Scott Hahn on the Queenship of Mary

» 22 August 2014 » In Uncategorized » No Comments

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On this feast of Mary’s Queenship, here’s a brief video by Dr Scott Hahn explaining the link between the Assumption of Mary and her special role as Queen Mother of Christ’s Kingdom. Be sure to check out the wonderful work of Professor Hahn and all of his associates at The Saint Paul Center for Biblical Theology.

 

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Craig Evans Responds to Bart Ehrman: How God Became Jesus

» 21 August 2014 » In Uncategorized » No Comments

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Don’t miss Dr Craig Evans live at The Faith Explained Conference on September 27. Cardinal Thomas Collins will also speak, so grab your tickets here while you still can! Check out Dr Evans’ response to Bart Ehrman in this YouTube clip.

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How to help Iraqi Christians

» 18 August 2014 » In Uncategorized » No Comments

Following talks that I’ve given lately, I’ve fielded a lot of questions about the persecution of Iraqi Christians. All of us have been horrified by what we’ve heard; very often we’re at a loss about what to do. Josh Canning over at Canadian Catholic has penned a nice post offering three practical action steps:

1. Write your MP (Member of Parliament in Canada; American readers can contact their elected representatives at State and Federal levels):

  • Sometimes we plan to do this and procrastinate. Please do it now. It does influence policy, and I am posting a letter below that you can cut and paste if you like.

2. Give

  • CNEWA launched an emergency appeal to help fleeing families in Iraq. How much should you give? $100 is a good bold number to start with. Maybe you can’t give that much, maybe you can give more. Just make it sting a little. It helps! (Canadians give here or here; Americans can give here.

3. Pray

  • Let us, as a people of God, beg him daily for solutions to this crisis. Pray personally. Get together and pray in groups. Have Masses said for this intention. And fast from something.

When part of the body hurts the whole body feels it. Let’s ache with and for our suffering family, and be generous.

Sample Letter to an MP

Hon. MP _______,

As a member of your riding, I am writing to ask you to advocate for a greater government response to the tragic events happening right now in Iraq. There is a genocide taking place against Iraq’s Christian community. Along with the archbishop of Toronto, Thomas Cardinal Collins, I ask that all bureaucratic barriers be removed to accept Iraqi refugees who are being displaced, hunted down and murdered by the Islamic State (formerly ISIS).

The number of victims is vast and rapidly growing. Women, children and the elderly are dying of exposure. Please do what you can to ensure our government will do its part to urgently provide the humanitarian support needed.

Thank you,

(Your name)

PLEASE SHARE THIS POST

Josh’s full post is well worth reading – and sharing.

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Pope Francis’ latest homily from Korea

» 17 August 2014 » In Uncategorized » No Comments

The Holy Father highlights the need for reconciliation, which is of particular concern for the future of the Korean peninsula.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

As my stay in Korea draws to a close, I thank God for the many blessings he has bestowed upon this beloved country, and in a special way, upon the Church in Korea.  Among those blessings I especially treasure the experience we have all had in these recent days of the presence of so many young pilgrims from throughout Asia.  Their love of Jesus and their enthusiasm for the spread of his Kingdom have been an inspiration to us all.

My visit now culminates in this celebration of Mass, in which we implore from God the grace of peace and reconciliation.  This prayer has a particular resonance on the Korean peninsula.  Today’’s Mass is first and foremost a prayer for reconciliation in this Korean family.  In the Gospel, Jesus tells us how powerful is our prayer when two or three of us join in asking for something (cf. Mt 18:19-20).  How much more when an entire people raises its heartfelt plea to heaven!

The first reading presents God’’s promise to restore to unity and prosperity a people dispersed by disaster and division.  For us, as for the people of Israel, this is a promise full of hope: it points to a future which God is even now preparing for us.  Yet this promise is inseparably tied to a command: the command to return to God and wholeheartedly obey his law (cf. Dt 30:2-3).  God’’s gifts of reconciliation, unity and peace are inseparably linked to the grace of conversion, a change of heart which can alter the course of our lives and our history, as individuals and as a people.

At this Mass, we naturally hear this promise in the context of the historical experience of the Korean people, an experience of division and conflict which has lasted for well over sixty years.  But God’’s urgent summons to conversion also challenges Christ’’s followers in Korea to examine the quality of their own contribution to the building of a truly just and humane society.  It challenges each of you to reflect on the extent to which you, as individuals and communities, show evangelical concern for the less fortunate, the marginalized, those without work and those who do not share in the prosperity of the many.  And it challenges you, as Christians and Koreans, firmly to reject a mindset shaped by suspicion, confrontation and competition, and instead to shape a culture formed by the teaching of the Gospel and the noblest traditional values of the Korean people.

In today’’s Gospel, Peter asks the Lord: “If my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him?  As many as seven times?”  To which the Lord replies: “Not seven times, I tell you, but seventy times seven” (Mt 18:21-22).  These words go to the very heart of Jesus’ message of reconciliation and peace.  In obedience to his command, we ask our heavenly Father daily to forgive us our sins, “as we forgive those who sin against us”.  Unless we are prepared to do this, how can we honestly pray for peace and reconciliation?

Jesus asks us to believe that forgiveness is the door which leads to reconciliation.  In telling us to forgive our brothers unreservedly, he is asking us to do something utterly radical, but he also gives us the grace to do it.  What appears, from a human perspective, to be impossible, impractical and even at times repugnant, he makes possible and fruitful through the infinite power of his cross.  The cross of Christ reveals the power of God to bridge every division, to heal every wound, and to reestablish the original bonds of brotherly love.

This, then, is the message which I leave you as I conclude my visit to Korea.  Trust in the power of Christ’’s cross!  Welcome its reconciling grace into your own hearts and share that grace with others!  I ask you to bear convincing witness to Christ’’s message of forgiveness in your homes, in your communities and at every level of national life.  I am confident that, in a spirit of friendship and cooperation with other Christians, with the followers of other religions, and with all men and women of good will concerned for the future of Korean society, you will be a leaven of the Kingdom of God in this land.  Thus our prayers for peace and reconciliation will rise to God from ever more pure hearts and, by his gracious gift, obtain that precious good for which we all long.

Let us pray, then, for the emergence of new opportunities for dialogue, encounter and the resolution of differences, for continued generosity in providing humanitarian assistance to those in need, and for an ever greater recognition that all Koreans are brothers and sisters, members of one family, one people.

Before leaving Korea, I wish to thank the President of the Republic, the civil and ecclesiastical authorities and all those who in any way helped to make this visit possible.  I especially wish to address a word of personal appreciation to the priests of Korea, who daily labor in the service of the Gospel and the building up of God’’s people in faith, hope and love.  I ask you, as ambassadors of Christ and ministers of his reconciling love (cf. 2 Cor 5:18-20), to continue to build bridges of respect, trust and harmonious cooperation in your parishes, among yourselves, and with your bishops.  Your example of unreserved love for the Lord, your faithfulness and dedication to your ministry, and your charitable concern for those in need, contribute greatly to the work of reconciliation and peace in this country.

Dear brothers and sisters, God calls us to return to him and to hearken to his voice, and he promises to establish us on the land in even greater peace and prosperity than our ancestors knew.  May Christ’’s followers in Korea prepare for the dawning of that new day, when this land of the morning calm will rejoice in God’’s richest blessings of harmony and peace!

Amen.

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Cardinal Collins to speak at The Faith Explained Conference Sept 27

» 13 August 2014 » In Uncategorized » No Comments

Thomas Cardinal Collins will headline The Faith Explained Conference on Sept 27, along with Dr. Craig Evans. Get your tickets right here:

Cardinal Collins is a phenomenal speaker with a rare gift for opening the Scriptures. Check out this clip from the Cardinal’s phenomenal Lectio Devina series on the Gospel of Mark below. See you on Sept 27!

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Ascension Sunday Q and A

» 01 June 2014 » In Uncategorized » No Comments

DP280379Q. What are some things we can learn from this Sunday’s Feast of the Ascension of the Lord?

A. The Ascension affirms in the minds of Jesus’ followers many truths that Jesus had attempted to teach them prior to his Passion. Now, following Jesus’ glorious Resurrection and victory over death, the disciples can finally appropriate these realities.

1. Jesus is Divine. In today’s Gospel reading from Matthew 28, we read that, before Jesus Ascends into heaven, the disciples “worshipped him”. Jesus accepts worship, which is due to God alone. The implication is obvious: Jesus is God.

2. Christ will be waiting for us in Heaven. It was fitting that those who had witnessed the humiliation and suffering of the Christ at the hands of sinful humanity would now see Jesus exalted. Prior to his Passion, Jesus had told them: “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God” (John 20:17). That process is now complete. In today’s First reading, we read that, as the disciples watched in awe, Jesus “was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight” (Acts 1:9). The cloud, Scripture tells us, is an image of heaven, the abode of the Almighty (cf. Exodus 13:22; Luke 9:34ff).

Jesus had said previously, “‘Let not your hearts be troubled; believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And when I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way where I am going.’ Thomas said to him, ‘Lord, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me.’” (John 14:1-6).

Saint Leo the Great, preaching on the Ascension of Christ, said, “Today, we are not only made possessors of Paradise, but with Christ we have ascended, mystically but also really, to the highest Heavens and have won through Christ a grace more wonderful than the one we had lost.”

3. The Ascension spurs us on in sharing our Catholic Faith. Jesus tells his disciples that it is now time for them to begin spreading the Gospel everywhere they go: “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20).
The disciples returned with Mary to Jerusalem to prepare for the gift of the Holy Spirit. Empowered with God’s gifts, let us also seek to reach the people we know with the Good News of the Gospel. Our Lady will help us, too, just as she did those first believers in her Son.

You may also like: Q and A on the Ascension

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Q and A on the Resurrection: Just the (minimal) facts

» 29 April 2014 » In Uncategorized » No Comments

An Empty TombQ. This Easter season, how can I convince my friends that Jesus physically rose from the dead? It’s been especially difficult for me to do this because my friends are either a) not Christians, or b) they don’t believe the Bible is the Word of God. They simply think it’s a merely human book that contains things Christians believe.

A. The good news is that it is possible to show your friends plausible evidence that Jesus rose bodily from the dead. And you can do this without even appealing to the authority of the Church, or to the Bible as the Word of God. It’s called the “Minimal Facts” approach, popularized by Dr. Gary Habermas. There are five historical facts concerning the Resurrection of Jesus that must be accounted for, no matter what one believes. They are:

1. Jesus died by crucifixion. This is an event of history that is recorded outside the Bible. Many non-Christian historians, such as Josephus and Tacitus, wrote about it.

2. The tomb of Jesus was empty on Easter Sunday. All parties, both Christians and the enemies of Christ, agree that Jesus’ tomb was found empty on Easter Sunday. The fact that opponents of the Christian message admit this gives us the very best type of evidence for our case, called “enemy attestation”.

3. Jesus’ disciples were willing to suffer and die for their belief in the Resurrection.  While many people are willing to die for what they believe is true, no one willingly dies for what they know to be a lie. The Apostles knew whether or not they had encountered the Risen Jesus in the flesh.

4. The Church persecutor known as Saul the Pharisee converted to the Catholic Christian faith, became Paul the Apostle, and was martyred for his faith in the Risen Jesus. This is an unimpeachable historical fact.

5. The skeptic James, a relative of Jesus, converted because the Risen Jesus appeared to him. James became the Bishop of Jerusalem and a martyr.

There are many more facts that we could mention, such as the evidence of the appearances of the Risen Jesus in his physical body to various individuals and groups , including 500 people at one time. This shatters the erroneous theory that Jesus’ disciples were ‘hallucinating” when they thought they saw Jesus. Hallucinations are individual occurrences and cannot be shared. Plus, they do not account for the empty tomb.

Whatever explanation one comes up with to attempt to explain our “minimal facts” listed above, one’s explanation must account for all of these facts, and must do so more persuasively than alternative arguments. The only explanation that accounts for all of these facts in such a manner is the conclusion that Jesus was Resurrected.

 

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Q and A on Noah

» 15 April 2014 » In Uncategorized » No Comments

Russell Crowe as NoahQ. The movie Noah, starring Russell Crowe, has inspired me to look into the biblical Noah. What does the Bible say about Noah and the Flood in Genesis 6:5-8:22?

A. It’s important to realize, as scholar John Walton reminds us, that the biblical account of the Flood has been “watered down” by the way most of us learned about it in Sunday School. Kids love boats and animals, so most childrens’ books and materials about the Flood focus on these things.

As we get older, we should realize that the main message about the Flood is not about Noah, the animals, the ark, or the water. It is about God. In fact, Noah never speaks at all in the account of the Flood. We only hear what God thinks about Noah – that he was “a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked with God” (Genesis 6:9). This is the standard we should aim for, too. God notices and cares when people try to live for him in the midst of a depraved culture – like the one Noah lived in, or like the one we live in today.

Q. What does the Flood account teach us about God?

A. Saint Peter, writing in the New Testament, teaches that the Flood reminds us of the approaching final judgment (2 Peter 2:5; 3:5-6). Walton points out four facts we can learn from this:

1. “The Lord knows how to rescue godly people from trials and to hold the unrighteous for the day of judgment” (2 Peter 2:9).

2.  The only reason God is delaying the final judgment is to allow more people time to turn back to God. But this is a “limited-time offer” that will not last forever: “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

3. The Flood meant destruction for the wicked, but a new world for those who were saved. The same will occur in the future: “But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness” (2 Peter 3:13).

4. These future realities should impact the way we live our lives today: “Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives” (2 Peter 3:11).

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3 Simple Steps to Kickstart Your Faith in Lent

» 20 March 2014 » In Uncategorized » No Comments

images-1A question I get asked a lot, especially because of my work with new converts, is “What are the things I should be doing to live an effective Christian life?” What these people are essentially looking for is a skeletal structure for their life, so that their faith becomes integrated into it, not an add-on.

So, here’s my 3-Step short list (Lent is a perfect time to start):

1. Daily prayer. “Love is deeds, not sweet words”. If you said you loved your spouse, or your best friend, but never spent any time with that person, it would ring hollow. Likewise, we must enter into God’s “orbit” by taking time out for the most important person in our lives. Start with 5 minutes; work up to two 15-minute sessions, once in the morning, and once in the afternoon or evening. Two 30-minute sessions is the ultimate goal, but baby steps at first.

2. Frequent the Sacraments. Sunday Mass is not heroic, it’s the bare minimum. If you truly believe that Jesus is substantially present in the Host – Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity – than why not receive him more frequently? Daily would be the ultimate goal, but again, baby steps at first. Try attending one daily Mass outside of Sunday, and see the difference it makes in your day. Confession should be monthly (at barest minimum). Every two weeks is ideal, and weekly would be the ultimate goal. Judging from the length of the Communion lines, and the brevity of the Confession queue, we’re either living in the greatest generation of saints ever seen on earth, or the most delusional folks ever.

3. Study your Faith. Be formed. Be informed. Most people have fallen for a caricature of the Catholic faith, or of Jesus himself. Why not get the info “straight from the horse’s mouth”, so to speak? Read the Catechism. Read the Bible – not from cover to cover, either! At least not at first. Start with one of the four Gospels, the biographies of Jesus’ life. You’ll meet the real Jesus there. Move on to a couple of Paul’s letters. Read the New Testament first. Then tackle the Old. Don’t try to read the OT from cover-to-cover either, or you’ll get bogged down somewhere around the diteary laws of Leviticus. Join a good Catholic Bible Study program (I teach one at St Justin Martyr Parish in Toronto – just sayin’. You’d be most welcome.).

3.5 (Bonus!) Get a Spiritual Director. If someone has a (good) spiritual director, I don’t worry about them. Friend, you need a coach. And so do I. You are not objective about yourself! Ask your parish priest for a recommendation. Opus Dei priests are superb at tailoring a Christian life plan for people who live in the middle of the world. Worth checking out.

What do you think? It’s not an exhaustive list, of course, but what would your own list look like?  

 

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Saint Joseph, Powerful Intercessor

» 19 March 2014 » In Uncategorized » No Comments

Today, March 19, Holy Mother Church gives her children a treat amidst our regular Lenten practices. There are a couple of solemnities that usually fall on Lenten weekdays. One is the great Feast of the Annunciation on March 25. The other is today’s Feast of Saint Joseph, patron of the universal Church.

Many Christians do not avail themselves of the intercessions and help that this great Saint longs to provide them. Saint Thomas Aquinas said that the degree of assistance from God that a saint can provide for us is in direct proportion to the holiness of that saint. The words of James come to mind: “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective” (Jas 5:16). The more righteous the pray-er, the more powerful the prayer.

Of course, by these standards, the most powerful intercessor in heaven is the great Mother of God. Saint Joseph, “Silent Knight, Holy Knight” that he is, is so often overlooked. As always, the proof is in the pudding, so why not try entrusting a difficult problem to Saint Joseph? Saint Teresa of Avila was a notable advocate of the practice: “Our Lord would have us understand that, as he was himself subject to (Saint Joseph) upon earth – for Saint Joseph, having the title of father, and being his guardian, could command him – so now in heaven (Jesus) performs all his petitions” (Life, 6).

Saint Joseph, Ora pro nobis.

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