Friday, September 24, 2010

Once Saved, Always Saved or Faith and Works: A Catholic point of view.

What is the point of all this "religion stuff"? Ask non believers and they'll sneer at you as if you should know..."it's all about getting your money". Other's believe it to be control. Crazy talk? You be the judge. The real "point" of this all is spelled out in one word S-A-L-V-A-T-I-O-N! Salvation; the eternal reward of an eternity in heaven. How then, do we achieve salvation? Is there a difference between a "Catholic" view of salvation and evangelical protestant view? Absolutely! The differences between Catholics and Protestants is much more than statues and holy water. In this article I intend to define the protestant doctrine of salvation known as "once saved always saved" and challenge it with the biblical doctrine of Catholic salvation known sometimes as "faith and works".

I hear all the time how protestants are "saved". They accept Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior and voila, it's all done. They believe they are guaranteed eternal salvation. Just believe in your heart, say the words (although the believing is more important than the saying), and that's it. That seems simple enough. Before I sign up for anything, I want to make sure it's on the up and up though. I think some research on one's eternal salvation deserves at least some due diligence.

The first thing that comes to mind when one thinks of "once saved always saved" is the big, BIG, problem of sin. If one is "saved" then he is certainly free to rape and pillage isn't he? After all, he has a free pass to heaven, a get out jail free card. The answer to this issue, which is frankly a weak non starter is that if someone actually loved Jesus in his heart, he would never commit those heinous crimes. He must have been lying when he spoke the sinners prayer. The protestants use Colossians 3: 3-4: For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When your life appears, then you too will appear with him in glory". Christ stands in your place before the judge. If this is the case, then what's the point of so much of the New Testament? Once one is "saved" they don't sin? That doesn't make any sense. What is Paul talking about in Romans 8:15: What I do, I do not understand. For I do not do what I want, but I do what I hate. He's talking about sinning, which is in our nature since the fall of Adam. Romans 6:15-16 "What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? Of course not! Do you not know that if you present yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness". Paul is talking to the Romans, telling them that sins lead to death (hell). He did not say to be "saved", he is referring to obeying the "law" which is the old Jewish law or "obedience" which is to God. Protestants like to confuse the term "law" with the Catholic Church. Paul not denouncing all law, is talking to many Jews (and Gentiles) and telling them that salvation comes through Jesus Christ and not through following Jewish religious law.

As I continue to reference the Bible for salvation, I want to be clear with the argument here. "Once saved, always saved" refers to the fact that the "saved" is given absolute assurance of salvation. They believe this cannot be undone. One cannot be "unsaved". Mathew's gospel is full of references to loosing one's soul, even references about coming in and out of grace. Remember, these are believers- the "saved". Jesus says in Mathew 5: 27-29: If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one of your members than to have your whole body thrown into Gehenna..." Mathew 6: 14: "if you forgive others their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions." I looked real hard, but could not find where those "saved" people are the exception to that rule. Jesus is so concerned about people sinning and thus being thrown into Gehanna (Hell) that he suggests plucking out their eyes if it causes them to sin. In Mathew 6: 14 he points to consequences of failing to forgive: "neither will your Father forgive your transgressions". What do you suppose he means by this? There is no footnote stating that "saved" people are exempt from forgiving others. Mathew 13: 41-42: "The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all who cause others to sin and all evildoers. They will throw them into the fiery furnace..." Still no reference exempting those "saved". St Paul in Galatians 5:4 says "you are separated from Christ, you who are trying to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace". Once again, we see people supposedly "saved" "falling from grace". In other words, these people were in good graces with God, but by blindly following the old Jewish law, they will loose that grace. This doesn't work well with the doctrine of "once saved always saved". Colossians 3:25 says "For the wrongdoer will receive recompense for the wrong he committed, and there is no partiality".

The Catholic Church, founded by Jesus himself at Pentecost, has the way to salvation. The "Catholic" view of salvation is not an arbitrary statement to simply come out of a council of Bishops, it is rooted throughout the Bible. It's not as "easy" or "warm and fuzzy" as the protestant view of "once saved always saved", but nothing worth having is easy. While Catholics and Protestants may disagree on salvation, we certainly believe that this discussion does not exists with out the perfect sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the Cross. We must also remember that grace plays a major role in our ability to do ANYTHING. Nowhere does the Catholic Church state that we "earn" our way into heaven. Jesus did that for us. The battle has been fought and won. It is up to us to cooperate. God Bless.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

My Coffee is Cold

I love a good cup of coffee; A HOT cup of coffee. So why is it that I find myself with half a cup of cold coffee almost every day? I guess the answer is basic physics right? It is not automatic that the coffee stays piping hot without some extra effort. Just like that cup of coffee, my spirit so often goes cold.
Life sometimes gets in the way of our “hot cup of coffee”. We get caught up in the daily chores of life. In my case, I was truly challenged (and still am) through a nasty divorce and custody battle. I look back over the last 13 or 14 months of my life and see that Jesus was walking with me every step of the way. In fact, I can appreciate the words from the “footsteps in the sand” poem ( ). Maybe I forgot about Jesus, I swept him under the rug, didn’t fit him into my schedule, but he never stopped walking with me. In fact he carried me through my troubles. Jesus tells us in the Gospel of Luke “…do not worry about your life and what you will eat, or about your body and what you will wear. For life is more than food and the body more than clothing. Notice the ravens: they do not sow or reap…yet God feeds them. Can any of you by worrying add a moment to your life-span?”(Luke 12:22-26). He reminds us: “blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven…” (Matthew 5:3). Jesus walks with us, and with a healthy humility (poor in spirit), we can achieve anything, through Jesus. And while I seemingly “brushed him under the rug”; he never forgot or let me go. He didn’t stay under the rug long!
As I sat discerning what to write for my first article in over a year, I struggled. Should I right on the prodigal son, reconciliation, the Church? Of course, our Lord has a better plan than mine…A cup of coffee? God gives us the coffee, but we must drink it while it’s hot. If we don’t, we better take the effort to heat it up. Maybe this is a bad analogy- but it works for me. For so long, my coffee was hot in a sense. I was “fired up” for Jesus. The Lord gave me “warm and fuzzy” every time I went to church, prayed, or did anything remotely related to faith. It was so easy. The coffee amazingly stayed hot! Of course, as we know, it doesn’t work like that forever. As life got tough, and I seemingly needed the warm and fuzzy more than ever, it disappeared. I read that Mother Teresa went years with a spiritual “darkness” ( No warm and fuzzy for her. Our true strength and love comes from carrying our cross for and with Jesus with no warm and fuzzy feeling. I by no means am comparing myself to Mother Teresa. I am, however, gaining a new appreciation of what a mature faith is to be like.
Here I am, shaking off the dust of the last year of spiritual ups and downs. I am so grateful to have a loving God who gave us a Church that welcomes me back through the sacraments. No questions, no judgment, no hard feelings. The sacrament of reconciliation cleans the slate- and tomorrow morning, the Eucharist will strengthen me for spiritual battle! Go with God my friends, and remember that he loves you, he never turns away, and when he suffered on the cross, he did it for YOU! Commuter out!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

The Devil and Mr. Screwtape: Real Life verses the Reality of the Cross- choose wrong and it's Hell for You!

I am letting all you in on a secret: I never read CS Lewis in school! But our wondrous Lord has directed me toward Lewis and his wondrous wit at a the ripe old age of 31. Having discovered Mere Christianity, I am now delving into the deeper wit and story telling of Lewis' discovery of the Screwtape Letters. I am going to comment on a series of these letters in a few different articles. Lewis' "discovery" of these letters from uncle Screwtape to Wormword (two agents of the devil working on "patients" in the attempt to save them from the enemy---Heaven, or GOD!) Through this ironic fictional tale, Lewis strikes a flush blow on reality.
Screwtape focus first on his "pupil" and his wanting to distance themselves from "arguing". "Jargon, not argument, is your best ally in keeping from the Church. Don't waste time trying to make him think that materialism is true! Make him think it is strong, or stark, or courageous--this it is the philosophy of the future...the trouble about argument is that it moves the whole struggle to the Enemy's own ground." He further points out that "arguing" awakes reason. Once reason comes into play--evil will undoubtedly loose: "even if a particular train of thought can be twisted so as to end in our favour, you will find that you have been strengthening in your patient the fatal habit of attending the universal issues and withdrawing his attention from the stream of immediate sense experience." The bottom line is that Screwtape uses mans view of "REAL LIFE", to avoid "reality".
With the Presidential race about, all the buzz is inevitably focusing on the "issues". We hear the results of Screwtape in comments from candidates and voters alike. "This is 'real life'! A woman SHOULD have the right to choose'"; "This is 'real life'! 'Iraq was much better off before Bush invaded and took about a stable leader.' "This is 'real life"! 'We can't expect mothers to get off welfare--it is just TOO TOUGH out there for them'. "This is 'real life!' We can't actually expect teenagers to NOT have sex...don't be ridiculous! We have to give them condoms, HPV vaccine (because NOW sex is safe), and embrace all forms of perverted sex- because this makes us "strong...stark...courages...this is the philosophy of the future"- if we don't embrace this, we will be stuck in the past- like "old men in robes telling us what we can and cannot do".
Lewis "discovered" this book in the 1940's, but he could just have well of "discovered" it today. Obviously the absurd statements above are thoughts planted by the devil. Screwtape, I'm sure is getting great bonus checks these days. Life is tough--that is true REALITY---GET OVER IT!!! No CROSS no GLORY. Look at your calendar!! Really go get a calendar! March 21, 2008 comes before March 23, 2008! (GOOD FRIDAY- always comes before EASTER Sunday- always and forever, that is the way God made it).
Abortion is evil---no matter what the circumstances. In reality, and "unwanted" child is inconvenient- but being murdered by your own mother is much more "inconvenient". Society is infatuated with sex- especially with the idea of young people having sex. Here is a quick lesson in human anthropology---the human body will not perish if it does not have sex---it is physically possible to NOT have sex when one is young and not married (call me an OLD MAN!). I could go on and about the idea of "old men in robes" telling me what to do. AMEN, AMEN!:
"Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven" (Mat 16: 17-19). I say, Mr. "old man wearing a robe" "Tell me more, tell me what I need to do! I will listen, because my Lord-the only begotten Son of the Father--tells us all that this is the way to salvation! "Real life" is not salvation! "Reality" is that salvation is only achieved by going through the cross! If we avoid "real life" and embrace the "Reality" of the cross- then, in the loving embrace of our Lord, we will here the words (Father Corapi ends many of his talks with) "Well done, my good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your Master's house". God Bless!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Is this all worth it?

My recent readings have taken me through a modern classic in Christianity: CS Lewis' Mere Christianity. Over the years, my faith journey has been anything but easy. Lewis has the ability to bring some clarity and some focus, in practical terms to what I feel, and what many people most likely feel. Before I move on, however, I will answer the question of "is is all worth it?" with a resounding YES!
The goal of all Christians is to become "little Christs", not just to pretend to be good. We strive to "die to ourselves" and let Christ live within us. Lewis explains the idea of "pretending" to be like Christ, is, in a sense, similar to the person not feeling rather friendly, forcing himself to be friendly. This is a start, because most likely, the person will become a friendlier person if he simply acts the part. This goes deeper, however, in our attempt to actually become like Christ--in affect, let Christ take us over. In his chapter entitled "Is Christianity hard or easy", Lewis makes a profound statement that encompasses all of my anxiety about my challenge to be righteous. He states, "The more you obey your conscience, the more your conscience will demand of you. And your natural self, which is thus being starved and hampered and worried at every turn, will get angrier and angrier". This statement speaks directly to me! As I challenge myself to be "perfect" in the eyes of the Lord, I realize more and more that this is impossible! In fact, I realize that I am much worse (a wretched sinner) than I ever thought before I focused on my faith journey. Lewis further discusses that this journey is both easy and hard at the same time. We could simply say, "I am a good person, God loves me and he knows I love him". The problem here, however, is that this is too easy---nothing worth having is easy! Lewis shares the analogy of two school kids learning geometry. One studies hard and works hard, while the other is lazy and tries to remember everything by heart. In the end, the one who studied comes to his final exam stress free, as he knows the subject. The other must fret and stress and he has done nothing to better his knowledge of the subject. We choose one of these roads on our own journeys toward God. The road of "perfect" is rough most certainly. We are constantly humbled as we see truly see how we fail to reach the level of perfection. The easy road, however, is much more dangerous. While today we may seem happy and easy going, in the end, we will not have the assurance of grace...why take the chance? Think about this: the hardest thing, the most impossible thing to do is to hand over your whole self- everything, dreams, hopes, worries, happiness, etc- to Christ. Although impossible, it is much easier than what we all try to do when we try to live for "ourselves"- to find our own happiness! We try to center our lives, our hearts, and minds on ourselves (if we are centered on ourselves- we are not centered on Christ). We do this and hope to behave properly, chastely, and humbly---Lewis goes on to state that this "is exactly what Christ warned us [not to do]. Who do you trust more, yourself or Christ?
What is exactly the point of all this? I remember when I didn't worry about a chaste, pure, righteous, Christ centered living. I never thought about Hell! Well, maybe a little, but not even an iota of a chance that I could end up there. It was a place were only REALLY evil monsters like Hitler, Stalin, and Mass Murders go. Hell, however, is very real, and I could end up there. The genie is out of the bottle and there is no way to put it back. Maybe ignorance is bliss! Maybe all the knowledge I have of salvation, God's demands of me (to be Christ), is too much for me to handle. Maybe it would be easier to be one of the masses who don't really know. This thought, of course is absurd! Lewis, in his attempt to remain "Merely Christian" leaves out some of the most important aspects that we, as Catholics (He was an Anglican at the publication of the book), have the Sacraments. This makes the pain and suffering of "dying to ourselves" a GLORIOUS experience! While I constantly and more progressively recognize the ugliness of my sins in the mirror of my soul, I have the saving and cleansing opportunity to receive absolution through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. I can be clean in the eyes of the Lord through my own contrition and the saving grace of Confession. This, is not the end, however. I then, can physically take the Lord, Jesus Christ, into my body--his Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity through the Eucharist. The graces of these Sacraments SQUASH the suffering of "dying to myself".
There is nothing in life worth anything in the whole picture of things. God is everything. Remember the words from the Gospel of Mathew (Mat 7:7): "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you". Today's Gospel of the parable of the Prodigal son (Luke: 15: 11-32) is a perfect example of this in action. So YES! With this knowledge, it is absolutely worth it! AMEN, AMEN!

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Let us begin our Journey

The journey toward Glory begins today. Our Lenten voyage will not be without trouble. Of course, right off the bat, we know that the Glory of Easter only occurs AFTER Good Friday and the suffering of the Cross. That is a tough pill to swallow...but do not despair, because God is with us. Our personal journeys will be met with struggle. As mere humans, our personal struggles (ie, work, bills, etc.) are much more real to us than Jesus on the cross. We can take this time to bring the cross closer to reality. We can "pick up our crossess and follow the Lord". How we do this is different for each one of us, but keeping the Lord in our FOCUS is imperative! An increase in our prayer life is a great place to start our journey. An extra Rosary, prayer befor all meals (especially in restaurants), and REMEMBER...REMEMBER to go to Mass. Maybe even through in a weekday Mass here and there. Let us also remember that the WAR is already WON! GOD does not loose- we just have to choose to fight!

God Bless,

Lifehouse's Everything Skit

As we begin our Lenten journey, let us remember that no matter what we do, our Lord will ALWAYS fight for our righteousness! All we have to do is ASK! Jesus spent the time in the desert for YOU! This video is an amazing depiction of his love. Watch it over and over...

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

How God Knows Each one of us- words from Chesterton: By Rocco De Leo

I came across this poem on a recent catholic podcast- Chesterton certainly had a way with words. This work shows the great power of God over all things living and not, as well as the glory of God in EVERYTHING, as everything is here...and serve GOD. I particularly like the image of God making every daisy separately. Is this unlike how he makes each one of us? Think about that. God could simply put us through an assembly line production, but he doesn't. He loves each one of us. When Jesus died on the cross, he did not just do it for human kind, he did it for ME...and YOU...and your Aunt, your Uncle, and everyone else each separately. Think about what that means. Remember the vast power of God, and remember that he is OUTSIDE of time. He is and knows all that was, is, and will be. So when he was on the cross, he knew you...he loved you...and he died for you. Here's the poem:

A child kicks his legs rhythmically through excess, not absence, of life. Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, ‘Do it again’; until [the grown-up] is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is… It is possible that God says every morning, ‘Do it again’ to the sun; and every evening, ‘Do it again’ to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy… Heaven may encore the bird who laid an egg. - G.K. Chesterton

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Christ Dwells Among US: Rocco De Leo

Nothing too fancy today. The pastor at my church [St Anthony Catholic Church in San Jacinto, Ca,) Father Art loves to tell stories. One story during the Christmas Vigil homily really resonated with me, so I want to share it with you...tell me what you think:

A rather rambunctious teenage boy (young man about 17) is a decent kid. He does have a tendency to stay out late, sometimes coming home drunk. His parents finally decided to lay down the law. "You need to come home earlier-stop staying out late every night". They told him "the next time you come home after midnight, the door will be locked, and you will have to sleep in the cold, creaky garage". A few weeks went by without any trouble. About a month later, the young man arrived home after a night of partying around 1:30 am...front door locked...back door locked...side door...yes...locked...He realized that his time had come, and he was going to have to face the fact that this night was going to be spent in the cold garage. He found himself a little corner to curl up into. He was asleep about an hour when he was awaken by a noise. He looked up to see a shadow above him. It was his father! He had two pillows and two blankets. "Son", he said, " now the rule was that you would be punished by having to sleep in the cold garage, but nothing was said stopping me from sleeping out here with you." Father and son shared the blankets and pillows until the morning.

God, the father, through Jesus Christ, came with "pillows and blankets" to get us-his children- through the night. He doesn't just open the door and say "come on in"- he suffers with us. Why not just let us/him in for the night? Any parents out there can answer that one pretty easily. God loves us so, he suffers with us to open up the opportunity for repentance, salvation, and his love (love is never lost- no matter our choice). God did much more than sleep in a garage---While this is a joyful time of hope, and new birth-being the Christmas season--his suffering came to fullness on Good Friday--on the cross!
God Bless-