Saturday, August 24, 2013

The Communion of Saints, the Forgiveness of Sins, the Resurrection of the Body and Life Everlasting

The communion of saints is interesting to think about and even more profound to experience.  Many non-Catholics or even many marginal Catholics will often complain that we pray to the saints, as if we do not believe that we can speak directly to God.  I usually respond to this statement by asking the critic if he or she ever asked a friend or family member to pray for them if they needed help or healing.  Most often the answer is a resounding YES. I then ask them if a person dies does their spirit live on in heaven or do they simply die and that is the end.  The response is usually that they certainly live on.  Then the next logical step is to ask that person who is now living in heaven to pray to God for them.

But the communion of saints is more than just a real good "in" with God.  The communion of saints means that we never lose the very bond of love that we had with our loved ones, even after they have left this life on earth.  It also means that our loved ones will continue to worship and praise the God who made them in the glory of heaven.  Our voices will be joined with theirs in that heavenly choir.

I fondly remember sitting in the pew with my mother and brother and sisters for Mass.  It was a special time and I remember my mother reminding me to fond my hands in prayer or giving me some change to put in the offering basket.  Those were days long, long ago.  my mother passed away in 2000.  But when I go to Mass I know that she is at Mass with me in a very real way.  She, too, is worshipping the same God we worshipped those many years ago.

And now to the forgiveness of sins.  I know many Catholics today who attend Mass somewhat regularly and do not feel the need to ever take advantage of the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  Some tell me they don't believe in telling their sins to another human being.  They say they can just go to God.  And this is true we sure can go right to God, but the Sacrament of Reconciliation is a necessary act of the will that assures us of the forgiveness of our sins because Jesus, Himself, gave us this way of assuring ourselves we have received God's forgiveness.  So many people tell me how heavy weights of anguish and guilt are lifted from their shoulders when they hear those wonderful words of absolution are said to them.  Indeed, I can attest to that myself.  We are all sinners and we need forgiveness.  The Church provides us this gift from Jesus for our benefit.  How sad it is when so many people are afraid to take that step.  I am sure some people have had bad experiences in confession.  I know I have.  And I understand the reluctance of not wanting to be embarrassed by admitting to sins we would rather not discuss.  But the priest has heard them all before.  In fact, just about every priest I have confessed to since my return to the Church has been very pastoral, caring and gentle.

The resurrection of the body and life everlasting is our hope for our future.  We were created as body, soul and spirit.  God created man and woman to live eternally.  It was through sin that this was destroyed.  Yet, through Jesus Christ, the perfection of life was restored and we are told that our bodies as well as our spiritual aspects will be resurrected and we will have that everlasting life that was intended at the beginning of creation.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Believing in Holy Spirit, Holy Catholic Church...

"I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Holy Catholic Church..."
God is God and God is a triune God--One God in three distinct Persons.  The Holy Spirit often is considered the most misunderstood, or at least the most mysterious.  One day when I was in seminary, the question was asked by our pastoral care professor, "When you think about God, which one of the Trinity comes to mind first, or which do you most often think about in your prayers?"  This was a real good question.  Jesus seemed to be the one who was most often considered first.  However, when one thought about the "power" of God, the Holy Spirit was the most popular in the class.

The Holy Spirit is seen when God acts in our world.  We call upon the Holy Spirit to bring about God's will.  The Creed is short and sweet when it comes to the Holy Spirit. Stated simply, "I believe in the Holy Spirit."  Ask yourself, who is the Holy Spirit to you?

The Holy Catholic Church is included in the Creed.  When I was in my Protestant days as a pastor, the explanation of this part of the Creed was downplayed by reminding the congregation that the word "catholic" meant "universal."  In fact, catholic does mean universal, however, we are saying that we hold to the belief of the Holy Catholic Church of Rome.  We hold to the teachings of the Church that was founded by Jesus Christ through Saint Peter.  Sure, there are problems with many things in the church today--many scandals.  But, in the history of the Church, there have been many scandals.  Yet, it is because of our belief in God, our Trinity that we can have faith in our Church.  God will protect His Church.  We can trust in this.