Tag Archives: St. Paul

God. Not God. These are the Only Choices!

“The strength of the soul consists in its faculties, passions and desires, all of which are governed by the will. Now when these faculties, passions and desires are directed by the will toward God, and turned away from all that is not God, then the strength of the soul is kept for God, and thus the soul is able to love God with all its strength.”

— St. John of the Cross, p. 259 of “Ascent of Mt. Carmel.”

Not everyone is going to heaven.  Let’s get that out of the way.  And, there are probably people who are going to hell who, at this moment, don’t think that it is possible for them.  After all, they were baptized and received their First Holy Communion (especially if they are Catholic) or they have accepted Jesus as their personal Savior (if they are Protestant.)  It’s not enough, though.

We have to make the choice to act like we are baptized or Jesus is our Savior every single minute of our existence on this life.

Dr. Italy likens this to a door.  On one side is Jesus (who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life and the only way to the Father) and on the other is not-Jesus.  The idea is at the end of our life the door will close and depending upon which side of the door we are standing when it slams shut and locks will determine where we spend eternity.

I don’t know about you, but I tremble when I think about it.  St. Paul told us that we need to work out our salvation with fear and trembling.  Pretty scary words.  I mean, have you read Matthew, Chapter 5 and 25?  We all fall short of the beatitudes.  Oh, and by the way, the door is narrow that leads to heaven.  More complications.

And, yet, there is so much hope if (and this is a big “if”) we trust Jesus.  Trust Him in everything, everyday.  Put our daily lives into His loving Hands.  Sometimes, I feel like the woman with the hemorrhage and I touch the hem of His garment and hold on for dear life.  Everyday, we make the choice for God because we don’t know when that door is going to shut.

Choose wisely, friends.

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Do Not Grieve the Holy Spirit of God

Ephesians 4: 29-32 is both invitation and warning.  It invites us to avoid sin and all occasions of sin.  It warns us that the Person of the Holy Spirit will be insulted by our sin.

St. Paul gives us a list to follow especially where it concerns destructive and devisive speech.  He tell us to put away all

  • Bitterness
  • Wrath
  • Anger
  • Malice
  • Clamor
  • and Slander

We are to

  • be Kind to one another
  • be Tenderhearted
  • be Forgiving

Remembering the words of our Savior in the Our Father, we thank God for His mercy towards us by showing mercy to others.  Forgiveness!

St. Paul wants “no evil talk” coming out of our mouths.  Whatever we speak should be “edifying” that “it may impart grace to those who hear.”

He also alludes to Is 63:10 where the Prophet recalls how the Exodus generation of Israel grieved the Holy Spirit by grumbling against the Lord and Moses.

Heaven help us!  When I read what passes for discourse today in the age of Facebook and Twitter, I’m reminded that we, too, are a perverse generation, grumbling against the Lord, and grieving the Holy Spirit by our lack of charity and forgiveness.

We need the Holy Spirit to actually intercede for us.  Pray with me these intercessions from the Liturgy of the Hours’ morning prayer for today.  “Lord, pour out your mercy upon us.”

Christ, Rising Sun, warm us with your rays, and restrain us from every evil impulse.

Keep guard over our thoughts, words, and actions, and make us pleasing in your sight this day.

Turn your gaze from our sinfulness, and cleanse us from our iniquities.

Through your cross and resurrection, fill us with the consolation of the Spirit.


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A Reasonable Hope?

Just finished watching Wolf Hall and am contemplating the eternal fate of Henry VIII and Thomas Cromwell. This is in light of the Reverend Robert Barron’s, now famous, statement that we can “have a reasonable hope that all are saved (no one goes to hell.)”

Henry was an adulterer, a murderer, and an apostate.   Historians say he wanted to be Catholic just not a Papist. However, whether or not he intended to do so, he founded the Church of England on divorce and murder. Thomas Cromwell, the King’s trusted adviser, who was partial to Protestantism, most notably Lutheranism, carried out Henry’s nefarious plans. These included the murder of Anne Boleyn, her brother, and two of her household servants, because Henry “wanted” Jane Seymour and Cromwell wanted more power. He was also responsible for the deaths of John Fisher and Thomas More because they were “Papists.” Thomas Cromwell deeply despised the Catholic Church and Sts. John Fisher and Thomas More were his way at getting back at that Church. According to 1 John 3: 14-15, “no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.”

I think it’s pretty unreasonable that people like Henry VIII and Thomas Cromwell were saved if that means they are not in hell with Judas. (Jesus, Scriptures-both old and new- the Apostles, and the early Church fathers all tell us that Judas is in hell.) I know. I know. I shouldn’t judge individual souls. However, the only people that we can be sure are in heaven are those that the Church has officially called Saints.

In order for someone to go to hell, it is necessary to willfully turn away from God and be unrepentant and persistent in sin until the end. In light of scriptures and Jesus’ teachings about the existence of hell, why would we ever have a reasonable hope that hell is empty, except for Satan, his minions, and Judas?

I would also think it unreasonable that anyone who rejects God, denies Jesus as the Way, the Truth, and the Life can get into heaven. Of course, when the Apostles asked Jesus, “then who can be saved?” He responded that with God all things are possible. Do Satanists, witches, pagans, people who sin against the Holy Spirit ( a sin that can’t be forgiven in this world or the next, according to Jesus,) and those who despair and have no hope, reasonable or unreasonable; do they all go to heaven?

It would appear that I have so many questions and so few answers that my head is about to explode. I guess I’ll have to heed St. Paul and work out my salvation with fear and trembling and hope in the promises of my Savior. And that is the only hope that I feel is  very, very reasonable!

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Whatsoever. . .

“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report: if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. “
— St. Paul

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Transmitting the Faith

41.  The transmission of faith occurs first and foremost in baptism.

As St. Paul says, “we were buried with Him by baptism into death. . .”  We are meant to become a new creation and God’s adopted children through baptism so that we “might walk in the newness of life.”  (Rom 6:4)

Baptism is something we receive.  It is both a teaching to be professed and a specific way of life that “sets us on the path to goodness.”Baptism helps us to understand that faith must be received by entering into the Church (ecclesial communion) which transmits the gift of faith from God.

42.  From the outset our journey of faith beginning in Baptism is revealed.  First Baptism is bestowed by invoking the Trinity.

Our new identity as a brother/sister to Christ is clearly seen by our immersion in water.

Water is at once a symbol of death, inviting us to pass through self-conversion to a new and greater identity, and ka symbol of life, of a womb in which we are reborn by following Christ in His new life.

Baptism should change us profoundly.  It changes our relationships, our place in the universe, and opens us to living in Communion with the Trinity.

To appreciate this link between baptism and faith, we can recall a text of the prophet Isaiah, which was associated with baptism in early Christian literature: “Their refuge will be the fortresses of rocks. . .their water assured” (Is 33:16.)

The waters of baptism flow with the power of Jesus’ love.  He is faithful and trustworthy, so we can trust our faith.

43.  This passage speaks of the importance and meaning of infant baptism.  This is a beautifully written passage well worth reading in Papa Francis’ own words.

Parents are called, as Saint Augustine once said, not only to bring children into the world but also to bring them to God, so that through Baptism they can be reborn as children of God and receive the gift of faith.

44.  As important as Baptism is, the sacramental nature of faith finds its highest expression in the Eucharist.

In the Eucharist we find the intersection of faith’s two dimensions.  On the one hand, there is the dimension of history:  the Eucharist is an act of remembrance, a making present of the mystery in which the past, as an event of death and resurrection, demonstrates its ability to open up a future, to foreshadow ultimate fulfillment. . .On the other hand, we also find the dimension which leads from the visible world to the invisible.

Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity.  Christ becomes present to us and moves us body and soul to our fulfillment in His Father.

45.  In the celebration of the sacraments the Church hands down her memory especially through the profession of faith.

We are speaking about the Creed here.  The Creed has a Trinitarian structure.  When we recite the Creed we are stating the the core and inmost secret of all reality is the divine communion of the three Persons in One God.

We are taken through all the mysteries of Jesus’ life and finally, we are taken up, as it were, into the Truth that we are professing.  Reciting the Creed truthfully and thoughtfully should change us, too.

All the truths in which we believe point to the mystery of the new life of faith as a journey of communion with the living God.

Two other essential elements in the faithful transmission of the faith are the Lord’s prayer and the 10 commandments.

The Decalogue is not a set of negative commands, but concrete directions for emerging from the desert of the selfish and self-enclosed ego in order to enter into dialogue with God, to be embraced by His mercy and then to bring that mercy to others.

This path of gratitude to faith receives new light when we study Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.  (There is a complete study of the Sermon on the Mount on this blog.)  

So the four elements around which the Church’s catechesis is structured are the Creed, the Sacraments, the Decalogue, and prayer (especially how Jesus taught us to pray.)  This is our storehouse of memory of faith that the Church is empowered by apostolic succession to pass down through history.

47.  “there is one body and one Spirit. . .one faith” (Eph 4: 4-5)

Genuine love, after the fashion of God’s love, ultimately requires truth, and the shared contemplation of the truth which is Jesus Christ enables love to become deep and enduring.  This is also the great joy of faith: a unity of vision in one body and one spirit.  Saint Leo the Great could say, “If faith is not one, then it is not faith.”

Faith is One!  First, it is one because of the oneness of the God Who is known and confessed.  Second, Faith is one because it is directed to the one Lord; to the life of Christ.  Finally, it is one because it is shared by the whole Church which is one body and one Spirit.

48.  Since faith is one, it must be professed in all its purity and integrity.  Precisely because all the articles of faith are interconnected, to deny one of them, even of those that seem least important, is tantamount to distorting the whole.

49.  The Lord gave His Church the gift of apostolic succession.  It is through this that the continuity of the faith is ensured.  The Church depends upon the faithfulness of the Magisterium chosen by the Lord.

In Saint Paul’s farewell discourse to the elders of Ephesus at Miletus, which Saint Luke recounts for us in the Acts of the Apostles, he testifies that he had carried out the task which the Lord had entrusted to him of “declaring the whole counsel of God” (acts 10:27.)

Thanks to the Magisterium of the Church, this “counsel” is preserved in all its integrity and joy for us.  Praise the Lord!


So ends Chapter Three of Lumen Fidei.  We will take up Chapter Four, next week.  Hope you all are staying with me through this study as we approach the end of this glorious Year of Faith.

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The Dialogue Between Faith and Reason

32.  Blessed John Paul II in Fides et Ratio showed us how faith and reason strengthen each other.  When we discover the light of Christ’s love, we realize that every time we have loved, that instance contained a ray of Christ’s light.  This leads us to see how all love is meant to share in the self-gift of Jesus.  “In this circular movement, the light of faith illumines all our human relationships, which can then be lived in union with the gentle love of Christ.”

33.  St. Augustine studies Greek philosophy and accepted its insistence that being “in the light” demanded sight but not hearing.  Augustine came to appreciate that God is light and this was the beginning of his turning away from his sinfulness.  But the personal God of the bible who is able to speak to us appeared to Augustine as he read the 13th chapter of Romans.  However, St. Augustine did not refect light and sight, but integrated hearing with sight.  He spoke of “the word which shines forth within.”   “Yet, our longing for the vision of the whole, and not merely of fragments of history, remains and will be fulfilled in the end, when, as St. Augustine says, we will see and we will love.  Not because we will be able to possess all the light, which will always be inexhaustible, but because we will enter wholly into that light.”

34.  (This is well worth reading the whole thing for yourself.)  However to points from this paragraph:  1.  “Faith is not intransigent, but grows in respectful coexistence with others.  One who believes may not be presumptuous, on the contrary, truth leads to humility. . . Far from making us inflexible, the security of faith sets us on a journey; it enables witness and dialogue with all.”   2.  “By stimulating wonder before the profound mystery of  creation, faith broadens the horizons of reason to shed greater light on the world which discloses itself to scientific investigation.”

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The Ecclesial Form of Faith

22.  Once the Christian is conformed to Christ in love, his life becomes an ecclesial existence; live in and with the Church.  We see ourselves in the mirror that is Christ and just as Christ gathers all believers to Himself, so we come to see ourselves as in an important relationship with all other believers.  As St. Paul tells the Romans, all who believe in Christ make up one body.  We are one, but we don’t lose our individuality.  We become the best of ourselves when we serve others.  Faith is necessarily ecclesial.  Faith that is separate from the Church cannot find its equilibrium; it cannot sustain itself.  Faith is no private matter.  As St. Paul puts it:  “one believes with the heart. . .and confesses with the lips.”  Faith must be proclaimed.  For “how are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard?  And how are they to hear without a preacher?”   When faith operates in the Body of Christ (the Church), we become part of the Church’s life throughout history until the end of time.  “For those who have been transfored in this way, a new way of seeing opens up, faith becomes light for their eyes.


So, now we are finished with Chapter One.  Monday, we will begin Chapter Two.  Hope you are enjoying this.  I am!

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Salvation by Faith

19.  When we accept the gift of faith, we become a new being as a child of God.  This relationship with our “Abba, Father” Becomes the core of our experience.  When Paul debated the issue of salvation with the Pharisees, he rejects the attitude that we are justified by our own works.  When we live so as to not recognize that all goodness comes from God; when we want to be the source of our righteousness, we soon find ourselves cut-off from the Lord and from others.  “Once I think that by turning away from God I will find myself, my life begins to fall apart. . .Salvation by faith means recognizing the primacy of God’s gift of grace.”

20.  Faith gives us a new way of seeing things.  This way is centered on Christ.  In the Old Testament, Moses tells the Israelites in Dt. 30: 11-14 that God’s command is not too high and not too far away.  In Rom. 10: 6-7, St. Paul interprets the nearness of “God’s word in terms of Christ’s presence in the Christian. . .Faith knows that God has drawn close to use, that Christ has been given to us a great gift which inwardly transforms us, dwells within us, and thus bestows on us the light that illumines the origin and the end of life.”

21.  Those who believe are different because kthey have opened their hearts to a love that transforms.  As a Christian, we can see with Jesus’ eyes; we can share His mind; and we can share in His Sonship, because we share in His love which is the Holy Spirit.  “Without being conformed to Him in love, without the presence of the Spirit, it is impossible to confess Him as Lord.”

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Faith and Works–Paul vs. James?

Consider the following quotations.

Romans 3: 28  “For we hold that a man is justified by faith apart from the works of law.”

James 2: 24  “You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.”

It might appear that St. James and St. Paul are contradicting each other.  However, if we go below the surface and examine these statements in their proper contexts, we discover that they are not in disagreement at all.  Since they are addressing different pastoral situations in the early church, they draw attention to different aspects of the common doctrine on faith and works.  (As an aside, the words “faith alone” only appear in James; never in Paul.)


St. Paul:  He is speaking of the faith that leads to Baptism; the faith of the convert.

St. James:  He is talking about the faith of a professing Christian.

The point:  Paul and James discuss the role of justifying faith in two different contexts; namely before and after the believer is incorporated into Christ by Baptism.


St. Paul:  In Romans 3: 28, he is specifically speaking about works of the Mosaic Law.  His point is that no one can earn or merit the free gift of grace by obedience to the Torah.

St. James:  In Jas 1: 27; 2: 15-16, he is affirming works of mercy by those already established in grace.

The point:  Paul denies the saving power of Mosaic works performed on the strength of human nature, while James affirms the value of Christian works performed by the grace and power supplied by Jesus Christ.


St. Paul:  According to him, our initial justification is in Christ; that critical moment when God makes the believer righteous by an infusion of His Spirit and life.

St. James:  He talks about works of Christian obedience undertaken in response to the grace of Christ:  believers who put their faith into action and want to live the gospel in practical and charitable ways.

The point:  This teaching of James is in full harmony with the teaching of Paul. (Rom 2: 13; 6: 12-19)

Let’s stop here so everyone can read James 2: 14-26 in our own Bibles.

James the Less

James the Less wrote the first Catholic Epistle

Next time:  Celebrating Faith

Meditation:  Use 1 Cor 13: 4-7 as a starting point to make an examination of conscience.  To make the passage more personal, substitute “I am. . .” for the words “Love is. . .”

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Love Takes Saul to Paul

“God shows His love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.  Since, therefore, we are now justified by His blood, much more shall we be saved by Him from the wrath of God.  For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.”  (Rom 5: 8-10)

Rom 5: 8  God shows His love:  This is so remarkable because we are ungodly and enemies and did not deserved God’s unconditional love for the world that He showed by sending His Son. (1 Jn 3: 16)

Rom 5: 10  shall we be saved:  Salvation is past, present, and future.  It is past in that our Baptism saved us from the filth of our sins.  It is a present reality when we allow grace to make us more virtuous and holy.  It is the future hope that we will live forever with Jesus in glory.

St. Paul was Saul arresting Christians to execute them.  Then he came to believe profoundly in the power of Christ’s death to reconcile sinners.  He also came to know the depths of forgiveness in Christ.  So nothing else was important to St. Paul except spending the rest of his life after his conversion preaching about Jesus and winning people to Him.  St. Paul believed in Jesus, loved Jesus and loved humanity.  In his writings, St. Paul does not isolate faith from love but sees that faith is directed to love.

Results of Justification

Romans: 5: 1-8

Rom 5: 1-5   The justified are endowed with the theological virtues.  By faith, they live in peace with God and have access to His grace.  In hope, they long for the glory of God that awaits them.  Through love, they show that the charity of the Holy Spirit dwells in their hearts.  Equipped with faith, hope and love, believers can become more like Christ through endurance and suffering.

“God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit Who has been given to us.” Rom 5: 5

Reread this line slowly in the context of St. Paul describing the grace of faith that leads to hope.  Throughout his epistles, St. Paul mentions these three theological virtues (faith, hope, and love) together.  St. Paul does not link love to a feeling or an emotion but with the active presence of the Holy Spirit.  Any love within us is a gift of God’s own love.

In Romans 5: 8, we read that God’s love doesn’t wait for us to become perfect but He loves us while we are still in the midst of our sins.  God’s love is the gift of His own Son.  Christian love is a gift to ourselves and the willingness to accept the one who is loved.  God’s love must take us beyond our limitations to become lovers of God and of fellow sinners.

MC900436065Next time:  More St. Paul

Meditation:  (1 Corinthians 13: 1-13)  How does St. Paul compare love to the charismatic gifts?  How does love compare to faith? knowledge? generosity? prophecies?


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