Sunday, August 30, 2020

22 Sunday in Ordinary Time: Suckered by God

Have you ever wonder why things go bad for believers in God? We follow God, do the best we can, yet all goes bad most of the time. It sometimes gets so bad that some of us stop believing altogether and may become atheists. We see how the world mocks us. Laws are passed to make it nearly impossible to practice our faith at home, school, work, when doing business or even outside. Why is this?  We pray and protest, yet abortion, so-called same-sex marriage and other evils are passed into law easily. Why? Where is God?  Is God dead?  Has he "duped" us?  Today's readings address this.

The first reading shows a lot of complaining and accusations against God.  "You duped me, O Lord, and I let myself be duped!"  Duped means to be fooled, tricked or deceived. In today's modern jargon, some may use the word "suckered."  The writer is telling us that he was suckered by God. God was too strong. He became the object of laughter, everyone mocks him. Today, we see how everyone mocks us and our faith. They call us sheep, blind, ignorant; claim we are on the "wrong side of history," etc etc. I am sure you reading this have experience some form of mockery for your faith.

Moreover, the writer tells us that he cries out and needs violence and outrage to vent his message. He tells us that God's world brought derision and reproach all day. Because of this, he says he will not mention God or speak His name. However, when he attempts this, the desire becomes stronger. It is like a firing in his heart burning held by his skeleton. The writer is telling us that when He speaks of God, the world turns against him. God's word and even the name of God brings misery to him and reproach from others. This is because the world is corrupted by sin and the devil. The choice of Adam and Eve to do things their way after being duped by the serpent is alive in us all. This is concupiscence. We desire to do bad things. It seems fun to be evil and a lawbreaker. This is the consequence of original sin. While this sin is removed at baptism, the affects remain in us. Because of this, anything related to God is frowned up.

Nevertheless, those of us who still have faith will still fight on even if it hurts us. Speaking of God is not easy. I myself get mocked and harassed. On social media there is an active campaign against me by alleged atheists and others. One alleged Catholic named Linwood Wayne Camp has even created several Twitter accounts to harass me and made threats to "dox" me or post private information in order to defame me. He has even threatened to accuse me of fraud to the FBI. It happens and will happen.  Perhaps not as severely as I have experienced, but it will happen.  Most of the time you will feel powerless and hopeless like the writer of the first reading. You will feel duped by God or that God abandoned you. This may or may not lead to doubt that will lead to atheism. Nevertheless, you will still feel that burning in you despite the other emotions that will come about. Humans are emotional creatures. They will get sad, humiliated, angry etc. It is in their nature. So feeling like God duped you or abandoned you is a natural human response. Faith and hope are the supernatural elements that compensate for the human reaction. They remind us that the mockery etc is temporary and inutil. In the end, Jesus wins and if we stick with Him, we too will win.  We must continue to thirst for God as the responsorial Psalm tells us.

Our souls thirt for you, O Lord my God. This should be the first thing we say when we wake up in the morning and when we go to bed. This week we celebrated the feast of St. Augustine of Hippo. A famous passage from St. Augustine’s Confessions (Lib 1,1-2,2.5,5: CSEL 33, 1-5) rings true to today's responsorial Psalm. Saint Augustine states “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.”  This passage is very true for everyone, even atheists. We all desire God. We all desire meaning and purpose. Why are we here? What is beyond us?  Are we alone in the Universe?  Is there life after death? What is the point of existence? All these questions have been asked since man could think and reason. Their answers have been sought via religion, philosophy, art, even math, history, archeology and science!  This inquiry is based on St. Augustine's words. We are restless because we are searching for our origin. Our origin is in God. That being stated, we will not find rest until we rest in our origin: God.  God is who we seek. We are like the earth, without water, lifeless. This is why we gaze at our Lord in the Tabernacle in His sanctuary to see His power and glory. W await for His kindness because it is greater than any good in this life. We glorify God because of this. He is the Most High!  We must bless Him as we live life and lift our hands up to praise His name. Some so-called traditionalists may have a problem with raising hands at Mass, but the Church does not prohibit it or endorse it. No pope or bishop has made any order against it. God's word encourages it.  God is our help and our slavation. Our souls must cling onto Him, especially during hard times.  We must be given completely to God as the second reading tells us.

The second reading tells us that we must offer our bodies as a living sacrifice. This means we must be both the altar and sacrifice on it. Our lives are the vessels and the sacrifice. This means that as we live, we must offer our pains and sufferings within ourselves as the altar to God united on the Cross with Jesus. This is why during this alleged pandemic, our bishops have allowed to pray at home and participate in virtual Masses.  Our lives are altars too. We are walking parishes, so to speak. The mystical body of Christ does not end at the four walls of a church building. Remember, the Catholic Church did not have building for almost 4 centuries until Constantine converted, legalized the Church, made it the official religion of the Roman empire and gave the Church the old temples used by Roman Pagans. Before this, Catholics prayed with their lives as martyrs and had Masses at homes. They heard the Old Testament Scriptures at Synagogue and then went home to have the Liturgy of the Eucharist. The New Testament was not even finished yet during this time. The first Catholics had Mass in private homes, underground and in catacombs in order to avoid the Romans. The Romans were superstitious and did not like to enter the place of the death.  This was a perfect place to have Mass safely. Moreover, our lives must be pleasing and holy. We cannot just offer anything to God. It has to be pleasing and holy. So if you are persecuted because of your faith, this offering is pleasing and holy to God. It is even more pleasing and holy to God than praying from a book out of habit. This is not to say that it is wrong, but that turning prayer into a robotic or mechanical ritual serves no one. It becomes rambling that eventually causes spiritual destruction. This is why the spiritual life is important. We must always be ready to transform our minds and renew them so that we can discern God's will. This means not becoming a prison of the past. Some are still upset over Vatican II. We cannot be like this. Tradition is a living organism. While the teachings and liturgy do not change and cannot change, the way they are expressed do. We see this in history. It does not mean the Church is modernist or became some offshoot sect. That is silly to even contemplate.  We must be ready for everything.

In the Gospel, Jesus rebukes Peter for saying he would prevent Jesus from suffering and being killed.  Jesus does this because Peter is thinking via the mundane. He fails to realize Jesus' purpose or why Jesus came to earth in the first place.  Jesus did not come so everyone can have Christmas and sing carols. He came to suffer, die and resurrect. By doing this, He would redeem the world and open the doors to salvation to whoever wants it and will work for it in faith, hope and love. This is why Jesus tells Peter, "Satan, get behind me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do."  Again, Peter was thinking via the mundane. Then Jesus says that whoever wants to come after Him must deny himself, take up the cross and follow.  He continues that whoever wants to save his or her life must lose it for His sake. Jesus ends by stating that He will come again with His angels and will repay everyone for his or her conduct.  These words seem contradictory, but they are not. How can we deny ourselves? We are taught to love ourselves and have pride in our identity. Today's world pushes this even more with gender theory and LGBTQ rhetoric. We "create our own truth," they claim. Jesus says the opposite. We must deny ourselves. This means, not that we erase that we exist but that we must acknowledge that we are not the be all end all. Life does not exist or is based on us. We must be humble and accept that God is the one we must follow. He is the one who decides when we are conceived, born and when we will die. We are free to act within these intervals, but are not free beyond that.

We deny ourselves by putting God and others first. We deny ourselves by fasting or giving up something during Lent or any time based on your personal spiritual life, and of course dietary needs. This is important to state. Some people have health problems which prevent them from fasting or abstaining. No one should put their health at risk for this. God does not want us to commit suicide or hurt ourselves. For example, if you are a diabetic and need insulin or metformin, you should never stop taking them as a sacrifice. Find another thing to give up that will not cause you harm.  Moreover, what does Jesus mean by losing one's life in order to save it?  He means that we lose our lives due to preaching His name, then we save it. In other words, martyrdom. If we are killed because we refused to deny the faith or preached it, then we saved our lives because we made the ultimate sacrifice. We did not kill ourselves for Christ, someone else did. So we became the living sacrifice in this manner.

However, martyrdom is not the only way. Losing our lives can also be metaphorically in the sense of leaving our sinful lives behind and becoming a new person, or even via the mockery we receive due to persecution which would be categorized as character assassination. If our character is assassinated due to our faith in Christ, then we too saved our lives in this way. Jesus sees this. He sees how we dealt with the abuse and will reward us because if we stood strong, we showed our love is strong. So in closing, we must remember that just because we decided to follow Jesus does not mean all will be paradise on earth. You will not become a millionaire overnight nor will you start receiving checks in the mail like those phony fortune preachers claim on television or commercials. We will not find the perfect man or woman in our lives nor become bishops overnight if we are called to Holy Orders. We will not live a life without sickness or other problems, nor will we be able to walk among venomous snakes, spiders or in traffic without getting seriously harmed or killed.  We will not be able to be outside without a mask and walk among people with covid-19 coronavirus and not get infect.  It does not work that way.  Quite the contrary. We will be target by this world and all its nonsense. We must not lose faith over this. I had people tell me that God does not exist because terrorists are able to shoot people during Mass or blow churches up; or that churches closed because of a virus. This is not true.

We are all susceptible to the things of this world. Sin brought disorder, nature has its laws it operates on which God wrote. God is immutable. He does not change. Therefore, the script must go on, so to speak. We will get sick with covid 19 or anything else even if we believe in God. We will get killed even if we hold out a crucifix against someone holding a gun if God wills it for a greater purpose. This is because we must fit the script and play the part until Jesus returns.  Even Jesus who is God faced the same things humans do except sin. He felt pain. He got hurt. He bled. He died.  If God Himself went through all this, what makes you think you and I will not? Jesus was not like Superman with impenetrable skin or super strength. He was a typical human Jewish male who happened to be the second person of the Blessed Trinity simultaneously. As stated, God designed the universe to behave in a certain way and will not tweak it here and there like if it was the Matrix from the movie with the same title.  Everything in this universe will behave the way it is set to behave. Churches will crumble if a bomb is placed in them. Bullets will pierce our skin, even that of a priest with an holy object in his hands. Of course God can prevent it if He wills it for some purpose. This does not mean it will happen all the time and we must not lose faith if it does not. It does not mean God does not care or does not exist. It means God's "program" is working like it should, or the laws of nature.

We must be strong and have faith. Offer our lives as sacrifices and accept that the world will hate us.  God is with us and so is Our Lady.  We must not quit when these problems come to us. They are of Satan. We must say like Jesus "Get behind me Satan!."  Do not quit. Tell Satan to get lost.



Readings:

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/083020.cfm


Dear supporters.  Covid-19 Coronavirus has hit all of us hard. It has hit the Sacerdotus ministry hard as well. My stipends were cut and donations have slowed down. We are concerned about paying for the domain names we use to host the sites, as well as, not being able to ship Rosaries and other things to people who contact us asking for one. One or two envelopes is not too bad; however, when you have 10 or more asking for Rosaries, the shipping and mailing adds up and is expensive.  Please help us by donating to our gofundme here: www.gofundme.com/sacerdotus or by becoming a monthly patron at www.patreon.com/sacerdotus.  There are different tiers of membership with unique rewards for being a patron. Moreover, those who become a donating monthly member will be allowed to post on our Faceobok books without limitations, other than the obvious rules for the groups.  So please, donate and consider becoming a monthly donor.  God will reward your efforts.  We are also looking for guest writers for the site and those who can volunteer their graphic and design skills to help create memes and other graphics to post on social media for the purpose of evangelization.   

Sunday, August 23, 2020

21st Sunday in Ordinary Time: On this Rock I will Build My Church

Today's readings remind us that Jesus has authority and that He used that authority to found the Church on Peter.

The first reading is a key reading that is used in apologetics to defend the papacy. We read how Eliakim will be clothed with a robe and sash. These represent the priesthood and authority. Eliakim will be given the "key of the House of David." In other words, he will be give complete control and ownership of the kingdom of David. What he opens, no one will shut and vice-versa. Does this sound familiar? If you were thinking of Matthew 16 verses 18 and onward, then you are correct. Here we see a foreshadowing of the papacy. The idea of the key or using robes and sashes is not new. God has always intended to have some mystical body on earth that took on a visible form. In the Old testament, it was Israel. In the New Testament, it is the Catholic Church. The major difference is that Israel was a preparation for the new covenant formed in Jesus' blood. Israel is to be incorporated into this new mystical body, the Church. This is why we read in Revelation that 144,000 and a multitude of many nations and races will be saved. 

The 144,000 are the Jews or the 12 tribes of Israel and the multitude that no one can count is from the Catholic Church. Remember, Catholic means universal. This Church has members from every race and gender. It is also the largest religion on earth. This has always been God's plan. This is why in the Responsorial Psalm we read, "Lord, your love is eternal; do not forsake the work of your hands." We all know God did no such thing and will not do such a thing. This is why we give thanks to God with all our heart. God hears the words of our mouths, or our prayers. We worship Him in His holy temple, the Church with the Blessed Sacrament; His true presence. God is always there for us, blessing us, giving us strength. God is God, and despite this, He seeks the lowly and ignore those who are proud. Why God does these things boggles the mind, but not the mind of those who understand true love. 

The second reading tells us that God's judgments and ways are inscrutable and unsearchable. Who has known God's mind? Who has been God's counselor? Who has given something to God that He had to repay?  These are valid questions. God is a mystery. Atheists often mock theology's lack of scientific inquiry and dismiss it as nonsense. In a sense, they are correct. What I mean by this is that theology serves more for us to ask questions and formalize the little we know of God than to actually study God.  No one can truly know God or understand God totally. We can only work with what He has revealed.

Finally, in the Gospel we read of how Jesus asks the disciples, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?"  They replied that people were saying that He was John the Baptism, Elijah, Jeremiah or another prophet of old. However, He asks them directly who do they think He is. Peter solely replies stating that He is the Christ, the Son of the living God.  After this, Jesus changes His name from Simon to Peter, which means Rock. The Rock - No not the WWE Wrestler and Jumanji actor! This is significant because in Scripture the rock image is always used to represent the Lord (Psalm 18:31). The changing of one's name shows a promotion of status.  For example Abram becomes Abraham (Genesis 17:5). Jesus did this to show that Peter was to be His representative or vicar on Earth. This is why the Pope is the "Vicar of Christ." 

He does not replace Jesus as if Jesus resigned or was a failure, rather, he stands in for Jesus as the visible head of the Church and chief shepherd.  In Matt. 17:24-25 tax collectors approach Peter asking him if Jesus pays taxes.  Peter here is demonstrated as the representative of Christ, or the Vicar of Christ. 

Some claim that the Greek word "petra" means pebble and not rock; however, the New Testament was written in Koine Greek and the word "petra" and "petros" means simply 'rock.'  All scholars agree with this.  Had Jesus wanted to call Simon "small rock or pebble," the appropriate word would have been "lithos."  To further give more evidence to what Jesus actually meant, we must remember that Jesus did not speak Greek.  He spoke Aramaic.  The word Jesus actually used in his native tongue was, "Kepha" which means 'rock.'   Peter is the rock upon which Christ built His Holy Catholic Church.  To my knowledge, there exists no Bible - with the exception of the Watchtower that alters texts - that states, "You are Peter and on this small stone/pebble I will build my Church."  This is a clear indication that the use of the word "rock" was intentional. 

Keys are an important tool in human society. They can lock and unlock things. Keys are also a sign of possession or ownership.  If I have the keys to a house, car, motorcycle or bank vault; I control them - I own them.  As long as I hold the keys and no one else does, I have absolute authority. Jesus gives Peter the keys of the kingdom of Heaven, what does this mean?  Is Jesus going on vacation and is giving the keys to his place to a mortal?  No, not at all. 

Jesus as a descendant of King David is imitating the gesture of King Hezekiah in Isaiah 22:20-22.  Hezekiah gives the keys to the kingdom of the House of David to his servant Eliakim.  In the Jewish biblical tradition, this gesture grants royal dynastic authority and shows succession as the leader or prime minister of the House of David.  By giving Peter the keys to His kingdom, Christ is giving Peter the authority to represent Him and the authority to change things or leave them as is.  The key is also referred to in Revelations 3:7.  This is further evidence that Jesus was in fact doing the same as Hezekiah. 

While Peter was indeed an Apostles just like the other 11, he still had a unique role.  In the New Testament, Peter is mentioned by himself 155 times as opposed to the other Apostles who are mentioned together 130 times.  Peter is mentioned first in the New Testament (Matt. 10:2; Mark 1:36; 3:16; Luke 6:14-16; Acts 2:37; 5:29).  Coincidence?  Not at all.  It is human custom to name the most important person in a group first.  This custom is still used today in the 21st century.  We will always announce a President, Queen or King, Principal, or University President first before others. 

Peter was the only Apostle invited by Jesus to "walk on water," literally (Matt. 14:28-29)  This shows that Jesus had a particular plan for Him in mind and was preparing him by giving him a lesson on what it means to be faithful even when one is surrounded by turbulent waters and wind. 

As the leader of the Church, Peter and his successors must be strong in faith even if it means contradicting the world.  The world would say not to walk on water because you will sink and drown; however, if God says to do it, even if it makes no sense, we have to do it! 

In John 21:15-17, Jesus specifically commands Peter to feed his sheep and lambs.  He asks Peter if he loves Him three times and then commands three times to feed his sheep and lambs.  This was a foreshadowing of the three times Peter would deny Him (John 18:15-18)  This also shows that no matter how weak Peter was, this did not take away from his authority or validity as Pope.  Despite being called "Holy Father," the Pope is still a sinner and subject to personal failings.  Nevertheless, his office remains firm and valid despite the failings of the man holding it. 

Peter was also a direct target of Satan.  In Luke 22:31-32 Jesus tells Peter that Satan wanted to sift him up like wheat.  This shows that Satan was aware of the importance of Peter and wanted to strike at him directly.  The evidence from Scripture alone is overwhelming in regards to the primacy of St. Peter. 


The Early Christians had this to say:

"The blessed Peter, the chosen, the preeminent, the first among the disciples, for whom alone with himself the Savior paid the tribute, quickly gasped and understood their meaning. And what does he say? ‘Behold, we have left all and have followed you’. - Clement of Alexandria 

"For though you think that heaven is still shut up, remember that the Lord left the keys of it to Peter here, and through him to the Church, which keys everyone will carry with him if he has been questioned and made a confession of faith" - Tertullian

"Be it known to you, my lord, that Simon [Peter], who, for the sake of the true faith, and the most sure foundation of his doctrine, was set apart to be the foundation of the Church, and for this end was by Jesus himself, with his truthful mouth, named Peter, the first fruits of our Lord, the first of the apostles; to whom first the Father revealed the Son; whom the Christ, with good reason, blessed; the called, and elect" - The Letter of Clement to James

"Be it known to you, my lord, that Simon Peter, who, for the sake of the true faith, and the most sure foundation of his doctrine, was set apart to be the foundation of the Church, and for this end was by Jesus himself, with his truthful mouth, named Peter" - The Letter of Clement to James

It is obvious that Peter had a significant role as Pope in the first century up to his death whereupon St. Linus took over the Papacy.  No academic or historian denies this historical truth. The Eastern Orthodox Church has issue with the Papacy mainly because of authority. This is sad indeed because we are not in the Church to obtain status or power.  Yes the Pope is a bishop just like the bishop of New York, Boston, Puerto Rico, Madrid or Los Angeles; however, he has a unique role as the successor of Peter.  The Pope is the leader of the Church and keeps the Church united. It is like the US President. Yes, he is a human American citizen; however, he was elected to hold a specific office. So while he may be an American like every other American, he has a special duty assigned to him by via his or her election and the US Constitution. With the papacy, the election lasts until a pope dies or retires. 

There is no valid reason based on Scripture, Tradition and History for anyone to not accept the authority of the Papacy as it is defined or the primacy of St. Peter.  This is the way Jesus wanted it. The Scripture prove it. History and Sacred Tradition proves it as well. No one can judge a pope. This is why those Catholics who attack the pope while calling themselves "traditionalists" are not traditionalists at all. Those who go further and deny a pope is a pope are simply creating their own religion and not practicing Catholicism.  We may not alway agree with what a pope says or does when speaking outside of ex cathedra or magisterium, or what analogies he may use to make a point, but we have to be obedient to him and submit to his authority; not because we are blind sheep, but because Jesus controls and runs the papacy, not the visible man dressed in a white cassock. The Catholic Church is Jesus' bride. He will not let her fall apart. 


Let us pray for the Pope always:

O God, the Shepherd and Ruler of all Your faithful people, mercifully look upon Your servant Pope Francis, whom You have chosen as the chief Shepherd to preside over Your Church. We beg You to help him edify, both by word and example, those over whom he has charge, that he may reach everlasting life together with the flock entrusted to him. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.


Readings: https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/082320.cfm


Dear supporters.  Covid-19 Coronavirus has hit all of us hard. It has hit the Sacerdotus ministry hard as well. My stipends were cut and donations have slowed down. We are concerned about paying for the domain names we use to host the sites, as well as, not being able to ship Rosaries and other things to people who contact us asking for one. One or two envelopes is not too bad; however, when you have 10 or more asking for Rosaries, the shipping and mailing adds up and is expensive.  Please help us by donating to our gofundme here: www.gofundme.com/sacerdotus or by becoming a monthly patron at www.patreon.com/sacerdotus.  There are different tiers of membership with unique rewards for being a patron. Moreover, those who become a donating monthly member will be allowed to post on our Faceobok books without limitations, other than the obvious rules for the groups.  So please, donate and consider becoming a monthly donor.  God will reward your efforts.  We are also looking for guest writers for the site and those who can volunteer their graphic and design skills to help create memes and other graphics to post on social media for the purpose of evangelization.   

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