The Children of the Kingdom and The Children of the Evil One

Once acknowledged as the long-awaited Messiah by His disciples, Jesus knew that the kingdom He would establish after His death and resurrection would not resemble the kingdom anticipated by the Jews of the first century — a restoration of the Davidic throne, expulsion of the Romans, and the establishment of a theocracy. Much of Christ’s instruction was devoted to reshaping these expectations, explaining to the disciples that the Kingdom of God was both a present reality as well as a distinct future event (the word kingdom appears 126 times in the gospels).

Jesus suggests that with His presence the Kingdom of God was already apparent. When the Pharisees accused Jesus of casting out demons by the power of Beelzebul, the “Prince of Demons”, Jesus exposes this nonsense pointing out that a house divided against itself cannot stand, and then adds,

“If it is by the power of the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.” (Matthew 12:28)

He also stresses that the kingdom as a present reality is not earthly or physical:

“Asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, he said in reply, ‘The coming of the kingdom of God cannot be observed, and no one will announce, ‘Look, here it is,’ or, ‘there it is. For behold, the kingdom of God is among you”‘ (Luke 17:20-21).

We read many times in the gospels that the kingdom of God was proclaimed as being “at hand”. Yet Jesus also taught us to pray to Our Father daily, “Thy Kingdom come!” There would be an eternal establishment of God’s kingdom in the future as well. The series of parables on the kingdom recorded in Matthew are meant to explain this dichotomy in a simplified way, and one in particular describes it well.

The Wheat and the Tares

Jesus likens the kingdom to a man who sows good seed in his field, yet weeds grow alongside the wheat:

“The slaves of the householder came to him and said, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where have the weeds come from?’ He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’ His slaves said to him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’ He replied, ‘No, if you pull up the weeds you might uproot the wheat along with them. Let them grow together until harvest; then at harvest time I will say to the harvesters, ‘First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles for burning; but gather the wheat into my barn’” (Matt. 13:24-30).

Jesus explains:

“He who sows good seed is the Son of Man, the field is the world, the good seed the children of the kingdom. The weeds are the children of the evil one, and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels. Just as weeds are collected and burned [up] with fire, so will it be at the end of the age” (vss. 37-40).

This tells us a great deal. The Kingship of the current age belongs to Jesus, the Son of Man, and the “children of the kingdom” are faithful believers, His Church. They must endure the presence of the children of the devil, as well as illness, suffering, persecution, etc., all of which will be extinguished at the end of the present age. He concludes with a very important detail:

“The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all who cause others to sin and all evildoers. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father” (vss. 41-43).

Jesus, as the master, will deliver the children of His household to the kingdom of the father, the kingdom for which we pray daily for its coming.

The disciples didn’t get it. The following scene occurred on Palm Sunday:

“While they [the disciples] were listening to him speak, he proceeded to tell a parable because he was near Jerusalem and they thought that the kingdom of God would appear there immediately” (Luke 19:11).

But they eventually did get it; St. Paul understood it well:

“For just as in Adam all die, so too in Christ shall all be brought to life, but each one in proper order: Christ the firstfruits; then, at his coming, those who belong to Christ; then comes the end, when he hands over the kingdom to his God and Father, when he has destroyed every sovereignty and every authority and power. For he [Jesus] must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet” (1 Cor. 15:22-25).

…rjt

The Progressive Loss of Eucharistic Faith in Today’s Church

Senator John Kerry

At one time, a bishop’s public denial of communion to a pro-choice politician could be costly. It has been suggested that Cardinal Raymond Burke’s public insistence that communion be withheld from Senator John Kerry might have cost him the 2004 presidential election. Pope Benedict later sent the USCCB a private letter supporting Burke’s position.

In April of 2008, however, during Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to the United States, what occurred at two papal Masses might have tipped the scale in the other direction:

“House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Sens. John Kerry, Christopher Dodd and Edward M. Kennedy received Communion at Nationals Park in Washington, as did former mayor Rudolph Giuliani at Yankee Stadium in New York. Archbishop Donald Wuerl of Washington and Cardinal Edward Egan, archbishop of New York, invited them. Given choice seats, they took Communion as a matter of course.” (Robert Novak)

Note that they were invited by Weurl and Egan, and provided VIP seating; they would never have attended otherwise, the crowds would have been too big.

But I don’t think the Archbishops were trying to send a message to the Holy Father, but rather to Catholics inclined to vote democrat. It was an election year and at the time Hilary and Obama were battling for the nomination. I believe Weurl was trying to sideline the abortion question as a voting issue.

Later that year, the Archbishop of Denver Charles Chaput stated publicly that the pro-abortion vice presidential candidate Joe Biden should not present himself for communion (the democratic convention was in Denver that year). Yet Obama and Biden prevailed, and even winning with a slight majority of the Catholic vote.

Since the beginning of the current pontificate the battle has moved on to admitting to communion those who are divorced and remarried (and who do not abstain) and Protestant spouses of practicing Catholics. This pattern of progressive debasement of Sacrament should be troubling to conservative Catholics.

The Priesthood

During the recent failed meeting of the USCCB in Baltimore, retired Archbishop of Santa Fe Michael Sheehan told a journalist that the current crisis in the Church with respect to sexual abuse was the result of the large numbers of actively gay priests as well as a general decline in spirituality, “Priests stopped praying and going to confession” (Link).

One wonders what this might lead to; priests take communion at least several times a week. While participating in the Eucharist in a state of grace has a positive spiritual outcome; presenting oneself when not will produce a negative one. St. Paul states this very clearly in his warning to the Church of Corinth:

“Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. A person should examine himself, and so eat the bread and drink the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself” (1Cor. 11:27-29).

Paul is referring here to individuals, but in the verses that follow we learn that the punishment can be collective and intended as a purification of His Church:

“That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. But if we judged ourselves truly, we should not be judged. But when we are judged by the Lord, we are chastened so that we may not be condemned along with the world” (1Cor. 11:30-32).

Note that the chastisement Paul describes is a physical one, which could be manifested in many forms: war, civil unrest, pandemic, persecution, etc. It is not the sins committed by the members of the Church of Corinth that brought about the judgment, but their defiling of the Eucharist, the physical body of God’s Only Begotten Son who was put to death for our salvation.

…rjt

On the Present Crisis: Some Advice From the Past

Pope Gregory VII (1073-1085)

The current crisis in the 21st-century Church was very similar to what was occurring during its reciprocal century, the 12th, namely, clerical sexual misconduct. Since Church authorities during the High Middle Ages were successful in cleaning it up, perhaps they can inform today’s Church on what steps to take in dealing with it.

It is agreed among historians that the clergy of Latin Christendom in the late 11th through the early 12th-century were generally dissolute and corrupt. A majority of priests ignored celibacy and were either married or keeping a concubine (or both) and busy pursuing wealth in the manner typical of feudal society. Many considered their physical church and its attendant land their own property, which their eldest son would eventually inherit and become the new local priest.

Determined to clean it up, Pope Gregory VII (1073-1085) initiated a series of reforms which were continued by many of his successors. They took a tough juridical approach to the issue; its progress can be followed in the documents of the four famous Lateran Councils.

The first law banned marriage to all clergy and directed them to banish their wives and children from Church property (but with no provision made for the family). Unsurprisingly, this did not go over very well. Some bishops were assaulted upon presenting the order and had to flee for their safety. But the reformers in Rome were undeterred, a new law took it a step further and simply nullified those marriages. This had the effect of rendering any children of these marriages illegitimate and unable to inherit. This was problematic since in medieval Europe illegitimate children would usually end up as social outcastes.

The reformers then added a third, prohibiting anyone from attending a mass celebrated by a married priest. This meant that the priest himself would become a social outcast. Finally, and this solved the problem once and for all, they cut off their income. Churches were supported out of the taxes paid to the feudal lord; married priest’s paychecks were going to be withheld.

The Present Crisis

Detail from Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia’s homoerotic church mural

Of course, nothing resembling this is taking place today. There is no reform movement, and those that govern the Church today display only complacency and disinterest toward the current crisis. They don’t seem to care that bishops have lost moral credibility with their own flock. Miami Archbishop Thomas Wenski admits it:

“Our people still do believe in God; but they don’t believe in us. …Of course, they’re supposed to believe in the Lord, not us; but if we are going to lead them — as bishops, as pastors and parish priests — they need to be able to trust us.” (Link)

But you might have caught that there was something the Gregorian reformers did that can easily be applied to our situation. They had decreed that the offender’s income would be withheld. In today’s Church, unlike the Middle Ages, the budgets of our bishops are supported by the generosity of it’s parishioners, not tax revenue. If financial support was temporarily redirected, the bishops would surely panic, and Rome would hear about it.

Actually, this has already been taking place and I’m seeing a heightened concern about it just in my own diocese. If interrupting the money flow worked for the faithful Vicars of Christ in the 12th-century, it might work for the faithful laity of the 21st-century.

…rjt

Post Scriptum: Incidentally, as I was drafting this post, an article written by Cardinal Walter Brandmüller, an authority on Church history, was published in an Italian journal which made the same comparison of the current crisis with that of the crisis in the Church of the 12th-century.

Germany Should Dump the Kirchensteuer (Church Tax)

The mandatory tax on Catholics collected by the state and forwarded to Church authorities (minus a commission) has become a tax like any other tax, nasty things happen if you don’t pay. It’s a vestige from earlier centuries when the German state was a Christian institution and insisted on bearing the responsibility for the custodial needs of the Church. But now this concept of tithing has evolved into the antithesis of that which is taught in the Bible and is destroying the Catholic Church in Germany.

Since hundreds of thousands of German Catholics have opted out of the tax in recent years, the German Bishop’s Conference instituted a formal directive that you have to pay to play: no tax, no Sacraments. So the vast majority of Catholics remain on the rolls, even if they are non-practicing (about 90%). It’s understandable why they choose not to, opting out means acknowledging in writing with a signature that you are not a member of the Roman Catholic Church, something I would not be inclined to do. A gun is being held to your head.

The problem is that for a Christian, giving can never be associated with compulsion, it must be motivated by charity. As St. Paul states: Continue reading “Germany Should Dump the Kirchensteuer (Church Tax)”

Gibson’s Dilemma in ‘The Passion of the Christ’

When he heard that Mel was making a movie on the Passion of Christ, the late Catholic forensic pathologist Frederick Zugibe, an expert on Jesus’ crucifixion as well as the Shroud of Turin, offered his services as a consultant. Curiously, Gibson declined. One would think that if you’re producing a film on the crucifixion of Jesus you might want to take advantage of the expertise of a world’s authority on the subject.

The Shroud. Marks of the scourging

In The Crucifixion of Jesus: A Forensic Inquiry, the Doctor responds with a less than glowing review of Gibson’s film, finding numerous inaccuracies. A glance at a couple of them uncovers what Gibson might have been grappling with while producing the film.

With respect to the scourging, in the film Jesus’ back and front were completely covered with lacerations from the razor-like pieces of metal attached to the ends of the flagrum. The doctor, however, insists that the scourging as presented in the movie would have quickly resulted in Jesus’ death, and was not supported by the Shroud. It shows that the lacerations were “dumbbell-shaped”; it was common for the Romans to attach lead balls to the ends of the leather whips. Continue reading “Gibson’s Dilemma in ‘The Passion of the Christ’”

Pope Benedict’s ‘Year of the Priest’ Warning to the Curia

Many have commented that the depth of frustration and anger over the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report as well as Archbishop Vignano’s testimony is because they prove that the response by Church authorities to the first clergy abuse crisis in 2002 was inadequate and insincere.

The current crisis, however, is not the second but the third major series of revelations of abuse and cover-up in the Catholic Church. In Pope Benedict’s 2010 (‘Year of the Priest’) Christmas address to the Curia, he laments the new round of abuse reports, primarily from western Europe, and recalls a vision given to St. Hildegard: Continue reading “Pope Benedict’s ‘Year of the Priest’ Warning to the Curia”

Has Pope Leo XIII’s 100-Year Vision Reached its Terminus?

Pope Leo XIII

This highly credible prophecy from around 1884 was a revelation to Pope Leo that God would be agreeing to a frightening request from Satan:

“Grant me one century and more power of those who will serve me, and I will destroy it [the Church].”

One can try to ascertain when the 100-year period began by looking for possible watershed events that tipped the Church into the trend of decline that persisted throughout most of the 20th-century. Conversely, one can look for the opposite as well, events suggesting that the deterioration in the Catholic Church that’s been evident for generations might have been reversed. Archbishop Vigano’s recent exposure of the corruption in the Church and the naming of authorities at the top of the Church hierarchy may have represented the latter.

Over at the Remnant, Christopher Ferrara draws a conclusion that is shared by many:

“I believe that Archbishop Viganò’s precious testimony is a sign that Heaven itself is now responding to the “need for justice” in the Church.  Whether or not justice involves the resignation of the most wayward Pope in Church history, the inevitable season of justice will culminate in the triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the Church’s restoration. This will be a final victory over the enemies within and their apologists.”

Continue reading “Has Pope Leo XIII’s 100-Year Vision Reached its Terminus?”

An Early Narrative of the Assumption of Mary

Protestants complain when the Catholic Church declares events like the Assumption of Mary, of which there is no hard evidence, a dogma of the Christian faith. At the same time, Catholics can’t understand why Protestants cling so much to the Bible, when its canon was compiled by the Catholic Church and its divine inspiration was declared a dogma of the Christian faith by the same authority and in the same manner as was the Assumption.

The celebration of Mary’s assumption into heaven has a rich history going back to the early centuries of the Christian era. Together with the intellectual contributions by Doctors of the Church, it was declared a historical fact. As such, there is no reason not to explore the early apocryphal works pertaining to the Assumption since we know it to be a factuality. While the Church regards many apocryphal writings as legendary, others were held in high regard by the early Church. Of the latter includes The Account of St. John the Theologian of the Falling Asleep of the Holy Mother of God, and was attributed to the Apostle himself (though dated around 400 AD).

It begins with the summoning of the Apostles to Mary’s bedside in Bethlehem. Since they were spread throughout the Empire, and time was short, they would be transported by the Spirit. John describes his own experience: Continue reading “An Early Narrative of the Assumption of Mary”

A Heavenly Procession

The Ascension of Christ, Rembrandt

While the glorious ascension of Christ to Heaven may have taken the disciples by surprise, the assurances that he would return and would soon send them “the promise of the Father”, left them with “great joy”. There was great joy in heaven too at the victorious homecoming of the Second Person of the Trinity. To picture this scene we can only challenge our imaginations. But the Early Church Fathers, who interpreted events in the life of Christ in light of of the Old Testament, found a glimpse into the heavenly procession from the Psalms.

St. Justin Martyr (AD 100-165) quotes Psalm 24:7 as a prophecy of the Ascension:

“You see that he was to mount to heaven according to the prophecies. It was said: ‘Lift up the gates of heaven, let them open and the King of Glory shall enter in.'”†

The liturgical passage in Psalm 24 reads,

“Lift up your heads, O gates; be lifted, you ancient portals, that the king of glory may enter. Who is this king of glory? The LORD, strong and mighty, the LORD, mighty in war. Lift up your heads, O gates; rise up, you ancient portals, that the king of glory may enter. Who is this king of glory? The LORD of hosts, he is the king of glory” (24:7-10).

Continue reading “A Heavenly Procession”

The Joy of the Resurrection

As the risen Christ unexpectedly leaves the disciples and ascends to heaven from the Mount of Olives, one might have expected them to feel some measure of sadness at the parting of their beloved Lord. St. Luke, however, describes it differently:

“They did him homage and then returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and they were continually in the temple praising God” (Luke 24:52).

What a change from just weeks earlier when they were in despair, confused, and fearing for their own lives as Jesus was being led to the cross.

While the disciples were generally loyal, devoted, and trusting, they did not always understanding Jesus’ teachings and use of allegory, particularly with respect to his mission to suffer, die, and rise again; their expectations of the Jewish Messiah were quite the opposite (see Mark 8:31-33). Continue reading “The Joy of the Resurrection”