Catholic Faith: Blog
This Catholic Faith Blog is Maintained by the Catholic Rebuttals Research Team. Here You Will Find Responses to Reader's Questions, Catholic Commentary and Other Resources!
This week begins what the Catholic Church calls Holy Week. Holy Thursday commemorates the last supper of Jesus with his disciples. It is the night Jesus give his disciples the sacrament of Holy Orders, the ordination of priest. He told them to “Do this in memory of me”, the breaking of bread, and the cup of wine turned into his blood for the forgiveness of sins, the new covenant. Good Friday is the day Christ is crucified, dies and is buried. It is good because the Lord has made atonement for our sins to the Father. For 3 days the disciples mourned, they hid and were terrified about what had just taken place. They were terrified because they thought they would be crucified next. Holy Saturday is the day Jesus our Lord descends to the dead and preaches to those who had been waiting for this great day of salvation. Holy Sunday, (Easter Sunday) is the day of the Resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. He is alive again! This day is the “Day of the Lord”, and is the day Christians assemble to do what he told his disciples to do back on Holy Thursday night, to break bread and eat it, (it is the flesh that came down from heaven) also the cup of wine turned into the blood of Christ by his ministers the priest. And so they ate and drank the Body and Blood of salvation, the Lord Jesus Christ. Every first day of the week (Sunday) the disciples gathered for the banquet. The priest offers up to the Father the Body, Blood Soul and Divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ in memory of His life death and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins and for our salvation. Jesus’ Passion is made present here and in every place a Catholic priest is following Jesus’ command to, “do this in memory of Me”. Happy Resurrection Day!
Question From Reader:
Please decipher this. Are people in heaven now? The Bible says, “for the living know that they will die; but the dead know nothing… their love, their hatred, and their envy have now perished” (Ecclesiastes 9:5, NKJV, see also Psalm 146:4; 115:17). It makes sense that after Lazarus was raised from the dead, he doesn’t share what he saw or experienced. He didn’t have anything to tell, except that once he was dead, and now he is alive! He didn’t experience hell or heaven. He was simply “sleeping” in his tomb.
Short answer: It is suggested by the ancient texts that no one who died prior to Jesus’s death, entered into heaven, for no person was righteous enough (without the sacrifice of The Lamb of God) to get in. Therefore, Lazarus himself, having died prior to Jesus’s death would not have gone to heaven, but would have entered into the Bosom of Abraham to await the death of The Messiah.
The question you raise here is a good one (thank you) and has to do with biblical history in its proper time. Your question also points towards the progress of salvation history and what Catholics call the “Communion of Saints” (holy ones in heaven). Before I get to the root of your question, I want to address the biblical passages you quoted. It’s important to keep in mind that regarding this particular issue these quotes are found in the Old Testament (more on that later). After reading these passages in the context of the entire chapter it was clear to me what the author was explaining that those who die in their sin are damned; Psalm 146:3 says, “Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation”. Here, the author is saying that we should not put our trust in any normal man but in God; for God is hope for the believer.
You make a good point, we can’t really know for certain whether or not Lazarus shared his experience or not since the Scripture does not reveal this. This passage doesn't say one way or the other if Lazarus talks about what happens. But I could imagine his sister Martha asking him about it, I sure would if my brother came back to life after being dead for 4 days. Keep in mind that not one of the Patriarchs, prophets, or even Lazarus were able to go to heaven at this point in time because Jesus had not come to redeem those that were “asleep” or dead. At this point in time, Jesus was currently proclaiming the coming of the kingdom of God. His Passion, Death, and most importantly His Resurrection had not come to pass. Remember what Jesus did/said before his death on the Cross? He tells the thief who repented, “Today you will be with Me in Paradise.” He didn’t tell Martha, Martha don’t worry about Lazarus, he is in paradise, no instead Jesus used this opportunity to demonstrate His power and authority over death and raised Lazarus (whom He loved). After Jesus’s death Scripture tells us, He descended to the dead and spent 3 days there. This place was not the hell of everlasting damnation. Indeed, Jesus went to preach to those who died in good graces with God before his Resurrection, Scripture called this place the Bosom of Abraham, also known to the Jews as Sheol, in Greek, Hades, and latter as Paradise. According to the OT, Sheol was the place of bliss although not complete bliss, a place where those who died righteously went to wait for the coming of The Messiah. (Luke 16:22) And it is by this illustration that they pictured the next world. They conceived of the reward of the righteous dead as a sharing in a banquet given by Abraham, "the father of the faithful" (Matthew 8:11), and of the highest form of that reward as lying in "Abraham's Bosom". Since the coming of Our Lord, "the Bosom of Abraham" gradually ceased to designate a place of imperfect happiness, and it has become synonymous with Heaven itself.
Sorry for the long answer but I wanted to give some context first. The Bible and the Tradition (teachings) of the Catholic Church with regards to your main question, “Are people in heaven now”, depends on what you mean by people. People are made in the image and likeness of God, meaning, people have a soul (the divine part of God’s image, or spiritual part) and our physical part the body (the natural part of the image of God). When someone dies his/her natural body returns to the natural (dust to dust) and the supernatural part the soul either goes to heaven, purgatory or hell. A person’s soul, once created, can never die. Your soul will reside either temporarily in purgatory or permanently in heaven or hell. This depends on the state of your soul at the time of your death. If you are in a state of sanctifying grace when you pass, you will enter into the heavenly kingdom (but I no man can judge you - only God). So my answer is “yes” I believe people are now in heaven, alive and well, but only the supernatural part of people, the soul.
The communion of saints is the spiritual solidarity which binds together the faithful on earth, the soul in purgatory, and the saints in heaven in the organic unity of the same mystical body under Christ its head, and in a constant interchange of supernatural offices. The participants in that solidarity are called saints by reason of their destination and of their partaking of the fruits of the Redemption (1 Corinthians 1:2 — Greek Text). The damned are thus excluded from the communion of saints. The living, even if they do not belong to the body of the true Church, share in it according to the measure of their union with Christ and with the soul of the Church.
The Book of Revelation 6:9, discusses the Martyrs whose souls are in Heaven and they are having a conversation with the Lord in prayer. Eph 1:22;23, regards Jesus as the head of His church, and that the Church is His body. This Church incompasses those saints in heaven and those on earth and those in that special place were the righteous who don't deserve hell but are not yet prepared for heaven, go. Eph 4:4 mentions the Church, the body of Christ, as one body one spirit, and for those people who remain in His body the Church, cannot be separated from Christ or from his body the Church, not even death will separate the saints. This is why the saints in heaven are joined with the saints on earth in and through Christ the head, and all together make up the church which is Christ’s body - His complete, whole and singular body.
Ecclesiastes 11:9; 12:1 sq.; and Hebrews 9:27, are sometimes quoted in proof of the particular judgment, but though these passages speak of a judgment after death, neither the context nor the force of the words proves that the sacred writer had in mind a judgment distinct from that at the end of the world. The Scriptural arguments in defence of the particular judgment must be indirect. There is no text of which we can certainly say that it expressly affirms this dogma but there are several which teach an immediate retribution after death and thereby clearly imply a particular judgment. Christ represents Lazarus and Dives as receiving their respective rewards immediately after death. They have always been regarded as types of the just man and the sinner. To the penitent thief it was promised that his soul instantly on leaving the body would be in the state of the blessed: "This day thou shalt be with me in Paradise" (Luke 23:43). St. Paul (2 Corinthians 5) longs to be absent from the body that he may be present to the Lord, evidently understanding death to be the entrance into his reward (cf. Philemon 1:21 sq.). Ecclesiasticus 11:28-29 speaks of a retribution at the hour of death, but it may refer to a temporal punishment, such as sudden death in the midst of prosperity, the evil remembrance that survives the wicked or the misfortunes of their children. However, the other texts that have been quoted are sufficient to establish the strict conformity of the doctrine with Scripture teaching.
We hear now is the time of the Christmas season, not according to the Church. This is the season of Advent. a period before the celebration of Christ's birth. Advent of the incarnation, the arrival of the Son of God, and also the son of man. Advent season is 4 weeks before Christmas morning, it is a time for prayer and penance (fasting) in preparation of celebrating the coming of the Lord Jesus. To learn more about how to best prepare ourselves for Christ's birthday and to de-commercialize Christmas visit NCR article: http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/its-advent-time-to-prepare: Have a very Merry Christmas: And thank you for visiting this site and blog.
Go Find it in Scripture
What the Church Teaches
St. Ignatius of Antioch, the preceding bishop of St. Peter, and a disciple of St. John was consecrated bishop of Antioch in 69 AD. He said, “Through the ordained ministry, especially that of the bishops and priests, the presence of Christ as head of the Church is made visible in the midst of the community of believers.” That was close to 30 years after the death of our Lord, Jesus Christ! The Church still teaches this to this day.
In Other Words
The community of believers referenced here, is the structure that the Catholic Church uses today. The ordained bishops and priests of the Church understand that Christ is the Highest Priest so that by keeping the traditions of the Church, He is made visible to all. It is clear that those who are servants of the gospel, deserve our highest respect and a share of material resources (tithing). The Catholic Church neither holds up the Pope (the chair of St. Peter) higher than Jesus, nor does it teach to do so. Therefore, it is not the “chair” of Peter, but the “throne” of God that we are honoring. We honor these men because of the office they hold and being our spiritual 'fathers' as Paul states in 1 Tim 5:17. We hold them in high regard because they point the way to Christ. The body of Christ, the Church, respects these men of honor - and we should too. After all, they are the best examples on earth to what it means to be Christ-like. To be clear, Catholics do not worship the Pope nor do they worship Saints - we worship The Son through those He has given his authority and sanctifying grace to.
One of the essential areas of the Catholic Church is its hierarchical design; which Catholicism takes from its origin of the New Covenant. Not only did Jesus hand the keys down to Peter, Peter followed suit and handed the keys down to the next Pope; this process has carried on to present day with Pope Francis.
For the past few weeks, the themes of the readings in mass have been regarding Jesus’s description of heaven and our relationship with it. St. Augustine calls the kingdom of heaven, “The City of God” and this is also the title of one of his most popular books. As we all know, a 'city' is a community of people with all sorts of different backgrounds, ethnicity, and experiences. Within this mixed group of people there is often a common thread that pulls everyone together. This thread is an awareness, understanding, a belonging to and an acceptance by all.
In order for any community (whether heavenly or earthly) to thrive there must be a particular order, rules or laws in which those with authority administer. The purpose of order and regulation is to guide a community towards the common goal of peace and solidarity. During our journey toward the heavenly kingdom we too seek peace and solidarity. The Kingdom of God can be considered the mystery of Christ; (Luke 17:20, the kingdom is in your midst), wherever he is, there lies the kingdom. After his death, Jesus had to return to his Father’s kingdom (John 3:13) and from there he will reign over both the heavenly kingdom and the earthly kingdom. Before Christ Ascended to heaven he comforted his disciples with the words “I will not leave you orphans”, (John 14:18) and “As the Father sent me, so I send you”, (John 20:21).
Christ also gave the keys to his kingdom (heaven) to Simon, which whom he renamed Peter meaning “rock” (Matt 16:19). In the Old Testament, whoever had the ‘keys’ to the kingdom was considered the Ambassador to the King, thus had control over the kingdom; “Then I will set the key of the house of David on his shoulder, When he opens no one will shut,When he shuts no one will open” (Isaiah 22:22). Who ever held the keys has the authority to open or to shut, meaning he is in control. Jesus told Peter he would build his Church on him and Peter was given the authority in binding and loosening on earth, a decision that would be admissible in heaven.
Peter is now Christ’s Ambassador to the kingdom on earth; this earthly kingdom is truly Jesus’s Church. (Matthew 4:23): “And He (Jesus) went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and preaching the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every infirmity among the people” (The gospel of the Kingdom is also known as the gospel of The Church). Peter, by the power and authority given him through the Holy Spirit, went about doing just what Jesus did = binding and loosening demons, sin and even death (Acts 3:1-26). One of the essential areas of the Catholic Church is its hierarchical design; which Catholicism takes from its origin of the New Covenant. Not only did Jesus hand the keys down to Peter, Peter followed suit and handed the keys down to the next Pope; this process has carried on to present day with Pope Francis.
If you have been baptized, Catholicism agrees with the scriptures you are a child of God, for there is only one baptism. (Ephesian 4:5) So please, if you aren’t Catholic, consider coming into full communion with the kingdom the Catholic Church.
His Thoughts & Beliefs
In episode three of "Sex, Death and the Meaning of Life", Dawkins expresses his deep passion and zest for life. He explains that as humans we are to experience, live, love and search for deeper understanding. Throughout this particular episode, Dawkins seems to articulate his devotion to the scientific method; what he calls the greatest discovery of mankind. Various scenes of Dawkins walking around a wooded area, pointing to plants, animals and stars showcase his deep appreciate for nature and its infinite wisdom. As the episode continues, Dawkins begins interviewing Ricky Gervais, a famous English comedian who is also an atheist. The two become so wrapped up in the conversation, so overwhelmed by the emotion of the discourse that Gervais seems to well up with tears.
As the camera pans out and the episode concludes, Dawkins says:
"Just look how far we have come in my lifetime... we constantly push the frontiers of possibility, imagine what is still to come.... We are made by the laws of physics, working through 4 billion years of evolution. We have a brief sliver of life and the opportunity to understand how we came to be in it. The truth may not always be comforting in the face of suffering, but it has a majesty of its own. That's what I tell people when they ask me why I bother to get up in the morning."
Our team has written about our opinions as well as the Catholic Church's stance on Evolution and suffering; two CR posts that I encourage you to read. I agree that the earth is a glorious place and that our lives are "sacred" as Ricky Gervais says in episode three. I also agree that the scientific method is one of the most important and one of the greatest discoveries by mankind. Furthermore, I also agree that a big part of our purpose in life, as humans, is to challenge the status quo, discover and understand how we came to be. Alas I am compelled to wonder about the likelihood that all of this 'majesty' happened by mere chance.
Would Dawkins not agree that in order for us to figure something out - it must already be understood... maybe not by us, but by the very being that created the principles to which that 'something' was created. Therefore, if we are made by the laws of physics, worked through 4 billion years of evolution (which I agree with), who (or what) created the fundamental principles of physics? What about other scientific principles?
We humans are tasked with the burden of learning and understanding how things work - but they seem to work regardless of our understanding of them!
Editor of Catholic Rebuttals, Reece Theriot, was asked to guest star on a Dale Carnegie podcast. The subject of the discussion was prayer; reducing stress through prayer. Although Dale Carnegie was a successful businessman, he felt as though prayer was the most powerful way to lead a stress-free and productive life. If you would like to listen to the original podcast, click the button below:
Studies Showing Prayer Reduces Stress:
J. K. Fergerson: Centering Prayer as a Healing Response to Everyday Stress: A Psychological and Spiritual Process
Czech & Burke, in press; Czech et al., 2004; Park, 2000; Vernacchia et al., 2000: “Athletes utilized religious prayer in sport for three main reasons: coping with uncertainties and the concomitant anxiety, putting life and sport into perspective, and providing meaning to sports participation and competition.”
Jessie Dezutter 2011, Prayer and pain: the mediating role of positive re-appraisal:
“for this group of religious affiliated patients high levels of prayer were also related with more pain tolerance. These findings might indicate that prayer can be a useful factor in pain management but only for pain patients who are religious. It seems that prayer has to be incorporated in the religious meaning system of the patient before it can function as a tool in pain management”
Quotes About Prayer:
“A person’s prayer often keeps with his moral life. The closer our behavior corresponds to divine will, the easier it is to pray; the more our conduct is out of joint with Divinity, the harder it is to pray” Bishop Fulton J. Sheen
“Do not pray for an easy life, pray for the strength to endure a difficult one” Bruce Lee
“I have been driven many times upon my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had no where else to go. My own wisdom and that of all about me seemed insufficient for that day.” Abraham Lincoln
“The wise man in the storm prays God not for safety from danger but for deliverance from fear.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
“We should seek not so much to pray but to become prayer.” Francis of Assisi
Quotes about Restlessness and Stress:
“Our hearts are restless, O Lord, until we rest in thee.” St. Augustine
“Come to me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” Matthew 11:28 -30
“You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.” Isaiah 26:3
“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your mind in Christ Jesus” Philippians 4:7
A 'dogma' is a truth revealed by God to an Apostle. A 'doctrine' is an explanation of a 'dogma.'
In many instances protesters of Catholicism (Protestants) are not protesting The Church at all, especially on crucial scriptural passages. They are protesting what they think the Catholic Church teaches, not what The Church actually teaches (dogmas and doctrines). I was told to by a protestant once, “Do not come at me with your dogmas and doctrines.” This proves that he has misjudged what is meant by ’dogma’ or ‘doctrine.’ This person does not realize that he has his own set of dogmas and doctrines. To Catholics, a ‘dogma’ is an indispensable “truth” revealed by God to the Apostles, such as John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” If you believe this then you believe in a dogma of the Catholic Church.
In The Catholic Church, ‘doctrines’ are what is taught about a dogma. John 3:16 can be explain in several styles of languages, philosophical thought, poetically, literally ect., but can not deviate from its deliberate meaning. The Apostles received divine revelation through the Son, Jesus Christ (dogma), and taught their successors by written or oral word (doctrine).