We, Catholics, are often asked tough questions by our non-catholic brethren about our Catholic faith and its relationship to the Bible. Today’s blog will deal with some of those questions. For more complete answers I suggest a topic search of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) the official presentation of what the Catholic Church teaches.
Are you saved?
Catholics can be as sure as anyone else that they are in God’s good graces. The apostle John states that “you may know that you have eternal life” (1 Jn 5:13). But this “assurance” has to be understood in light of John’s other teachings in the same book: For the love of God is this, that we keep his commandments.(1 Jn 5:3)
Likewise, St. Paul does not regard salvation as a one-time event, but as a goal to be sought after, one that can be lost: “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil 2:12) “Therefore, whoever thinks he is standing secure should take care not to fall.” (1 Cor 10:12)
Some will suggest that once saved, always saved as if it doesn’t matter what you do after you acknowledge Jesus as Savior. Nonsense! Of course God wills the salvation of all but He gave us free will. It matters what we do as it mattered what our first parents did.
The serpent said, to Eve, “God knows well that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods, who know* good and evil.”Adam and Eve, by disobeying God, found our all right the difference between good and evil. Daily conversion is required. We must conform our will to God’s will. Jesus atoned for all our sins so that they could be forgiven, But even saints like St. Paul and St. Peter had to seek forgiveness and amend their ways for salvation to take effect.
Are your beliefs found in the Bible?
All Catholic beliefs can be found in the Bible in some form, whether plainly or by an indirect indication. Scripture also points to an authoritative Church and Tradition, as St. Paul says in his Second Letter to the Thessalonians: “Stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter” (2 Thess 2:15) When the first Christians had a significant disagreement, they didn’t simply open their Bibles (which didn’t even exist at that point) to decide who was right; they held a council, which made binding decrees (Acts 15:1-29).
A significant difference in what Catholics believe and many of their Protestant brethren believe is in the area of Sacred Tradition. The Protestant church maintains that the Bible alone is intended by God to be the source of doctrinal truth. They will cite verse from 2 Timothy, “All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for refutation, for correction, and for training in righteousness, (2 Tim. 3:16). The Catholic Church, however, says, “Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture make up a single sacred deposit of the Word of God.” (CCC 97)
“Sacred Scripture is the speech of God as it is put down in writing under the breath of the Holy Spirit And [Holy] Tradition transmits in its entirety the Word of God which has been entrusted to the apostles by Christ the Lord and the Holy Spirit. It transmits it to the successors of the apostles so that, enlightened by the Spirit of truth, they may faithfully preserve, expound and spread it abroad by their preaching.” (CCC 81-82)
Why do you obey the Pope?
Catholics believe that Jesus commissioned St. Peter as the first leader of the Church. Matthew’s Gospel has the most direct biblical indication of the papacy: “And I tell you, you are Peter you are”Rock”] and on this rock I will build my church…. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 16:18-19). Based on this statement of Jesus himself, Peter is clearly portrayed in the New Testament as the leader of the disciples.
A Pope can make infallible, binding pronouncements under certain conditions. Infallibility doesn’t mean that absolutely everything a pope says is free from error. We Catholics also believe that God the Holy Spirit protects His Church and its head from error (Jn 14:16) even though sinful, imperfect men are involved in it..
Why do you pray for the dead?
The Bible clearly teaches the rightness of prayers for the dead in 2 Maccabees (12:40, 42, 44-45): “Then under the tunic of every one of the dead they found sacred tokens of the idols of Jamnia, which the law forbids Jews to wear. And it became clear to all that this was why these men had fallen….[A]nd they turned to prayer, beseeching that the sin which had been committed might be wholly blotted out….if they were not expecting that those who had fallen would rise again, it would have been superfluous and foolish to pray for the dead..
To enter heaven, one must be perfectly holy, because “nothing unclean shall enter it” (Rev 21:27) The cleansing and purifying of any remaining sin, which makes us fit for God’s holy presence, is what Catholics call Purgatory.
Why do you pray to idols (statues)?
No Catholic who knows anything about the Catholic faith has ever worshiped a statue (as in pagan idolatry). If we cherish the memory of mere political heroes with statues, and that of war heroes with monuments, then there can be no objection to honoring saints and righteous men and women: Statues are simply a visual reminder of great saints and heroes of the faith. The saints in heaven were never intended by God to be cut off from the Body of Christ on earth. They are involved in intercession on our behalf, just as the saints on earth are. They are described as “so great a cloud of witnesses” (Heb 12:1).
Why do you confess your sins to a priest?
Jesus Christ gave His disciples – and by extension, priests – the power to forgive sins here on earth. After his resurrection from the dead, on the first day Jesus appeared to his Apostles and said to them, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the holy Spirit, Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”
The priest serves as the representative of God and of His mercy. Confession gives us new courage and a fresh start. One learns humility by this practice, “Remember man you are dust, and to dust you shall return” The penitent grows in self awareness and holiness. The penitent receives additional grace in order to avoid sin and attains a certainty of forgiveness that is superior to mere feelings.
Why do you worship Mary?
Catholics do not worship Mary. We venerate her because she is the mother of God, the Word Incarnate, our Lord Jesus Christ. Veneration is completely different from the adoration of God. Catholics believe that Mary is the highest of God’s creatures because of her exalted role. But of course, like any other human being, she had to be saved by the mercy of God. She too was saved by the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of her Son.
Jesus’ merits were applied at her conception. We believe that God saved her by taking away all stain of original sin at the moment of her conception (the Immaculate Conception). The very fact that God took on flesh and became man (Jn 1:1, 14) indicates that He wished to involve human beings in His plan of salvation for mankind. Mary was a key person for this purpose, so this is why Catholics honor her so highly.
Why do you worship communion wafers?
A consecrated host or wafer at a Catholic Mass is the true Body and Blood of Christ, not merely bread; so Catholics are worshiping Jesus, not a wafer. In the Gospel of John (6:51-56), Jesus states repeatedly that “he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life” Jesus is speaking literally and He is so firm that many followers objected and left Him (6:52, 60, 66).
St. Paul writes that those taking Communion “in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord” (1 Cor 11:27 Moreover, in the Last Supper passages (Mt 26:26-28; “While they were eating, Jesus took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and giving it to his disciples said, “Take and eat; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, gave thanks,* and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed on behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins.”
Nothing in Jesus’ words suggest a metaphorical or symbolic interpretation. Jesus meant it literally and so do faithful Catholics who say Amen on receiving Jesus. The Amen can be translated into English as so it is or I agree.
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