Sunday, July 25, 2010

Know the Truth

We enjoyed mass this morning with about 1000 travelers in a beautiful church in Orlando. We always find it awesome to see the number of travelers that make church a priority while they are on vacation and follow God’s commandment of keeping Holy the Sabbath. We also enjoy seeing the beauty of one of God’s houses and the feeling of community even when we are so far from home.

I also know why I don’t write a week ahead like I tried to do this week. God’s message that He wants spread always seems to change with the message I hear at church.

We can believe many things. But we should know that what we believe is the Truth and not just what someone would like us to believe.

The Catholic Church has long felt the pressure of its belief’s: that only men can be priests, that homosexuality is wrong, that birth control and abortion are wrong, and that divorce is wrong. The “political incorrectness” and unpopularity of these Truths has made the Catholic Church a target for discredit and suffering because of Her beliefs.

So what does this have to do with today’s message? Because a newspaper here in Orlando reported untruths about the Catholic Church beliefs in an attempt to make what another church was doing seem more right. Many of the lies told to discredit Catholics are outright or half truths spread by ex-Catholics or non practicing Catholics wanting a way out of the Church teachings. They are looking for a way to “defame” the Church so that they, themselves, will seem as if the “politically correct” is the truth, or simply so that they can feel better about going against the teachings of the Church.

What is Truth? And what is told so that we will begin to believe it is true? As Father said this morning, even many Catholics do not know what the Catholic Church teaches and many have come to believe what is “reported.”

Unlike what the Orlando paper said-- the Catholic Church does NOT believe that we can Work our way to Heaven. This is a common misconception and something that is taught to other believers. It was misinterpreted in the Reformation because Luther wanted to be able to give assurance that everyone can get to heaven by “faith alone”.

Heaven is a gift from God. We are given this gift thru the GRACE of God because we have faith. And because we have faith (which also is a gift from God) we will show God’s grace in works of charity to our neighbors.

“When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?' And the king will say to them in reply, 'Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.' Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.' Then they will answer and say, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?' He will answer them, 'Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.' And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life." Matt 25: 34-40

The works given to us by Matthew are known in the Catholic Church as the “Corporal Works of Mercy”: feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, giving shelter to the homeless, visiting the sick and imprisoned, and comforting the sorrowing (to bury the dead). They are what we are called to do for the “least of our brothers.”

James 2:17-22 says, “So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead. Indeed someone might say, "You have faith and I have works." Demonstrate your faith to me without works, and I will demonstrate my faith to you from my works. You believe that God is one. You do well. Even the demons believe that and tremble. Do you want proof, you ignoramus, that faith without works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered his son Isaac upon the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by the works.” So faith and works are “interconnected;” both are necessary for receiving God’s gift of grace so that we can reach heaven.

Nowhere in the original Bible does it say that we will receive Heaven thru Faith ALONE. Just because we say we believe one day, does not mean that God is going to gift us with the Grace to enter heaven. Faith and works, living as God asks us to do is an ongoing process, not a one time commitment.

The “one time, ‘I believe’” statement is a “cop out” so that we can believe that no matter how we act and what we do and what we don’t do, we will feel better about ourselves and think that we can be assured of our place in heaven. This is what began the reformation—a desire to have assurance.

What the bible does say is this: “So then, my beloved, obedient as you have always been, not only when I am present but all the more now when I am absent, work out your salvation with fear and trembling. For God is the one who, for his good purpose, works in you both to desire and to work. Do everything without grumbling or questioning.” Phil 2:12-14 St. Paul’s warning to the Philippians warns us “to work out your salvation in fear and trembling” for a reason.

No one other than God knows who will go to heaven. Our faith is our hope. Jesus’ death on the cross is God’s promise. Regardless, if we are Catholic, or of any other Christian denomination, the Hope of Heaven is given to us as a gift by God. When we make a LIFELONG faith commitment to honor God’s commandments, then it will follow that we will strive do the work He has charged us to do.

We must KNOW the TRUTH: that through the GIFT OF FAITH we may receive saving GRACE and THROUGH that faith and grace we will DO the good works Jesus calls us to do. We must never take our eye off of Jesus and become careless with our salvation just because we know the day, time and the place we received Jesus into our hearts, instead we must carry our cross daily, offering our sufferings to share in Christ’s suffering on the cross, and doing the works we are called to do, so that we become the humble servants he calls us to be.

Dear God: Humbly I pray for your gift of Grace. Thank you for the faith you have given me and the ability to see your blessings each day. Help me to honor you in everything I do, to follow your commandments with the open eyes of truth, and to share in the works of mercy as you have asked. Amen.

Seek to Know the truth!

Blessings, Charlotte & Stan

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