Friday, December 14, 2018

Podcast 14: The Communion of Saints and the Forgiveness of Sins

The Communion of Saints and the Forgiveness of Sins

This is step 13: The Communion of Saints and the Forgiveness of Sins. We know that Jesus picked twelve apostles from among his disciples. He told them to go into the whole world to spread the good news of what he'd been teaching them. He also picked Peter to be their leader. This made the apostles the first bishops of the Church and it made Peter the first pope of the Church.
We learned in our last lesson that in order for the Church to be the one true church that Jesus started, it must actually have four distinct marks. The marks needed for the one true church are: to be one; to be holy; to be catholic; and to be apostolic. There's only one church today that has all four of those marks. Many people don't really understand or don't really know the one church that has all of those marks is the Catholic Church.

Today's lesson is about the Communion of Saints and the Forgiveness of Sins. In our past lessons, we have talked a bit about the Apostles Creed and how that fits into our faith today. In this section of the Apostles Creed, we say, “I believe in the Communion of Saints and the Forgiveness of sins.” Let's learn: why we believe in the communion of saints; what is the communion of saints; and how and why are we forgiven of our sins.

Here are some questions for you to think about during this lesson.

What did the early Christians do with the possessions that they owned?

Why did they do this?
Why do we usually receive Holy Communion together at Mass?

Let's get started with a reading from the Bible. This will be from The Acts of the Apostles  Chapter 2: 42-45.

They devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers. Awe came upon everyone, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their property and possessions and divide them among all according to each one’s need.

After Jesus ascended into heaven all of his followers kept loving him and kept obeying his teachings. All of his followers kept meeting often, usually at least every week, to learn all about what Jesus had been teaching them while he was here on earth. This meeting that they had is what we call the Mass. During Mass, they learned all about what Jesus had taught them and they received the most holy Eucharist at communion. All of Jesus's followers shared everything they had with each other. This wasn't just everything that they owned, it was also all of their spiritual goods. Actually, the word communion means sharing.

The more that we love each other in Christ the more that we will want to share all that we have with each other. If we love one another very much we don't want to only share everything that we can see, we also want to share the things that we can't see, our love, our attention, and our dedication and loyalty. God has given us many graces and spiritual riches. The more that we love each other, the more that we will share in the graces and the spiritual riches that God has given each and every one of us. The more that we share what we have, the more that we will receive from others.

Jesus wants us all to be saints. A saint is someone who loves and follows Jesus with all of his heart and all of his soul. We normally think of saints as those who live a very holy life and are now in heaven with Jesus. Of course, that is absolutely true. When we go to Mass and we have communion we're not just sharing communion with those holy people that are here on earth. At Mass, we are also sharing all of the graces that we receive from God with those in heaven - the saints. Another great thing that we do at Mass is to pray for each other. An even greater thing that happens is that the saints who are in heaven are also praying for us. They're praying for you and they're praying for me.
One of the greatest things that we can do is to share Holy Communion with each other. Eating at the same table with one another is a really great sign of friendship. It is always great when you are invited to dinner with a friend or if you have friends come over to your house for dinner. When we share the Holy Eucharist at Mass, at God's table, this is a sign that we not only love God very much but that we also love each other.

God did command us to love him and to love our neighbor. All the saints in heaven and all the holy people here on earth are also part of that communion at God's table. We are helping each other as best as we can to make it to heaven. The saints are in heaven praying every day to help you and I get to heaven. You can actually say we're all in this together. It's a great comfort to me that all the holy people that ever lived, who are in heaven, are actually praying for me and for you. One day I hope I get to meet them.

As we learned in previous lessons everyone who lives a holy life here on earth and dies without mortal sin on their soul will go to heaven. None of us are perfect. Not even those who have lived a holy life and who have died without mortal sin. God never did ask us and he still does not ask us today to be perfect. All of the holy people who died without mortal sin but are not perfect, which of course is everyone except Jesus and Mary, will go to heaven absolutely positively most definitely. Jesus made that promise to us and he died on the cross for that very reason.

We understand that people who have committed sins throughout their life but who died in a state of grace will go to heaven, however, they need to be perfectly clean before they enter the paradise of heaven. In order to get perfectly clean, you may send your car through a car wash or detail shop or your laundry into the laundromat. We will actually go to a place called purgatory. This is the place that we will go to have our souls perfectly cleaned to be ready before we go through the Gates of Heaven. All the people who have died who are in purgatory are being cleaned right now before they make it to heaven. They are very close to heaven. They will certainly make it to heaven one day that, is God’s promise. The communion of saints includes them as well. The communion of saints is all of the holy people here on earth who are loving each other and are loving God, all the people in heaven, and all of those who are very close to being in heaven while they are in purgatory.

We can pray for each other here on earth and we should, however, the people in purgatory can't actually pray for themselves. We can however and we should pray for all of those who are in purgatory. When I say the rosary I try to often ask, as part of my intentions during the Rosary, for all of those who are in purgatory. I pray that they will be able to enter heaven very soon.

Part of the Apostles Creed that we are talking about today says that we believe in the forgiveness of sins, and we do. We're going to learn a lot more about the forgiveness of sins in a future chapter but basically, the forgiveness of sins in the Apostles Creed means that God has given the Church through Jesus Christ the power to forgive our sins. Remember while Jesus was here on earth he gave the power to forgive sins to his apostles. That power and authority have been handed down throughout the last two thousand years to the priests and bishops of the Catholic Church today. Let's read a little bit more from the Bible to learn more about the communion of saints.

This reading is from 1st Corinthians, chapter 12: 12-26:

As a body is one though it has many parts, and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body, so also Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons, and we were all given to drink of one Spirit. Now the body is not a single part, but many. If a foot should say, “Because I am not a hand I do not belong to the body,” it does not for this reason belong any less to the body. Or if an ear should say, “Because I am not an eye I do not belong to the body,” it does not for this reason belong any less to the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But as it is, God placed the parts, each one of them, in the body as he intended. If they were all one part, where would the body be? But as it is, there are many parts, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I do not need you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I do not need you.” Indeed, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are all the more necessary, and those parts of the body that we consider less honorable we surround with greater honor, and our less presentable parts are treated with greater propriety,
whereas our more presentable parts do not need this. But God has so constructed the body as to give greater honor to a part that is without it, so that there may be no division in the body, but that the parts may have the same concern for one another.
If [one] part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part is honored, all the parts share its joy.

Here's another reading that will show our unity and our desire to share with each other by receiving Holy Communion together. This reading is also from 1st Corinthians, chapter 10: 16-17.

The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because the loaf of bread is one, we, though many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf.

So do you have any questions for me?

Student: Christ gave the apostles the power to forgive sins. Is this true?
Yes, that is absolutely true. We will learn later that Jesus told the apostles this: “Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” When Jesus said this to the apostles, this is when he actually gave them the power to forgive our sins.

Student: Is it true that the priests today no longer have that power?
No, that is false. The priests today do have the power to forgive sins today just like the apostles did. This power is been passed down throughout the two thousand years. That is one of the greatest things about the Catholic Church. All the powers that Jesus gave the apostles have been passed down throughout the years to the bishops and the priests of today.

Student: Is the communion of saints only for those in heaven?
No, not at all. Remember the communion of saints are all the people who are living holy lives here on earth, all the saints who have died and have gone to heaven, and all those who have died in a state of grace but who are not perfectly clean and are waiting for purification in purgatory.

Student: What authority did God give to the Church to do with sins?
God gave the authority to forgive sins to his Church.

Student: What did the early followers of the Church do with their earthly and spiritual goods?
The early followers shared their earthly and spiritual goods with each other. We are asked to share what we have with each other including our time, talents, and our money. That's why we give to the poor and why we give at the Church. We should also share what we can do with others, which is our talents.

I think it is a great idea to read right now from the Apostles Creed once again. “I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried. He descended into hell; on the third day he rose again from the dead; he ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from there he will come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting. Amen.”

During these first thirteen lessons, we have covered almost everything in the Apostles Creed. The only thing that we have left to talk about is the resurrection and life everlasting. Jesus was crucified on Good Friday. If you remember from an earlier lesson, he rose again on Easter Sunday. The rising of Jesus is the resurrection, and the resurrection is what will give us everlasting life in heaven.

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Friday, December 7, 2018

Podcast 13: The Marks of the Church - One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic

The Marks of the Church - One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic

We have now made it to step 12 on our journey to learn our faith. Step twelve is about the 12  Marks of the Church. In the last chapter  we learned that Jesus picked twelve apostles from his disciples to spread what he taught them to all the world. We also learned that he selected Peter to be the leader of the twelve apostles. This was how Jesus started his Church. Peter was the leader of the apostles being the first pope. The remaining apostles were the first priests of the Church. They were actually considered bishops since they were responsible for going throughout the entire world to teach the good news of Jesus. The question that we asked at the beginning of last chapter was: Why did our Lord choose twelve apostles? He chose Twelve to tie back to the Old Testament of the Bible to represent the Twelve Tribes of Israel. 

Today, there are many Christian traditions and denominations. Many experts say there are more than 30,000 different Christian denominations. How do we know which one is correct? Which church or churches have the truth. The most important question here: Is there a church that has the fullness of Christ’s truth? 

Here are some questions to think about during this chapter:

Who are the other sheep that Jesus was talking about?

 What does Jesus desire for the other sheep?
 Did our Lord start many churches or only one church?
 How do we know which church or churches Jesus established? 
How do we help the other sheep to know that the Catholic Church is the Sheepfold of Christ?

Remember from the last chapter, that the Sheepfold of Christ is the same as Jesus's Church. 

Here's our first reading from the Holy Bible. This is from the Gospel of St. John 10: 9-16

I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. A thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy; I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly. I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. A hired man, who is not a shepherd and whose sheep are not his own, sees a wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away, and the wolf catches and scatters them. This is because he works for pay and has no concern for the sheep. I am the good shepherd, and I know mine and mine know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I will lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. These also I must lead, and they will hear my voice, and there will be one flock, one shepherd.

We see in that reading that Jesus called his Church a Sheepfold. We also see something new that we didn't read before. “I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. These also I must lead and they will hear my voice and there will be one flock one Shepherd.” This really helps us to better understand and to answer the question that we had: Did Jesus establish one church or many churches? Well, Jesus definitely said there will only be one flock of sheep, one Church with one shepherd. Jesus Christ was the first leader of his one Church. We call Jesus the head of his Church and we call his Church a body. The Church, like us, has one head and one body. That makes sense to me. In the body of Christ the people in the Church all believe what the Church teaches. Jesus gave the authority to the apostles to teach the whole world what he taught, even to those who don’t believe. Jesus gave the  authority to the bishops back then. The bishops still have that same authority to teach everybody the one and only complete truth about Jesus and his Church. 

All of us in his Church are taught and believe what the Church teaches and we all receive the same sacraments. Just like when Jesus started his one Church and chose Peter to be the head of his Church on Earth as the first pope, we still have one head of the Church today. Pope Francis takes the place of Jesus here on Earth. He has the same authority that was given to St. Peter 2000 years ago. Every pope in history has had the same exact authority as our first pope St. Peter had. 

Today's chapter is titled the Marks of the Church. A mark is something that we can use to know that something is true or it shows that it is true. The Church has four marks. I will describe each of them right now. 

The first Mark of Christ’s Church is that the Church is Holy. The Church teaches us all to be holy. Everyone who follows the teachings of the Church and stays away from mortal sin will become and remain holy. The Church is here to help us to do just that. The sacraments of the Church are most especially here to help us do that. 

The second Mark is that the Church is catholic. Here catholic means universal, which means that the Church is spread throughout the whole world. The Church is not for just one group of people or one country or one race. The Church is for everyone in the entire world, universal, catholic. 

The third Mark of the Church is that the Church is apostolic. The word apostolic comes from the word apostle. The Church today is apostolic because the bishops of the Church today are the successors of the first bishops, who were the twelve apostles. 

The fourth Mark of the Church is at the Church is one. There is one fold and one shepherd. Jesus told us that there would be some people that were not in the sheepfold, or the Church, but that he still is their shepherd. Jesus told us that one day everyone will belong to his One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. 

This is one of the most important things that you and I can pray for. We should pray that everyone comes together again through the one gate into the one sheepfold, the one true church. The Catholic Church. It's important to pray for this because Jesus wanted it to be this way. He didn't say to Peter  “You are rock and on this rock I build my many, many churches.” Nope, remember he said “Peter You are Rock and on this rock I build my Church.” That meant one Church. 

For the first thousand years after Jesus died, there was only one true Church of Christ. It’s only during the last thousand years or less that we've seen people break away and start their own churches. People such Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Wesley, Roger Williams, and John Clark all started their own Christian churches. Each of these “man-invented” churches  all believe something slightly different from the Catholic Church as well as from one another. These other churches still have some truth, but since they are not teaching everything the Catholic Church is teaching, they are not teaching the entire full truth of Jesus Christ. Later, others like Joseph Smith and  Charles Taze Russell actually started churches that broke away even further. They didn’t even believe that Jesus is God. It is really a shame that so many people follow men and their versions of the Church of Jesus, instead of following the one true Church that Jesus started himself. 

There is a very important question a lot of people have. Does everyone need to be in the Catholic Church in order to be saved. The true answer is yes. In order to be saved from your sins and go to heaven, you need to belong to the Catholic Church in some manner. We know that our God is very loving and very merciful. There are still many people who have never heard about Jesus or the Catholic Church. We believe that people like this may still make it to heaven. We certainly hope and pray for that. We believe that if these people live a life of loving God and doing the will of God, they still may make it to heaven. Many people know and believe in Jesus but still don't realize that Jesus started only one Church and that he meant for us to be in that one Church. They might not know that Jesus commanded us to be in that one Church in order to be in heaven. If they really don't know the full truth that Jesus taught, that they should be in the one true Church, then they too may still be saved by the Grace of God. A problem arises when people know about Jesus and his Catholic Church and still refuse to be part of the Catholic Church. They may really be putting their souls in deep trouble. Jesus will be the one final judge about who makes it to heaven when we die. Jesus gave us these rules that we are bound by, however, Jesus is God, and he is not bound by rules. Since he is not bound by rules, he may choose anyone he desires to make it to heaven. 

I have a question for you. If you were Jesus and you set a rule that everyone must follow you and be in your group in order to be with you forever, what would you say to the person who just flat-out refused to follow your rules. You might say, “Oh well, rules don't matter, come on into my group anyway” or “Come into heaven, I don't care about the rules I set”.  I think you and Jesus would really say “I am very sorry. I really wish you would have listened to me. Do you think I was just kidding?” In the end only God will make that decision so we won't have to. We just need to follow his rules in order to make his decision easy. 

I really want to hear Jesus say when I stand before him, “Well done my faithful son. Come  into the paradise of Heaven.” 

I told you a few times that Jesus started only one Church. I've also said that he only wanted one Church. Why would you think that he would want people to have many churches all believing something different from all of the other churches? Well, he did not want that at all. 

We do know that the one Church of Jesus is the Catholic Church. We know this because the Catholic Church is the only church that has all four marks that we talked about. Do you remember what the four marks of the Church are? They are  One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic. The Catholic Church is the only Christian Church that has all four marks. The Catholic Church is the only church that Jesus started 2000 years ago. 

Just as the apostles had to teach about Jesus, we must teach all those who are not Catholic, that the Catholic Church is the one, true, Church of Jesus. We must teach this with love. 

In the Gospel of John we read, “By this, with all men, know that you are my disciples if you have love for one another.” In other words, we must show others that we are good, faithful, Christian Catholics, by our love that we have for them and for everyone. In order to be in the Catholic Church, a person must be baptized with water in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. They must also profess and believe what the Catholic Church teaches, and not separate themselves from the Church in any way. Sadly, there are people who say they are Catholic but don't believe all that Jesus taught and passed down through his Church. Some even don’t believe some very important things such as: we should not kill anyone from babies in their mother's womb or those who are very old, and that marriage is a Sacrament that God started that is only between one man and one woman. When a man and woman are married, they should not do anything to block God's will for them to have children. They should also live up to their promise that they made to God and to each other to remain married to one another for their entire life. These are also teachings of Jesus and his Church. 

Do you have any questions for me at this time?

Student: Did Jesus found more than one Church? 
No. We saw several times that Jesus started only one Church with his twelve apostles and St. Peter being the head of that Church.

Student: Does the Catholic Church have all four marks of the Church? 
Yes. The Catholic Church does have all four marks. The Church is One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic. 

Student: Is the Catholic Church here for all people? 
Yes. That is absolutely true. Jesus told the apostles to go throughout the entire world to preach his good news to every country and all people. 

Student: Does Jesus want one fold and one shepherd? 
He did tell us that, and I certainly believe him when he told us that he does want all of us to be in his one Church. 

Student: What church did Jesus start? 
Jesus started the Catholic Church. Remember, Catholic means Universal, which means the one church that is for the entire people. 

Student: In order for us to be saved and go to heaven, what church do we have to belong to? 
In some way, unless we don't know by no fault of our own, we must belong to the Catholic Church, believe what the Catholic Church teaches us, and follow what the 
Church teaches us. It's not easy but Jesus never said it would be easy. 

Jesus really and truly wants all of his people to be in one fold, one church, and for that one church to have one leader. That one leader, of course, is the pope. Today that is Pope Francis. 

You've read in the Bible that Jesus started his Church so that you and I can make it to heaven. He picked twelve of his disciples to be his apostles, to lead his Church and to take his message to the entire world. He taught them to baptize everyone that wanted to follow him and his Church. The apostles needed a leader after Jesus left them. Jesus knew this, so he picked Peter to be the first leader, the first pope of his Church. There was only one, true Church of Jesus Christ back then, led by the pope and the apostles or bishops. That One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church is still here today. It is still led by the pope and the bishops, and helped by the priests, deacons and other religious people. A very cool thing that Jesus told Peter was that his one Church would never, ever end. Even the powers of the devil, evil, and hell will never bring an end to his Church until the very end of the world. Jesus made that promise to us and I certainly believe him. 

In the next chapter, we will learn about the communion of saints and forgiveness of sins.

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