Tag Archives: St. Paul

Are you willing to die?

16 Mar

This week, St. Paul reminds us that “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). As married people, we are called to imitate Jesus by laying down our lives for our spouses, a theme that runs through many of our most cherished love stories.

We see great nobility in one spouse taking a bullet for the other, even though it usually doesn’t come to that!

If we are literally willing to die for each other, we must also be willing to die to ourselves in little ways–while our spouse is still a sinner.  Here are some ideas:

  • Pick up those socks without comment.
  • Answer a bad attitude with lavish affirmation.
  • Do one of your spouse’s chores without getting noticed.
  • Seek understanding instead of the “last word.”
  • Listen to your spouse without trying to “fix the problem.”

Build a more joyful marriage at www.JoyfulMarriageProject.com.

The foregoing is this week’s installment of the “Marriage Minute,” produced by the Marriage and Family Life Office of the Archdiocese, which attempts to view the Sunday readings through the lens of the Sacrament of Marriage.

I Wanna Know What Hope Is

14 Mar

faith hope loveThere was a popular song by the rock band Foreigner some years ago entitled, “I Wanna Know What Love Is.” I think the song title is reflective of the thirst we all have to know and experience true love, which can be so elusive in light of all the counterfeits that surround us.

While there are no hit songs about it, I think we also want to know what hope is. So many people go through the day without realizing that there is hope for them. Others have given way to despair or presumption (cf. Catechism, nos. 2091-92).

For those of us who want to know what hope is, we have the following passage from St. Paul (Phil. 3:12-14) as part of the second reading at Mass this Sunday. For my money, it is the most profound reflection on Christian hope found in all of Scripture:

It is not that I have already taken hold of it
or have already attained perfect maturity,
but I continue my pursuit in hope that I may possess it,
since I have indeed been taken possession of by Christ Jesus.
Brothers and sisters, I for my part
do not consider myself to have taken possession.
Just one thing: forgetting what lies behind
but straining forward to what lies ahead,
I continue my pursuit toward the goal,
the prize of God’s upward calling, in Christ Jesus.

St. Thomas teaches us that hope is oriented toward a future, difficult good. Let’s briefly look at that from the perspective of natural hope. Hope deals with the future, as it wouldn’t make sense to hope for something that has already happened. Hope deals with the difficult, or at least uncertain. I don’t hope that tomorrow is Friday, because there’s no reasonable chance (barring the Second Coming!) of tomorrow not being Friday. And hope pertains to the good, as we only hope for things that at least seem good to us.

Let’s take it up a notch, and see how this applies to the theological virtue of hope, which helps those of us who have not yet reached “the prize of God’s upward calling” (Phil. 3:14; cf. Catechism, nos. 1817-21). Our hope is ordered to the future. We have been reborn in Christ, but we still haven’t reached our eternal destination. Our hope pertains to the difficult, or uncertain (in fact, the humanly impossible–see Mt. 19:25-26). Now this one can be tricky, as we joyfully affirm that God is true to His promises. We can count on His gracious assistance. The difficulty or uncertainty comes into play because of human freedom. Even though God offers us heaven, we remain free to reject Him through unrepented mortal sin. We all must persevere through some spiritual battles before happily coming to the end of our earthly pilgrimage.

And finally our hope is ordered to our ultimate good, which eye has not seen and ear has not heard (1 Cor. 2:9).

So in these remaining days of Lent, as we embrace our new Holy Father Francis, let’s strain forward to what lies ahead, as we redouble our commitment to our beloved Savior.

Top Ten Lessons from 1 Corinthians 5

4 Mar

1 CorinthiansNot too long ago I participated in a Bible study on 1 Corinthians at my parish. I’d have to say that of the 16 chapters of this epistle, I probably was least familiar with chapter 5. I’m not sure why, but I’ve rarely had the occasion to look that chapter up.

In studying that chapter, I was amazed by the applicability of this short chapter to many controversial issues facing individual Catholics and the Church as a whole today. And so, without scholarly exegesis or extensive commentary, I want to offer a top ten list of practical insights I derived from a careful read of 1 Corinthians 5.

(1) Calling sin a sin

“It is actually reported that there is immorality among you, and of a kind that is not found even among pagans; for a man is living with his father’s wife” (verse 1).

St. Paul does not dance around the issues. He goes straight to the point of identifying incest as immoral behavior, no matter who (Christian or pagan) commits it (see Leviticus 18; Catechism, no. 2356). He takes his responsibility for the Church in Corinth very seriously, as we’ll see in the succeeding verses.

(2) The error of misplaced “tolerance”

“And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you” (verse 2).

In the world and even in the Church today many extreme forms of immoral behavior are tolerated, if not protected. The one universally recognized “sin” is “intolerance,” meaning that the one thing that isn’t permitted is to condemn someone else’s action as morally wrong (unless the other person’s action was an act of intolerance!). I’m certainly not espousing a harsh, judgmental condemnation of persons. However, if I understand St. Paul correctly, I think we tend to be arrogant–and cowardly–in our acceptance of conduct that is unacceptable. We should instead mourn, because those who commit serious sins are on the road to perdition. This should inspire in us to authentic, compassionate outreach, not a weak indifference. We must be evangelizers, not enablers.

We’ll touch upon the second half of this verse shortly.

(3) Recourse to the Church

“For though absent in body I am present in spirit, and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment in the name of the Lord Jesus on the man who has done such a thing” (verses 3-4).

St. Paul seems to be following the protocol for fraternal correction in Matthew 18:15-17. Apparently after private attempts to reconcile the sinner (perhaps by Chloe’s people, see 1 Corinthians 1:11), the matter was referred “to the church” (Mt. 18:17), represented by the Apostle Paul. Further, we see the authority St. Paul, as an apostle of Jesus Christ, is able to wield over the local Church, for the good of all. Compare that to the opposition and resentment we find toward the “Vatican,” whose intervention is often not welcome (because of the aforementioned arrogance).

For a recent case study, recall attempts in recent years to reform the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR). Continue reading

Biblical Teaching on the Bible

23 Oct

Today I thought I would provide readers a “top ten list” (not meant to be exhaustive) of biblical teachings about the Bible. I looked not only for inspiring passages, but also passages that help us understand the Scriptures in their proper context.

(1) Scripture is life-changing, as God’s Word is “living and active” (Heb. 4:12). When we hear God’s Word, whether at Mass or in private reading, we should “devour” God’s words to us and allow them to become the joy and happiness of our heart (Jer. 15:16)

(2) The first Christians “were persevering in the doctrine of the apostles” (Acts 2:42; cf. 2 Tim. 1:14) long before the New Testament was written–and centuries before the New Testament canon was settled.

(3) The Bible affirms that Christian teaching is “preached” (1 Pet. 1:25), that the Apostles’ successors were to teach what they have “heard” (2 Tim. 2:2), and that Christian teaching is passed on both “by word of mouth [and] by letter” (2 Thess. 2:15; cf. 1 Cor. 11:2).

(4) Not everything Christ did is recorded in sacred Scripture (Jn. 21:25).

(5) New Testament authors availed themselves of sacred Tradition. For example, Acts 20:35 quotes a saying of Jesus that is not recorded in the Gospels.

(6) Scripture needs an authoritative interpreter (Acts 8:30-31; 2 Pet. 1:20-21, 3:15-16).

(7) Christ left a Church with divine authority to teach in His name (Mt. 16:13-20, 18:18; Lk. 10:16). The Church will last until the end of time, and the Holy Spirit protects the Church’s teaching from corruption (Mt. 16:18, 28:19-20; Jn. 14:16).

(8) The Church–and not the Bible alone–is the “pillar and bulwark of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15).

(9) All Scripture is inspired by God and useful for teaching, correction, and training in righteousness (2 Tim. 3:16), so that we may be equipped to perform good works (2 Tim. 3:17; cf. Jas. 2:14-17).

(10) The Bible does not refer to Scripture as the exclusive source of the Word of God. Jesus Himself is the Word (Jn. 1:1, 14), and in 1 Thess. 2:13, St. Paul’s first epistle, he refers to “the Word of God which you heard from us.” There St. Paul is clearly referring to oral apostolic teaching: Tradition.

For more on how to approach the reading of Scripture, see Catechism, nos. 101 and following, as well as my previous post, “Looking for Answers.”

God’s Rescue Mission

4 Apr

As the final stage of God’s “rescue mission” to save sinful humanity, He entered into our suffering and misery. Rather than remain at arm’s length, He stepped right into our dysfunction. He rolled up His sleeves, and got His hands dirty—even to the point of enduring a most degrading form of death.

In his Letter to the Philippians, St. Paul not only emphasized Christ’s humility, but also His obedience (Phil. 2:8). Christ was ever faithful to His Father’s rescue mission. He fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy that God’s servant would bear our iniquities so as to restore us to right relation with our heavenly Father (cf. Is. 53:10-11; Catechism, no. 623).

Because of Christ’s humility and obedience, His Father raised Him from the dead and “highly exalted him” (Phil. 2:9). As Our Lord Himself foretold, “Every one who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Lk. 14:11). We who have died with Christ in Baptism have firm hope that we will be exalted with Him (cf. Rom. 6:3-4; Col. 2:12). This entails our own embrace of the Cross each day, in whatever form it may take, such as sickness, suffering, or setbacks of any kind (cf. Lk. 9:23).

St. Paul also stresses the “name” of Jesus, a name which is above every other name (Phil. 2:9). For the Jews, the name above every other name is none other than the name of God, YHWH (often rendered “Yahweh, ” or Kyrios in Greek).  This name is generally translated as “Lord” in the Old Testament. Kyrios is the same word that St. Paul uses when he says that “Jesus Christ is Lord” (Phil. 2:11). Therefore, St. Paul is saying that in raising Jesus from the dead and exalting Him in heaven, the Father is showing forth the sovereignty of He who is the “Lord of glory” (1 Cor. 2:8; see generally Catechism, nos. 446-51).

St. Paul’s expression that at the name of Jesus “every knee should bow” (Phil. 2:10) is a direct allusion to Isaiah 45:23, and it reflects his conviction that the Lordship of Christ must extend over all creation (cf. Eph. 1:15-23). This point is solidified by the reference to the three levels of the universe according to ancient thought: “in heaven,” “on earth,” and “under the earth” (cf. Ex. 20:4).

And so we add our voice to that of all creation when we proclaim the good news that “Jesus Christ is Lord” (Rom. 10:9; 1 Cor. 12:3; Phil. 2:11).

Lord, Lord

1 Dec

In yesterday’s reading at Mass, we heard the beautiful, inspired words of St. Paul, who teaches, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9). Sounds good to me!

Yet in today’s Gospel, Jesus says, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the Kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father” (Matthew 7:21). He seems to be saying the opposite of what St. Paul said yesterday. He’s teaching that not everyone who confesses faith in Him, who calls upon His name, will be saved. In fact, Jesus tells some people who call on His name to get away from Him, treating them like strangers and evildoers (Matthew 7:23), and not as people He intends to save. What gives?

What is happening in these readings is that we’re looking at two sides of the same coin. Yes, it is our faith in Jesus that saves us. At the same time, our faith has to manifest itself in the way we live. Otherwise, our profession of faith is mere lip service. Especially during next year’s “Year of Faith” focused on the new evangelization, Pope Benedict is calling us to a bolder, more explicit proclamation that Jesus is Lord.

But today, Our Lord adds the reminder that faith isn’t just about saying the right things, but about letting Him truly be the Lord of our lives, so that with His help we may also do the right things.

Come, Lord Jesus!