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Wednesday, March 9, 2011

A Love Letter To Jim

Dear Jim,
To the engineer in my life who thinks with the brain and analyzes how things fit together and makes them work. To the man in my life who has stood beside his wife and daughter as they became Catholic. I thanked my Lord the other day in prayer for reasons I do not understand “why” you have not followed me into the Catholic Faith. Because of this refusal, you have challenged me more in the deeper depths of this ancient faith. Had you not had this refusal to become Catholic, I would not have had the desire to understand and learn about the 2,000 year old history of the church and I am still learning. I would have not grown and learned as much as I have. (Thank-you!) You know why I said "yes" to the Catholic faith? Because it was my heart that did not put God in a box, to say “yes” to the sacraments and to say “yes” has given me strength in my journey.  Nothing can I compare this strength against in my 30+ years as I have toiled and failed my Lord many times. Your refusal has challenged me to study as a theologian and convinced me even more about the beauty of God’s plan for salvation.   My faith is no longer built on the pastor's message, the music, and a good Sunday school lesson because in time these things all wore off. These things very useful and helped build my Christian foundation in so many ways, I will always be grateful. Many years my foundation was shaken, tossed and blown here to there. I felt like I was stuck in neutral. His mercies were to be new every morning as the song goes. Where is His mercy and I felt like my testimony of growth was past tense? The miracles in the days gone by were a memory. I want to grow, get out of neutral and know You more, feel Your presence in worship and find a church I would know I was at home, this was my prayer for many, many years. I want to see You in my life and I want others to see You in me. This I have come to understand is a process of dying to the flesh. How do I get the power and strength in my life to move toward sanctification? Sure in the past I died to flesh many times, only to return again and again. Do not get me wrong I have not mastered dying to self, far from it. And I know you are much aware of this. The journey into the Catholic Faith and learning about the sacraments has taught me and shown me personally that the sacraments are an ongoing process (tool) in one’s life toward sanctification. If you open your heart to them and let the Holy Spirit guide you into this truth, you move toward the graces of God that do not stop giving. I choose to be a participant or not. It was a choice. Before I tell you what the sacraments have done for me I want to make this very clear. Christ died on the cross for me, you and everyone. It is the grace He pours out that works in the hearts of men and women to believe. To say “yes” to believe He is my Savior was His workings in my heart. To believe and have this power of faith in my life is my ticket to heaven. The ticket gets you into the gate but much is required. Christ said, “Take up your cross and follow me”. Many stand at the gate with ticket in hand and never take up the cross. As they stand, the powers of this world are enticing them to leave the journey they are in. The powers of this world are saying “you’ve got your ticket, come follow me on earth and you can use the ticket when you die, follow me and let the world renew your mind and be your lord. Have fun, who needs God now?” The ticket at the gate is not where scripture tells us to stand and wait for eternal life. To hold onto this ticket we do have to pick up our cross and follow Him. Much is required to grow in faith. Just like the website I sent you to read of Mark Mallet, he said it well:
DO you really want to see change in your life? Do you really want to experience the power of God that transforms and liberates one from the powers of sin? It doesn’t happen on its own. No more than a branch can grow unless it draws from the vine, or a newborn baby can live unless it suckles. New life in Christ through Baptism is not the end; it is the beginning. But how many souls think that that is enough!

In Baptism, we are made into a new creation. We are cleansed of sin and made whole. But it is as though we are born in the baptismal font. We are merely babes who must yet grow and mature…
…until we all attain to the unity of faith and knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the extent of the full stature of Christ, so that we may no longer be infants, tossed by waves and swept along by every wind of teaching arising from human trickery, from their cunning in the interests of deceitful scheming. (Eph 4:13-14)
The terrible disease in the Church, particularly in the Western world, has been a complacency of faith, a maintenance of the status quo and almost a repulsion for anything that would challenge that. So long as you come to Mass on Sunday, you can pat yourself on the back and congratulate yourself for "doing more than most." If going to Mass were a ticket to Heaven, then by all means, why bother doing more?
But it’s not a ticket. In fact, for some, it will be an indictment—that after having been given so much, we have done so little. But, in truth, the sheep have also been offered little. The pulpits in many places have fallen silent on explaining the Catholic Faith; devotions, such as the Rosary, have been relegated to antiquity along with reverent liturgy and sacred art; and the Sacraments in some places have become something we do, rather than encounter. As a result, there has been a general loss of hunger for God, of passion for Truth, and zeal for souls; many Christians in the modern world have remained infants, and what’s most tragic, "infants, tossed by waves and swept along by every wind of teaching arising from human trickery…"
Having a clear faith, according to the credo of the Church, is often labeled as fundamentalism. Yet, relativism, that is, letting oneself be tossed and ‘swept along by every wind of teaching’, appears the sole attitude acceptable to today’s standards. —Cardinal Ratzinger (POPE BENEDICT XVI) pre-conclave Homily, April 18th, 2005
Becoming a Christian is not about becoming a member of some club, but completely changing the course of one’s life. It means a complete renovation of one’s lifestyle according to a new pattern, a new mode of being. Yes, it’s radical. It’s bloody radical! Because it was made possible by the shedding of Christ’s blood. Jesus died on the Cross to free you from the power of death so that you can truly live, be fully alive. A Man DIED for you. How can this be a little thing, a "nice" thing, a private thing? It is the thing. It should become the center of your life, the pivot of your thoughts, the force behind all your actions. If it’s not, then who are you? Are you really the man or woman God created you to be, or still an infant who has been swept away by the world?

I have written you already about having the Heart of God and becoming the Face of Love to others. But you are not just spirit and body; you also have a soul. It is that place where the will and intellect reside. To love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength (Deut 6:5) is to align your complete being with him. That means you should also put on the mind of Christ.
Jesus demonstrates what this means. When He was just a boy, Jesus suddenly left His parents:
After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions… (Luke 2:46)
If Jesus, the God-Man, found it necessary to seek out teachers and to find answers, how much more do we, whose minds are darkened by fallen human nature, need the light of knowledge to show us the path to take?
You have been told, O man, what is good, and what the LORD requires of you: only to do the right and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8)
What is right? What is good? We live in a world that showers us with condoms, birth control pills, reproductive technologies, alternative forms of marriage, abortion, and a growing list of ethical complexities. What is right? What is good? The Christian must put on the mind of Christ, because moral actions either produce life—or death. We need to turn off the television and begin to grow "in the knowledge of the Son of God" so that we may live.
So I declare and testify in the Lord that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds; darkened in understanding, alienated from the life of God because of their ignorance, because of their hardness of heart, they have become callous and have handed themselves over to licentiousness for the practice of every kind of impurity to excess. That is not how you learned Christ, assuming that you have heard of him and were taught in him, as truth is in Jesus, that you should put away the old self of your former way of life, corrupted through deceitful desires, and be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new self, created in God’s way in righteousness and holiness of truth. (Eph 4:17-24)

St. Paul’s vision of spiritual transformation is incarnational. He does not sit passively waiting for God to change him. Rather, he exhorts us to actively renew our minds.
Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect. (Rom 12:2)
So many Christians today are formed by Oprah Winfrey or the latest self-help guru rather than by their Mother, the Church. They listen to false teachers who tickle their ears with Da Vinci codes, speculation, and subtle deceptions rather than the truth that would set them free. They are sometimes like infants who prefer candy rather than healthy food.
Let no one deceive you with empty words… Although you should be teachers by this time, you need to have someone teach you again the basic elements of the utterances of God. You need milk, and not solid food. Everyone who lives on milk lacks experience of the word of righteousness, for he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those whose faculties are trained by practice to discern good and evil. (Eph 5:6; Heb 5:12-14)
We have to learn "by practice" to distinguish between good and evil. We do this, says St. Paul, by taking "every thought captive to obey Christ" (2 Cor 10:5). This filtering, however, is not a subjective process. Truth is not something we decide because "I prayed and thought about it." Truth is rooted in the natural law and in the moral revelation of Jesus, as given to His Church, and revealed through the Holy Spirit. Even the Spirit speaks only what has been given:
…when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth. He will not speak on his own, but he will speak what he hears… (John 16:13).
The proclamation of Christ, the proclamation of the Kingdom of God presupposes listening to his voice in the voice of the Church. "Not speak on his own authority" means: to speak in the mission of the Church…—Cardinal Ratzinger (POPE BENEDICT XVI), The New Evangelization, Building the Civilization of Love; Address to Catechists and Religion Teachers, December 12, 2000

Having the mind of Christ is to have the mind of the Church. The mind of the Church is the mind of Christ. He is not divided from His Body as you cannot be divided in your thinking from the Head. But there is something deeper and more personal here. God wants to speak to you, in your heart (see God Speaks… to me?). To put on the mind of Christ is to above all come to know the mind of God—to know His Heart. This is remarkable, of course, because God wants to reveal His inmost being to you. He wants you to dwell in the regions of His Heart "that eye has not seen, and ear has not heard, and what has not entered the human heart, what God has prepared for those who love him" (1 Cor 2:9). He wishes to give you Wisdom, a wisdom that the world does not know. He wants every single one of His people to be a mystic. For a mystic is simply one who raises His eyes from the temporal into the eternal, who takes the time to look into the eyes of Love. This is possible, to one degree or another, for every single Christian. It is, in fact, our vocation:
…that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the holy ones what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. (Eph 3:17-19)
This knowledge will only come to you as, day by day, you seek first the Kingdom of God, spending regular time in prayer, opening your heart to the One who will speak to you. He will speak to you, above all, in His Word, the Sacred Scripture, which when received like a little child, has the power to change and transform you. But like a branch that must draw sap from the vine, or a baby, milk from its mother, you must actively dispose yourself to the contemplation of God through humility, prayer, and obedience.
Contemplation is a gaze of faith, fixed on Jesus. "I look at him and he looks at me"… Contemplation also turns its gaze on the mysteries of the life of Christ. Thus it learns the "interior knowledge of our Lord," the more to love him and follow him.Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 2715
The Word of God—listening to and meditating on the Word of God is a daily encounter with "the surpassing knowledge of Jesus Christ". The Council "forcefully and specifically exhorts all the Christian faithful, especially those who live the religious life, to learn this sublime knowledge" (Dei Verbum 25). —Eduardo Cardinal Pironio, Prefect, The Contemplative Dimension of Religious Life, 4-7 March 1980; http://www.vatican.va/

My testimony of the Sacraments:
To confess my sins to a Priest and being accountable for my actions is a healer of my soul. As a Protestant to confess in the shadows of myself, I knew I was forgiven, though my soul was not healed. To know that Christ established the Priesthood to help me in this area of my journey gives me comfort.  Whatever is loosed on earth will be loosed in heaven. Confession of sin is a healer of my soul and also a growth process to help me in the process of sanctification, to help me move forward toward holiness. I must be Holy as God is Holy. Will I get to this state of Holiness here on earth? The graces of confession will help me in this earthly journey, but I am sure it will be finished in Heavenly places.                        
To look at marriage as a sacrament in my life has given me a new appreciation for what God foresaw for man and woman in this holy communion of two coming together as husband and wife in one’s personal Christian journey. To sacrifice self for someone is a special grace that helps you grow in holiness. The graces that come from Him in marriage are a miracle.  If one does not understand this they are doing all the work without Him, and this is why so many marriages fail today in our society. As I wrote to Josh and Mel in my book; know that marriage is a sacrament and you will receive its graces. Sacrament means an element God uses to draw you closer to Him and continues to refine us closer and closer to holiness. Eph. 5: 21-27 Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives, be subject to your husband as you are to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife just as Christ is the head of the church, the body of Christ, so we also wives ought to be, in everything, to their husband. Husbands love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, in order to make her holy by cleansing with the washing of water by the word, so as to present the church to himself in splendor, without a spot or wrinkle or blemish. In the same way, husbands should love their wives as they do their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one hates his own body, but he nourishes and tenderly cares for it, just as Christ does for the church, because we are members of His body “for this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife and the two will become one flesh. This is a great mystery, and I am applying it to Christ and the church.                                                                                                  If we take this scripture to heart, we both have failed greatly in this area and do not let God use this union of two people united as one in the power of the Trinity to receive the graces to help us grow in holiness. Areas I see we have both failed in this scripture; I have not "totally" let you be the Priest of our marriage, home and family and I am sorry. It is a trust issue that comes from the fact you fail as much as I do in this scripture. Make her holy by cleansing with the washing of water by the word, so as to present the church to himself in splendor, without a spot or wrinkle or blemish. You are to help me become holy and wash me with the word. What word? (just a thought) The New Testament had not been written when Paul wrote this. It shows me how important the Old Testament was held high on Paul’s list to read. I also read in this scripture you are to help me become holy? Do you think if you help me in this area you will strive to be holy? Or can a husband encourage a wife to be holy and he remains a pagan? ( I am not speaking of you..just asking a question in general terms..your not a pagan.. maybe sometimes?? Ha)  The church is mentioned in this reading as well and what church are we talking about?                                               
To know and understand what Baptism is in one’s life is to know it is the washing away of original sin and being born into the New Covenant. Baptism is a sacrament and it releases the Holy Spirit in the depth of one's being. For an infant to be baptized into the Holy Trinity of God they are born again in the spiritual realm of God and the original sin of Adam and Eve is not an issue. They are born into the New Covenant and will receive the Holy Spirit in the depths of their being which is connected to the Holy Trinity which include Father, Son and Holy Spirit. A special grace this sacrament is for one to begin their Christian journey. I pray for all those who have been baptize and are now adults that the spirit awakens them. Baptism is not a ticket to heaven though scripture requires it to help us in our salvation journey.
Holy Orders
The sacrament of Holy orders; this is made up of the priesthood that started with Melchizedek and follows through the Old Testament and continues as Christ calls those into this ministry to help Sheppard His flock on earth while he sits at the right hand of the Father as the high Priest forever and ever. The Priests on earth are cheering us on to eternal life, encouraging us to partake of the sacraments, to live the sacraments, while Christ the High Priest is going before the Father in the Holy of Holy's beyond the veil for our sins. Isn’t it amazing how God can use men that are not perfect, just like us that are on the same journey as we are toward the goal of eternal life? The earthly priest appointed and called by God, who struggles with sin day after day just like us, but obedient to the calling are used by God to help us on our journey to eternal life. They are married to the church (body of Christ) and they are to be just like a husband should be to his wife. Make her holy by cleansing with the washing of water by the word. Do they do it perfect? Do we do it perfect? When we strive to grasp this sacrament it is a helpmate to encourage us toward the prize of eternal life.
Confirmation is a sacrament and a tool for the Baptized to bring their baptism to life in the fullness of the belief and hope they can have in Christ Jesus for the promise of eternal life through the power of his death, sacrifice, resurrection and accession to the right hand of the Father. The Lord uses many to help the baptized in this journey and I truly feel that the parents, the Christian community, the Priests, teachers and we can add our Protestant brothers and sisters to this equation as well. We are all going to stand before the Lord one day and give account for areas we have failed many in discipleship. If we took this sacrament serious just like all the other sacraments, think of the graces we would receive and those who are babes in Christ would receive? Keep in mind with all our failings from marriage, the priesthood and being used to help others in confirmation, God is still in control and still uses all of us who are plagued with the sin nature of man. It is He who does the work in the hearts of men and women. This shows you how special His love is for us. Forgive them Father for they do not know what they do. Confirmation is an act one confesses and believes in the Lord Jesus Christ. Scripture tells us if we do not believe we have no life, no eternal life.
Anointing of the Sick
Anointing of the sick a sacrament and is very scriptural. If anyone is sick bring them before the elders of the church and anoint them with oil. Jesus encountered the sick on a daily basis and healed them. Physical, mental, spiritual and those possessed with demons, He healed them all who trusted and believed. Jesus commanded his disciples to do the same. When a Priest administers this sacrament, graces flow from above by the power of the Holy Spirit. These healings we encounter in our life that comes for the graces from above encourages us toward the prize of life, eternal life. Many of our illnesses are the underlining sickness of sin. Can a sinner go to heaven unless he confesses and gives it to Jesus our mediator?  Is this a onetime confession? Scripture tells us we must confess our sins to have life, eternal life.                                                                                                                               
Eucharist                                                                                                                                         I Saved this sacrament for last, the Eucharist. Oh my, I could write a book about this and just read a book about this “The Biblical Basis for the Eucharist.”
Chapter 1: The nature of God: God & covenant, God's anger at sin & desire to be appeased, Propitiation in the Old Testament, Protestant misconceptions about atonement.
This chapter on the nature of God... foundation of text was scripture.

Chapter 2: The Eternal Sacrifice of Jesus, Prophecies of Christ, the Priesthood of Melchizedek, the perpetual Priesthood of Jesus, Jesus offers His blood Sacrifice in heaven, Jesus' ongoing mediation for our salvation. again... This chapter on the eternal sacrifice of Jesus... foundation of text was scripture.

Chapter 3: The real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, "This is my Body; this is my blood", "Offer this as my memorial sacrifice", Paul's teaching on the real Presence, "Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood", Philosophical objections to the Eucharist...
This chapter on the real Presence... foundation of text was scripture.

Chapter 4: The early church Fathers on the Eucharist. Miracles of the Eucharist, The Dogmatic Canons of the Council of Trent and the Canons on the Sacrifice of the Mass, Session XXII, Pope Pius IV, Sept. 17, 1562.

The history of the miracles recorded of the Eucharist... you were a doubting Thomas.. on the fence Thomas, the early church Fathers writings.. so blunt about how important the Eucharist is for understanding it is the real Presence, how their writings defended it. I personally was encouraged..                                                                                                                                         Then the Canon Law, To be honest I had a hard time with the black and white picture they contain.
Each Canon Law ended with this remark: let him be anathema.. which means "a formal curse of the church, excommunicating someone or condemning something as evil, a detested person or thing.

Council of Trent:

Canon 1: If anyone denies that in the sacrament of the most Holy Eucharist there are truly, really and substantially contained the body & blood together with the soul and divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ and therefore the whole Christ, but shall say that He is in it as by a sign, or figure, or force: let him be anathema.

Canon 2: If anyone says that in the sacred and holy sacrament of the Eucharist there remains the substance of bread and wine together with the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ and denies that wonderful and singular conversion of the whole substance of the bread into the body, and of the entire substance of the wine into the blood, the species of bread and wine only remaining, a change which the Catholic Church most fittingly calls transubstantiation: let him be anathema.

Council of Trent Canon law went all the way to # 11.. each law basically defended this Eucharist teaching from many angles..


Canon 1: If anyone says that in the Mass a true and proper sacrifice is not offered to God or that the offering consist merely in fact that Christ is given to us to eat, anathema sit.

Cannon 2: If anyone says that by the words. "Do this as a memorial of me" Christ did not establish the apostles as priests or that he did not order that they and other priests should offer his body and blood, anathema sit.

We then have Canon Laws; 3-9 that are to the point.

You listen to these laws as I read them and you say “the Catholic Church says if you don't believe it, let him be anathema.. Does this mean all who do not believe this.. like all Protestants are anathema? My family for many years.. roots are Protestant.. So did they not make it to heaven? According to these laws and if you do not believe you are cursed."

John 6:53: Jesus said to them, "Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat this flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.
John Salaza really hammers this scripture in his book..  Your reply.. "so if one does not eat his flesh & drink his blood.. do they not have eternal life? What about the Protestants that do not believe? Does our salvation depend on this belief? Where is faith in Jesus and what he did on the cross? What about the thief on the cross? Jesus told him he would see him in paradise. It was his faith in knowing that Christ was Lord".
My answer: While on the tread mill I had a conversation with my Lord about this book and grasping it all. He showed me some unique answers. He told me to look in the Concordance of my Bible, in the back of my Bible key verses that had the word eternal life and life. Many scriptures in the Bible concerning this subject matter, life and eternal life. I do not have the time to type them all in this letter, but I encourage you to read them all.
Eternal Life; Psalms 119:89, Isa. 26:4, Psalm 93:2, Ecc 3:11, Matt. 19:16, Matt. 25:41-46, John 6: 68, John 10:28, Gal. 1:8, Romans 1:20, Romans 6:23, 2 Corth 4:17-18, 1 Tim. 1:16-17, Hebrews 9:12, 1 John 5:11, 2 Peter 1:3, 1 Peter 3:10, James 3:13, James 1: 12, 2 Tim. 3:12, 1 Tim 4:8, 4:16, 6:19, Philp  2:16, Eph 4:1, Gal. 2:20, 2 Cort. 3:6, 1 Corth. 15 :19.
Life: Romans 4:25, 6:13, 6:23, 8:38, Acts 13:48, John 3:15, 3:36, 4:14, 5:24, 6:35, 6:45, 6:68, 10:28, 14:6, 20:31
Baptism: Mark 16:16, Matt, 3:11, Mark 1:8, 1 Corth. 1:17
I could go further and make a point in how important Penance, marriage, priesthood, believing (confirmation) and anointing the sick are in scripture. How they are all a part of the big picture in salvation history. They are tools God uses to help us toward perfection. Yes, Christ died for us all, but we are also encouraged to die to the flesh and strive toward perfection as Paul writes, to press on to the prize.  Our flesh must die with Christ, to self, to renew our minds too that of Christ.
Is it one sacrament that points to eternal life? No it is all of them that point us to God’s way. Do we do them perfect? No! Our Christian journey is to put our faith in Him and use the tools he has given us to stay in the race. To continue, press on to the mark in which Christ Jesus has given us to press on toward, which is the gift of eternal life. You are an engineer and you also have a hobby of woodworking. When you started out many years ago with this hobby you needed tools. You made simple things to start, but you were making things. As you learned and grew in the art of making things out of wood, you continually needed more tools. Every time I wanted you to build me something else, you would say "can't build it unless I have this special tool I need... to build it right." So we would go buy more tools to add to your tool box. Just because you lacked this tool did not mean you were not a  "woodworker." It also did not mean you had to have that new tool to build my new request. The new tool made it easier for you to build the new project. The new tool gave you more POWER in your craft. That is what the sacraments are..TOOLS to give you more POWER (graces) in your Christian walk. The Protestants have tools as well and I should know (I've used them). When we Catholics say we have the fullness of the faith...it is only saying our tool box is full to the brim and the biggest tool.. the BIG Boy is the Eucharist.
The Eucharist is Christ present to me today, body and blood just as much as it was for those who stood at the foot of the cross 2,000 years ago. What our God began in the Old Covenant he fulfilled in the New Covenant. Our New Covenant we do not sacrifice goats, lambs and bulls. We have a perfect sacrifice present today entering into the Holy of Holies, our Lord Jesus Christ.  By the power of the Holy Spirit using an imperfect man (The Priest) who has been called by God to serve in the priestly line of Melchizedek and the Apostles. This man who struggles with the flesh daily is used in a miracle that takes place at Mass. It does not depend on how holy this man is because it is not him that does the miracle at Mass. It is the Holy Spirit that makes present my Jesus, my Lamb of God who takes away my sins. Jesus is my High Priest that lives forever and ever.  The Eucharist gives me life, it nourishes me and is one of many elements my God has put in place for me to have the graces I need daily to stay in the race. And "No" we are not sacrificing Christ in the Mass. Hebrews 7:27 "once for all." The church teaches the understanding in how the Mass is a re-presentation of Jesus' historical, one time sacrificial death on the cross. In every Mass, the priest re-enacts Jesus' priestly actions at the Lord Supper, offering once more his Body and Blood. But Jesus is not sacrificed again in the Eucharist. Rather, his unique sacrifice is made real and present to us here and now, because it is divine reality that transcends space and time.
Our discussion about the thief on the cross; he just believed and Jesus told him he would see him in paradise. Many will be just like that thief and wait till the last moment they breath their last breathe. God have mercy.  Was it his belief that saved him? Only God knows. No place in Scripture does it say all you need is to "Believe in Christ" for your salvation.. then go live life according to the gospel of the world.  Satan believes in Christ and has no place in heaven. I love the way my New Catholic Answer Bible answers this question:
"The Lord is just and loves just deeds, "the psalmist says, and "the upright shall see his face'(Ps11:7). These words summarize the Catholic view (which is also the Biblical view) of salvation. Because God is just and loves the justice, if we hope to "see his face"-- that is, to live with him in friendship forever-then we ourselves must be "upright" as he is. The first letter of Peter puts it this way: "Be holy yourself in every aspect of your conduct, for it is written, "Be holy because I am holy." (1:15-16). That is a big order... we must take up our cross. It is a life time commitment  depending on His daily graces that come down from above.
Our faith in Christ's power to transform us is essential to our salvation by God's grace. Jas 2:14-26 Scripture insists that faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
In this way, good works, and the transformation of character they contribute to and reflect, are indeed necessary for salvation. God rewards the good works we do, works that he himself has made possible (Mt 16:27; 25:31-46). To the obedient "he promises, "I will show the salvation of God" (Ps 50:23)
As for the thief on the cross, we know nothing about him. Who was he? Did he come from a broken home? Did he have to steal to be able to eat? We will never know these answers in this lifetime. I do know he humbled himself on his cross and he believed. The pain he endured in this life, then hanging beside my Lord and enduring the brutal pain of the cross he brought upon himself because of sin. Then to hang beside the giver of life and see the suffering of his God and the love he had for him must have been powerful. Thank goodness my cross in life was not his. For the other thief who hung on the opposite side of Christ, (we can only imagine) his pride and self reliance on this world hardened his heart. He was not able to even look upon the cross of our Lord. He was too consumed by his own cross in life. The thief who was told He would see Him in paradise, Christ knew the heart of this thief, and knew his pain as he endured his own cross, I would like to think of it as the fire that God will use in all of us to burn up our dead works. 1 Corth. 3:14- 15. The cross he hung on was the all consuming fire in which God used to perfect his works.
Now onto the Cannon laws and the terrible word “anathema” that ended with each law. Rives gave me good insight to understand this. The laws were made during the reformation to defend the faith. Not only were the Catholic’s throwing terrible words out there, so were the Protestants. The Eucharist had been the life of the church from the beginning and now many Protestant leaders were tearing this truth into many pieces. Was that a good word “anathema” for men to use? Only God knows the answer. I look at it as the way the Holy Spirit used imperfect men to protect the sacred teachings of the church that had been passed down from the Apostles, the Church Fathers and all the way down to little ole’ me. As Rives said, you need to read what the Protestant were saying about Catholic’s “they are all going to hell.” Funny they are still saying that today.
The church, the sacraments are a tool I have discovered and to sum this all up; “they are graces bestowed upon me that in His time I will be made perfect and I am a work in progress.”  Not to say I never received graces as a Protestant. I did!! Many! God met me right where I was in life, just like the thief on the cross. Being a Catholic now, has taught me how little I know and that I have not arrived with the full knowledge and answers to understand God’s plan for all when it comes too eternal life. I no longer can boast, I can only boast about the ONE who gives life, life eternally. God of Mercy will pour out His mercy to anyone He wants too and it is none of my business. My job is to keep my eyes on Jesus and call on Him every day of my life to do the complete work in me. Work out your salvation with fear and trembling, Phil 2:12-13, Ecc 12:13. Which means God’s wisdom and looking at the whole picture. Not a half glass, a full glass. The fullness of the Catholic faith gives me the full glass in the form of the sacraments. I am no longer tossed around doing this on my own. I have the fullness of the faith. I have my Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit, the Communion of Saints, the Angels, Mother Mary, all seven Sacraments and my cup over flows.
To my wonderful husband who has stood beside me in all the craziness, busyness, quiet time and all that life has brought to us for many years. Good and bad, happy and sad, struggles and success, I think we have ridden them all. I can describe our marriage, our relationship, raising our kids and even our many pets we have owned in the context of all these descriptive adjectives and I am sure there are many other adjectives I could come up with to describe our life. Though we might not have it down to perfection and will probably never reach it in this lifetime, we can be thankful for many things we have shared together. I look at our journey of faith in this same context. It has been crazy, busy, good, bad, happy, sad, struggles, success and “yes” quiet times. I have had so many quiet times with my Lord and He takes me to the mountain top. I have also had times of quiet when I did not know He was with me. In my lifetime if I compare the quiet times, the times of not knowing verses the mountain tops, the not knowing would win the prize. Growing up as a child as I look back to the past I really had no faith foundation to speak of, just believing. Believing was my foundation of knowing there was a God. It would take years of many paths the Lord took me to get where I am today. My Lord is sovereign and I know each step and path was a direction He carried me. In 1980 when I truly surrendered to know who He was and ask Him to be Lord of my life I was touched deeply. I was not in a church setting when this all took place. I do remember asking Him to direct my path to His truths, to a church where I could learn more about Him. The Lord really used Betty Caravella during this time of my life. Word of Truth, pastor Robert Tilton was the medicine I needed for my broken spirit. God used that ministry in my life and yours as well. Would we be happy in a church like that today? No! It is amazing to me how he used that ministry to encourage us to move forward and learn. He planted so many folks in our path in Alvarado. Kathy and the prayer group we became a part of for a few years, the Assembly of God Church in Cleburne, Kay and Randy Meeks and a few other folks that mentored and we shared a common love of Jesus with. The power of God’s love and the hope He instilled in us during that time is a miracle. The miracle to even trust in Him to go off to school was amazing. My foundation back then had grown from believing in a God, to knowing there was a God and I could have a personal relationship with Him. Did I understand what Baptism meant, the Holy Trinity and all it encompassed? No! I was living in the moment and was being loved by my Jesus right where I was in life. I was a work in progress and had a long way to go in my journey of faith. Looking back now where I was, I truly thought I had arrived and I knew all the answers to what it meant to be a Christian. I now know the journey never ends until we see Him face to face, and this makes it so exciting. A relationship with Christ is an on going journey of learning to love and being loved, that continues to grow and each season of life it gets better. We can compare this relationship to a husband and wife and the relationship of the Holy Trinity... it is to be mirrors and reflections of each other. Love Always, Julie

1 comment:

  1. Julie, this Love letter is a masterpiece of Gods Love. I know Jim Loves you the same. It is a miracle that this friendship in progress started because of two Vivian, La young service men being stationed toogether in a foreign Island. The Navy Mate, John Grogan being Married to a 20 year old Classmate of ours.
    Jan Swilley Grogan was a masterpiece and her and John shared a never ending Love even into death. They are now joined together in Heaven.

    Carl Tirpitz