of Maccabees, so they aren't Scripture!" Well, if your Bible doesn't have it, you have an incomplete Old Testament adopted by a 16th century Augustinian monk who decided to follow the same OT Canon as the people who rejected Christ as Savior...and still do. But, the Jews who converted to Christianity, as well as the first Christians from then on, all the way up to the 16th century, and to today, adopted the OT of the Greek speaking Jews, and it has the books of Maccabees (and some others, collectively known as the Deuterocanon). But I digress. Regardless of whether you accept 2Macc as the Word of God, it is explicit proof that the Jews believed in what Purgatory *is* (some place or process where the just are purged from some effect of sin prior to entering into glory). So, Purgatory is *not* a new invention, even if the word for it was not established at that time.  (No one is going to argue that the Holy Trinity didn't exist until we established that name for the Trinity, right?  Except non-Trinitarians?)  

But, let's pretend you don't want to look at that, and you are only interested in some of the protestant translations that omit the Deuterocanon. "Where *else* is Purgatory, or it's 'principle' [I see you rolling your eyes], in the Bible?"
 I'm glad you asked!
Look at 2Samuel 12:13-14, where David is punished for his sin AFTER he has been forgiven. Then go to Heb 12:22-23, where Paul tells us that there is a place or process by which the *spirits* of just men are made perfect. We also see in 1Cor 3:13-15 that there is a place where a saved man, *after he has died*, can suffer loss as through fire; and we know that, according to Rev 21:27, nothing unclean shall enter into Heaven.

Straight from the Bible, then, we see the Catholic principles for Purgatory: 1) Scripture shows us, explicitly, that a man can be punished for his sin AFTER he has been forgiven (2Sam 12:13-18). 2) Scripture tells us, explicitly, that there is a place where a man, after he has died, and is saved, can suffer loss as through fire (1Cor 3:13-15). 3) There is a place, or process, where the SPIRITS of *just* men are made perfect (Heb 12:22-23). 4) Nothing unclean can enter Heaven (Rev 21:27).

Where is this place that Scripture tells us about, where the SPIRITS of JUST men are made perfect; where a man, though he is saved, can suffer loss as through fire? Is it Heaven? No…we don’t suffer loss in Heaven. Is it hell? No….no one gets out of hell. The Church has given the name “Purgatory” to this place, or process, where our souls are made clean…because nothing unclean shall enter Heaven (Rev 21:27).

And let's not forget the Sermon on the Mount. In Mt 5:25-26 Jesus talks about making peace with your enemies, lest you be thrown in jail until you've paid the last penny.
Is this talking about temporal prison? I don't think so. Is it talking about Hell? Not unless you think you can pay your way out of it. No, Hell is eternal. Still, regardless of whether you agree with my interpretation of Christ's Sermon at this point, the other passages above are clear as day.

2) We already looked at what Purgatory is *not*, and what it *is*, and the fact that it is clearly laid out for us in Scripture. So, no, it's not a man-made doctrine. It's a Christian reality. And it isn't for making a way for sinful people to get to Heaven. People get to Heaven by God's grace. Purgatory is just a final purification for those who are already going to Heaven, yet are still imperfectly purified. Purgatory doesn't bypass the Cross. That final cleansing is possible only through the Cross!

4) This goes back to what Purgatory *isn't*. We don't "pay" for sins in Purgatory. We are cleansed, or "purged", there as through fire; we are made perfect, just like Paul said in his first letter to the Corinthians and in his letter to the Hebrews. You don't earn your way out of Purgatory. You go there to take a bath so you can be perfectly cleansed for Heaven, because nothing unclean can enter there (Rev 21:27).

Image source unknown 

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Is Ben Shapiro an Extreme, Judgmental Hypocrite?

I'll be perfectly honest. Until yesterday I didn't even know who Ben Shapiro was. Of course, I also don't watch television, listen to the radio very much, and I am married with 5 children. So, I don't know who a lot of people are. And in reality, I still don't know much about him, except for the tidbits that people have shown me in the past couple days. Here's what I DO know. Based on the little that was given to me, he has not said anything extreme, judgmental, or hypocritical enough for people to call him such.

I moderate a couple FB pages, and one of the administrators of one of those pages posted a 4-minute video of Mr. Shapiro defending a baby's right to life.
LINK to original VIDEO source

No sooner that it was posted did people start rebuking his message. And it wasn't just pro-abortion folks doing so. It was pro-life Catholics. So, I decided I had better watch the video and find out what he said that had them in an uproar. After watching, I went to one of the more vocal members to find out what she found so problematic, because I just wasn't seeing it.

Dave: "I think it's rather premature and rash to say that the guy is a hypocrite if we are just basing the judgment on this video. Everything he said was in the context of live oral debate, spoken "off the cuff". This was not a rehearsed video; not a written defense of the pro-life message. It was open debate. So, did he say anything hypocritical or contrary to the faith? I found 2 points worthy of addressing:

1) While agreeing that the perpetrator of rape should be punished for the crime, instead of punishing the unborn child, he included the verbiage, "[the rapist] should be...killed...". Obviously that statement, taken apart from the context of debate, is not in conformity with the Catholic faith, and isn't, per se, "pro life". As Catholics, we believe in due process and in reserving the death penalty for the most extreme circumstances which are rather a rarity today. Seems like this guy should understand that, right? So, as a "practicing Catholic who knows about the faith", *I* (and those crying out "hypocrite") would follow that part of the faith noted in paragraph 2477-2478 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, regarding rash judgment, and not immediately assume he meant that literally, that it was stated "off the cuff", and ask him to clarify/explain his actual position. It may well be that he really believes what he said and is speaking out of both sides of his mouth. But given the situation (open and "off-the-cuff" debate), I doubt that.

2) While empathizing with raped women who are in dire straights, and simultaneously emphasizing that killing a baby does not make bad situations become good, he said something vague about a woman having a right to choose in such-n-such a circumstance. It was unclear what he meant by that, in the smaller context of that brief statement. However, in the larger context of defending an unborn person's right to life, I don't see how it could be construed that he meant it is sometimes okay to purposefully kill a baby, and instead I would think that he meant that it is okay to treat a disease, even in a rare case that the treatment could cause the baby's death. This is in conformity with the Catholic faith.

Was there anything I missed?"

Kate B.C. - " I have followed and shared "Share Catholic" for quite awhile and really enjoy it. However, the post that was shared by Share Catholic made me sad because it shared an extremist's point of view on abortion. What we're really missing here is the fact that Mr. Shapiro can pass judgment and that is what caused me to even reply in the first place. I was taught that it was God's place to make that judgment. In the end, pro life is pro life and if we truly believe this, we wouldn't make "off the cuff" remarks/judgment that a person should be killed for the act he/she committed upon another person."

Dave: "Kate B.C., I'm not sure what makes him an extremist in the video. Is it that he said there is never a time when we can purposefully intend to kill an unborn child? That's not "extreme", it's solid Catholic doctrine. I'm not aware of anything else he said that was strongly stated one side or the other. And he DID allow for treatment of an ill mother [with cancer] where treatments might cause the unintended death of the baby. Again, not extreme, and in-line with Catholic doctrine.
Neither did I see him pass judgment on anyone. The scenario given by the lady debating him was not real. It was a pretend scenario involving a rapist. It isn't judging to acknowledge what someone has done and hold them accountable. So, where are you seeing him pass judgment?

Furthermore, who are you to judge what a true pro-lifer will or won't say? You can't call someone judgmental while simultaneously judging their degree of "pro-life" based upon your own personal standards without becoming a hypocrite yourself, can you?"

Jake C. - "Ben Shapiro supports the death penalty."

Dave: "Jake C., why does that matter and how does it support what Kate B.C. said? The Church supports the death penalty in the same rare circumstances as Mr. Shapiro, and that's hardly an extreme position given its rarity.
And putting a dangerous criminal to death is NOT the same as killing an innocent child who has done nothing wrong, so his position is not hypocritical. And it's not judgmental to hold someone accountable for what they have done, so it's not judgmental. Did I miss something?"

Apparently, at that point, the group Administrator became uncomfortable with the debate, because all commenting was removed and the ability to make subsequent comments was turned off. I can't say I blame her in one regard, because that particular page was never intended for debate, or even discussion. It's mainly just for sharing pictures and memes with the message of Christ. The posts were eventually restored and conversation commenced again, but there was never an answer to my questions, and there was never anything provided by those who were calling Mr. Shapiro a hypocrite that actually showed him to be one. The fact is, a man defended the right to life of babies in their mothers' wombs. He was called a hypocrite for an off-the-cuff remark about killing a criminal while defending the right to life of an innocent baby under the Pro-Life banner. He was called judgmental for recognizing personal accountability for our actions. And he was called extreme for...I don't actually know why...his position as actually stated was in conformity with Christian moral theology. Ben Shapiro doesn't appear to be any of the things he was accused of. He appears to be Catholic. And in our current age of moral depravity, that's probably the worst crime he can commit.

EDIT: One of my beloved readers pointed out to me that Ben Shapiro is actual Orthodox Jew, not Christian. What a great irony! That makes the argument against him, by the Catholics who were arguing, even more ridiculous. "Shame on that Orthodox Jew for sounding Christian while saying something Catholic that I disagree with!"

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Coming Home to Holy Eucharist: Rob's Testimony

The most powerful witness to a Christian's faith is his/her personal testimony. Personal testimony is probably the most effective way to bring Christ to others. Rob's testimony is one of many I have heard, and he is enthusiastic about sharing it. So much so, in fact, that he requested I use his real name in this post.

Rob Gwisdala was born to a Catholic father and a Protestant mother in a time when the Church had started to focus so heavily on ecumenism that it practically forgot about catechesis. Education of the faith, and preparation for the Sacraments, after all, is primarily the role of parents. But in an age when the Church was offering these faith formation classes to young children, it forgot to emphasize to parents the primary importance of teaching the faith at home. Parents figured the Church would take care of it, and the Church assumed parents were doing what parents were supposed to be doing...and by the 1990's, droves of young Catholic adults left the Church because they knew practically nothing of the faith in which they were supposed to have been raised. Yet, Rob didn't even get that far in his youth.

"I am supposed to be Catholic, after all", recounts Rob, recalling the faith of his father. "My parents married outside of the Catholic Church. They divorced after 5 years of marriage [and] my mother raised me Protestant. Unfortunately, My father never insisted on raising me Catholic." Instead, Rob grew up in a series of protestant traditions. "I was United Church Of Christ before 1996, but I was not baptized and not involved in my faith.  From 1996 - 2001, I was United Methodist, and it was during that time that I was baptized by sprinkling in June 1997. I prayed the "Sinner's Prayer" and I accepted Jesus Christ as my savior in May 1997. I was Baptist from 2001 - 2011 and was baptized a 2nd time by immersion in May 2002. I did not practice my faith from 2011 - 2014. I started researching the Catholic Church in 2014 and I started practicing my faith again. I used to be VERY Anti-Catholic. It is by the Grace of God that my eyes were opened to the Catholic Church. The Holy Spirit called me to the Catholic Church."

I asked Rob if there was anything in particular that made him want to look into the Catholic faith, given his previous anti-Catholic view. "I just started studying the Catholic Church on my own. The main reason is the Holy Eucharist. It is an actual means of Grace. It is not a symbol. I was so blind for many years and I finally found the truth." Rob continued, "I was digging in the Bible and on the Catholic Answers website. The evangelical/fundamentalist beliefs and doctrines do not hold water. I found out that Sola Scriptura and Sola Fide are false. I also found out that the sacraments are God's means of Grace. I also did research on the CatholicBible101 website." After much study, he came to the realization that "Jesus Christ is present Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity, in Holy Communion."

Rob concluded his comments with a request for prayers from all his Christian brothers and sisters: "I am currently in the RCIA program at my local parish that is in communion with the Pope. I hope to be received into the Catholic Church in Easter 2017. I am a former United Methodist and a former Baptist. Please pray for me. I am so happy to be coming home to the Catholic Church in Easter 2017."

Rob, you bet we will pray for you, and I hope you pray for me, too!

Photo of the Eucharistic Miracle in Argentina.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Bible Study for Youth: Acts 1-7

I started a list of Bible questions for my 11-year old in order to foster better comprehension and encourage more careful attention to details while reading the Bible. We started in Acts and stuck to about 2 chapters per quiz; but if anyone wants to borrow these, feel free to break or lump as you like, and get even more detailed if you wish. I hope you find these as useful as we have! I will be adding more "Bible Study for Youth" posts over the course of time (as we do them), so check in periodically if you want them.

Chapters 1-2

1) Who wrote "Acts", and to whom is he writing?

2) Who succeeded Judas the betrayer, and how was he chosen?

3) In Chapter 2, when the Apostles spoke in different languages, what did some people accuse them of?

4) Roughly how many accepted Peter's message and were "added that day"?

5) After Peter cuts them "to the heart", what does he say they should do? (Quote verse 38 entirely.)

6) Who is this promise made to? (Quote verse 39 entirely.)

Chapters 3-4

1) Who cured the crippled man at "the Beautiful Gate"?

2) What did Peter tell the Jews to do after he said that they acted out of ignorance when they crucified their Savior in exchange for a murderer?

3) Who confronted Peter and John while they were still speaking?

4) Did anyone come to believe, despite Peter and John being taken away?

5) In whose name does Peter say that they cured the cripple?

6) Do Peter and John agree not to preach in Jesus' name after they are rebuked and are ordered not to do that?

Chapter 5

Begin at Acts 4:32 for background information.

1) What did Ananias and Sapphira do that was so wrong?

2) By attempting to deceive the Apostles, who does Peter say that Ananias lied to?

3) What miracle(s) was God able to do even through Peter's shadow?

4) When Peter and the Apostles were found preaching again, and were questioned by the Sanhedrin about it, what answer do they give? (Full quote.)

5) Read about Gamaliel, then quote what he says in verses 38-39.

6) What then happened to the Apostles, and how did they react (in verses 40-41)?

Chapters 6-7

1) Who was chosen to "serve at table" by the disciples?

2) Why were they needed? (Refer to the footnotes, and elaborate as much as possible.)

3) What did the Apostles do when these 7 were presented to them?

4) Just before the high priest questioned Stephen, what did the Sanhedrin notice about his face?
4a) Take a moment and think how you would picture that. Then consider how every encounter with an angel of the Lord is described in Scripture. (Ask if you are not sure.) Does your image of Stephen still look the same with the other encounters in mind?

5) In Chapter 7, Stephen recounts the history from Abraham to Solomon. What does he say about his audience in conclusion (verses 51-53)?

6) What does Stephen see as he is about to be martyred?

7) At whose feet do the "witnesses" lay down their cloaks to stone Stephen?