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November 10, 2017 Our Catholic Faith No Comments

Q. When we see Jesus in Heaven, will He still have the wounds from His Passion? — J.S., Massachusetts.
A. St. Thomas Aquinas says yes. Here is the explanation that appears in a chapter about Heaven in Fr. Wade Menezes’ excellent book The Four Last Things:
“Whatever imperfections or deformities the body had on earth will be taken away and will not be present in Heaven. We must note, however, that Christ’s wounds do abide in Heaven. Rather than being removed, His wounds are glorified as an eternal sign of His triumph over sin and death in the world. His wounds, after all, were what brought the Apostle Thomas to believe in His Resurrection (see John 20:24-29).
“According to St. Thomas Aquinas, our Lord kept in His glorified body the marks of His wounds for four primary reasons: 1) ‘as an everlasting testimony of His victory’; 2) ‘as a proof that He is the same Christ who suffered and was crucified’; 3) ‘as a constant and concrete plea on our behalf to the eternal Father’; and 4) ‘as a means of upbraiding the reprobates on the last day, showing them what He did for them, thus reminding them of what they have wickedly despised and rejected.’ It is important that we strive never to be caught in the snares of the ‘reprobates’ who will be confronted on the last day with the wounds of Christ” (p. 65).

Q. What do you say to a child who does not go to church, but who insists that he is a good person? — M.K., Florida.
A. You can concede that if your son is dependable at his job, if he is a loving husband and parent, if he treats other people with respect, if he coaches youth sports, if he engages in fund-raisers for various charitable causes, then he has fulfilled the usual definition of a good person.
But then you need to ask him if he is a “God person.” After all, when Jesus was asked which was the greatest commandment, He did not mention love your neighbor. No, He said that the first and the greatest commandment was to “love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt. 22:36-40).
So while it is commendable for your son to be good to family, friends, and even strangers, that is only his second obligation. His first obligation to love God with every fiber of his being. Jesus said that if we love Him, we will keep His Commandments. One of His Commandments says that we are to keep the Lord’s Day holy, which means going to Church on Sunday. One cannot spend the week showing love for others while ignoring God, the God who put all of those others in our path so that we could help them.
God gives us 168 hours a week; why can’t we give back to Him one of those hours at Mass? How much of a hardship is that for those who live in a society where churchgoing is not forbidden by the government, or where one’s life is not threatened by attendance at Mass?
There are Christians all over the world who willingly risk their lives and their health to worship God on Sunday. Like the Catholics in Mosul, Iraq, who went to church a week after a terrorist bomb had killed some of their fellow worshipers the previous Sunday. When asked why they would risk their lives in such a way, these brave Catholics replied, “We cannot live without the Eucharist.”
Jesus celebrated the first Mass at the Last Supper and commanded us to “do this in memory of me” (Luke 22:19). He then went out and died in brutal fashion on the cross out of love for us. Is it too much for us to thank Him for His great sacrifice by taking part in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the only place where we can receive Him in the Holy Eucharist?
Jesus also said that if we expect to get to Heaven, we must receive the Eucharist. “Amen, amen, I say to you,” He told His critics, “unless you eat the 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. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him” (John 6:53-57).
So when your son stands before the Lord on Judgment Day and is asked how he demonstrated his love for God, will the Lord be pleased when your son says, “Well, I coached Little League”?

Q. What is the origin of the belief that identifies the four evangelists — Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John — as a man, a lion, a calf, and an eagle? — A.C., Rhode Island,
A. The origin of this belief can be found in chapter four of the Book of Revelation, which talks about “four living creatures” around the throne of God in Heaven. Covered with eyes in front and in back, symbolizing great knowledge and insight, “the first creature resembled a lion, the second was like a calf, the third had a face like that of a human being, and the fourth looked like an eagle in flight” (4:7).
Since the second century, the four creatures have been associated with the four evangelists. Matthew is the man since his Gospel begins with the human genealogy of Jesus, Mark is the lion since his Gospel begins with a voice crying in the wilderness, Luke is the calf since his Gospel begins in the temple where calves were sacrificed, and John is the eagle who uses soaring rhetoric to explain the divinity of Christ (cf. the prologue of his Gospel, which starts out, “In the beginning was the Word, / and the Word was with God, / and the Word was God.”)
In his Explanation of the Apocalypse, St. Bede (672-735) said that the four creatures also refer to the whole Church — her humility in the man, her courage in the lion, her sacrificial service in the calf, and her exalted dignity in the soaring eagle.

Q. Recently our diocese and the Lutheran Church participated in a joint conference commemorating the Reformation. The gist of the write-up about it in our diocesan newspaper was basically to portray the Catholic and Lutheran religions as equally valid before God. The article said that both have wounded the unity of the Church and have done “evil things” to each other. Do you know what the article was talking about? — S.J.S., via e-mail.
A. No, we don’t, and if you have been reading Raymond de Souza’s excellent series in this newspaper on “Martin Luther: The Man and the Myth,” you would know that it was not the Catholic Church that caused the fragmentation of Christianity in the 16th century, but rather Luther himself. His hate-filled and venomous attacks on the Church, the Pope, and Catholic teachings ought to prevent anyone from hailing him as a great reformer or a promoter of renewal, but, alas, he is being so described today, even by Pope Francis.
While Catholic and Lutheran theologians have been dialoguing for years in an effort to bridge the differences between the two communities, there has not been much success. They have agreed that, contrary to Luther’s position that we are saved by “faith alone,” we are in fact saved “by grace alone, in faith in Christ’s saving work, and not because of any merit on our part.” However, there are still significant disagreements in such areas as authority in the Church and the sacraments.
Regarding the latter, Lutherans believe in consubstantiation, which means that Christ is really present in the bread and wine, but the substance of the bread and wine also remains on the altar. Catholics, on the other hand, believe in transubstantiation, which means that the whole substance of the bread is changed into the Body of Christ, and the whole substance of the wine is changed into the Blood of Christ. The accidents of bread and wine are still visible to the senses, but Catholics believe that the bread and wine have ceased to exist and no longer remain on the altar.
A helpful book would be Timothy Drake’s There We Stood, Here We Stand. This book contains the testimonies of 11 former Lutherans who converted to the Catholic Church and the reasons for their conversion.

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Our Catholic Faith (Section B of print edition)

Catholic Replies

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