Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Taylor Marshall Behind Amazon 'Pachamama' Carvings Vandalism

During a You Tube broadcast, conspiracist Taylor Marshall had on Alexander Tschugguel. Tschugguel had contracted the coronavirus and is recoverying (see: https://www.sacerdotus.com/2020/03/alexander-tschugguel-contracts-covid-19.html). As many of you know, Tschugguel was the man who vandalized the carvings used during the Amazon Synod in Rome. He threw them into the Tiber (see: https://www.sacerdotus.com/2019/11/pachamama-good-thief-alexander.html). Many voiced their disgust at the action, though others, mainly so-called conservative Catholics, praised it. Tschugguel became a hero to them; the "new St. Boniface." Well, some in the Catholic blogosphere have long suspected that Taylor Marshall may have been behind the stunt in order to garner publicity and sell more books regarding his conspiracy theories. Well, it turns out that the suspicions were correct.

During the webcast, Marshall revealed that he supported and funded the effort. At 106:40, Marshall begins to explain his role in the vandalism of the carvings:

Taylor states:

 “Alexander and I had met in Rome … even before the Pachas were out, and when we learned about the tree that was planted in that ceremony with the Pachas, we were at dinner and we were discussing how we might go and rip that tree out of the ground, That kind of scared us a little,” Marshall chuckled, “but we really didn’t know about the Pachas (yet) … They were still saying that they were Mary and Elizabeth, which none of us really bought, but at least it wasn’t outright idolatry. “So you worked out your plan with your friend, and I wired you some money for airfare, and you guys flew from Vienna over to Rome, and you got it done, a wonderful thing. This has never been told before. I just waited until you texted me and said, ‘Our airplane is off the ground in Rome. We’re free. We’re out of Rome.’ And at that point I uploaded the footage to YouTube. None of us wanted you to get detained or stuck in Rome.”

Tschugguel apparently knows some people who reside near the Vatican gardens and planned with them to enter the church and steal the carvings. However, he voiced concern about possible snipers on the roof of the Domus Sanctae Marthae where Pope Francis lives.  Marshall continues to rant about the Coronavirus being a punishment from God due to the "Pachamama" at the Vatican.  There is no word from the Vatican or Italian police regarding the claims.  They made it clear that they will be investigating and possibly charging those responsible.  Both Marshall and Tschugguel have admitted to the crime and can face possible charges.

In my opinion, charges should be filed. People cannot enter churches and steal things in order to make a statement by vandalizing them. Regardless of the reason, this is wrong and illegal. It is a disruption in civil society.  Rational people use words to fight and do not get physical. The Vatican and even the pope have made it clear several times that the carvings were not "Pachamama" or anything related to the myth (see:  http://www.sacerdotus.com/2019/10/pagan-pope-pagan-vatican-ceremony.html and http://www.sacerdotus.com/2019/10/pope-francis-says-amazon-figures-are-of.html).  The pope did describe them as "Pachamama," but simply because this was how the Italian media was describing them. He did not mean that they were literally "Pachamama."

Moreover, the claim that Coronavirus is a punishment from God due to the display at the Vatican with the carvings is silly. As stated, the carvings are not Pagan nor "Pachamama." They were simply symbols just like many churches use an eagle to represent freedom or a pelican to represent God. These carvings were never worshiped nor was there any direction to use them to replace Christian themes.  Furthermore, let us give Marshall the benefit of doubt.  Suppose this virus is a punishment due to the display of the carvings at the Vatican, then why did Alexander contract the virus? If Alexander is a "hero" by vandalizing the "pagan idols," why did he become part of the punishment?  Moses did not suffer the plagues. Noah did not drown with the others. So why did Alexander get caught up in this alleged punishment from God due to the display of the cravings at the Vatican?  We can see how Marshall simply does not make any sense. The more we see him broadcast and tweet, the more it becomes clear that he is suffering from something deeply spiritual, and perhaps, psychological.

It is also selfish for Marshall to put this young man in harm's way. If there are snipers on a roof, he could have been shot dead!  Moreover, he could have gotten arrested. We hear Marshall in the video state his concern that Alexander leave Rome for Austria immediately.  He know the legal ramifications of the stunt, yet he wired money to this young man to commit this crime.  Hopefully Vatican and Italian police will issue charges.  This is unacceptable behavior.  Marshall is a coward.  Why did he not do it himself?  He is a wealthy person who has the means to hire lawyers in case he got caught.  Why pay off a young man to do his dirty work?  Marshall prides himself in masculinity, but what he did was very cowardly. It is no wonder that Marshall disappeared from Twitter during this period (see: https://www.sacerdotus.com/2019/10/twitter-suspendsbans-conspiracist.html).   

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Sunday, March 29, 2020

5th Sunday of Lent: Faith and the Resurrection in Dark Times

Today’s readings deal with Faith and the Resurrection. We need a crash course reminder of this especially during these hard times where Covid-19 or the Coronavirus has taken the world by storm.  Many thousands are dying due to complications from the virus and hundreds of thousands more are infected. The situation seems hopeless. Churches are closed, Mass is suspended for the general public, even Sacraments are being denied. Our bishops have seemed to become pusillanimous in the sight of the world.  A false faith is being presented where things are interpreted via the mundane and secular.  The closing of churches, suspension of public Masses and denial of the Sacraments takes away the supernatural element from them. The Church has now become simply a corporation offering "services" with different franchises run by pastors instead of the Bride of Christ that not even hell can prevail against.  The events of today bring to mind the prophecies by Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich who states on May 13, 1820:  “Then the vision seemed to extend on every side. Whole Catholic communities were being oppressed, harassed, confined, and deprived of their freedom. I saw many churches closed down, great miseries everywhere, wars and bloodshed. A wild and ignorant mob took violent action. But it did not last long…” and again on July 1820: “I saw the Holy Father surrounded by traitors and in great distress about the Church. He had visions and apparitions in his hour of greatest need. I saw many good pious Bishops; but they were weak and wavering, their cowardice often got the upper hand…Then I saw darkness spreading around and people no longer seeking the true Church.”  Is what is happening today in 2020 what she was referring to?  I cannot state for sure, but it is eerily coincidental. The scene on Friday of the Holy Father alone in St. Peter's square was very telling.  I thought I would never see such as display with the pope all alone blessing what seemed like an empty world. It was like a scene from a doomsday movie or zombie apocalypse.  Where is the faith?  Is the Church dead?  Let us mediate on today's readings which touch on today's events.  

The first reading is from the prophet Ezekiel and tells us of how God brings life to those in the grave.  The world and Church seem dead today with the events happening.  God says that He will raise the dead of Israel and bring them back to their land.  Because of this, they will know that He is God.  He then promises that He will put His spirit in them. This is an allusion to the resurrection of Christ. As we know, Jesus was crucified, died and was buried.  However, He rose from the dead. We read in Matthew 27:50-54 how the dead walked out of their graves and entered Jerusalem. This event must have been frightening for those who witnessed it. However, it was not a scary scene like in “The Walking Dead” series. This event was foreshadowed in the first reading where God says that He will raise the dead of Israel and because of this the people will know that He is God.  Ironically, in Matthew 27:54, the centurion and those with him said, “Truly this man was God’s son.” God is the one who restores life to us both spiritually and physically. God will bring back life to the world and to the Church. The world today looks like a graveyard. God will change that, but we must respond with faith. So far, the world's religious leaders seemed to have lost it. 

This brings us to the responsorial psalm which begins with a cry out of the depths to God.  It is a prayer asking God for mercy, redemption and renewal. When we sin, our spiritual lives slowly die. There is nothing worse than a spiritual death. The human being becomes immoral, not knowing right from wrong.

He or she is lost in darkness and because of this, begins to fall not knowing where he or she is going. The Psalm reminds us that God is the one who saves us.  He is the one who brings us out of the depths of the spiritual grave.  This applies to us today in 2020 during this Coronavirus pandemic. We must trust in Him.

The second reading from Romans tells us that we cannot truly please God if we are in the flesh, or in sin. It is only in living in the Spirit that we truly please God because we are restored with God’s grace.  St. Paul makes it clear that if we do not have the Spirit of Christ, then we do not belong to Him.  When we sin, we die spiritually and physically.  This is why St. Paul tells us that the “body is dead because of sin.”  Because of sin, we are open to all kinds of ailments and diseases.  Original sin damaged creation and all things exist without the perfection it had prior to the fall of Adam and Eve. Christ will restore our lives to what they were supposed to be.  He rose from the dead and will give life to our bodies and entire existence as well.  This is why we should not fear dying, even of Coronavirus or anything else.  We cannot be preoccupied with trying to be safe from a virus when nothing is 100% safe. Social distancing and closing Churches contradicts today's second reading. It presents our physical state as being the most important thing. What good is Ash Wednesday's reminder that we are dust and will return to dust if we are afraid to die?  What about momento mori?  What about martyrs?  Should they have been worried about being targeted and killed?  Should they have practiced social distancing from those seeking to kill them?  We are not meant to be on earth forever.  We have to accept reality that we will die and must accept it even when practicing our faith puts us in death's path.

Finally, the Gospel tells us about Lazarus who is the brother of Mary who anointed Jesus with perfumed oil as well as Martha. Lazarus is extremely ill; basically at the point of death.  Jesus is told of the illness and replies that the illness Lazarus is going through is not to end in death but will serve as an example of the glory of God.  In other words, Christ was telling them that He will be using this opportunity to show God’s glory via a miracle.

Jesus then plans to go back to Judea where He had some problems with the people.  The disciples advise Jesus not to go because the people will stone Him. Jesus then reminds them that those who walk in light do not stumble basically reminding them that He will be safe.  Then He tells them that Lazarus is “asleep” and He will awaken Him.  They thought He was referring to sleep, but Christ was referring to the fact that Lazarus had passed away.  Jesus knew this despite not being at Lazarus’ home.  When Jesus arrived at Bethany, Lazarus had already been buried for four days. Martha and Mary met with Jesus and Martha voiced her frustration to Him telling Him that if He had been there that Lazarus would still be alive.

Nevertheless, she still has faith that whatever Christ asks of God will be granted.  Martha believes in the final resurrection on the last day and Jesus replies saying that He is the resurrection and the life and that those who believe in Him even if they die will live.  Christ then asks Martha if she believes Him and she replies, “Yes, Lord” showing her deep faith. Martha then calls Mary to tell her that Jesus is there and is asking for her.

Mary approaches Christ and falls to His feet voicing her frustrations as well just like Martha did. Next we see Jesus showing His human side.  Despite being the Son of God and the second person of the Blessed Trinity, He becomes “perturbed and deeply troubled” when He sees Mary crying and the Jews who were there crying as well.  He then asks to be taken to where they had laid the remains of Lazarus and they take Him.

Once again we see Jesus shows His humanity. He begins to cry as well.  Here we have God crying. The Jews present ask Jesus “could not the one who opened the eyes of the blind man have done something so that this man would not have died?  The people are complaining as well just like Mary and Martha did. Jesus is perturbed again we read, but goes to the tomb to see Lazarus’ body. Martha tries to stop Jesus saying that there will be a stench because the body has been there for four days. Jesus reminds her that God will show His glory via the death of Lazarus and calls out “Lazarus, come out!”  The dead corpse once lying in state comes to life and walks out. Imagine the scene for a moment. A man is dead for four days and all of a sudden walks out still wrapped in bands like a mummy of sorts.  Had it been me witnessing this, I probably would have run faster than the cartoon character “Road Runner” and would have been screaming like Mariah Carey!

However, the scene should not bring fright.  It was not a scene of a zombie movie or “The Walking Dead” series.  Lazarus woke from his sleep as Christ said he would.  This Gospel shows not only that Christ is God and that God has power over life and death, but also shows Christ’s humanity and genuine love. We also see how the people get frustrated that Jesus did not act quickly in either preventing Lazarus from dying or raising him from the dead.

How many times do we get frustrated when we pray for something and God does not grant it right away or perhaps not in the way we wanted?  This is a natural reaction because we still do not see the full picture.  We are like little impatient kids who feel that waiting just one minute is like a lifetime, so we get frustrated. Our doubts grow just like atheists who see children suffering in the world and quickly declare God as non-existent or uncaring.  Those who let this impatience get the best of them eventually doubt and fall into atheism believing God to not exist.  We must not be like this.  This is very true today in 2020 with what is going on. Many have messaged me expressing doubts on God's existence.  Atheists are having a field day with this coronavirus and how religions shut down because of it.  We must trust God.  God is in control even when we are not. 

Like Martha and Mary we must have faith. Christ understand us. He shares our joys and pains as we read in the Gospel how He wept despite being God who can do anything.  God does care. He understands what we go through everyday. This is what is unique about the “God of Christianity” as atheists and academics describe Him.  The “God of Christianity” IS GOD. He is not a distant deity who demands sacrifices and does not interact with the people.  Christ is with each of us and shares with us our joys and our pains. The Gospel today is preparing us for Easter Sunday where Christ Himself rises from the dead. Death is something we all suffer. It is hard to get over the death of anyone, family or friend. However, it is our faith in Christ who is the resurrection and life that keeps us focused and of sound mind. We cry and are sad yes, this is a normal human response that even Jesus went through. However, we relax and know that death is not the end. Jesus is the resurrection and the life and will bring back to life those who believed in Him as St. Paul tells us in the second reading.  So keep the faith!  Believe in the resurrection.  We will get through what is going on today with Christ and Our Lady.  Social distancing will not work. Closing parishes will not work. Science and governments will not work. Only Jesus Christ works!  Our 2,000 plus history proves it.

Readings: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/032920.cfm

Monday, March 23, 2020

Pope: "Nature having a Fit"

Tabloid website Life Site News recently caused an uproar among Catholics on social media regarding some comments the pope made to a Spanish report via webcam. Regarding the Covid 19 or Coronavirus pandemic, the pope replied to a reporter who stated that "the planet hasn't been very clean for a long times:"

"There's a saying that you surely know: God always forgives, we forgive sometimes, [but] nature never forgives, fires, earthquakes . . . that is, nature is having a fit, so that we will take care of nature."

The comment that "nature is having a fit" caused consternation to Life Site News and its patrons, mostly Caucasian right wing supporters. Many of them on social media have criticized the pope for suggesting that nature has emotions or is somehow sentient. The criticism comes at the tail end of the Amazon Synod where many of the aforementioned made accusations of Paganism against the Holy Father and the Vatican. Based on this schema, these folks will now interpret any comment made by the pope using nature as him espousing pagan beliefs.

Those who are Latinos or understand language and literature know that the pope is not realistically suggesting that nature is upset or is having a fit. The pope is using metaphorical language in a colloquial manner. The Spanish word "patalear" can mean stomping or having a fit in the general sense, but also means "protest" or "make a fuss" when used colloquially.  Many Hispanic cultures and even Italian culture often make use of colloquial expressions which often are metaphorical.

When the pope says that "nature is having a fit," he is using a figure of speech with a colloquial tone that the Spanish reporter understands being both men are Hispanics. Even in English, expressions such as "It is raining cats and dogs" or "that is very cool" do not literally mean precipitation of felis catus or canis lupus familiaris; or that something has a decreased temperature. Colloquially, these expressions are understood as an exaggeration in the description of precipitation and a declaration of the social attractiveness of something.

It is not news that Life Site News is bent on playing "gotcha games" with the pope. They have targeted his every word and action since he published Laudato Si which focused on the issue of Climate Change. It is not breaking news either that climate change is not a popular issue for right wing supporters. What I see here with this tabloid story and the reaction from some Catholics is a disconnect between some non-Hispanic Caucasians and Latinos. They do not seem to understand that the world is full of people who express themselves differently and that they cannot see others via the "kaleidoscope of whiteness."  This kind of approach is pretty much implicit white supremacy.  We have to be careful with interpreting the words and actions of people from other cultures via our own ethnic filter. 

As per the Holy Father's words and as a graduate of the sciences, I agree with him. Nature is rebelling. This is not because nature is some sentient entity, but because of man's activities which have disrupted the natural norms governed by the laws of physics which God implanted into every particle in spacetime. A warmer earth means mutations in single cell organisms. In fact, this is what expedited evolution 4 billion years ago on earth where during the Archean Eon, the waters on earth were as hot as 185 degrees. We know this based on silicon and oxygen isotopes in quartz rocks in the oceans.  So as our world warms and its oceans follow, single cell organisms will evolve and change forming newer forms that immune systems will have no defense against.  This will force natural selection to take place.  Those with weaker immune systems will die off while those with stronger ones will survive. The latter will produce stronger organisms that can fight off the newer bacteria and viruses until the next evolution takes place.  

As the pope stated, "nature never forgives." This is true. Nature not only denies forgiveness to all living organisms, but it also always wins. This is because nature is a blind algorithm meant to maintain life. Life has to cooperate with it. If not, life loses.  When we are conceived, we enter in a "contract," if you will, with nature. We have to abide by the laws or simply perish. This is how God designed it. It is like an operating system on a computer or phone. If you tamper with it, the system will malfunction causing a crash and mass deletion of files. This is why we must take climate change seriously.

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Sunday, March 22, 2020

4th Sunday of Lent Laetare Sunday: Is There Anything to Rejoice About Today?

Today is "Laetare" Sunday or "rejoice" Sunday/Sunday of Joy. Celebrants at Mass have the option to use rose colored vestments today just as in Gaudete Sunday during Advent.  This Sunday is a day to rejoice and remind ourselves that our austere penance during Lent is almost coming to a close and the events that define Christianity are about to come, especially Resurrection Sunday.  This Sunday tells us, "we're almost there, so don't quit now."

Today's readings introduce interesting themes; in particular, faith, the true Shepherd and Redeemer, and "God is in control."  These are themes we need to be reminded of in these trying times.  I have been personally messaged by many Catholics, Protestants and even Atheists who were close to becoming Catholic who are now changing their minds. Many are doubting God in today's pandemic of Covid19 or Coronavirus. How can God allow this to happen?  Does God really protect anyone? If so, why did Churches have to close and Mass cancelled?  There are no easy replies to these questions.  They are all valid and are some which I ask myself.  Trials are not uncommon in the Christian life. Everyone is tested and faces burdens.  God choices each one of us for a specific purpose.

The first reading tells us about the Lord telling Samuel to get ready with his horn of oil because He has already chosen the king for His people. Samuel was the last Hebrew Judge and the first of the major prophets in Israel. God tells Samuel to find the new king from among the sons of Jesse who he is supposed to anoint with the oil in the horn.

Samuel looks at the sons and goes one by one assuming he chose the right one, but God tells him no. Human beings are prejudicial beings. We love to judge people based on appearance, or "lookism." Samuel was no different. He believed a leader/king should be of lofty stature and assumed a particular son with that characteristic is who God had chosen. However, God says, "Do not judge from his appearance or from his lofty stature, because I have rejected him.  not as man see does God see, because man sees the appearance,but the Lord looks into the heart." These are powerful words we should meditate on by themselves. God looks at the heart, not at how we look. We should do the same.  Instead of judging people by profiling them, we should look at their heart - their personality.

After Samuel went trough seven sons trying to find out which one God had chosen and learning none of them were the one, Jesse introduces Samuel to the youngest who was a shepherd tending
sheep.  The kid's name is David. David is described as being handsome and ruddy, obviously young but God chose him. Jesse and David of course are the descendants of Jesus the Messiah. The choosing of this young kid who is a shepherd is a prefigurement of Christ Himself. Jesus is to be the Good Shepherd and is also the Son of God. Even in an early age Jesus was doing God's work ( Luke 2:41-52) making a link to David who was the youngest and was chosen. This should remind the youth in the Church that they are indeed important and should take an active role in their respective parishes.  The Catholic Church is not for the "old" only.

In response to the first reading, we read from the most famous and well known Psalm of all found in chapter 23 which begins with "The Lord is my shepherd." This Psalm connects both David and Christ. It speaks of how God is the shepherd and takes care of His own. He annoints with oil and fills the soul with grace (my "cup overflows"). God is indeed our shepherd and we should always have trust in Him. Last Sunday's first reading was about the Hebrews doubting God in the desert believing Moses to be some con artist who dragged them out to die. We should not be like them. Trusting God will bring "goodness and kindness" for the rest of our lives.

As shepherd, God guides us on our path which is dark. The second reading from Ephesians tells us about this. We were in darkness and now are in the light of the Lord, the reading begins.  St. Paul tells us that we should continue living as children of the light. He reminds us to do what is pleasing to God and avoid the things that are in darkness. Christ is the light (John 8:12).
Without light, we cannot see physically speaking.  The same applies spiritually. Today we live in a world that is adopting atheistic existential nihilism which originated from Nietzsche et.al and claims that life is meaningless, has no purpose and that we create our own "destinies." This philosophy, while claiming to liberate man has done nothing more than bring him down and imprison him in despair and psychological and spiritual oblivion. We are rational beings with free will and intellect; however, this does not mean we can guide ourselves. When we leave human beings to be an end in themselves, they guide each other in darkness and without proper vision in this environment, they all fall into the hole (Matthew 15:14).  Only Christ can show us the way even in darkness.  Only He can guide the way so that we won't fall into the hole.  This applies today with the current pandemic as well.  It may see as if God does not care, is not present or does not exist, but this is not so. We are not meant to be on this earth forever or to live life the way life exists now. God has something better for us.  In the meantime, we have to bear with the things of this world. 

The themes of light and darkness are touched upon in the Gospel. We read in the Gospel how Jesus performs one of His "strangest" miracles recorded. Jesus passes by and sees a man who has been blind since birth.  The disciples ask Him if this man is blind because of his sins or his parent's sins.  Jesus replies, "neither he nor his parents sinned" and goes on to tell them that his disability exists in order for God to show His works. The disciples are holding to the idea that people who are disabled are in that state due to their sins. This brings to mind the "Moral Model" in disability studies which claims it is the fault of the disabled person that he/she is in that state and that this has to do with divine punishment. Jesus obviously disagrees.

Jesus then does something that is both strange and disgusting, in human terms.  He spits on the ground and makes clay with it.  Then he smears the clay made with spit on the man's eyes.  He then instructs the man to wash in the Pool of Siloam.  When the man did as he was told, he came back with full vision.  Those in the neighborhood could not believe it and were saying to themselves "isn't this the one who used to sit and beg?"  They were in shock that this man is now able to see after they have gotten used to seeing him in a blind state begging for money.  Immediately they questioned him and brought the man to the Pharisees.  The Pharisees upon learning that Christ healed this man on the Sabbath declared that Christ is not of God. They made the Law in the Old Covenant into a god, so to speak.  The Sabbath was made for man, not the other way around (Mark 2:27).  The rest of the story tells us how the Jews did not believe and even questioned the beggar's parents who testified that he indeed was born blind. Then there is a debate on who Christ really is and His intentions.

This Gospel has so many things I can write on, but will briefly get into them.  First, the Gospel reminds us that we are born blind or spiritually blind.  Atheists often make the claim that we are "atheists by default," I refute this here: http://sacerdotvs.blogspot.com/2013/04/atheism-as-default-fails.html.  We are not "atheist" at conception but are merely spiritually blind. After Baptism, we start to regain our sight as we grow in faith and grace.  This is why the man only gets sight after he washes himself in the Pool of Siloam.  Once we have life in Christ can we truly begin to see like the beggar did.  Second, Jesus in this story shows us how God does not discriminate. He sees the beggar who is blind, probably dirty and smelly, yet still approaches him.  God does not judge by appearance as 1 Sam 16:76 states.

Third, here is an interesting connection as well in regards to the clay.  We read in Genesis 2:7 how God creates man from the clay of the Earth.  Jesus uses clay to heal the man.  Think about this for a moment. If pottery is broken, how is it repaired?  We use clay to repair it. God made man out of the clay of the Earth and sin broke him. Christ comes and uses clay with spit to "fix" broken man. Christ makes all things new (2 Corinthians 5:17).  We must approach Christ with faith and trust in Him, especially in today's trying times.  He will restore our sight and guide us as our shepherd through the "valley of the shadow of death" which surrounds this world.  God is always in control.  Despite Original Sin ruining nature, God still fixes it and guides it to perfection in Him.  He is the Redeemer, the Savior who restores the Image of God in us with His light.  There may not be much to rejoice about today with the number of cases and deaths related to Covid19, but we must look beyond themundane.  Today we rejoice with the "blind beggar" and shout out for all to hear: "I do believe, Lord."


Wednesday, March 18, 2020

The Catholic Church Made the Bible

How the Catholic Church Gave Us the Bible

If you are a Christian who loves reading the Bible, you might wonder how this sacred book came to be. Who decided which books should be included in the Bible? How were they preserved and transmitted throughout history? And what role did the Catholic Church play in this process?

In this blog post, I will try to answer these questions and show you how the Catholic Church gave us the Bible.

The Old Testament

The Old Testament is the collection of books that were written by the ancient Israelites before the coming of Christ. They contain God's revelation to his chosen people, his promises and prophecies, and his laws and wisdom.

The Old Testament was originally written mostly in Hebrew, with some parts in Aramaic. The books were not all written at the same time, but over a period of about 1000 years, from the time of Moses (around 1400 BC) to the time of Malachi (around 400 BC).

The Old Testament was not a fixed canon, but a fluid collection of writings that varied in different Jewish communities. Some books were more widely accepted than others, and some were only used by certain groups, such as the Essenes or the Samaritans.

The most common version of the Old Testament among the Jews was the one used in Palestine, which had 39 books. However, there was another version that was used by the Jews in Egypt and other parts of the world, which had 46 books. This version was translated into Greek around 250 BC and was called the Septuagint.

The Septuagint was not only a translation, but also an expansion of the Hebrew Scriptures. It included seven books that were not in the Palestinian canon: Tobit, Judith, Wisdom, Sirach, Baruch, 1 and 2 Maccabees. It also had longer versions of Esther and Daniel.

The Septuagint was widely used by the Jews of the Diaspora (those who lived outside Palestine), and also by the early Christians. Many of the quotations from the Old Testament in the New Testament are taken from the Septuagint. For example, when Matthew cites Isaiah's prophecy about the virgin birth of Christ (Matthew 1:23), he uses the Septuagint version, which says "virgin" (parthenos), instead of the Hebrew version, which says "young woman" (almah).

The New Testament

The New Testament is the collection of books that were written by the apostles and their followers after the coming of Christ. They contain God's revelation in Jesus Christ, his life, death and resurrection, his teachings and miracles, and his establishment of his Church.

The New Testament was originally written in Greek, which was the common language of the Roman Empire at that time. The books were not all written at the same time, but over a period of about 50 years, from the time of James (around AD 50) to the time of John (around AD 100).

The New Testament was also not a fixed canon, but a fluid collection of writings that varied in different Christian communities. Some books were more widely accepted than others, and some were disputed or rejected by some groups. For example, some Christians did not accept Hebrews, James, 2 Peter, 2 and 3 John, Jude and Revelation. On the other hand, some Christians accepted other writings that were not part of the New Testament canon, such as the Didache, the Shepherd of Hermas, or the Epistle of Barnabas.

The process of forming the New Testament canon was guided by several criteria: apostolicity (the book had to be written by an apostle or a close associate), orthodoxy (the book had to agree with the apostolic teaching), catholicity (the book had to be accepted by most of the churches), and inspiration (the book had to show evidence of being inspired by God).

The Role of the Catholic Church

The Catholic Church played a crucial role in giving us both the Old and New Testaments. The Catholic Church wrote the New Testament. The authors of all the books of the New Testament were either Catholic bishops (such as Peter, James or John), Catholic priests (such as Paul or Mark), or Catholic deacons (such as Luke). They wrote under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and with the authority given to them by Christ.

The Catholic Church also preserved and transmitted both Testaments throughout history. The Catholic Church copied and distributed both Testaments by hand for centuries before printing was invented. The Catholic Church also defended both Testaments from corruption and distortion by heretics and enemies. The Catholic Church also translated both Testaments into different languages to make them accessible to different peoples.

Finally, the Catholic Church decided which books should be included in both Testaments. The Catholic Church finally agreed on which writings should go into the Bible at the Council of Rome in 382 AD during the time of Pope Damasus. Damasus encouraged St. Jerome to translate the Scriptures into Latin since Latin was the common language of all educated people. This translation, called the Vulgate, became the official version of the Bible for the Catholic Church for over 1000 years.

The biblical canon was reaffirmed by the regional councils of Hippo (393) and Carthage (397), and then definitively reaffirmed by the ecumenical Council of Florence in 1442. The Catholic Church accepted the 46 books of the Septuagint as the Old Testament, and the 27 books of the apostolic writings as the New Testament, for a total of 73 books.

Pope Siricius called it "Bible." The word is not in the Bible in reference to itself, only other texts or writings (see: Strong's Greek: 976. βίβλος (biblos) -- (the inner) bark (of a papyrus plant), hence a scroll, spec. a book (biblehub.com)).  Tertullian in 200 AD developed the term "New Testament" while St. Augustine called the Hebrew Scriptures the "Old Testament."  Pope Damasus called it the "Word of God." This term is only used to describe Jesus, not Scripture.  The Scriptures lacked punctuation and structure, so they had to be added along with a chapter system. Cardinal Hugo De Caro and Archbishop Stephen Langton are credited for creating the chapter and verse system used in every Bible. The Catholic Church was already up and running as the New Testament was still being written.  

The Catholic Church gave us the Bible as a gift from God, and as a guide for our faith and life. The Bible is not a book that we can interpret by ourselves (2 Peter 1:20-21), but a book that we need to read with the help of the Church, which is "the pillar and foundation of the truth" (1 Timothy 3:15).

So if you are a Christian who is not fully Catholics, you have to thank the Catholic Church for the Bible. It is our book, our creation.  

What do you think? Post your comment below on Disqus.  Be sure to follow the rules so your comment can go through.  


The Third Council of Carthage on the Canon of Scripture (bible-researcher.com)

: https://www.catholic365.com/article/3595/did-the-catholic-church-give-us-the-bible.html

: https://cruxnow.com/faith/2015/11/a-quick-history-of-the-catholic-church-and-the-bible

: https://www.ncregister.com/news/how-catholicism-contributed-to-the-king-james-bible

: https://www.catholic.com/qa/who-compiled-the-bible-and-when


Alexander Tschugguel Contracts Covid-19 Coronavirus

Alexander Tschugguel, the Austrian who made the news last year for throwing the carvings used at the Amazon Synod into the Tiber had contracted coronavirus (see: https://www.sacerdotus.com/2019/11/pachamama-good-thief-alexander.html).

He is not doing well from what I heard. Conspiracist Taylor Marshall made the announcement on his You Tube Channel.

Alexander himself tweeted on his Twitter account:

Alexander also posted a statement:

Dear friends and supporters,

Many thanks for all of your prayers and your encouragement in recent days. It is now the 15th day of my illness and I am slowly on the path to recovery. The virus strikes much harder than expected and it strikes people of all ages. Now we must learn to confront it, which means understanding that God requires sacrifice from each of us. And during this Lent he is asking more from us than usual. Today we must contain ourselves a lot and know how to renounce many things and do penance for all of the evil things in the world, and especially for all of the evil things that have happened within the Church. God, in his immense Providence, has placed these limitations on us, and we must see them as a Cross that we must carry, above all for those for whom the virus was lethal, for all the families that have been destroyed, for all of the aborted babies, for the destruction of our homelands. For all of this suffering, we must now sacrifice our freedom, our prosperity and our usual way of life. Let’s do it together as believers. We can be certain that God will never deceive or disappoint us.

As soon as I am well, I will make a video about this virus and I will tell you how it makes you feel and what it does to you.
Cordial greetings, and may God bless us,
Alexander Tschugguel

Some people on social media have celebrated this and have stated that it is a punishment from God for desecrating the alleged carvings representing Our Lady of the Amazon. Let us keep him and his loved ones in prayer as he battles this. 

UPDATE March 23, 2020

Alexander is out of the hospital and recovering, though very week. He tweeted:

His recovery sends hope to those infected with the Covid-19 virus.  It shows that with property care and attention to each symptoms, recovery is possible. 

What do you think? Comment below on Disqus.  Be sure to follow the rules for commenting. 





Sunday, March 15, 2020

3rd Sunday of Lent: Mass Suspension of Faith

Today's reading for the Third Sunday of Lent have one main thing in common: Water. However, this theme is based on Faith.  As I write this, the world is in a pandemic that it has never experienced before. Covid19 or Coronavirus has spread throughout the world taking hundreds of thousands of lives and effecting billions more.  In response, many Catholic dioceses decided to suspend Mass, other Sacraments. Some have decided to close churches altogether. This decision has been praised by some, but frowned upon by many, including myself.

Our religion is at a precipice now. In a world that is slowly becoming more and more secular and atheistic, displays of spiritual cowardice is not the way to go.  To suggest that the Mass will become a conduit for the spread of disease is an overreaction. In fact, there is no study that suggests this nor has there been any recorded event in history that we can recall. Moreover, to ban reception of Holy Communion by the tongue, hand or both is also ridiculous. Would Jesus allow His body, blood, soul and divinity to become a conduit for contagion?  We read in 1 Corinthians 11:30-31 that the Holy Eucharist did make people sick and even brought death. However, this happened to people who received unworthily either by being in a state of sin or by treating the Sacred Species as another meal to eat alongside the offerings presented to the deities of the Greek-Roman era.

That being clarified, there is no way the Blessed Sacrament can become means to spread disease. This is just irrational and blasphemous to think. We are talking about Jesus' true presence here.  Already atheists and even protestants have started to mock the idea of transubstantiation due to the whining of bishops and others in the Church during this crisis. Suspending Holy Communion reception in any form and/or the Mass is just spiritual cowardice. It is a demonstration of lack of faith. In other words, it is implicit atheism. How can we believe God to be all powerful, yet not be able to protect His people from a microscopic organism?  How can we believe Jesus is truly present in the Holy Eucharist and can spread disease?  How can we believe that God would allow the Mass to become a place of contagion?  Catholicism has become a mockery, a faith lacking faith.  The first reading touches on lack of faith.

The first reading comes from Exodus. In it, we read about Moses' struggle with the stubborn Hebrews who whined about being taken out of captivity. Go figure right?  They complain to Moses about being brought out into the desert to die of thirst.

The Hebrews actually preferred being in Egypt as slaves than in the desert.  Here we see a lack of faith. Despite all the wonders God performed, they still doubted and whined. Think about this for a minute.  They saw God send down plagues upon Egypt, one of them which transformed the waters to blood (Exodus 7:14-10:29). However, they still believe that they were taken to the desert to die of thirst.  How can they even think this after seeing how God had complete control over the molecules and atoms that make up water?

Again, the issue here is lack of faith. Humanity has not changed much since this time. I began with the Coronavirus and suspension of the Mass as an example in this reflection.   We still
whine, complain and believe man's tangible methods are best. For the pope, bishops and others to think man's ways make more sense than God's is just blasphemous. To suspend the Mass and instead trust in men defeats the purpose of Catholicism. We already saw how science, government and even suspending events or engaging in social distancing has failed.  The virus is still spreading!  Suspending the Mass is the dumbest attempt at a solution possible.  We reject the most powerful prayer on Earth all for nothing.  This is a lack of faith and it hurts our spiritual life.  We begin to doubt God. When God doesn't answer our prayers or answers them differently, we get upset. Some of us even lose faith altogether despite witnessing God work in our lives in the past. 

Moses himself becomes a bit stressed out and asks God for help fearing that the people will stone him. God calmly tells him to go with his staff and strike a rock and water will flow from it. Gods asks Moses to do this to show that He can do anything. Usually water comes from rain, but God wanted Moses to tap on a rock for it. I see this as an innuendo of sorts. The Hebrews then and us today are "hard-headed." God must sometimes tap on our rocky heads to get water to flow, so to speak.

This first reading should remind us of faith and how delicate it is. We can be the most zealous Christians on Earth jumping around shouting alleluia like the charismatics, but it takes just one disappointment in life to bring all that down. In an instant we can lose faith in God. This is dangerous. Moreover, the first reading can be connected to our own spiritual journey during Lent and the rest of the year. We are "in the desert" trusting God. The desert is not a comfortable place.  In fact, it is so uncomfortable that even being a slave in Egypt sounds better.The desert is a common theme in the Sacred Scriptures.  It is not only a real place on Earth, but a symbol of hardship and loneliness.

The Psalm response is linked to the first reading. It comes from Psalm 95 and mentions the incident of the lack of trust the Hebrews had at Meribah and Massah. The psalm calls God the "rock of our salvation."  This is a connection to the rock Moses tapped for water. Water is the "salvation" of a thirty individual.

It is no surprise that to each refrain we respond, "If today you hear His voice, harden not your hearts." This "hardening" is another connection to the rock in the desert and why I wrote a few paragraphs above that it is an innuendo. We often become "hard-headed" and harden our hearts as well.  The psalm reminds us that God is the one who made us and we should trust in Him. We must not repeat what our ancestors did where they did not trust Him and tested Him. The psalm ends in this manner.

The second reading speaks to us about faith. Again, it is all connected with the previous readings.  St. Paul reminds us that faith is what connects us with God. God gives grace to all freely, but we must respond with faith to it otherwise we will miss the grace.

This faith must then be put into practice for it to be truly valid because we must love God and have faith in Him not just because of commands, but because we choose it (James 2:14-26).  When we freely choose something instead of being forced to do something, it becomes more valuable and authentic. The reading continues speaking about hope that doesn't disappoint. No matter what hardships we face, God is still there.  Again, we must not repeat the mistakes of our ancestors in the desert who knew God was there but still doubted.

Lastly, the Gospel tells us about the Samaritan woman's encounter with Jesus. The Samaritans are a group of people who the Jews did not like. In about 700 BC, the Assyrians came to Israel and took over the north. They brought strangers to that area who would be called "Samaritans" later on. These people were Pagans but as they lived among the Jews in the land, they adopted some of their ideas and incorporated them into their own religion. Nevertheless, the Jews saw them as a pariah.

Jesus comes to a town called "Sychar." He is tired and sits down. Imagine that?  God is tired. This shows the humanity of Christ.

I digress..

As Jesus rests, a woman comes by and He asks her for a drink.  The woman is shocked because He asks her for a drink.  She does this because of the tension between the Jews and her people. Moreover, women at the time were not seen as full persons in those times due to culture. Jesus is showing He is a "feminist" per se. Moreover, Jesus then responds to her that if she knew who was asking her for water she would have been given the "living water" which is God's grace that comes from the Holy Spirit.

He continues telling her that the water He asks of her does not quench thirst but that the water He
gives will. Here He is saying that only God can satisfy us fully. Things of this world, including water, satiate. They do not satisfy us forever. The woman becomes interested and asks Jesus for this water.  Jesus then shows her that He knows her life by revealing that she had five husbands. The rest of the Gospel (if the longer version is read) continues with Jesus speaking about true religion in spirit and truth that comes from what He gives. The disciples also make an appearance and show their disapproval of the woman and Jesus communicating.

The Gospel is very long, but has deep and simple themes to reflect on.  First let us focus on faith. Here we see that it is God who comes to us, not the other way around. Jesus comes to the woman and asks for water. This is His way of saying that we have to respond back to God's grace with our faith and why He says, "I thirst" on the cross (John 19:28). He approaches us and asks for us to give Him water (our faith response).

Second, the woman belonged to a group of people that the Jews did not like.  Christ shows us that we must go to everyone with the Good News, not only our own. We must not be greedy and keep the truth for ourselves, but must share it with the "Samaritans" of the world today: non-believers, lukewarm believers, those who believe in other faith traditions, etc. We must not judge those who are not in our Catholic Church - the Mystical Body of Christ. Instead, we must approach them, be friends with them and reach out to them. We must also listen to them and learn from them just like Jesus listened to the woman.

The Gospel reminds us of "water." Water is the ultimate source of physical life.  Without water, there would be no life on this planet. Water is the engine of life. Jesus reminds us that He has the living water that gives us meaning and true life unlike the common H2o on Earth that we need to live on, physically speaking.

Ironically, in a desert that thing that is lacking the most and is the most desirable is water. When our
lives become dry, painful under the heat; the discomforts of the desert of life hit us hard, it is Christ who gives us the living water who keeps us going. In this time of Lent, we are walking in the desert with Christ. We are tempted to break our fast just like Jesus was tempted by Satan.

We naturally suffer spiritual dryness when we feel God is not there like the Hebrews who felt they were tricked into going to the desert to die. Our response is to trust in God even in bad times. We must not become hard headed and doubt God like those in Meribah and Massah. We know God is there. We have encountered Him in our lives. Our daily struggles should not push us to think God is not there in our lives. Faith is key. We must ask ourselves during Lent as we walk in the deserts of life: “Is the LORD in our midst or not?”

The answer is YES!  He is there with a nice clean cup of fresh living water to quench our thirst.

Today's readings of Meribah and Massah are being repeated today.  Despite seeing God's works, man is doubting again. Our very own leaders in the Church included!  To suspend the Mass, close Churches and trust in the suggestions of doctors and others who are as clueless on this pandemic as everyone else is a slap to the face of God.  Pope Francis loves to paraphrase St. John Chrysostom who said the Church is a field hospital. What field hospital disappears and shuts down service during war and when there are many who are sick?  Does that make sense?  Pope Francis, the bishops and others who are encouraging mundane methods to dealing with this pandemic are doing a great disservice to our Catholic faith.  I usually do not criticize the pope and bishops, but this time they went too far and hit me hard in the heart.  Everyone has failed during this crisis.  My mom bought 5 lysol containers for $9.99 each!  Stores a price gouging, people are panic buying everything forgetting that others need supplies as well. I find humanity's response more horrific than the Coronavirus itself.

Overreaction is what kills everything. When a non-human animal on a road overreacts, it runs into a car and gets killed.  When people overreact, they become like savages.  In fact, viruses themselves are not what kill people. What kills people is the overreaction of the immune system to the presence of the foreign body.  We must stop and have faith. We must not be like the Jews at Meribah and Massah who despite seeing God's works, doubted Him and wanted to do things their way (Psalm 95:5).   Pray and pray!  Repent and have faith!  This is what the pope and bishops should be calling us to, not to become timid and hide.  The Spirit God gave us is not a cowardly one (2 Timothy 1:7).  The pope must recall another quote by St. John Chrysostom and remind the bishops of it, it says: "The road to hell is paved with the bones of priests and monks, and the skulls of bishops are the lampposts that light the path."  Our shepherds need to wake up to what is going on. This is all a cosmic test.  Let us keep the faith!

READINGS: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/031520.cfm

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Happy Mar10 (Mario) Day!

Happy Mar10 day or Mario day!  This is an annual celebration by gamers who love the iconic 1980s franchise surrounding an Italian plumber from Brooklyn who becomes the hero of a magical kingdom composed of mushrooms. This unofficial holiday is not affiliated with Nintendo, the owner of the franchise. It was formed in 2016 by fans. Nevertheless, Nintendo has used the date to promote its games and sales.

Mario is a fun game which I have been a fan of since I was a kid. The games can be played by anyone of any age. They are clean and fun games which allow children to use their imagination and think beyond the possible. Unlike other games with gore and violence, Mario has challenging levels with no gore or blood. The violence used is minimal and comical at best.





Monday, March 9, 2020

Coronavirus Brings Suspension of Mass, Sacraments & Sign of Peace

It seems clear that we are in the times.  I thought I would never live to see the day where the Vatican and other dioceses have suspended the Mass, Sacraments, funerals and limited the Sign of Peace simply over mass hysteria over the Covid-19 or Coronavirus. Even holy water fonts have been emptied! The virus has taken storm since cases of it began to sprout out of nowhere in Wuhan, China. Now it has begun to spread in the United States and has spread like a wildfire in Italy.  New York state is now the state with the most cases of Coronavirus.

The news of the suspensions of religious services in the Church has raised the eyebrows of many Catholics, including myself. Here are some reactions from Social Media:

The scenes of the Vatican deserted is troubling indeed.  What bothers me and many others is the lack of faith being demonstrated by our leaders in the Church.  How can they suspend the Mass and restrict Holy Communion?  The news today is odd considering in 2009 during the SARS event, the Catholic Church made it clear that Holy Communion could not be denied to the faithful on grounds of viral infection; particularly, Communion on the Tongue. Here is the letter from the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. 

So there is no reason to deny anyone Holy Communion, granted they are not in the state of grace. To deny Catholics Communion because of a virus is contrary to the faith.  There is no evidence that Holy Communion is a conduit for the spread of disease. I will write a post on this later on to go more into detail.  As for the Sign of Peace, the rite is optional. Many do not know this.  The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments wrote the Letter on the Ritual Expression of the Gift of Peace at Mass in 2014 stating:

284.Pope Benedict XVI, further than shedding light on the true sense of the rite and of the exchange of pace, emphasized its great significance as a contribution of Christians, with their prayer and witness to allay the most profound and disturbing anxieties of contemporary humanity. In light of all this he renewed his call that this rite be protected and that this liturgical gesture be done with religious sensibility and sobriety.5.This Dicastery, at the request of Pope Benedict XVI, had already approached the Conferences of Bishops in May of 2008 to seek their opinion about whether to maintain the exchange of peace before Communion, where it is presently found, or whether to move it to another place, with a view to improving the understanding and carrying out of this gesture. After further reflection, it was considered appropriate to retain the rite of peace in its traditional place in the Roman liturgy and not to introduce structural changes in the Roman Missal. Some practical guidelines are offered below to better explain the content of the exchange of peace and to moderate excessive expressions that give rise to disarray in the liturgical assembly before Communion.6.Consideration of this theme is important. If the faithful through their ritual gestures do not appreciate and do not show themselves to be living the authentic meaning of the rite of peace, the Christian concept of peace is weakened and their fruitful participation at the Eucharist is impaired.Therefore, along with the previous reflections that could form the basis for a suitable catechesis by providing some guidelines, some practical suggestions are offered to the Conferences of Bishops for their prudent consideration:a)It should be made clear once and for all that the rite of peace already has its own profound meaning of prayer and offering of peace in the context of the Eucharist.An exchange of peace appropriately carried out among the participants at Mass enriches the meaning of the rite itself and gives fuller expression to it. It is entirely correct, therefore, to say that this does not involve inviting the faithful to exchange the sign of peace “mechanically.” If it is foreseen that it will not take place properly due to specific circumstances or if it is not considered pedagogically wise to carry it out on certain occasions, it can be omitted, and sometimes ought to be omitted. It is worth recalling that the rubric from the Missal states: “Then, if appropriate, the Deacon or the Priest, adds: ‘Let us offer each other the sign of peace’” (emphasis added)(MISSALE ROMANUM, Ordo Missæ, no. 128).
So as you can see, the Church is within her right to stop the Sign of Peace or limited. The faith is not based on this rite. The rite exists in connection to Jesus in the Eucharist and is not meant to be a display of humanism or family reunion.  So barring the shaking of hands, hugs or the rite altogether is fine and logical.  However, the news of the Church actually suspending Mass and the Sacraments is just absurd to me. It is, quite frankly, embarrassing. As a former atheist, I can say that the optics are not good for the Catholic religion. A faith lacking faith defeats the purpose of the religion.  While I understand that diseases spread, viruses spread and human beings are nasty creatures that often forget hygiene, we cannot forget what the religion is about.  It is about having faith in God the creator.  The Church exists because of the Eucharist. To reduce the Eucharist to a conduit that can spread disease is just unscientific and blasphemy.

Cardinal Dolan even took to task on suspending the Rite of Peace during Mass.  A new video surfaced of him contradicting a deacon's call to peace.

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Sunday, March 8, 2020

2nd Sunday of Lent: Transfigured by Christ

Today's readings recall how Christ is the One the Jews waited for. He is the the completion of God's plan to save humanity.  They remind us of faith.

In the first reading from Genesis 12:1-4, we read how God speaks to Abram and tells him to leave his past to a new land. He will become the 'Father' of a new nation.

The first reading reminds us how it all started. God made a covenant with Abram who would later be called Abraham. He would be the model of true faith for all and God would found a nation which he would be the father of. God calls Abram to leave all behind. This is not easy to do. Imagine listening to a disembodied voice telling you to leave your family's land and go to a strange land which the voice promises will be yours. Abram trusted God. He never questioned God's commands.

Lent is a period of meditation and renewal. This story is a great way to meditate on what it means to have faith. Faith means to trust God. God is the creator, God is good. Trusting God does not take anything away because we know He wants the best for us. However, due to Original Sin and our own Actual sin, we don't see things clearly in life. (1 Corinthians 13:12)  Faith is not easy to live by. In faith we fall into a Teleological Suspension from our human ethical laws as the philosopher Kierkegaard posits in his Problema writings.  Faith becomes a paradox in itself. Nevertheless, it is by faith that we grow in God because we learn to trust Him.  In any relationship trust is key. Without trust, we cannot have any kind of relationship.  Jesus Himself calls us to leave all things and follow Him. (Luke 18:22)

In response to the first reading we recite Psalm 33 which speaks of trust in God and goes in detail about how God cares of us.  We call on God to have mercy on us as He guides our path.  Again, the keyword 'trust' is mentioned in the first sentence "Upright is the word of the LORD,
and all his works are trustworthy.
"  We recall how God is trustworthy.  Like Abram, we are called to leave all behind and trust God because God is God and does not deceive.  

The second reading is from the Letter of St. Paul to Timothy and speaks of how God's grace brings us to holiness.  It starts out by telling us that our faith is not easy and is full of hardships.  However, God gives us the strength to carry on.  Again, this reading reminds us of trusting God.  God has everything under control despite our lives getting hectic at times especially when we get closer to God.  It is God's grace that keeps us going, not our own. Today there is so much worry and fear about the Covid-19 or Coronavirus. Stores are full of people buying purell, tissue, sanitizing wipes, sprays and what not. There have even been fights over this due to low supply. Some stores have even engaged in price gouging taking advantage of the situation to make extra money. It is just horrible. What is worse that all of this is the fact that leaders in our faith are suspending Masses and the Sacraments. This is just disturbing. Where is their faith?  What kind of faith lacks faith?  These are trying times. It seems to me that this is all the workings of the spirit of the antichrist which seeks to destroy faith.  Now more than ever, we must increase our faith.  It is God that keeps us going. No virus or disease has the final say.   

Lastly, the Gospel is the story of the Transfiguration where Christ takes Peter, James and John to a mountain top and He visibly transforms into a glorious being glowing in God's glory.  Moses and Elijah, two pillars of the Jewish faith appear beside Christ representing Israel, the law and the prophets while validating that Christ is the one they were preparing the Hebrews for.  This transformation is a foreshadowing of the Resurrection where Christ will appear in a glorious form after He rises from the dead.  Again, the Gospel shows how Peter, James and John trusted Christ and followed Him.  They were the first to be called and were His closest disciples.

We as followers of Christ must reflect on this during Lent and throughout the year. We must analyze where our faith lies.
  • We must ask ourselves how much do we trust God?  
  • Are we willing to give up everything for God? 
  • Are we willing to go wherever God calls us to even if it brings us pain and suffering?  
This is why we do penance, abstain from meat, and fast. This is why we give up something for Lent and offer more so we can discipline ourselves. Detachment is the key to getting closer to God. St. Francis of Assisi and other saints have showed us that only in casting away our worries, our material desires do we grow closer to God.  God afflicts the comfortable and comforts the afflicted. Our trials make sense only in faith.  Let us continue to grow in faith, trust God and focus on His Son Jesus who is the only One we need.  

Sunday, March 1, 2020

1st Sunday of Lent: Temptation

Today is the first Sunday of Lent.  Today's readings deal with temptation, the fall of man, the public work of redemption, and victory.  

The first reading is from Genesis which speaks in an allegorical sense of how God formed man from the clay of the Earth and breathed life into him.  We were reminded of this a few days ago on Ash Wednesday.  

It continues with the story of how man was placed to live in the Garden of Eden and had access to all, but was warned not to eat of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Eating of the fruit of this tree would bring about death.  Interestingly enough, the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil as well as the Tree of Life are placed in the middle of the Garden making them more visible and distinct.  Here we see how the test to man is played out.

The story continues with the introduction of a serpent who is cunning and very intelligent.  This serpent approaches the woman named Eve and proceeds to manipulate her by casting doubt to God's command not to eat of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.  He says to her, "Did God really tell you not to eat from any of the trees in the garden?"  The woman then gives him an explanation as to what they can and cannot do in regards to eating fruit in the garden.  The serpent replies, "You certainly will not die!  No, God knows well that the moment you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods who know what is good and what is evil."  The argument from the serpent was convincing.  The fruit seemed harmless and possibly identical to that of the Tree of Life or any other fruits in the garden.  Plus, what's wrong with becoming gods?  The woman then took some of its fruit and ate it and then shared it with the man.  Immediately they realized that they were naked and sewed fig leaves to make loincloths to cover up.

This story shows how sin entered the world.  It shows how temptation plays a big role before we fall into sin.  Adam and Eve were told not to eat of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, but they did at the behest of a serpent who is later identified as Satan or the fallen angel Lucifer.  We know this serpent to be Satan because man is the only being capable of reasoning and speech.  No other animals can reason or talk, so this serpent is another entity who is not human.  Since God only created two rational beings, angels and humans, we know that this serpent has to be an angel and link him to Lucifer because he was cast down from Heaven and was roaming the Earth.  

The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil and how it was placed in the garden tells us that God was testing the first human beings.  The human brain is set up in a way to pay more attention to things in the center of attention, so to speak.  This is called the 'attenuator' in cognitive psychology. The term comes from Attenuation Theory proposed by Anne Marie Treisman, a psychologist and academic at Princeton who posits that our brains focus on things that stand out.  When we see a monument or some structure in the middle of everything else we automatically focus attention on it and assume that it is an important thing and become curious about it. Human beings are curious creatures. In fact, they are often more curious that cats who are usually the ones who get blamed for their own deaths due to their curiosities.  With the onset of social media, especially MySpace, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and TikTok, we can see now more than ever how curious human beings are. They are so curious that they actually post their antics on these outlets even if they are embarrassing or dangerous.  A study I read showed that if one or two people stand in any place and stare up or just simply stand, after a while, one will see a crowd forming. Human beings in the study were found to be very curious to the point of gathering to observe whatever the situation is. Adam and Eve as the first humans were the same. They took were curious just like their descendants today. Humans look to things that trigger curiosity.

The same can be said of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. This object got the attention of humanity's parents.  The story also shows how human beings will always do the opposite of what they are told.  Usually when we are told NOT to do something, this builds up curiosity to to point that we actually do what we were told not to do. We can observe this in children who often "test" their limits by disobeying parents.  As adults, this behavior pretty much goes unchanged.  In a sense, God was doing the first psychology experiment. As an atheist, I noticed this and began to believe that Scripture is truly inspired by God. Despite being a collection of ancient texts written by common people who did not have doctorate degrees or knowledge in science or psychology, the writers got way to many facts right regarding human behavior and psychology.  Someone way more intelligent and knowledgeable must have been guiding the process.  In life it is usually the things that bring us harm that appear to be good just like the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.  Psychology centuries later figured out what Scripture already told us. 

The Responsorial Psalm is said as a response to the first reading so today's Psalm obviously is from Ps 51 using the refrain, "Be merciful, o Lord, for we have sinned."  The Psalm recited today is a song about mercy and contrition.  We ask God for mercy, ask Him to cleanse our souls and wash us of our guilt.  We admit our failings and recall how God sees our sinful actions.  We ask for the joy of salvation despite our failings so that we can continue to praise God with a clean heart.  This Psalm is meant to ask God for mercy after reading the first reading about the fall of our first parents. Though the sin of Adam and Eve is not our fault, we inherit its effects.  The damage caused by Original Sin opens us up to Actual Sin which is done directly by us and can be Mortal or Venial. 

Original sin is then brought up in the second reading from Romans 5:12-19.  St. Paul opens up the letter to the Romans by saying, "Brothers and Sisters: Through one man sin entered the world, and through sin, death, and thus death came to all men, inasmuch as all sinned."  The rest of the letter goes on to explain how Original Sin brought about the destruction of man.  Evil, death, sickness and other anomalies in nature exist because of the disorder that Original Sin brought to the world. However, only one man who is also God has undone this and His name is Christ Jesus.  Jesus is the "New Adam" who came to restore creation to what it is supposed to be.  Jesus came to do "damage control," so to speak.  St. Paul closes the letter by telling us that just like Original Sin, death etc entered the world through one man, so too does grace, holiness and righteousness entered the world through Christ Jesus who is both man and God.

These readings then lead up to the Gospel which is from Matthew 4:1-11 and tells of the story of
Christ's temptation.  After Jesus was baptized by St. John the Baptist, He went into the desert for 40 days. The number 40 in the Bible is a symbol meaning preparation, penance or cleansing, and/or a time of trial/test.  We read that Jesus is in the desert with no food or drink due to fasting. The tempter, or Satan appears to Him and tells Him, "If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become loaves of bread."  

He does this in order to tempt Christ because after fasting 40 days, naturally anyone will be starving and even a slice of bread sounds like an eight course meal. Jesus does not fall for this trick and replies, "It is written:  One does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes forth from the mouth of God." In other words, Jesus is saying that while we need food, it is ultimately God who has the final say as to whether or not we live or die. Eating food does not guarantee our lives or existence and can even kill us.  It is God who is in control of our existence.  

The Gospel account continues with Satan taking Christ to the holy city and placed Him on the parapet of the temple so He could see all from that height.  Satan says to Him, "If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down.  For it is written:  He will command his angels concerning you and with their hands they will support you, lest you dash your foot against a stone."  Here Satan is twisting Scripture to his advantage.  He is quoting from Psalm 91:11-12 showing that Satan does know the Scriptures well and interprets them in a way that will favor his views; hence, he is the "cunning serpent" mentioned in the first reading.  Satan mentions this Psalm in order to test Christ and in a sense, mock God.  He is pretty much telling Christ to commit suicide by jumping off a high place since according to Psalm 91, God will send angels to catch Him.  Jesus replies, "Again it is written, You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test."  Here Christ is correcting the literal interpretation of Satan.  God sends angels and intervenes in space at time as His own discretion, not ours. Sometimes we, especially non-believers doubt God's existence when we hear of children dying, or some tragedy occurring which could have been prevented if God sent angels or even intervened directly.  However, this is not how it works.  We are not the gods of God.  We have no right to demand anything from God or have a sense of entitlement.  

Lastly, Satan takes Christ to a high mountain and shows Him all the kingdoms of the world and tells Him, "All these I shall give to you, if you will prostrate yourself and worship me."  Here Satan is acting like He is some " Don Corleone godfather" of the world and offers Christ power in the form of governments or kingdoms.  This ties in to Genesis where the serpent tricks Adam and Eve with his sophistry and eventually "takes" the world.  By showing Christ the kingdoms of the world, he is trying to tempt Christ with power.  This imagery was adopted in the movie with Keanu Reeves and Al Pacino called, "Devil's Advocate" where Pacino takes Reeves to the roof of a tall building and shows him the "world."  Human beings love power.  They love attention.  Who would refuse the kingdoms of the world?  The answer is Jesus.  He replies to Satan's offer which Satan thought could not be refused with: "Get away, Satan!  It is written:  The Lord, your God, shall you worship and Him alone shall you serve."  The Devil then left Him be and the angels appeared to assist Jesus.  

Let's recap things:
  • First, we read of the fall.  Adam and Eve listen to a serpent and eat of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.  
  • Second, the Psalm replies asking God for mercy.  
  • Third, St. Paul writes that Original Sin entered the world through one man and one man has undone this named Jesus Christ.  
  • Fourth, the Gospel presents Jesus who is God and man being tempted by the "serpent" who annoys Him and offers Him political power.  
Putting all the readings together, we see the links.  Adam and Eve messed things up for listening to a serpent.  St. Paul reminds us of this and tells us that Christ is the one who came to fix this mess. In the Gospel, we see how the same serpent appears to the "new Adam" and tries to tempt Him but fails.  Despite having excellent knowledge of Scripture and the ability to reason, Satan fails.  Christ is NOT Adam and Eve.  He is not stupid nor naive.  Christ is the Son of God, the second person of the Blessed Trinity.  Ironically, Satan despite having this great ability to reason as well as knowledge of the Bible and universe, he did not know Jesus was God.  This is why he was stalking Christ trying to figure out who this guy was.  Satan had no idea who Jesus was and was testing Him to see who He was and if He would fall for the same tricks used to make Adam and Eve fall.  So in effect, we are seeing Genesis 2.0 taking hold, but with a different outcome. With Adam and Eve, they had everything in the garden of Eden, so they should have not been tempted so easily by the serpent. Despite having everything, they fell for the temptation.  With Jesus, things were a bit different. He was in a desolate place, a desert. He had literally nothing, not even food or drink. This means that as a human male, He would have been more inclined to fall into the temptation of satan, but Jesus did not. Unlike Adam and Eve, Jesus did not have a garden with everything. This makes the story of Jesus' temptation very important for us Catholics. We must imitate Christ in fighting the temptation of satan even when we are in a point of hopelessness or when we lack the basics. 

These readings set the stage for Lent. Lent is a period of reflection and renewal. We join Jesus in the desert in prayer and fasting. Satan will eventually show up and stalk each one of us on this 40 day journey. He will tempt us with thoughts that will try to distract us just like he tried to distract Jesus. Satan will present to us all kinds of promises which are lies. Like Christ, we must bear with this annoying character. He is a bug buzzing around trying to annoy us to the point of reacting. We must respond like Christ did with direct rebuttals.  Satan is merely a fallen angel.  Hollywood likes to present him as this power anti-god type entity who has equal power to God, but is on the side of evil.  This is not so.  Satan is a creature just like us. Man has the capacity and intelligence to outsmart this being with God's grace.  One of the best weapons against Satan is ignoring him. Satan has an inflated ego and thinks of himself as this superior being.  He has the power to do minor parlor tricks in nature, but nothing we can't do on our own with our hands or technology. Ignoring him makes him powerless because we are not giving him the credibility he wants us to have in regards to him being this powerful entity.  

During this Lent we should pray more and focus on the meaning of fasting and abstaining from meat. We rely totally on God for our existence.  Christ reminded Satan of this.  The Scriptures remind us that despite man's failings, Christ is there to help him on his feet.  Christ has showed that He is smarter and more powerful that the annoying cunning serpent.    



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