Friday, February 19, 2016

The Catechism: a Timely Gift from JPII for the New Evangelization

It was as if he knew what lay ahead in the brave new world that would come after his passing. A relativistic world with limited attention span, coarse manners, situational ethics, dominated by existentialism, anger and indifference.  St. Pope John Paul II decided in 1985 that it was time that all the teachings of the magisterium of the Catholic Church be laid down in crystal clear , easy to understand language so that all Catholics would have the guidance of the 2000 years of Church experience at their fingertips.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church was completed in 1992, an was first published in French. The First English version came out in the USA in 1994.
John Paul II was born in Poland, which was overrun first by the Nazis and then by the Communists in his lifetime. Both regimes were militantly atheistic and attempted to stamp out the Church in Poland.  Under such a sustained siege, Catholics in Poland knew they were living on the edge, and contended for their faith, and as a result, at great personal risk the teachings of the Church were passed on among the people who treasured them like the pearl of great price they are.  It was al they had to hold on to.

During that same period in the democratic western countries where there was total freedom of religion and worship, it was taken for granted, and became more of a peripheral thing  among a very large part of the population, as consumerism and secularism began to gain a foothold. By the 1970’s, such Catholics as there were, at least among the ones born after the Second World War, it was clear they did not know what the Catholic Church actually taught.

The former Archbishop of Krakow, who spearheaded the promulgation of the faith in communist Poland set out as Pope to provide the means for people to once again become familiar with what the church teaches so they could order their lives according to it, and  in so doing have a positive impact on society for Christ. 

While this wonderful tool John Paul II has bequeathed us is widely available, and indeed has a place in many Catholic homes, like the Bible, few people have actually studied it, and there has likely never been a time when knowledge of its contents has been more needed.

Since the Catechism was first conceived by John Paul II in 1985, society has only become more secular, technological and consumerist. and since his death in 2005, technology and the pace of life have only accelerated- and exponentially.  With social media and the Internet, a lie can spread around the world in minutes and more often than not, the lies are about Jesus Christ and His Church,  and they need to be corrected, and contested by the truth of what the Church actually teaches, or the lies and distortions become the truth in the minds of many, and even more will fall away fro the true faith.

Therefore, it is OUR responsibility as Catholics  to know what the church teaches, and to speak it and teach it with authority. The only way we are going to learn it is by understanding that our Catholicism is NOT just a peripheral part of our lives, but needs to guide every aspect of them. We need to know what the church teaches and why, if we are to contend with the powerful forces of secularism. This is not optional it is our responsibility.   In order to live a life that will attract others, we have to know what Jesus taught, and live it out as it is meant to be, and to that properly we must go straight to the source and get it first hand , not from the media,  politicians or others who will twist the teachings to fit their agenda.  And the only way we can counter such people who hold most of the positions of power in the west right now, is to know and be sure of the truth.

In the west, we are under a tyranny right now, though many don’t know it, as there are not soldiers walking the streets with guns and bayonets. We don’t, at this point have to worry about a knock on the door in the middle of the night and being taken off to God knows where.  It is a soft tyranny, but tyranny nonetheless, and its goal, as has been the goal of all tyrannies past and present, is to replace the God of the Bible with the State.   So the questions we each need to answer are:

 

1: Do we acknowledge that all is NOT well, and that our faith is under as much a threat from the authorities, though in different form as it was in John Paul II’s  Poland?


2: if we accept that premise, do we love our Lord and the Church he established and left us to defend it, by arming ourselves with the truth, and being prepared to contend for that faith?

In this soft Tyranny, that i mentioned earlier, life can be relatively smooth and easy for anyone who decides to become a cog in he machinery of the secularist consumer society they are building for us. Play the game by their rules, and you will be left alone to work, acquire, upgrade and dispose of a wide range of material goods, you will be entertained by what they provide for you, and go through these motions until either you die, or- the way things are headed- euthanized when your usefulness to their system has run out. 
Or if you choose to Love the Lord,  you will find an ever increasingly difficult road ahead. Employment will be denied in some cases, terminated in others, or you may be faced with either compliance with immorality, or leaving your profession, and likely have other barriers put up too.  You will be ridiculed as old fashioned, and perhaps one day, targeted for physical persecution.  You will always be offered the “out| of burning incense before the emperor, but at the cost of your eternal soul.
That is the choice we and our children will be called to make if things continue as they are.  And only those who KNOW and love the Lord will take the narrow road.
That being said, w can postpone that day as long as we are teaching he truth an building the foundations of a just society based on those teachings, but eventually there will come a time when only a remnant will be left to stand against  evil until the return of Christ, but know that even these will be called to stand firm and help save souls until the moment He returns.
Those who Love Jesus will find they must choose he hard road. Choosing the easy road is rejection of Christ. It is a declaration that one either hates him, or is completely indifferent to Him, and it is said that indifference is worse than hate.


 

3: Are prepared to undertake the intellectual , spiritual and physical rigour that engaging in such a war entails?
It is essential that  we train ourselves mentally, physically and above all spiritually for this war. It is a spiritual war, which is fought both in the spiritual real, and plays out here on earth as well.  We need to pray, individually and collectively, we need to know what the Church teaches, and teach it to others, one person at a time, we need to be strong enough to run the race , straight to the finish line, not letting up at all, running as it to win, for only one shall attain the prize. We must use the bodies we have been given, and provide proper stewardship for them, according to what we were each given.
We need to train our minds thoroughly. The Catholic Church boasts an intellectual history like no other. Catholics have been leaders in science, philanthropy, literature, arts, music, medicine, and just about every field imaginable.  And today,  insofar as that tradition remains, we are now being systematically excluded from many of these fields.   Meanwhile for the last 40 + years,  the culture has become so dumbed down that many people, regardless of faith are now incapable of originality and critical thinking.   God Himself gave us the capacity to excel in all these fields, he gave us the ability to reason, so that we can know and defend our faith, and enhance the lives of others. It was the church who started the hospitals , and universities from which we are now being excluded because of our faith, particularly the moral stands we must take.
We must reclaim his ground, buy reading and learning scripture and the catechism, learning how to think things through so as to be able to debate them in a winsome way.
In the cesspool the world of music has become, we must produce quality , uplifting music of hope and reverence again.  We complain the Internet is full of filth, and it is, but it exists as a tool for us to gett our message out too. We should not resist it, but rather embrace it with a vengeance and us it to advance good instead of evil.   We need to elevate the concept of literature form merely a form of entertainment to a means of pointing people to spiritual truths and asking serious questions about life.  Can we start producing the kinds of works of moral and intellectual rigour that Dickens, Tolkien, Dostoevsky, Shakespeare,  CS Lewis and others would produce? I believe we are called to elevate the culture.  But we must engage, and dig in for the long haul.
There are some contemporary authors whose work ranks with the aforementioned masters, one of the more notable being Michael D. O'Brien, whose books I highly recommend.

4: What are  the steps we can all take no matter who we are or where we are in life in order to win?

 
a) All of us can and must get a copy of the catechism. It is sold in all major book stores.  I have rarely walked into a thrift store which sells used books and not found a copy of the catechism there, and most of them have sadly, never been opened.   the Catechism of the Catholic Church is available in its entirety, with not one word omitted online.
b) We must all  own and read our Bibles. Daily. The Bible will help us understand the catechism, and vice versa.
c))Establish a solid prayer life.  This means being constantly in tune with the Holy Spirit and approach all our decisions in a prayerful manner.  It is also highly recommended to cultivate the Blessed Virgin Mary, who will join her prayers with ours, and intercede on our behalf. In other words pray the rosary regularly.
d) Build community with other committed believers. This is a war that cannot be fought effectively alone.

 

5: Finally, are we at the point where the only acceptable outcome is victory, where losing is not an option? 
One of the great diseases that affects our society in general these days is a general Apathy. if a task looks too challenging, we often just throw up our hands and say “to hell with it”.   Sadly, the words “to hell with it” often turn out to be deadly accurate, in the sense that we are here to proclaim Christ , His Church, and its teachings in order to save people from hell. and when we become defeatist, we take ourselves off the spiritual  battlefield, and leave others to an eternity in hell, because by giving up we are deserting.   We are saying " I can’t win, it’s too much for me". That’s absolutely right. it IS too much for each of us. but it is NOT too much for Christ, so when we don’t believe that He’s in control, and will use us in this war, then we are , in effect calling into question His deity.
He has told us what the outcome is going to be. He wins, and in so doing we win along with Him.  So we need to TRUST and OBEY, and we find the means to do so in the Bible, the catechism, and in prayer& the sacraments.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

What Pope Francis Actually Said, and What The Catholic Church Teaches on Immigration

The news cycle today has been dominated by media-distorted reporting on what Pope Francis said concerning US presidential candidate Donald Trump.  Here is what the Pope actually told reporters on the plane that  ignited the media firestorm.
Earlier today, CNN and other news outlets spent a half hour speculating on the charge that Pope Francis suggested that Donald Trump was not a Christian. This was all done before the networks aired actual audio or video of the pope's remarks. The pope was asked about Trump's accusation that this pope was very political. The pope spoke in Italian. Here is the English translation from ABC:

"Thank god he said I was a politician because Aristotle defined the human person as “animal politicus.” So at least I am a human person. As to whether I am a pawn, well, maybe. I don’t know. I’ll leave that up to your judgment and that of the people. And then, a person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian. This is not in the Gospel. As far as to what you said about whether I would advise you to vote or not to vote, I am not going to get involved in that. I say only that this man is not Christian is he has said things like that. We must see if he said things in that way and in this I give him the benefit of the doubt."
 
Here is what the Church actually teaches on the rights and responsibilities of immigrants and the host countries. My comments follow.: (italics mine)
CCC 2241:The more prosperous nations are obliged to the extent they are able, to welcome the foreigner in search of the security and means of livelihood which he cannot find in his own country of origin. Public authorities should see to it that the natural right is respected that places a guest under the protection of those who receive him....
Political authorities for the sake of he common good  for which they are responsible may make the exercise of the right to immigrate subject to juridical conditions especially with regard to immigrants duties toward their country of adoption.
Immigrants are obliged to respect with gratitude the material and spiritual heritage of the country that receives them.to obey its laws and to assist in carrying civic burdens.

In other words, according to the teaching of the Catholic Church itself, a nation has the right to set the terms under which a person may be received, and the person emigrating has the responsibility to respect and live by the ways of the host nation. It is a balance between rights and responsibilities of all parties.
That is to say, follow the path to immigration and citizenship that exist in the host country's laws. Come in legally. Do not slip across the border in the middle of the night , and then live and work underground. The immigrant undertakes to work legally and pay his/her fair share of taxes, and participate in the civic and social life of the nation. The immigrant shall make an effort to assimilate themsleves into the mainstreaam of that country's fabric. That means  NO LA RAZA or other such groups which seek to set up a parallel society within. An immigrant shall also undertake to learn the language of that country, and not demand that they be served in theirs. We invite them to offer us the good things about their culture and to share in ours. To give each other the gift of mutual enrichment.
We are a welcoming society and have always been, but until recently there was very little problem with illegal immigration, coupled with lack of desire to assimilate. The USA and Canada have been built on immigration, and will continue to be , but it must be done in an orderly fashion, and with people who will be grateful, and will immediately assimilate and contribute, or that welcome will be worn out. 

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Genesis 11: Old testament Survey

Genesis 11: The Tower of Babel  and the line o Shem down to Abraham.

 

Most of us are at least familiar with the story of the Tower of Babel, and many have seen Pieter Bruegel’s painting (below) of the monstrous ziggurat that the people of Babel, a city founded by Nimrod, as we saw in the previous post.  The actual story of this ambitious project is part of what we will be looking at today as we recap Genesis 11..
 



A Ziggurat , according to Merriam-Webster is an ancient Mesopotamian temple tower consisting of a lofty pyramidal structure built in successive stages with outside staircases and a shrine at the top; also :  a structure or object of similar form.  The Tower of Babel was to have been the Ziggurat of all Ziggurats. Kind of like a religious Burj Al Khalifa on the plain of Shinar.

What follows is a clear demonstration that God sees a great deal of danger in any kind of one world government.  At that time, all people spoke the same language. They had decided together to build this ziggurat, which is a pagan religious building, one that would reach up to heaven, so they could make a name for themselves.

In verse 5, Jerusalem Bible, it reads “ Now Yahweh came down from heaven to see the town and the tower that the sons of man had built. “So, they are all a single people with the same language!” said Yahweh. “This is but the start of their undertakings! There will be nothing too hard for them to do.  Come, let US go down and confuse their language on the spot so that they can no longer understand one another.”  Yahweh scattered them thence over the whole face of the earth and they stopped building the town.

I want to put a parentheses in here and point out that when God made his decision to confuse the language and scatter the people, he referred to Himself as US. Once again, the concept of a triune Godhead emerges in the the text of the Old Testament.

Now why would God be so upset about the people building such a tower and then achieving anything they wanted to?  It was actually an act of mercy on His part. He was well aware that they would cease to consider Him, much less rely on Him. In so doing, a structure would emerge, where they would fall into servitude, eventually to one man, and would follow their own whims to their destruction, and that of others. It would be so easy, as we have seen in history for one man to sweep everyone up, and have them worship him, instead of Yahweh.

In the song “God Part 3” Christian Singer songwriter Larry Norman penned the words  “I don’t believe in Esperanto, or the dreams of Babylon, If we all spoke the same language, long ago we would have built the bomb.” .

Today we are coming close to a world where English , as opposed to Esperanto has become the global common language. Technology has exploded, and we are beginning to see that good intentions notwithstanding (as many of the people of Babel no doubt had) th world is moving into a period where a dominant culture is emerging and may very well become a universal culture, manipulated by a very select few, and as history has shown, in such cases, attempts are made for one man to deify himself, and God’s people are always marginalized and persecuted.  We shall see examples of this in the Books of Daniel and II Maccabees as we move through this survey.

The rest of the chapter is devoted to yet another section of  genealogy. Shem, the eldest, and seemingly most favoured son of Noah’s line is laid out for us, and the way it is done illustrates God’s making good on His promise to reduce human lifespans.  If we look back at chapter 6, we will see that God decides to cut the human lifespan down from often over 900 years to eventually the range of 120 years. They would become fathers much earlier too.  I am going to go through this list for a couple of reasons. First, this is the line from which Joseph and Mary came from, and thus, the line of Jesus. Second, Abraham would become he father of the Jewish People, through whom God would progressively reveal Himself to the world.  and third,  because it illustrates how God carried  out His promise in chapter 6 when he resolved to reduce lifespans. Noah lived a total of 950 years as we saw in Chapter 9 and fathered Shem , Ham and Japheth beginning in his 500th year. His son Shem, as we shall see would begin the trend of diminishing lifespans, and earlier fatherhood, and the trend accelerates quickly. Verse 10 in the Jerusalem Bible tells us:  When Shem was 100 years old, he became the father of Arpachshad. Shem lived 500 years, and became the father of sons and daughters. In verse 12, we learn that  When Arpachshad  was 35 years old, he became the father of Shelah. After the birth of Shelah, Arpachshad lived 403 years and became the father of sons and daughters. When we do the math, we see that Arpachshad died 38 years after Shem, His father.in Verse 14 i says that Shelah was 30 years old when he became the father of Eber. After the birth of Eber, Shelah lived 403 years and became the father of sons and daughters.  The math on this one shows that Shelah died 30 years after his father. Then Eber was 34 years old when his son Peleg was born, and would live another 430 years after Peleg was born. Now here’s where we start seeing a precipitous decline in lifespan. Peleg became the father of Reu when he was 30 years old, which means that his father  Eber would have been 64 at that time.  We are told that Peleg lived 209 years after the birth of Reu (and had other offspring) so when Peleg died, his father Eber would have been 273 years old while Peleg’s son Reu would have been 179 at the time,of Peleg’s passing Now Reu was 30 years old when he became the father of Serug , and Reu would live 207 years after Serug was born, which would mean that Serug would have been 149 when his grandfather  Peleg died and when Eber his great grandfather was 273 years old. Reu would live another 58 years after the death of Peleg, so at the time of Reu’s death, his grandfather Eber would have still been living at the age of 331. Serug, became the father of Nahor when he was 30 years old. Therefore at the time of Peleg’s passing, Nahor would have been 119 Serug lives 200 years after the birth of Nahor, which means he would have died  at the age of 230. Poor old Eber , though would have now watched 4 generations of his offspring die, as he would have been 412 when Serug passed on.  We are told that Nahor lived a total of 148 years, which indicates that Serug would have buried him, 52 years before his own death, with Eber now looking at 5 generations predeceasing him. Nahor became he father of Terah at age 29. he would live 119 yeas after the birth of Terah.  Terah became a father at age 70, and his sons were Abram (eventually to become the great patriarch Abraham) Nahor and Haran.  Terah would have been 98 when Nahor passed away, and at that point  Abram and his brothers would have been born, while Serug and  Old Eber were still alive. Eber did not have to bury Terah, as Terah lived to the age of 205.

 

As stated earlier, Terah had two other sons in addition to Abram. These were Nahor, whose descendants will play a bog role later, and Haran, who died while they still lived in Ur of the Chaldeans, which is in modern day Iraq. While there, Abram married Sarai, who was barren, and Nahor married Milcah.  Haran had been married and became the father of Lot, who will be featured prominently in the next chapters, and whose descendants  also  play a major role.

The chapter ends with Terah, with Abram, Sarai and Lot in tow, moving on from Ur of the Chaldeans to a place called Haran where Terah would spend he rest of his days. But for Abram, the journey had only just begun. Though He did not know it at the time, God had huge plans for him.
Previous post: Genesis 6-10
Next Post: Genesis 12

The First Rosary

Not only is this funny and cute, it also succeeds in explaining what the Rosary is.

 
 

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Genesis 6-10: Old Testament Survey

Genesis 6-10: The story of Noah, the Flood, and His Descendants

 

We left off last time with the introduction of Noah and his family, and now we will go over one of the best known stories of the Bible, the story of Noah, the great flood and the ark. Te chapter begins with a passage about the “sons of God”  marrying with the daughters of man, and God is obviously displeased, and decides  that He cannot abide with flesh forever, and at that point reaches the decision that the lifespan of man  should be reduced to 120 years or so.   Reference is made to “the Nephilim” which has been the source of much speculation by scholars and theologians. Some have said they may be the progeny of men and angels, while others say they were merely an ethnic group which is obviously  much taller and larger than others.  We do not know for sure. The only Biblical references are here in genesis 6 and later in the Book of Numbers, chapter 13, and neither of the passages can definitely tell us who or what they really were.  A brief explanation of this can be found in this video, and again, the Church has no official teaching on who they were.


What is crystal clear is that God is running out of patience with a world population that is Godless and unruly. Cas the NRSV puts it (Gen 6:5) “The Lord Saw that the Wickedness of humankind was great in the earth and that every inclination of their hearts was only evil, continually.”

What an indictment.

 

Verse 6: “And the Lord was sorry that He had made humankind on the earth, and it grieved Him to His heart.”

Those of us who are parents know how it stings to the core of our being when our children walk in direct disobedience to us and to God, of who are ungrateful, , so we can get some inkling of God’s grief.

Thus God was ready to abandon the project of life on earth that He had created...but for one righteous man and his family. Enter Noah, the one man whose heart was right, and who pleased God. 

Thus God spoke to Noah and disclosed his decision to start over on planet earth.  He instructed Noah that he was to build an ark which would accommodate  ,Noah, his wife, , his three sons Shem Japheth and Ham, and their wives, as well as two or more  of each kind of animal, one of each gender, as well as insects and different types of food, for supplies, and for planting of seeds after the flood. God also gave Noah very specific instructions on how he was to build the ark, the types of materials to be used, the measurements  and the design.  This may have been a test of his obedience.  It is also a foreshadowing of the Ark of the Covenant which we will read about when we get to Exodus.

Chapter 7: in Chapter 7, God repeated His instructions to Noah about the animals he if to bring, with different instructions about clean and unclean animals and repeats his decision to blot out every living thing on earth not in the ark, and announces  that it will rain for 40 days and 40 nights

 

And so it came to pass. The waters burst out from the earth, and fell from the sky, and the earth began its cleansing, as the waters washed over the earth for 150 days.

 

Chapter 8:  After 150 days, the winds began to blow and the waters subsided. The fountains of the earth stopped , as did the rains. As the waters subsided, Noah sent out a dove   to get some idea as to whether they would soon be able to settle on the earth. Finding no place it returned. 7 days later he sent the dove out again, and this time it returned with an olive leaf, so Noah knew that they would not have to wait much longer,. Seven days later, Noah sent the dove out again, and this time the dove had returned, and then he knew the ordeal would soon be over.

 

The Ark had settles in the region of Ararat, which is on the border of modern Armenia and Turkey, and God commanded Noah to leave the Ark, and  set the animals free according to their kind, so that life on earth could begin anew. Noah offered burnt offerings on an altar he had made, and then in Chapter 9  God affirmed that he would never again destroy the whole earth as he had done by a flood, and declared that when He sees a bow in the sky, He will remember His covenant.

They don;’t call it original sin for nothing. It did not take very long for mayhem to begin again.  Noah planted vineyards, and one night got very, very drunk and passed out naked.  His son Ham showed utter disrespect for his father by first not doing anything about his father’s embarrassing situation, and then publicizing it to his brothers Shem and Japheth, who were horrified and then with their backs turned so they would not look upon Noah’s nakedness, covered him up.  When Noah learned about it the next day, he pronounced a curse on Ham, who was the father of Canaan, which would become the father of the nations that occupied the Holy land which was called Canaan. Once again we see the importance of the genealogies, as in Chapter 10 it explains  the nations that descended from Shem , Japheth and Ham.   Noah’s curse was that Canaan would be cursed and would be the slave to his brothers.

So Chapter 10, lists the nations that descended from the three sons of Noah.  Some of the names of the nations that descended from the sons of Shem Ham and Japheth  are recognizable, others are not, so I am providing this chart to illustrate who is descended from whom.

As for Ham , the punishment did  not come as a lightning bolt form the sky.  The Bible tells us that his son Cush became the father of-among others, a man named Nimrod who became very powerful indeed. Nimrod was said to be a mighty  hunter and a great ruler who built Babel Which we shall read more about in the next instalment) , and Nineveh (which will also figure prominently later) , and other places which stretched all over Mesopotamia and Assyria.   He was also the father of Egypt, and Put (Libya)  and the Philistines ( a perpetual thorn in Israel’s side.  Canaan , the son who was to bear the brunt of the curse, became the father of Sidon, Heth, the Jebusites, Hivites  and others we shall hear more about later. Ham’s descendants would also establish such cities as Sodom and Gomorrah.

It is Shem’s line that will be the one that is most significant, as  anyone who reads the first chapter of Mathew would recognize: Shem became the father of Arpachshad, who became the father of Shelah, who became the father of Eber, who became the father of Peleg, who became the ancestor of Abraham, Jacob, and  Judah... the ancestor of Jesus
 
Previous Post: Genesis 4-5
Next Post:  Genesis 11

Friday, February 12, 2016

Genesis 4-5 : Old testament Survey

Genesis 4: The First Sibling Rivalry

 

And so, as per genesis 3, Eve was to know the pain of Childbirth. She first bore a son named Cain, who was followed by another son, known as Abel  CAin and  Abel grew up, and Cain became a tiller of the soil, while Abel plied his trade as a shepherd.

The time came where they were to sacrifice to the God of heir father, and this is where the trouble began.  Cain showed up with some vegetables from his crop to offer.   While Abel brought the first born of his flock.  God accepted Abel’s sacrifice , but not Cain’s.

Why would that be, considering both men sacrificed from the fruits of their labours? what kind of God would do that kind of thing?

The first possible answer to that question can be prefaced by the old cliché: “The devil’s in the details”

So let’s look at how the story is framed:

Genesis 4 3: (Jerusalem Bible) “Time passed and Cain brought some of the produce of the soil as an offering for Yahweh, while Abel for his part brought the first born of his flock and some of the fat as well. Yahweh looked with favour on Abel and his offering. But he did not look with favour on Cain and his offfering and Cain was very angry and downcast.  Yahweh asked Cain, ‘why are you so angry and downcast? If you are well disposed ought you not lift up your head? But if you are ill disposed, is not sin at the door like a crouching beast hungering for you, which you must master?’”

The implication here is that Abel obediently presented the first born of his flock AND a little something extra, which would indicate he was giving out f a genuinely grateful heart that sought after God, while Cain appears to be giving grudgingly out of a sense of obligation. There is no indication  that the sacrifice he brought  was the first fruits of his harvest.   Weight is given to this interpretation because it seems that God was gently admonishing him, and encouraging him to look at his heart and his attitude.

 

The other angle here, and I give less weight to it, is that Abel’s sacrifice was a blood offering, as if he knew that it required a blood sacrifice to atone for his sins.  The reason I give that less eight, is that it had not yet been revealed at that point that blood sacrifice was required.  that comes later as we will see.   If this is the case, then Cain’s sacrifice would not have been acceptable because it was not a blood sacrifice. As we shall see later when sacrifices are dealt with in more detail, Cain would have been expected to sell some of his produce and use the money to buy an animal for sacrifice.

 

This brings us to the point where we need to explain the concept of “Progressive Revelation” which is what the Bible is.  God progressively reveals himself to and through the Jewish people whom He chose for Himself for that purpose.  It should also be explained that  we are not to look upon the Jews as better or worse than any other people , but rather as the people through whom God chose to reveal Himself.  Some of the actions we shall read about as we move along in this survey would certainly indicate they were no less sinners than anyone else. Had God chosen any other people, The Chinese, the Afghans or whoever, the story would have been similar as the hearts of all men are sinful. Who can know it?

Sadly for Cain,  he chose poorly. he did not heed God’s admonishment, and instead resented his brother Abel and slew him by luring him out to the open country and killing him. 

 

Cain thought , like many of us, that he was too “small potatoes” for God to really pay attention to him, but God called him out and asked him (verse 9) “Where is your brother Abel” to which he replied as i he didn’t know “Am I my brother’s keeper?” . Then God put the facts of the case in very strong language  (verse 10) “What Have you done?” Yahweh asked. “Listen to the sound of your brother’s blood , crying out to me from the ground that has opened up its mouth to receive your brother’s blood at your hands”..... tthen sentence was pronounced immediately “ When you till the ground it shall no longer yield you any of its produce. You shall be a fugitive, and a wanderer over the earth” .
Cain saw he had a tough road to hie ahead of him. He would live out the rest of his days as a beggar, a scavenger and a fugitive.  He pleaded for some mercy, and found it. He told God that his life would be in danger, and God put a ark on him, we do not know what it was, that would prevent whoever might come across him from striking him down.  He then went and settled, we are told, in the land of Nod, east of Eden.

At some point in his life, Cain had married, and had established a town which he named after his firstborn , and possibly only, son, Enoch.  The rest of the chapter goes into the genealogy of Cain’s line until the time of Noah. 
Many people get lost in the Old testament and give up because of the confusing genealogies, but I would urge  people to read them as they are an important part of the progressive revelation  of God, which all builds up to the coming of Christ in the New testament, and can help establish that  Jesus was very real, as we can actually trace his ancestors all the way back to Adam.
Cain’s descendants are listed in verses 17-24, and you can read about them for yourself.  8 generations down we come to a man named Tubal-Cain who is said to have discovered metallurgy, and he is worthy of mention, because his sister, Naamah is also mentioned. Though the Bible does not make the claim, some Jewish rabbinical and theological sources have said they believe Naamah may have been the wife of Noah, and Noah’s wife, whoever she may have actually been, was a redeemed woman as she was one of the survivors of the flood.  Why would this be an important detail?  It would indicate that even the line of Cain could receive redemption by God’s mercy.

The chapter closes with Adam “knowing” Eve once more and eve giving birth to a third son, whom hey named Seth.  and we learn that Seth lived into adulthood, and his line continued with a son named Enosh.

Genesis 5 is one long genealogy  which picks up at Enosh, and then introduces all of what were to be Jesus direct paternal ancestors down to Noah and his sons  It gives the name of the son of note, and the age at which that son was born, and how many years thereafter the man lived in each case, except that of Enoch, of whom it was said “walked with God” and became the father of Methuselah whose claim to fame is being the oldest man who ever lived (969 years). Enoch’s case is special, since it was said, again that he walked with God, then he vanished, because God took him.  A foreshadowing of the prophet Elijah, perhaps?  The chapter ends with Noah reaching the age of 500 years, and then fathering Shem, Japheth and Ham.

Previous post: Genesis 3
Next Post: Genesis 6-10

Genesis 3: Old Testament Survey

Genesis 3: The Fall & original Sin

This is a survey of the books of the Old Testament. I will not be doing a chapter and verse, line by line analysis, but rather a general survey with the goal of introducing these books ad what they are all about to Catholics (and anyone else) who have not yet undertaken to read them for themselves, as many Catholics have told me is the case with them The goal is to demonstrate how the Old Testament is relevant to the New testament, and to the teachings of the Church itself. Above all, I hope to  pique interest and encourage people to read the Old Testament for themselves, and be able to understand it in iys proper context. Today, we look at Genesis 3.   To look at others in this series, there will be links to each one in the sidebar


Genesis Chapter 3 sets the stage for the rest of the Bible.  Adam and Eve have the perfect life in the garden of Eden. No work, all peace and pleasure, and total freedom... Except in one matter, they were told they could eat of any tree in the Garden except the Tree of knowledge of Good and Evil.

So along comes a character who is introduced as “The Serpent”.  We do not know if he was actually a snake in the sense we know them today, but he was apparently a very beautiful and subtle creature. What we do know is that the Serpent was a manifestation, of and possibly indwelling of the evil one himself, Satan. 

He approached Eve, and suggested that she try the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. When eve protested, and told her that they had ben told that they would die if hey ate of the fruit of that tree, the serpent came back and told her that she surely would not die, and that besides, God did no want them to eat of it because it would them just like Him, all knowing, in fact a god!.

 

So Eve was convinced and took a bite of the fruit, and then encouraged Adam to give it a try since it tasted so good. 

So what’s the point in all this?  Satan is working today with us, from a very old playbook.   When it comes to our being enticed to sin, is the temptation often packaged and sold to us as God being something of a tyrant and holding back from us something we would REALLY enjoy?

It also shows us how the devil mixes a little truth into every lie.  The fruit probably DID look appealing and no doubt tasted great when they first ate it. No doubt Adam was convinced because Eve was standing there before Him very much alive, so he discounted God’s admonishment that eating it would cause him to die.
But like in our time when we are tempted into sin, w convince ourselves that it’s not really THAT bad or dangerous, and what’s wrong with a little fun every now and then? And then when we do , quite often there is no immediate consequence. And voila! like lobsters we fall into the trap.

Let’s see how that all worked out for Adam & Eve. Shortly thereafter , they realized they were naked and covered themselves up, whereas they had hitherto gone about naked without any shame.  And then, worst of all, they fell out of fellowship with God.
The Bible has it that God is walking through he garden, and calls out to Adam asking where he is.  Adam knew he had disobeyed and thereby broken fellowship and hid.   Is that not what we do when we know we’ve done wrong, hiding from whomever we had harmed? Don’t we even try to delude ourselves we can hide from God too?

When the moment if reckoning came, when God confronted them on their sin, Eve blamed the serpent, and Adam tried to pass the buck to Eve.   We see this behaviour in our children, and also practice it ourselves to an extent.

And so, sentence was passed.  Death (The wages of sin is death) .  They were not slain on the spot, but learned that indeed, they would eventually die.  “From the dust you came, to the dust you shall return”. Henceforth mankind would eventually die, and moreover, they were now unfit to live in such a Holy place, and were expelled from Eden, where they would henceforth earn their sustenance through toil, while Eve would know the pain of childbirth.  this is the penalty for original sin, which would then be passed down through the generations .  And it is because of this that we need a redeemer. .
A guard was placed around Eden so that no one could ever enter there without the permission of God. The couple were provided with clothing made by God Himself, and thus Adam and Eve became the first of a long line of exiled children.

Previous Post: Genesis 1-2
Next Post: Genesis 4-5

Mexico: Still the Most Dangerous Place to be a Priest

It’s almost as if President Plutarco Calles never really went away. Mexico is still , today, the most dangerous place in the world to be a Catholic Priest. Though Calles himself, author of a massive crackdown on Roman Catholicism in Mexico in the 1920’s, and his Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI) are nothing more than bad memories, the drug lords of Mexico are not targeting priests for daring to speak out against their atrocities.

It is into this environment that the most senior priest of all, Pope Francis will walk into shortly, in order to confront the human rights abuses of the drug lords, and the cult of Santa Muerte.  Latin America may be one of the most Catholic regions in the world, yet it is also by far, the most violent region on earth, in large part due to the drug trade, and of course the political violence that has plagued the region since it was first settled by Europeans. and also the poverty which comes from the political corruption that permeated nearly all governments there with the possible exceptions of Costa Rica, Belize and Chile.

 

Catholic clergy has long been caught in the crossfire. From the time of Presidents Obregon and Calles in Mexico whose persecution of Catholicism eventually led to the War of the Cristeros, (Immortalized in the movie "For Greater Glory" ) to the military juntas of the seventies and eighties such as the Somoza regime in Nicaragua and the monsters who ruled El Salvador who murdered Oscar Romero, The church has always stood in the way by speaking out against abuses of human rights.   Today it is the drug lords who are challenging the church for the souls of the people.

It is time we in the west became more aware of what is happening to our brothers and sisters in Christ in this region of the world,  and take steps to bring it to an end.

 

It always comes down to “What can we do about it?”

Here are some things all of us can do to help.

 

1) First and foremost pray.  Prayer, especially the Rosary is the strongest weapon we have.  We need to start with the premise that ALL of the evil in the world is spiritual in origin,  Paul said that we fight not against flesh and blood, but against powers and principalities.  So the war is essentially spiritual in nature, between Christ and antichrist, and plays itself out in the physical realm in which we live.

2) While taking care of the spiritual angle in this war, we must also tackle the realities of the physical battlefield where all this is playing out in our lives.  There would be no drug trade if there was not a lucrative market for the drugs themselves.  Much of that market is in the western world and plays itself out in our streets, and in our homes, so this battle, and the plight of Latin America is our problem as much as theirs. We are all in it together.  One reason why drugs are so rampant in our society is because of the emptiness of secular consumerism.  God, who used to be paramount in the lives of most individuals, and was considered carefully by our political and business institutions, has been pushed aside.  Drugs are the result of spiritual emptiness, and how it renders life meaningless.  The manifestation of Satan’s empty promises, as it were.   This is why the New Evangelization is so important. We need to call fallen away Catholics back to the Church, so they can be reunited with Jesus Christ in the Eucharist, and the full power of the Holy Spirit.  If we can do that, and make the Church a place of healing again, we can beat the drug lords and put them out of business.  The same things can be used to stop human trafficking.  Hearts and minds must be changed. 

 

3) You may think I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.... goes a line in a famous song, but there is truth in that. allow me to go back in history a bit.  England was an unholy mess in the 18th and early 19h centuries. It was by no means the prim and proper society that we are led by many to believe it was.  Alcoholism was rampant... poverty, slavery, child labour.  Reading the works of Charles Dickens gives one some insights into what life was for most of the people. It is also brought to life in the engravings of artist William Hogarth.

And yet, Christians worked-and prayed- and things such as slavery,  child labour and rampant alcoholism were overcome to an extent.

4) I mentioned Dickens and Hogarth, and Wilberforce (even though not by name) and they give us some indications of some ways we can win hearts and minds.  Dickens’  books stirred the nation into consciousness of the evils the lower classes were having to live with. Hogarth brought to light other ills in society, and Wilberforce, a one time atheist who had a conversion, worked tirelessly  and with great unpopularity to end slavery.  At this point, our society looks very much like “Jolly Olde Englande” of old.  An increasingly coarsening and Godless culture.  One reason this is so, is because we have allowed ourselves, as Christians to be pushed out of the popular culture.   What if we started writing great literature again? and producing meaningful art? And entering politics in order to reclaim that realm? And the media?  Were not most of the great composers of the renaissance motivated by their faith?
We have allowed ourselves to be pushed off into our own little worlds where we produce Christian books, Christian music and Christian journalism, which is b and large not read  by the culture at large.
What we need to do is to be able to write great novels where our message gets out and hearts are changed, because hey are read by the population at large.  Tolkien , Chesterton and Lewis were able to do this in heir time, and we need to do so in our time.  What good does it do if no one is reading or listening?
The culture has indeed been coarsened, and it is now time to refine it again, It has been done before, and it can be done today. One step at a time, but relentlessly and continuously, at every level.

5)  Purism is a big part of the problem.  We have withdrawn from much in the culture because to get involved in politics, the media, or reaching out in the culture means that we just move ahead incrementally, and take some water in our wine, and reclaim the culture the same way it was taken away from us, an inch at a time.

If we can take some of these steps, we can help our brothers and sisters and their priests  to get the message out in their country, as we will have helped weaken their oppressors by cleaning up the mess we have allowed to be created in our own back yard. Stop he drugs, stop he unethical business practices (ie dealing with companies that engage in unethical labour practices) and to help the poor and oppressed get a hand up to make it on their own in a society that will find itself increasingly unable to stop them .

Law enforcement on our side other border will have to play a role, but their effectiveness is also influenced by the  direction of he culture and the body politic.  So it really comes down to the New Evangelization.

We need to know what Jesus taught, and to walk he talk.  That is how we can best help. In other words, authenticity.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Genesis 1-2: Old testament Survey

This is a survey of the books of the Old Testament. I will not be doing a chapter and verse, line by line analysis, but rather a general survey with the goal of introducing these books ad what they are all about to Catholics (and anyone else) who have not yet undertaken to read them for themselves, as many Catholics have told me is the case with them The goal is to demonstrate how the Old Testament is relevant to the New testament, and to the teachings of the Church itself. Above all, I hope to  pique interest and encourage people to read the Old Testament for themselves, and be able to understand it in iys proper context. Today, we look at Genesis 1-2.   To look at others in this series, there will be links to each one in the sidebar .

Genesis 1-2.  In The Beginning.....


The First Chapter in the Book of Genesis, which is generally attributed to Moses deals with  the story of creation.  Two versions are presented.  They are both consistent with one another, although told quite differently.  Also in the first chapter we are introduced to the Trinity. Yes, God reveals that the Godhead is a Trinity, right there in Genesis 1:Verse 2:"...and the SPIRIT of God was moving over the face of the waters" (RSV) & "...God's SPIRIT hovered over the water" (Jerusalem Bible)  26 :”Let US make humankind in OUR image, according to OUR likeness” (NRSV), which right there implies that God had a human person as part of His nature.

 

The first story of creation itself, whether one chooses to accept it as a literal chronological account of a series of events whereby it happened over a 7 day period of 24 hour days, or whether it was allegorically referring to what God did in his position outside of time, does not matter as much as the clear presentation that A) God created the earth, and all that is in it, the heavens themselves, as well as man and beast, and B) gave man dominion over he earth, and all that is in it and C) expected that He would have a persona relationship with man, in which He would be acknowledged as Father and Lord, and all worship and glory would go to Him, and that His creation and its resources  were to be something for man to enjoy and for which he was to provide responsible stewardship.

 

The second account of creation found in Chapter 2 centers more on the creation of man, and the role God intended for him in His creation.  Adam, the first man (The word Adam in Hebrew means “Man”) was placed in a garden created, planted and nurtured by God within certain boundaries, and He tests man’s willingness to be subservient to Him, and walk in His way, bu planting one tree, the tree of knowledge of Good and Evil, and tells man that he is free to do anything, except to eat the fruit of that one tree.  and then he charges Adam with the task of naming all the animals.  So the second account again hits at God’s ultimate sovereignty, and the limits and boundaries he sets for man, His greatest creation, and man’s dominion over creation and stewardship of it.  The structure He intends in hierarchical, with freedom of will.  God also creates a companion for man. A complementary being who is to be his partner and helpmate in life, who is taken from his own flesh and bone, which sets the stage for God’s plan for marriage,and its indissolubility that is where a couple become one as in bone and flesh, because of a work f God.  Verse 24 reasd: “ Therefore a Man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and they are become one flesh.” (NRSV). And they lived happily ever after.... for a while anyway....

Next Post: Genesis 3

Pope to Confront Mexicans over Santa Muerte Cult

The latest instalment of the James Bond franchise “Spectre” opens up in Mexico City amidst the chaos of the revelry of the festival of Santa Muerte in Mexico City.  This massive and riotous celebration of this death cult is something most people outside of Central America had never heard of before Bond brought it to the big screen in all its debauchery.
 

 

It seems Pope Francis  is going to try to do something about it in his upcoming visit to Mexico. Santa Muerte became an unofficial “folk saint” (NOT recognized by the church in the 1830’s when Spanish images of the Grim reaper were adapted, and Santa Muerte became a craze among many Mexicans, who prayed to her for intercession and favours,   The Church reacted and stamped it out quickly, destroying chaplets dedicated to her, as well as festivals.  Santa Muerte surfaced again in the 1940’s with a vengeance and has since become one of the fastest growing cults in the Americas.

 

in 2001, a woman named Enriqueta Romero brought her Santa Muerte statue to an Altar in the Tepito neighbourhood of Mexico City and since then people have been coming daily to pray to her.   Romero says she remains a devout Catholic.  (Catholic Online) .

 

A quote from Sra. Romero will provide some insights into what can happen when a heresy takes on a life of its own:
"On one hand I have God, and on the other I have Death. And when I die, God will tell the skinny one to take Dona Queta away. How great that the pope is coming. Glory be to God. How great that he is coming to give us many blessings." (Catholic Online)

 

Sra. Romero appears to be in for a big surprise. While  Pope Francis may be coming to give blessings, he is expected  call out and condemn the devotion to the false “saint” whose very essence stands foursquare in opposition to everything the Church teaches in it’s pro-life worldview, not to mention scriptures many warnings about participating in necromancy  (Communication with the dead).

 

Here is another article which goes into some more detail as to the extent that this false “saint”’s tentacles have penetrated into Mexican society.  Some parents have had their children baptised by a priestess of Santa Muerte right after their Catholic baptism.  Others pray to her for forgiveness, after believing they have been  punished by injuries by her for their sins.  Her appeal transcends all demographics in Mexican society, and is spreading throughout Central and South America  rapidly.  Enriqueta Vargas, who erected a 72’ Fiberglass statue and temple to this abomination in 2007 has also officiated over baptisms and weddings.  (some disturbing images of this statue and some of the worship around it can be found here)

 

Most Mexicans who participate in this cultish false worship (an estimated 12 million people, making it the fastest growing cult in the Americas)  also remain(in their minds) devout Catholics.  In fact one man asked Sra. Vargas whether he could Worship both the “Our Lady of Guadalupe” Icon and that of Santa Muerte, and she told him that was fine.  The Vatican has declared Santa Muerte to be blasphemous. 

 

Santa Muerte is also reportedly very popular among the drug cartels currently ravaging Mexico.

 

Among other things, part of Pope Francis’ trip to Mexico will involve confronting Mexicans about the worship of this macabre figure who  has been the target of 4 condemnations by Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi in recent years.