Saturday, October 10, 2009

In The Beginning.....then what?

"In the beginning God created the Heavens and the Earth"

That is how history of all time opens, and also probably where the confusion begins for us all. I have been pondering Creation lately and how we all got here and what a miracle it all is.....and how much we don't know and probably never will. The question is how much do we REALLY know about how the earth began, how much we can discover and where we can discover it.

For a large number of Christians, the history of the universe begins in the first book of the Bible, Genesis. This is where we read the account of a seven day creation cycle. In the first two chapters we see the creation of light and darkness; sun, moon and stars, land from water, and most importantly man. All this was done with His spoken Word and God the Father said it was all good. Most Christians who hold to a literal 7 day creation would also believe that the earth is anywhere between 6,000-10,000 years old. Of course, the Bible is not meant to be a history book or a scientific textbook, so this being the case, there are many questions that are left unanswered and this creates holes in our story. This brings us to another perspective.

On the other end of the spectrum we have the scientific community. Some may be be atheists, agnostics and some might be people of faith. I am no scientist and I don't pretend to be one so I won't try to impress people with scientific terms or definitions, but from the scientific point of view, there may or may not be a God (intelligent design) and the humanity that we see on the earth, along with the earth we reside on is a matter of chance or a series of events that have evolved over possibly hundreds of millions--or even billions of years; we just happened to be here. Yet there are holes in this approach as well. Was there a design to this whole system we exist in? Is there a purpose to humanity other than just existing and dying?

So the question is: Is there any merging of these two points of view and are they diametrically opposed? I think that the answer is a resounding YES.

"Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth."--Pope John Paul II

Let's first look at the facts and the missing links of the account of Creation in Genesis. One of the most important things to remember is that if you are going to read Genesis, you must read it in the context that it was written. Also you must realize that the ancient Hebrews recorded history much differently than what we are used to in the Western world. In other words, Genesis can't be taken at face value. When we in the Western world read a historical document, we are trained to read in a very linear fashion and expect things to flow in an orderly chronological fashion. This is not so with Hebrew history. The writer of Genesis (Moses) and the other ancient authors tend to record history more in an elliptical format. This simply means that they tend to explain what happened more in a conceptual way and then move on to the next concept, without a definite timeline. In addition, there was much more symbolism used than what we are used to seeing in our culture.

Looking at the first chapter of Genesis for example, we see in the very first verse that the earth was already here in existence. This does not mean that God did not create the earth however. As Christians, be believe that the earth and everything we see was created by God "ex nihlo" or out of nothing. What we do see is that at the point were the Genesis account picks up, however, we see the earth was dark, void, without order:

Genesis 1:1-2 (NAB)
1 In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth, 2 the earth was a formless wasteland, and darkness covered the abyss, while a mighty wind swept over the waters.

Reading further into the first chapter of Genesis, we see that on "Day 1" God separated the light from darkness...and this was the first day. Now do I believe this was a 24 hour day? I don't think so. The reason I say that is due to this fact: What makes a "day" a "day"? The sun. 12 hours of day and 12 hours of night is what defines a day. According to the first chapter of Genesis, the Sun and moon were not even created until day 4. This leads me very much to believe that instead of a series of "24 hour days" as we are used to believing, that the earth and the universe was created in 7 undefined periods of time.

Is this outlook somewhat heretical, or does it somehow detract from the power of a Creator? BY NO MEANS! Whether God took 7 days or 7million years to create our universe, HE still created it. In addition, if you want to hold to a seven day creation, then do so! The most important and undeniable fact of creation is the human creation. We must believe that the human race was created by God through one man and one woman; Creations that were given life by the very breath of God himself. Creatures that were given the abilities that no other creature on earth has: capacities to know right from wrong, to love and most of all to know God.

The fault, however of many Christians is that they tend to blacklist scientific discoveries. If there are carbon tests that say a fossil is millions, or billions of years old it is blacklisted and denied. Science and faith have the ability to work hand in hand and TRUE science will never contradict the faith, but rather enhance our faith by revealing more and more the intricacies of the Father along with the vast attention to detail that he paid to it.

What is true science? True science in it's purest form comes to us as a method to understand what exists in the world that we live. It comes with no predispositions, but with methods and theories to be proven. True science does not exist to prove there is no God, but rather to research and explain what is.

Taking scientific studies on their own outside of faith can be even more deceptive and dangerous. Science without acknowledging the Almighty leads to a humanity without purpose and left to our own devices. Without God there is no right or wrong, good or evil, but whatever we as humans have decided what is good or evil. Without God we are all happenstance amoebas who happened to gain the time and the ability to "evolve" into something greater. It forces us to search back for the "missing link" that ties us to the past rather than acknowledging that we are creatures of an Almighty God that created us for His love and His purpose.

As Christians, let us not be afraid of looking at true is the other wing that leads us to understanding

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Veil

2 The length of each shall be twenty-eight cubits, and the width four cubits; all the sheets shall be of the same size.
3 Five of the sheets are to be sewed together, edge to edge; and the same for the other five.
4 Make loops of violet yarn along the edge of the end sheet in one set, and the same along the edge of the end sheet in the other set.
5 There are to be fifty loops along the edge of the end sheet in the first set, and fifty loops along the edge of the corresponding sheet in the second set, and so placed that the loops are directly opposite each other.
6 Then make fifty clasps of gold, with which to join the two sets of sheets, so that the Dwelling forms one whole.
This is what we know about the Veil of the Temple. It was ordered by God to be constructed as part of His Dwelling; and behind that veil was the Ark of the Covenant. As Christians it is a foreign concept to us and I believe thoroughly that if we want to fully understand Christianity, we must first understand Judaism and the Jewish culture. At that point in history, God was distant from his children and it was shown as such by the Torah. If you were unclean, you were not able to even be in the camp and surely not approach the Tabernacle. God was separated from his chosen people by their sins. As a matter of fact, His children were not even allowed to utter the name of God from their lips and this is shown throughout the Old Testament.

Tonight I was reading a Bible story to my daughters about how God provided the quail for the children of Israel. The children were complaining to Moses and THEN Moses was relaying the message to God and basically wanted the Lord to take him out of a very uncomfortable situation. Based on the intercession of Moses, God provided for his Children, but they didn't learn because they had no personal knowledge of God. They were not able to speak with God directly and even the Priests were only allowed behind the veil one time a year. Think about that and let that soak in. The Children of Israel were unable to talk to their God.

It is into this mentality and mindset that Christ was born. Christ--"Emmanuel: God is with us". God was not approachable, so how could he be with us? And God would NOT come down to the form of a man; yet this is what He did in the form of Christ. Jesus was not simply "God in a Bod" but rather Christ contained two distinct yet inseparable natures. He was ALL God and at the same time ALL Man. This union has been studied for Milena and is called the Hypostatic Union and was defined at the Council of Ephesus in 431 A.D. This very union of God an Man shows us the Father's intent: to unite himself with us as one and bring humanity back to Himself. God showed us who he was through Christ. Christ Himself said that if you have seen Him, you had seen the Father.

In the Old Covenant with God, there had to be a compensation made for our sins, our disobedience to the laws of God. That was done through the sacrifice of the animals. As a Jew, you would confess your sins to the priest as he slaughtered the animal on the altar and that blood that was spilled and sprinkled on the altar was for your sins. That was the way that God designed it, imperfect as it was. Yet something better was to come.

The similarities between the sacrifice of the animal on the altar and the Crucifixion of Our Lord are staggering, but one of the most riveting is from the book of Mark:
Mark 14:12-12
On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, when they sacrificed the Passover lamb, his disciples said to him, "Where do you want us to go and prepare for you to eat the Passover?"
The very day that the Christ was making preparations for his Passover, they were sacrificing the Lambs for the Passover. There is no clearer imagery of what Our Lord was about to suffer on our behalf. Our humanity had to suffer the repercussions of our sins...and we all deserve it. But the miracle that came through Christ was that God and humanity joined together in the form of Christ to take all the sins of the world upon him--including the separation from the Father that Humanity since the time of the fall had to live with. Christ was now out side of the Veil. He was on our side.

While on the cross however, something miraculous happened. The veil that was dividing God and Man was torn and it is very interesting how. The gospels make a very clear point of noting that the Veil was rent from the TOP to the bottom. Being torn from the top was a clear sign that this was no work of man, but of God. And interestingly enough, it was about the same time that Our Lord was pierced and Blood and water flowed from His Sacred Heart. The Veil was not torn upon his Resurrection, but upon his DEATH. While the Resurrection was a outward sign of Christ's unity with the Father and a promise to us of our salvation, His DEATH on the cross is what reunites us with the Father.

Now there is no direct definition in Scripture of what the implications of the Veil being rent were, yet we do know from History and understanding of the Jewish culture what that meant. It meant that from that moment on, God was no longer able to be kept behind the Veil, separated from his people. Through the sacrifice of Christ all humanity has access to God, through the Sacrifice of Christ. What it did NOT mean, however was that the Old Testament was done away with and God was starting from scratch...all over again with Christ. Let's look at what Christ says to us in Matthew:
Matthew 5:17 "Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill."

I like to relay it to people as such. God, being the grand architect that He is had from all eternity plans for a building. The Old Covenant represents the foundation, the steel infrastructure that was to give the building it's shape. Yet it was cold, no shelter from the elements, no walls, no roof, no furnishings. Empty....powerless to do what it was intended to do. When Christ came, his intent was not to wipe the structure away, but rather to fulfill or complete the plans. He finished the walls and the roof of the building and then He sent His Holy Spirit to furnish the building with his gifts.

As a former Evangelical, I am saddened greatly by all the time that I thought the Old Testament and our Jewish roots were only historical in nature. God revealed Himself to us in the Old Testament and he also revealed to us how HE wants to be worshipped in the New Testament. With reverence, awe, and most of all through his Son. I am so humbled to know that the Sacrifice that Christ made is an eternal Sacrifice that transcends all time and boundaries and that he has allowed me to take part in that Sacrifice as often as I can through the Mass. The Mass is where we truly see that Veil torn asunder. At that point in time of consecration, we are as close to Jesus as we will ever be on this Earth. Body, Blood Soul and Divinity are all there under the guise of Bread and Wine. God has withheld NOTHING from us...not even His only Eternal Son.

"Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed."
May the Body and Blood of Christ lead us all to eternal life--AMEN

Saturday, September 19, 2009

What about prayer in public schools......

This is about the third blog that I have started in about as many weeks, so I am hoping that I can make it through it completely. If you are reading this now, then you can assume that I did make it.

Before anyone goes any further in reading, DON'T do it before you read this story from the Pensacola News Journal athletic about Frank Lay and the lawsuit brought against him for leading a prayer at an banquet

OK. Now that you have taken a couple minutes to read that, here is my take on the topic of prayer in our public school system. I am aware that not all of you may agree, and some of you might get flustered, but don' is just my opinion.

First of all, I do support the right of students to pray in the public school system. What would or should this entail is the question. As a Christian, I try as much as possible to make prayer a part of my daily life. With a family and 3 daughters, it is not always easy, but I will pray in moments throughout the day when I find the time. Our students should be afforded the same rights and privileges. If a student prays before their meal or during a "moment of silence" that is provided by the school, they should take advantage of it. In addition, if a group of students want to start a student led Bible study as a student group after classes, that is a part of their rights and does not violate any so called "separation of church and state" laws. This is what I think of and support when I think of prayer in schools.

OK..since many of you may be waiting for the other shoe to drop, here is my counter to that. I DO NOT or CANNOT support teacher or faculty led prayer in public schools. I have many reasons behind this, so please hear me out on this one.

Teachers by their very nature have a very strong influence in children's lives. We have heard that for years and they are probably some of the most important people that our children will come in contact with in their lives. Younger children especially, believe that their teachers are right on everything and that they can do no wrong. They are not old enough to realize that they are just people too.Their duty and job is to teach the subjects that have been assigned to them and not to evangelize or prostylatize the students. There are two parts of this. First of all, all the students in that class have been given to their parents by God as their children, whether we agree with what they are being taught about God or not. At the end of the day those parents will be held responsible to God for what they did with those children and what they taught or did not each them. We must remember that as Christians we are called to evangelize, but we are also called to use wisdom. Christian teachers and educators have a responsibility to respect the familial boundaries that are in place, again, whether you agree with them or not. As a reminder on our end, we should always be ready and able to answer questions on our faith, but answering questions and leading prayers is not the only form of evangelization. God is the only one who has the ability to change the hearts of people and we must accept that we are not the only source that God would use to show himself to these children.

Secondly, it seems as Christians that sometimes we have a LOT of double standards. We fight for the right of prayer in our public schools, yet we fight if some other religious ideas foreign to our Christian beliefs are brought into the classroom. If we are going to press for the rights for public prayer in schools, then we MUST be willing and able to allow that same opportunity to EVERY other religion: Islam, Judaism, Hindu, Buddhist, Wiccan, the list goes on and on. I know that as a Christian, I do not want my child being led in a Buddhist meditation, or a prayer to Mohammed. And no offense, I also don't want any teacher telling my child that they are "going to hell" or "are not saved" or called "idolaters" or "blashphemers" because of their Catholic beliefs. This causes a lack faith of what the child believes and can also cause distrust of the parents by the children.

Lastly, remember that the spiritual teaching and direction for children comes from the home with their parents and also from their church or religious organization. If you belong to any religion, that priest, pastor, or rabbi is who you feel adequate with instructing you and your family with the ways of your particular faith. I would much rather leave the religious instruction in capable hands rather than trying to undo what a teacher has taught to my children that I don't want them to embrace.

God has given every person on this earth a free will to choose how to worship and what to worship. As Christians we should always take care to take every opportunity to be the hands of Christ to all that we come in contact with, but that does not necessarily mean quoting Bible verses to them or trying to determine the desting of their their soul. Serve them and love them as people and as children of God. From that point, use wisdom and ask for guidance from the Holy Spirit that God has given you to make the most of opportunites that arise that can give those people one more insight into the person of Christ.

He is the one that draws them in anyway...not us.

Monday, August 3, 2009

"You can be good without God......."

So as I was driving into work last week, I was listening to a story about the city of Bloomington, IN. Apparantly they either have or had buses with advertisments posted on them by a local group of athiests that stated: "You can be good without God." Up front, I don't have a problem with athiests wanting to place their signs on the sides of buses or billboards. This is the country that we live in and if I have a right to place signs about my Christian faith, then that automatically gives the rights for others to do the same. I am more secure now in my faith than I ever have been, so neither do signs like that intimidate me or shake what I believe in. I just take it for what it is: the opinion of one group of people who are exercising their rights to free speech. Now that is out of the way......
A bigger subject is the actual subject of the ads: "You can be good without God." Let's think on that for a few moments, "You can be good without God". Is this actually possible? First, What is goodness? Love, peace, care of neighbor? How have we as a society and as a race come to define what goodness is? It seems very unique that if you study all the peoples of the world, with few exceptions the general rule of civilized society was that murder is wrong. Why is that? Who decided to contact each one of these peoples and get them to all sign on to the fact that killing another person is not a "good" thing. Or which society promulgated to all others that the family is the basis of civilization and that families should care for their own? Looking at all civilizations thoughout time, the majority of them have devised a framework of what is morally and socially acceptable. The amazing thing is that how similar they all are, without the ability for centuries to communicate these ideas. Why is this?
The fact of the matter is that within the human psyche, we are all designed with a basic knowledge of God; it is what we call the Natural Law. We may not obey it all the time, and we may get "too wise" for it, "too cool" for it, or "outgrow" it , but it is still there. As humans we know right from wrong.....basically. I would even venture to believe that even the most devout athiest or agnostic would say that we should take care of the poor, the ones that need care, feed the widows and children, but why? If there is no God, from what does this goodness originate and why would we even do such things?
Everything in our universe, with the exception of God the Father, has a beginning and an end; a cause and an effect. Let's take the law of gravity as an example. Gravity just doesn't exist. It is an effect of the centrifugal force caused by the rotation of the earth. We can't see it, and most of the time we probably don't even think about it. Just don't try to defy it because gravity will win every time. In the same sense, Hurricanes dont just appear. There is first a cluster of thunderstorms that move into an area favorable for development and those storms are nurtured and developed into a hurricane. As humans, we don't just exist. We are all born out of an expression of love between a man and a woman. I have thought all day to try to think of something that exists in and of itself in a vaccuum; a force, a thought...nothing fit that bill.
So it is with goodness. God is the source of all that we consider to be good and kind: love, peace, faithfulness, the things that make our world a better place. It is no accident that since our country has tried to isolate and remove God from the public eye that our American society has rapidly deteriorated. The lack of integrity in our leaders and the trust that we put in them in decades past have all but disappeared. Marriages in our country (religous and otherwise) have topped at above 50% that end in divorce. Why? Because we are losing our sense of right and wrong without a foundation to base it on. If there is no God, there is no good. If we do not know God, we do not know good.
Please don't hear what I am not saying. I don't believe that government should force ANY religion, Christian or otherwise on us as a condition of being American. We all have the God given right to worship whatever and whomever we see fit, as we see fit. Having said that, however, there still has to be a set of rules to play by for society. Where do those rules come from? Only one place: the author of goodness: God.
So as Christians, what should our response be to this? Goodness to all. To all humanity, all those that need our help and our love. All creeds, nations, sexes, it doesn't matter. When we reach out with love to our fellow man, we are showing all that God does exist because He is touching those peoples lives.....through you and through me.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Obama and the Church

I am not a conspiracy theorist and I am proud of it:
  • I do believe that we DID actually land on the moon
  • I am not worried about aliens and Area 51
  • I don't believe the President Bush intentionally struck the World Trade Center on 9/11
  • I don't necessarily believe that President Kennedy's assassination was in "inside job"
  • I don't believe the US government has secretly been back to the moon, and
  • I DON'T believe that the Pope, any of them past or future is the AntiChrist.
Having said all that, I am a realist and I do like to observe things that go on in the world, especially in the world of politics. And in the world of politics, I believe that every decision, even down to the most minute detail is planned and has purpose. I am afraid that in the day and age that we live in, the decisions we see going on are much less to do about the "good of the American people" and are more to do with securing voting blocks and instituting power structures. People want to be in power and to have power. And to have that power they must have people to influence their power over. Hence where we are in the US today.

The current debate about the health care system is not so much about health care as it is being used as a way to extend the role of government more and more into our lives. There are many reasons that I don't agree with the health care proposal that is being debated in Congress, but the main one is that our government--any government, gives nothing away free; they will always want something in return. In this situation, they want you to give your privacy away and give your medical records to the Federal Government so they can decide which procedures you will be able to obtain and which ones are too expensive. They want your doctors to give away their ability to refuse to perform procedures (such as abortive procedures) that go against their conscience while taking your tax money to pay for them.

And believe me, it will not stop there. If the Health Care plan passes that the President is trying to pass, the next thing that will be moving through in the next 5 years is the Hate Crimes Bill. Please don't misunderstand me on this issue. THERE IS NO PERSON AT ALL ON THIS PLANET THAT SHOULD BE DISCRIMINATED AGAINST OR MURDERED DUE TO THEIR SEXUAL ORIENTATION, NATIONALITY OR COLOR, PERIOD! Every person is a child of God and they deserve the human dignity and ability to make their own choices. On the flip side of this, however, we are all equal under the law. No person's life is more valuable based on their sexual orientation, nationality or the color of their skin, yet this is what a hate crime bill establishes. Any crime that is prosecuted under a hate crimes statute would be prosecuted more severely than the same crime under a normal circumstance. My question is, when is a murder committed that is not out of hate?

A Hate Crime Bill will also punish any church who speaks the truth openly against homosexuality, abortion or anything else deemed as "offensive material". Don't think it can happen? It already is in Canada. Currently Canada has no freedom of speech and any pastor who dares to offend anyone by speaking of the sin of abortion or homosexual lifestyles can be arrested and pulled in before a Human Rights Tribunal. At this point, all violators would be responsible for all your legal expenses and can be imprisoned for future infractions against the Hate Crimes legislation.

Those of us who don't believe we can lose our freedoms need to pay very close attention to the history of Imperialist Russia and also France. These two countries have had very religious, spiritual histories and yet they lost it and today we can see the results.

But what are the obstacles to President Obama and the furthering of the Socialistic Agenda? Let's take a look at what has happened so far in the past six months of President Obama's presidency:

Candidate Obama nominated for his Vice Presidential Candidate Joe Biden. Joe Biden has been long known as a liberal senator from Delaware who has backed the Pro-Abortion movement for many, many years--and by the way, he is Catholic. A Catholic however who believes that we have the ability to choose what we want to believe and trample over the core issue of every person's right to life.

Next, we have the Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius, also a professing Catholic whose nomination was questioned because of her questionable ties to George Tiller, the late term abortionist who was murdered earlier this year in Kansas.

Now after these two nominations, there were a couple interesting occurrences that happened. Both of them riled anger of Christians and Catholics nationwide. The first one got some press, but not as much as the second one. April 14th of this year, the President chose to give an economic address at Georgetown University. Now Georgetown is a Catholic University and the White House apparently made a request of the University to mask religious references that might be visible during his speech. There are two wrongs here: 1) the WH request and 2) the University's compliance with the request of censure. What was actually blocked? Looking at the picture below you can see the black drape behind the President covering the IHS on the top of the display. IHS is the first three letters of Jesus name in Greek, so that had to definitely be covered.

Since that time, we have also had the unfolding of the President's speech at Notre Dame. Once again, the ire and anger of Catholics across the nation were raised as Fr. Jenkins, the president of ND not only asked the President to give the Commencement address but also honored him with an Honorary Law degree. I really don't have time to get into all the details, but the short story is that the Catholic Church states that a Catholic University should not give this type of recognition to somebody whose political leanings and philosophy further allows and encourages the disrespect of human life, but it happened anyway.

The latest two incidences would be the nomination of Sonya Sotomayor as a replacement to the Supreme Court of the United States and Dr. Regina Benjamin to be the next Surgeon General of the United States. got it, both Catholics and both very much supportive of Planned Parenthood and the Pro-abortion Agenda they promulgate.

So what is my point in all these wild ramblings? The fact of the matter is that there is only one thing that keeps our President and his Administration from pushing forward on this radical agenda: Christianity and specifically the Catholic Church. With all the respect in the world for my protestant brothers and sisters out there, Protestant Evangelical Christianity does not threaten him and cannot stop the agenda. Why not? Because within the realms of Evangelical Protestantism there are so many divisions and schisms, there is no one uniting voice. There are protestant denominations that believe in Abortion, some that don't . Some denominations bless same-sex unions, others don't. Some ordain women, others don't. So you have Baptists, Assembly of God, non denominational, Presbyterian, Pentecostal, and the list goes on and on and on. There is no ONE single voice that speaks for all of them and that all of the members can unite around.

Not so with the Catholic Church. Our President and his advisers know the teachings of the Catholic Church. They know that there is one voice that speaks for the Church and they know that if all the Catholic in the United States voted according to their faith, not only would his health care plans not pass, he would not have even be in office right now.
The problems lies within the Church itself right now. One of the major faults of the Church within the past 2 generations is that the Catholic Church has under catechised it's people. The re is a vast majority of Catholics that don't know what they believe, but they DO know that we should care for the poor and the other social issues that the President stands for. This works out very good for the President and therefore, he needs to keep this voting block, this segment of the population in his corner. The best way for him to do that is to mobilize confusion within the Church to "divide and conquer". If he can place high members of his Administration, visible as Catholics, yet backing his polices, then he realizes that will cause enough confusion and dissension within the ranks of American Catholics to give him a victory and a major obstacle will been overcome. At that point his Health Care plan will pass, more Supreme Court justices will be appointed and we will finally become the nation that he and his advisers envision. A country that truly will be socialistic in our health care, in our social polices and we will eventually loose all the freedoms our nation was based on.
Conspiracy, or smart decide

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Purgatory??? What the.....????

So now, I guess I am jumping into the fire with this post. There are so many teachings I did not understand about the Catholic Church when I was not Catholic, many of which were out of just plain ignorance and some out of misinformation that I was given; and the teaching of purgatory was one of those. I remember thinking: "There is no way that purgatory can be a valid teaching, it is not spoken about at all in Scripture. And there is no need for it: Christ paid it all on the Cross!" Out of all the Catholic doctrines that are disagreed with by Protestants, there are maybe 2 or 3 others that raise just as many questions and ire as the Catholic doctrine of Purgatory.

I was on my way home this afternoon listening to Catholic Answers radio and Patrick Madrid was on today taking calls and one of the callers called in to ask about the Scriptural basis for Purgatory and also why as Christians and Catholics we are in need of Purgatory. After hearing the question and the explanation, it inspired me so much that I just had to set out a'bloggin' .

There are many questions that pop into a Protestants mind when you mention Purgatory. 1) Purgatory is a second chance for all those who die. 2) Purgatory is a place where souls "work" or "earn" their salvation, and also 3) a completely false doctrine that was conjured up by the Catholic Church and has no basis whatsoever in Scripture. There has been countless numbers of works written over the past two millenia on the subject and I hold no claim as an expert or a theologian, however I do come from a different point of view and want to give a clear view of what purgatory is....and is not and the SOLID Scriptural basis for the concept of Purgatory.

First, what is the need for Purgatory and what is it? According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church 1030-1031:
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.
Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned. The Church formulated her doctrine of faith on Purgatory especially at the Councils of Florence and Trent. The tradition of the Church, by reference to certain texts of Scripture, speaks of a cleansing fire:

As for certain lesser faults, we must believe that, before the Final Judgment, there is a purifying fire. He who is truth says that whoever utters blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will be pardoned neither in this age nor in the age to come. From this sentence we understand that certain offenses can be forgiven in this age, but certain others in the age to come.

And in Revelation 21:25-27, speaking of Heaven:

During the day its gates will never be shut, and there will be no night there.
The treasure and wealth of the nations will be brought there,
but nothing unclean will enter it, nor any (one) who does abominable things or tells lies. Only those will enter whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life.

Matthew 5:48:

So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Hebrews 12:14

Strive for peace with everyone, and for that holiness without which no one will see the Lord.

So based on what we read here, Puratory is NOT a second chance for people to change their mind on their relationship to and with Christ, so let us be perfectly clear on that point first and for most. In what we see in Scripture and what we read in the previous paragraphs of the CCC, we see that Purgatory is a place of cleansing and purification and also the last part of our Sanctification (being made Holy and being purified from sin).

"Cleansing and purification from what?? Once I believe that Christ died for my sins, isn't that it? It is all done!" I can hear the responses now. The answer is ABSOLUTELY POSITIVELY YES!!! (and NO). The reason I say No is that few people now realize that there are two dimensions of sin.

The first dimension is the eternal dimension and this has to due with our eternal destiny. The Sacrifice that Christ made for us once and for all upon the Cross is an eternal Sacrifice that purchased our eternal souls from Hell, this is true and this cannot be earned by us as Christians in any way, shape or form. This is a gift that is given to us as Christians and allows us to join the Father in eternity.

Now for the second dimension, the Temporal dimension. Ever since Adam and Eve and the fall in the garden, every sin has eternally separated us from our Creator, but they have also come with temporal effects (i.e. cause and result). I have two good examples for this:

1)Your child is out playing baseball in the yard and you know that he is an ARod Jr. because he hits a home run....right through your beautiful kitchen window! After your anger subsides you will always offer your forgiveness to your child. Why? Because they are your child and there is nothing they can do to earn it...IT IS THEIRS. But there is another side to this; you still have a broken window. Your child will have to work and work and forego allowances whatever it takes to teach them about reprucussions of their actions.

2)On a more adult scenario, let us suppose that a man goes out and has an affair on his wife and then realizes the error of his ways. He would go to confession and be forgiven absolutely of all his sins. Later he finds out that he has contracted some sexually transmitted disease such as Herpes or AIDS. Does this mean that he is not forgiven? By no means. What this means is that he is suffering the consequences of his actions.

This principle is set forth in Scripture from beginning to end. Adam and Eve were removed from the Garden for their disobedience. Cain was set out as a wanderer as a result of his murder of Abel. Moses was not allowed to enter the Promised Land after is disobedience. David's son died after his adultery with Bathsheeba. Consequences follow actions. Whenever we willingly choose to disobey the laws set in place by God, there is never a null effect and there is a bit of a stain that is left on our souls. Though our forgiveness is bought and paid for, the stain and effects of sin still have to be accounted for and this is the purpose of Purgatory. It is kind of like a "heavenly mud room" Your mama wouldn't dare let you play in the house after you have been out rolling around in the mud, you have to get clean first. To sum it up, if you are in Purgatory, you are going to Heaven....PERIOD.

Now for the Second Part. Is Purgatory scriptural? Obviously there is nowhere in Scripture that will obviously describe Purgatory. Is it a physical place? Is it a process? Do you spend years or eons there? These are all details that aren't provided for us in Scripture. What we do know is that when we die, if we have these attachments to sin still with us, stained on our soul, that we must be made perfectly clean prior to being presented to Christ. So whether Purgatory is a physical place, an instantaneous process and how it is done, we don't have the answers. Having said that, this is what we do know from Scripture about Purgatory:

Now I realize that some of you don't have the Maccabees in your Bible, but it was there 600 years me! :-) And this was what 2Macc 12: 43-44 states:
He then took up a collection among all his soldiers, amounting to two thousand silver drachmas, which he sent to Jerusalem to provide for an expiatory sacrifice. In doing this he acted in a very excellent and noble way, inasmuch as he had the resurrection of the dead in view;
for if he were not expecting the fallen to rise again, it would have been useless and foolish to pray for them in death.

So, here is the question. If the soldiers Judas Maccabeus was collecting an offering for were in heaven, why would Judas be praying for them. If they were in Hell, there would be no use for them either, so why was he collecting an offering for them? (Purgatory) Even if you don't belive in the authority of the Deuterocanonical books, it is worth much attention that the early Jews believed in a final purifcation before they stood before God and furthermore, they believe that Judas Maccabeus acted in "a very excellent and noble way".

I Corinthians 3: 13-15:
the work of each will come to light, for the Day will disclose it. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire (itself) will test the quality of each one's work.
If the work stands that someone built upon the foundation, that person will receive a wage.
But if someone's work is burned up, that one will suffer loss; the person will be saved, but only as through fire.

Now this is an interesting passage that Paul writes. So at "The Day" each person's work will come to light and at the end, "the person will be saved, but only as through fire". Again the Scripture begs the question: If you are in Heaven, why would you pass through the fire? And we know that if one is in Hell, then they do not what is Paul referring to here. We must be made spotless and holy before Christ

Matthew 12:32
And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven; but whoever speaks against the holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.

Now in this verse we have Christ speaking about the Unforgiveable Sin. Again, in Heaven there is no need for sins to be forgiven, but Christ is definitely alluding to the fact that there will be a place will sins WILL be able to be forgiven "in the age to come".

And finally 1Peter 3:19:
In it he also went to preach to the spirits in prison,

Here Peter speaks of Christ preaching to the "spirits in prison". Where were they? Heaven? Nope, because if they were in Heaven, Christ would have had no need to preach to them. Hell? Nope, because we know that repentance is not possible in Hell.

All this leads us to believe that yes, there is a Purgatory and THANK YOU LORD that there has been a way provided to remove all imperfections and attractions to sin from our souls before we come face to face with our Blessed Lord.

Finally....can you avoid Purgatory? I think that is for another blog..................

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Obama Closely representing American Catholics???

OK....So I just read this article in Newsweek that states that our new President more closely represents American Catholics better than the Pope. Here is the link, so if you want to read it prior to reading further, here you go:

The summary of the article is that because our President holds a view of allowing abortion, gay marriage, the status of women in the Church and stem cell research that he is a much closer representation of American Catholics than the Holy Father. Let's take a look at a couple things: 1) There technically no "American Catholics". There are Catholics that live in America, but the Catholic teachings are the same in America as they are in England, South Africa, South America and anywhere on the planet. 2) As Catholics, we are not looking, nor do we need to be "defined" by any other person than our Lord.

I may be reading into the article more than it has, but it seems to me that the entire purpose of the article was to paint the Catholic Church as "behind the times" and "outdated" and even more dangerous, "intolerant".

The Holy Father is who we as Catholics believe is the earthly head of the Church that Christ established and he is given special gifts (charisms) that lead that Church and protect the Church from attacks and intrusions of moral and theological dangers. In the day that we live in, it is very refreshing to know that the Church does not falter and does not fail on the moral and theological issues that have guided her for the past 2,ooo years. Not many are aware, but until 193o or there about, ALL Christian churches considered artificial birth control a sin and it was to be avoided at all costs. Now, only the Catholic Church with a handful of others still recognize the danger of artificial contraception. (For more on this issue see Pope John Paul II's encyclial, Theology of the Body.)

If Catholics are more closely represented by President Obama, then I would suggest that as Catholics in America that we re examine our positions and submit them to Christ and the teachings of His Church. We do NOT have the ability to pick and choose what we believe and what we don't. There are certain non negotiables that we must stand behind and if we are having difficulties, May we carry this prayer on our lips and in our hearts with humility and openness: "Lord, help my unbelief...."

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


"I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word,
so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me. And I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are one"-John 17:20-22

So I want to back up for a little bit to December, 2003, I believe. I remember that Sunday well. Laura and I had been attending McIlwain Memorial Presbyterian Church for several months and we had been through the New Members classes. We had made the decision to become members of the church. We were on top of the world and were very happy. There was no "liturgy" so to speak in the PCA (Presbyterian Church of America), but there was an Order of Service-and Advent. It was the first time in my life that I had celebrated and understood Advent, I loved it. This was what I wanted for my family. I do remember standing in front of the congregation with the other new members and agreeing to a series of questions posed to us by Rob our pastor. One of them was an agreement by us that we as members of the congregation would agree and submit ourselves to the elders and leadership of the church.

It wasn't until later in 2004 or early 2005 when that whole concept began to raise questions with me. At that time, Rob and I had began to have lunches on a semi-frequent basis and I remember asking him this question: "Rob, if somebody disagrees with the elders or if they are punished by the leaders, they just leave and join another church...why is that?" It seemed to me that not just the Presbyterian church, but all churches had an issue with the members not submitting the authority that their church held and their commitment to their church. Growing up in the my whole life, I have seen the scenario happen over and over. What generally happens is that someone gets some epiphany, revelation, or leading of the Spirit on a certain direction, or teaching. At that point, if it is not accepted by the leadership of the church they are a member of, they will proceed (if they feel strong enough about the issue) to either leave and join another church, or if they have enough charisma, they might start their own church. In another situation, a church leader would be removed from their position for whatever reason, then he would proceed to begin his own church. This had been a serious concern for me due to the fact that sometimes these leaders were gone for reasons that were not pleasant and they had no business in leadership over anybody....but there was no body to answer to. In addition, this reflects a very widely held view within Western Christianity which is that we all have the Holy Spirit, so therefore we are all "our own Pope" so to speak. There is no true submission to any form of Church government in any denomination, the Catholic Church included. This seems to be more of the fault of the influence of Western Culture on Christianity rather than the churches or denomination themselves. So often as Western Christians we believe that the same chains that we through off with England we can throw off with our spiritual lives. We only need Jesus and what we believe He has revealed to us. We don't need to submit to any other authority if we don't agree with them or they cross our beliefs. Our freedom and pleasures often rule supreme...even in our spiritual lives. When these splits occurred, I would hear: "Well God used what is bad to create another body of believers" and I personally believe that is complete hogwash! God would NEVER divide his body, which brings me to the subject of this post.

I really never had contemplated denominations previously to this point in my life, it was just a fact of reality. I knew that we weren't Baptists, Presbyterians, Methodists, Episcopal, Church of God, Church of Christ, Assembly of God, Lutheran, Seventh Day Adventist or any of the other denominations...we were in fact NON denominational. I was always told that all of us "agreed on the major issues", but I never did stop to think....who was the "governing body" that determined what issues were MAJOR and which ones were MINOR. Was baptism, for example necessary for salvation, or was it just a symbol? Did you HAVE to go to church, or was it just a nice thing to do? Were the charismatic gifts of the Spirit "extra" and if you didn't have them, did you have a lesser share in the Kingdom of God? All these were questions that I pondered during this time, but this time, there was more of an answer. Again, the New Testament can never be fully understood outside the context of the Covenant that God had through the Children of Israel and the Old Testament. The structure that God intended was for ONE people united. He started with a couple in Adam and Eve. That covenant expanded to a family with Noah. A tribe received the covenant through Abraham and finally a nation received the Covenant through Moses. It was God's desire to bring the entire world into the Covenant and He did so through Christ. Look at Christ's words again in John 17:

so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me. And I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are one,

Read it again, and again, and again. Put aside your denominational walls and read the words of our Lord. Just like the Father and the Son are one in the same, they cannot be divided...That is Christ's desire for His Church, His Body. Christ's body is not meant to be split into thousands of different shapes and forms. There is nowhere in Scripture that God has given us the concept of an "Invisible, Universal Church" . Quite the contrary, Christ prayed that we would be visible, a "light on the hill". Paul said it again in Ephesians 4: 3-5

striving to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace: one body and one Spirit, as you were also called to the one hope of your call; one Lord, one faith, one baptism;

Are there any other references in Scripture to just "one" Church? Let's look at the Gospels and how Jesus tells us to handle "conflict resolution" in Matthew 18:15-18:

"If your brother sins (against you), go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have won over your brother. If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, so that 'every fact may be established on the testimony of two or three witnesses.' If he refuses to listen to them, tell the church. If he refuses to listen even to the church, then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector. Amen, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. "

Now this is quite an interesting instruction here in the modern day. If I am a Catholic, and you are a Baptist we have a conflict of some sort, I steal your car, knock you in the face, or something that nature. According to Our Lord, if I refuse to listen to you, we are to go to the church. But what church would that be? Your Baptist church has no hold on me and my Catholic Church has no hold on you. So what happens, we wind up going to see Judge Wapner in civil litigation. Is this what Christ intended?

The reason that the Christan Church as a whole doesn't have "power" as some like to speak of is not due to the fact that we don't have enough "faith", but a major reason (in my opinion) is that all the outsiders see is us fighting among ourselves and all the thousands of denominations we have. Look at your individual church for a moment and study the history. How long has it been around? 30 years? 50 years? 150 years? When you look at this I guarantee that what you will find is that your denomination was formed out of disagreement with the previous denomination and their interpretations of Scripture. When you run history in reverse..All roads lead to Rome. Until the time of the Reformation, you had NO choice. If you were a Christian, you were a Catholic...PERIOD. There is nowhere in Scripture that God has ever given precedence for us to become cafeteria Christians--including Catholics. The Catholic Church has its share of issues, believe you me, and I could give you a litany of them. By no means is it perfect and it is also not monolithic in it's teachings. You do have rogue priests who don't adhere to the teachings of the Church, and you have the same with Bishops. But Jesus foretold of this in his parable of the wheat and the tares:

The slaves of the householder came to him and said, 'Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where have the weeds come from?' He answered, 'An enemy has done this.' His slaves said to him, 'Do you want us to go and pull them up?'He replied, 'No, if you pull up the weeds you might uproot the wheat along with them. Let them grow together until harvest; then at harvest time I will say to the harvesters, "First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles for burning; but gather the wheat into my barn."--Matthew 13:27-30

Contrary to what you may think, this parable is about the Kingdom of God, not the world in general. There will be weeds (tares) in the Church and at the end of the day, they will all be sorted out by Our Lord. Our responsibility is to follow him.

"there are now as many doctrines as there are heads"--Martin Luther

This was a quote that was made by Martin Luther towards the end of his life, and how true it is. No matter what your stance is on the Catholic Church, whether you are a lover or a hater, or somewhere in between, there is no mistake on what the Church believes and what it teaches. On the issues of Christ, Salvation, Scripture, The Eucharist, Marian doctrines (not taking that on right now ;-) ) and most importantly on Life, the Church has NEVER, NEVER moved. PERIOD! As an example, did you know that until 1930 EVERY Christian Church denounced artificial contraception as a sin? Now there is ONLY the Catholic Church and maybe a handful of others that have maintained the stance. And now we see the slope getting even more slick. So called Christian Churches accepting same sex "marriages", Divorce is rampant in all Christian Churches (Catholic included). But what we must look at is what does each church teach? Why has the Catholic Church been so steadfast on her teachings? Because for 2000 years we have had the guidance of the Holy Spirit through Apostolic Succession. This means that the Catholic Church is the ONLY Church that can trace it's roots back to Peter. (There are some other Eastern and Orthodox Churches that claim some form of Apostolic succession, that are in communion with Rome, but that is also another conversation for another time.) The same anointing that Christ gave Peter has been passed down through these 2,000 years to each Pope, ensuring that there is One head, One Body, One Teaching. The Holy Spirit has continued and will ALWAYS continue to guide her until Our Lord returns for His Bride.

Finally, I had to come to ask myself one question when I was discerning the direction I was to go on my journey: What church did I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, was teaching 100% correct doctrines, no questions asked. And to take it one step further, was there any pastor that I knew of that was teaching 100% truth. Was there any? I knew that I had found it. Once I saw and realized what Christ had intended, I had no choice. I had to humble myself to Christ and the one He had left at the helm in his absence. I knew I was on the way Home, sooner rather than later.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009


Where a lone man may be overcome, two together can resist. A three-ply cord is not easily broken. --Ecclesiastes 4:12

Wow....I know that I have written much in regard to how I came to embrace the three fold cord of Sacred Tradition along with The Magisteruim and Sacred Scripture, but to me, once I realized how they all work together, it seemed as though I was finally able to rest. I was not resting in what I understood about Scripture, or trying to defend what God had shown me. I was resting and taking refuge in the Body of Christ which he had established--The Catholic Church. For so much of my life it seemed as though I was working so much in my relationship to God. Going to hear this person, hoping that somebody had a word for me from the Lord, trying to be this or that and now all that just fell away and it was all coming together. It was thought I had now discovered Christ again for the very first time and I was able to identify with Him when he spoke about becoming like a child. Becoming a Catholic for me took a step of humility. I had to finally step back and admit that I didn't know it all. I was not my own Pope and that I needed help and I needed guidance--I was beginning again almost from the ground floor up and I was loving every minute of it.

"Re-Sacrificing of Christ", "Idolatry", "The Death Cookie": All things I had heard through my life about the Catholic Church and their doctrine the Eucharist. I really didn't have any connection with the Catholic Church throughout my life, so I had nothing to counter it with, and anything t0 base it on, until now. Symbolism...all symbolism. That is what I was raised to believe as a Protestant. There was nothing "magical" or "transformative" about communion. It was a symbol of the unity of the " invisible universal Church". There was no special formula to be used or no special elements that were needed, just grape juice and crackers, or wafers, or bread, or matzoh whatever was used at that Church. When I started reading, however, I wanted to really know what the early Church thought and believed. After all, it seemed to me that they were the closest to Christ, so they should have some insight, right? What I began to study is the Old Testament, first. I soon saw what Christ meant in Matthew when he stated that he had not come to destroy the law, but to fulfill it. The Old Covenant was not done away with and tossed to the side when Christ came on the scene, but rather fulfilled, I like to explain it like a structure with no walls, no roof, just the steel structure. In this example the building is there, but it has no way to do what it is intended to do. What was not possible through the Law, now had power through Christ. When Christ came he fulfilled, or completed the Structure and the method that God had implemented. In regard to the Eucharist, It is shown over and over in the Old Testament, in Symbols. It is very interesting that when we read the beginning of Genesis, we see that Man brought sin into the world through the consumption of a fruit. Our Redemption
was began to be shown through the Manna that God provided to the Children of Israel through the desert. It was also shown through the water that sprung through the rock. But the most deliberate symbol of our salvation was shown in the Exodus of the Children of Israel. The entire Exodus is a complete showing of us leaving our lives of sin and our escape from the shadow of death but before they could leave, they had to partake in the Passover meal. Their redemption came through the consumption of the lamb--all of it. Further more, according to Exodus 12: 24:

"You shall observe this as a perpetual ordinance for yourselves and your descendants. "

For centuries this meal had been celebrated by the Children of Israel as a remembrance of their deliverance from Egypt. Now, how does this translate to us as Christians. Christ fulfilled this, gave power to this as HE became the Lamb. That is what I began to see through John 6.

In John 6, we see Jesus first feeding the multitudes, multiplying the loaves and fishes. Then Jesus begins to gradually teach his disciples about himself. In verse 35, Jesus states:

35 Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst."

From this opening statement, the crescendo grows stronger moving to how God provided for the Children of Israel in the desert:

49 Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died; 50 this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die.

Notice that through out the chapter Jesus has been dealing with physical food; feeding people, referring to himself as bread, then recalling how the Children of Israel had been physically fed in the desert. Beginning in v. 51 and moving forward, Jesus now with no doubt reveals himself as the new Lamb of the Passover. Just as the Children of Israel had to consume the Lamb, Christ himself now had to be consumed, physically:

I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world." 52 The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, "How can this man give us (his) flesh to eat?" 53 Jesus said to them, "Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. 54 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. 55 For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. 56 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. 57 Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever."

Wow. This was extremely offensive to the Jews that were in Capernaum listening to Christ. Eating human flesh was a sacrilege to them, yet the words that Christ used in this were the same words used for the consumption of the bread in the desert. Christ was not using symbolism or hyperbole in this. He was telling us that as sin came into the human race through the consumption of fruit, our redemption would now come through the consumption of his Flesh and Blood. If at this point you feel the hair standing up on the back of your neck, and you are offended at the thought of this, you are probably feeling the same thing that some of Christ's disciples felt:

60 Then many of his disciples who were listening said, "This saying is hard; who can accept it?"
61 Since Jesus knew that his disciples were murmuring about this, he said to them, "Does this shock you? 62 What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? 63 It is the spirit that gives life, while the flesh is of no avail. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life. 64 But there are some of you who do not believe." Jesus knew from the beginning the ones who would not believe and the one who would betray him. 65 And he said, "For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by my Father." 66 As a result of this, many (of) his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him.

After the some of them leave, we don't see Christ running after them saying: "Hey guys...come on back! I am just talking in symbols! You don't understand!" Not at all, he let them leave, while others stayed. They had faith in Christ though they didn't understand what he meant or how it was going to work out:

67 Jesus then said to the Twelve, "Do you also want to leave?" 68 Simon Peter answered him, "Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69 We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God."

So they stayed with Christ through the end. When did they understand? When did they know what Christ meant? Christ clearly defined what he meant.....At the Last Supper:

26 While they were eating, Jesus took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and giving it to his disciples said, "Take and eat; this is my body." 27 Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, "Drink from it, all of you, 28 for this is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed on behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins.

Can you imagine the thoughts of the disciples as the pieces came together for them? Jesus WAS the Lamb of God that would take away the sins of the world! Our Lord NEVER did refer to the bread and wine as a symbol, but rather he said: "This IS my Body.....This IS my Blood" These words were not spoken by a man, but by God Himself. The same God that spoke the universe into existence by his words. The same Almighty that parted the Red Sea and met with Moses on the Mount. This same God was now sitting in the presence of His Disciples speaking into existence our Salvation. Could this REALLY be? We believe that God created the world from nothing, we believe in a Virgin Birth, we believe in a Holy Trinity and the Holy Spirit, but we find it impossible to accept that our Lord can or WOULD give Himself to us under the form of Bread and Wine?
This is what is termed in Catholic Theology as the REAL PRESENCE. In the Bread and Wine, we believe that (once consecrated) Christ exists Body, Blood, Soul and divinity under the guise of bread and wine. Furthermore, this is the teaching that was passed down through the Centuries of the Early Church, beginning with St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 10:16

The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?

and again in 1 Corinthians 11:23-29

23 For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus, on the night he was handed over, took bread,
24 and, after he had given thanks, broke it and said, "This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me." 25 In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me." 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes. 27 Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will have to answer for the body and blood of the Lord. 28 A person should examine himself, and so eat the bread and drink the cup. 29 For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself.

What is so dynamic here is that St. Paul doesn't even refer to Bread and Wine, but rather the Body and Blood of the Lord: That is what he believed it to be and even said so in the last three verses. If the bread and wine were just symbols, then why did St. Paul offer such a strong warning about taking the Body and Blood unworthily? How would we be accepted to answer for just symbols? And how can you eat and drink judgment upon yourself with just symbols? These teachings were further taught to the early Church by the Church Fathers:

Ignatius of Antioch-Ignatius of Antioch (also known as Theophorus) (ca. 35 or 50-between 98 and 117) and was among the Apostolic Fathers, was the third Bishop and Patriarch of Antioch, and was a student of John the Apostle.
"Take note of those who hold heterodox opinions on the grace of Jesus Christ which has come to us, and see how contrary their opinions are to the mind of God..."They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer because they do not confess that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, flesh which suffered for our sins and which that Father, in his goodness, raised up again. They who deny the gift of God are perishing in their disputes" (Epistle to the Smyrnaeans 6:2; 7:1 [A.D. 110]).

Justin Martyr-Saint Justin Martyr (also Justin the Martyr, Justin of Caesarea, Justin the Philosopher, Latin Iustinus Martyr or Flavius Iustinus) (100–165) was an early Christian apologist and saint. His works represent the earliest surviving Christian "apologies" of notable size.
"We call this food Eucharist, and no one else is permitted to partake of it, except one who believes our teaching to be true and who has been washed in the washing which is for the remission of sins and for regeneration [baptism] and is thereby living as Christ enjoined."For not as common bread nor common drink do we receive these; but since Jesus Christ our Savior was made incarnate by the word of God and had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so too, as we have been taught, the food which has been made into the Eucharist by the Eucharistic prayer set down by him, and by the change of which our blood and flesh is nurtured, is both the flesh and the blood of that incarnated Jesus" (First Apology 66:1-20 [A.D. 148]).

Irenaeus-(2nd century AD - c. 202) was Bishop of Lugdunum in Gaul, then a part of the Roman Empire (now Lyons, France). He was an early church father and apologist, and his writings were formative in the early development of Christian theology. He was a disciple of Saint Polycarp, who was said to be a disciple of Saint John the Evangelist.
"He has declared the cup, a part of creation, to be his own blood, from which he causes our blood to flow; and the bread, a part of creation, he has established as his own body, from which he gives increase unto our bodies."When, therefore, the mixed cup [wine and water] and the baked bread receives the Word of God and becomes the Eucharist, the body of Christ, and from these the substance of our flesh is increased and supported, how can they say that the flesh is not capable of receiving the gift of God, which is eternal life--flesh which is nourished by the body and blood of the Lord, and is in fact a member of him?" (Against Heresies 5:2 [A.D. 148]).
Do these writings really mean anything? Are they important, or should they just be forgotten and buried? St Ignatius was said to be a disciple of John the Apostle. Irenaeus is said to be a disciple of John the Evangelist. If this is the case, which Sacred Tradition has held since the beginning of the Church, this means either one of two things. First, it could mean that the Promise of our Lord to the Apostles in the promise of the Holy Spirt was wrong. Jesus stated very clearly in John 14:26

26 The Advocate, the holy Spirit that the Father will send in my name--he will teach you everything and remind you of all that (I) told you.
Could the Church have gotten lost that early on? Could the first 1500 years of Christianity been so out of control of the Holy Spirit that it took Martin Luther and the Reformers to bring it back to "Truth"? I think not. I choose rather to believe what Christ spoke and what was taught my the Early Church. We must partake in the Body and Blood of Our Lord..or we have no part in Him.
Our Lord has given us a wonderful Blessed Sacrament. A sacrament that is not a "re-sacrificing" of Christ as that can never be done, as stated in Hebrews 10:12:
But this one offered one sacrifice for sins, and took his seat forever at the right hand of God
Rather the Mass is a RE-PRESENTATION of Christs Sacrifice. By the power of the Holy Spirit, our Lord makes Himself PRESENT and real for us, His Body once again upon the altar and once again gives Himself to us to continually redeem us from our Sins. You see, the Sacrifice that Christ gave to us is continues to this day. Yet Christ and the Holy Trinity have chosen to allow us to partake in that Sacrifice --Everytime we partake in the Mass. Being able to recieve the Sacrament has been the greatest joy in my life. Partaking in the Body, Blood Soul and Divinity of our Lord. Why did he choose to do it this way? We may never know until we see him face to face.

I think that it was at this time that I realized that the greatest gift that our Lord left us was Himself. In the Mass Catholics all around the world are focused on the center of our Faith and our Salvation, the Sacrifice of our Lord. Inspiring messages are great and necessary (St. Jerome said that ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ), but that is not what Christ left us. The greates thing that Christ left us was himself. We were promised that Christ would never leave us or forsake us and with the Sacrament of Holy Communion, he has fulfilled that. Everytime we celebrate the Sacrifice of the Mass we once again are given the opportunity to come into complete communion with Our Lord and receive all the graces that entails. And even more than that, the Sacrifice is being continually lifted up before God thousands upon thousands of times a day from altars around the world.