No, I don’t have a Personal relationship with Christ…, but thanks for asking.

Simple Catholic Snapshots

  • Many Protestants pose a question that is meant to simplify and reflect the core of their Christian faith: “Do you have a personal relationship with Christ?”
  • To many, having a ‘born again’ moment and thus having a personal relationship with Christ is the end all.
  • Although there is certainly truth in this position, it is oversimplified to the point of being not only insufficient but is actually misleading.
  • Catholics should be prepared to respond to the question with an equally thought-provoking response: “No I don’t have a personal relationship with Christ, I have an intimate relationship with Christ.”
  • To Catholics, this intimate relationship with Christ should be our life’s goal and is manifest at each Mass. Each time we receive the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of our Lord and Savior in the Sacramental Eucharist, we intimately become one flesh with the Incarnate Christ.

Simple Catholic Truths

The Encounter

It happened just recently – an old friend recognized me in a store and stopped to chat. It was not long into the usual pleasantries that he dropped a bombshell question.

Perhaps you have heard this question in one form or another:

“Are you born again?  Do you have a personal relationship with Jesus our Lord and Savior?”, he projected with all confidence.

“Well, that’s not a simple yes or no question, and neither is the best answer”, I said.

“If you have a few minutes, let me give you a good answer,” I countered. We began to talk.

A Good Start, But Well Short

On the surface it would seem that the correct answer for any Christian would be an emphatic ‘YES!’. Who wouldn’t want a personal relationship with Christ? Who wouldn’t want to be in a relationship with the second person of the Holy Trinity? Who wouldn’t want Christ as a brother, a soul mate, a confidant or a best friend? In this limited sense the Protestant point of view is spot on. We all should cherish any relationship with our Savior.

But, as good as the ‘yes’ may sound and as much as such a relationship is desired that is just the beginning.

To discover the fullness of our Christian faith we must ask an even more penetrating and more relevant question and that is: “What type of relationship is Christ calling us into?” In other words, what type of relationship does Christ want with us? Is it limited to a ‘personal’ relationship or is it more than personal …more profound …more intimate?

To answer this question, we’ll start by taking a look at ourselves, our makeup, our being. Theologians tell us that we were created with two fundamental parts – a spiritual part which we call the soul and a physical part which of course is our body. Furthermore, they tell us that the soul is made up of an intellect and a free will. We share the spiritual side of our essence with the angels – even the fallen angels. We share the physical side of creation with the animals.
Moreover, humans represent the pinnacle of God’s creation in a unique way. Only humans, created in the image and likeness of God, contain both the spiritual soul (capable of reason and love due to the intellect and free will of the soul) and a physical body. This fact is what makes the second person of the Trinity so special. Only in the Incarnate Jesus Christ are we humas able to relate to God with both elements of our created being as God intended.

This theology is important for one simple reason. In the course of our lives, we encounter and relate to many people. We use our minds and voices to communicate with others, we think and evaluate their actions and with some, a certain comfort and fondness develops. With this latter group we spend more and more time together and share more and more of our lives. You might even say that in these good friends a trust develops as we even share our inner feelings and weaknesses.

These people become a joyful and essential part of our experience on earth. But to this point, these are just personal relationships. Now don’t get me wrong, some of these relationships can certainly be deeply and intensely personal but here is where I return the question posed above. It this kind of relationship, even a deeply intense and personal one, the kind of relationship Christ desires with us? The Bible clearly says no.

As good as a personal relationship may be, Christ wants much much more with and from us.

Biblical Evidence: Christ desires an Intimate Relationship

Even a cursory examination of the Bible will reveal that the relationship between man and woman (aka marriage) is highlighted and revered as central to God’s plan of our existence and salvation. In the beginning God created just two humans in His image, one man and one woman (Gn 1:27) and they were created to become one body (Gn 2:24). It is in this relationship Scripture proclaims God’s intent of eternity for all mankind.

Not only in Genesis, but throughout the Bible the ideas of man, woman, marriage, Jesus and his Church, the sacrifice of the Cross and eternity are linked. The Parable of the Wedding Feast (Mt 22:1-14 and Luke 14:15-24), The Parable of the Lost Son (Lk 15:11-32) and the Marriage Supper of the Lamb (Rev 19 and 21) are just a few New Testament examples. Each of these passages provide great insight into the connection between Creation, Christ on the Cross, and Eternity but for the sake of brevity I’ll focus only on Revelation.

You might ask, why focus attention on this often-bizarre tale of tribulation, scrolls, beasts and trumpets? It’s true that this inspired book is filled with a look at futuristic end times, but most important is the fact that the entire Revelation story points to and climaxes with the Wedding Supper of the Lamb and is a great summary of God’s eternal plan for us all:

“…Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the sound of many waters and like the sound of mighty thunderpeals, crying, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns.
Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready” (Rev 19: 6-9)

But also notice that this eternal reign is likened to a marriage, and the eternal marriage is between Jesus (the Lamb) and his Bride (mankind: His Church) now ready for the wedding. In verse 7  Jesus Christ now reigns in heaven; we all know that He forever reigns at the right hand of the Father.

With the wedding imagery in mind, let’s take a look at the New Creation, the finale of Revelation:

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband; and I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling of God is with men. He will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away.” (Rev 21:1-4)

We have here the final disclosure of God’s plan for our eternity. The unveiling of creation in Genesis is completed with the new creation. As faithful Christians, we are the Bride of Christ, properly adorned and waiting for the Groom to return.

But to be properly adorned, we must give ourselves completely – both spiritually and physically – to our Groom during this lifetime.

 

It is through this imagery, of a marriage between God and mankind, that God tells us how we are to give ourselves to Christ.

As mentioned, in Genesis, our physical bodies, created male and female, provide a blueprint of that relationship of love that God desires.

But how is it possible for a man and woman to become one flesh? How is it possible for mankind to become one flesh with God? And why does the Bible insist on using this imagery over and over? The answer is clear when we realize that this is God telling us what kind of relationship He desires.

In the physical intimate act of spousal love, each human should give himself and herself so completely to the other that the individual ceases to exist. Only in such a moment of total sacrifice, in that moment of dying of self, do we find the relationship God desires with all his children.

In an earthly marriage, this total self-giving love results in the potential biological life of a new baby. However, the total self-giving love between Christ the Groom and mankind His bride results in the eternal life of salvation.

This is why marriage between one man and one woman is so holy in the Bible and is also a Sacrament. Failure to give oneself totally and only to God in this way is somewhat like spiritual adultery. A Christian marriage is an image of our proper eternal relationship with God.

During the Mass, the Sacrament of the Eucharist is that ultimate sacrifice that we must partake by offering ourselves completely while receiving the body and blood of the Paschal Lamb. Not a mere symbol, or memorial, the Eucharist is the way in which God and mankind become one flesh and how mankind receives the gift of eternal life.

53 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you;” (Jn 6:53)

As Christ did on Calvary, during each Mass we must sacrifice our lives for the glory of the Father. We must bring our daily trials and successes to our relationship with Christ. We rejoice in thanksgiving our joys of life, and we offer the sorrows as our cross to follow Him. In doing so, we become the Bride at the Wedding Supper of the Lamb – and become one flesh with Him.

Conclusion

So to my friend, thank you for stopping me with that fateful question. I’m truly filled with joy that you have a personal relationship with Christ and that you wish the same for me. You are my brother in Christ.

However, I know that I’m called to something much more. I seek a relationship with Christ not simply of personal friendship or even sibling unity. I am called to an intimate relationship with Christ – that of a lover. At each Mass, I strive to give myself completely to Christ, to be crucified with Christ, so that I no longer live, but Christ lives in me (Gal 2:20), and in the Holy Eucharist He gives Himself completely to me… and we become one flesh.

But, thanks for asking…

Dennis Prager and Catholic Theology

Simple Catholic Snapshots

  • God Created the Universe from Nothing
  • God Has a Purpose for Creation
  • Man was Created, therefore, Man Has a Divine Purpose
  • Man was Created in the Image of God
  • Religion Must Reveal and Highlight Our Divine Purpose

Simple Catholic Truth

Introduction

‘Why was I Created?’
‘What is the Purpose of my Life?’
‘Why am I Here?’

Right after ‘What’s for dinner?’, the first question our earliest caveman ancestors probably asked was one or all of the above. It makes sense actually, because man(kind) is unique in all creation. Mankind is the only creature that as part of his fundamental nature has, among other things, a keen self awareness and asks such questions. Scripture tells us that mankind was the summit and fulfillment of all creation – mankind was created in the image of God (Gn 1:27). Sharing in the likeness of God, we were created with an intellect and a free will that allows us to question, to seek understanding, to know, and ultimately to love.

Throughout history, what we call Religion has served as the cornerstone in the pursuit of these answers. Yes, religion has taken various forms around the globe and across the ages, but fundamentally all religion share the common goal of answering at least those primordial questions. With this in mind, I pay particular attention when any person of faith addresses these questions. I am eager to understand, and to compare and contrast their position with that of my beloved Catholicism. And this led me to a 6 minute video of Dennis Prager recently speaking to a Senate Judiciary Committee on freedom of speech.

Freedom of speech? What does that have to do with the Theology of Creation?

Continue reading “Dennis Prager and Catholic Theology”

Good Habits for Training the Body and Soul

Simple Catholic Snapshots

  • We are astonishing and unique – created in His image.
  • Gifts of body, soul and life itself.
  • Take care of the body with three square meals and exercise.
  • Nurture the soul with a diet of humility and gratitude.
  • Dedicate each day to His glory.
  • Make the Time for these Spiritual Habits!!!

Continue reading “Good Habits for Training the Body and Soul”

The Immaculate Conception of Mary – What Difference Does It Make Anyway?

Simple Catholic Snapshots

  • Many Protestants question the dogmatic teaching of the Catholic Church regarding the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary.
  • To them, belief in Jesus’ loving redemptive work on the cross is the only item of import for the modern Christian.
  • Catholics celebrate the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary on December 8th, not coincidentally during the first week of Advent.
  • Advent prepares us for the birth of Christ, and a fuller understanding of the Incarnation of the Son of God.
  • Without understanding the Incarnate nature of Christ, a Christian really can’t fully understand the Savior or our salvation.

Continue reading “The Immaculate Conception of Mary – What Difference Does It Make Anyway?”

Making Babies and Salvation – There Really is a Connection

Simple Catholic Snapshots

  • Catholic theology recognizes that salvation is an unearned, undeserved gift from God.
  • Catholic theology also includes the fact that we must “participate” in our own salvation.
  • Non-Catholics theology emphasizes that salvation is the work of God only .
  • Non-Catholics deny a role of mankind in his/her salvation.
  • Babies, those divine miracles of life, is an example useful in resolving tensions between these Catholic and non-Catholic positions.

 

Continue reading “Making Babies and Salvation – There Really is a Connection”

I Love Jesus…Because I’m Muslim?

Out of the corner of my eye I noticed a woman pull up in the adjacent left turn lane and stop slightly ahead. The light turned before I got a good look, but her stature and the habit she was wearing was a tip-off that this was a Catholic nun on the move. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to completely read her yellow and green bumper sticker but the ‘heart’ symbol and the word “Jesus” confirmed my fleeting conclusion.

At the next stop light we were once again together and imagine my surprise when I was able to read the entire bumper sticker:

Wow, first impressions can be so wrong. Hijab, not a habit. Muslim, not Catholic. But Loving Jesus?

Continue reading “I Love Jesus…Because I’m Muslim?”

Sola Fide and Sola Scriptura? Not so says St. Paul

Martin Luther once said that justification by Faith Alone (Sola Fide) is the article on which the Church stands or falls. lutherThe word justification simply means to become in a right relationship with God that leads to eternal salvation. Along side Sola Fide, the notion of Bible Alone (Sola Scriptura) served as the fuel and spark of the Protestant Revolt that tried to tear apart the Church 500 years ago.

Recently I have been having an interesting discussion with some Protestant friends regarding, in particular, Luther’s proposition of salvation by Sola Fide.  With this as the backdrop, yesterday’s daily Mass readings really caught my attention. To me these reading just screamed as compelling biblical proof against both the notion of Sola Scriptura and Sola Fide.

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God’s Power and Man’s Free Will – Part 5 – Predestination

In this series I’ve explored what some see to be a conflict between God’s Power and Man’s Free Will. From a Catholic perspective there is no conflict at all. For a Catholic, God’s free grace empowers mankind to use his free will to “cooperate” with God’s will that desires all mankind to eternal salvation. God desires all of His children to return to Him for eternity, but God does not force His will on us. God does not force mankind to love Him.

Continue reading “God’s Power and Man’s Free Will – Part 5 – Predestination”

Unlocking the Mystery of the Bible

Hello SCT followers. I just wanted to let you know that there is a fantastic Bible Study course about to start at St. Martin de Porres Catholic Church.

unlockingbibleThe study is called Unlocking the Mystery of the Bible and is produced by Jeff Cavins and the folks at Ascension Press.

If you have ever struggled to see the “Big Picture” of the Bible story then this is the class for you.

The course begins Wednesday, September 28th and meets for 8 consecutive Wednesdays.

Each meeting is very short – only about 1 hour and 20 minutes long. Each class starts with a 30-35 minute DVD video presentation by Jeff Cavins as he explains the 12 color coded periods of the entire Bible story. We then continue for another 35 minutes where I’ll lead a light discussion on the DVD we just viewed, what we learned and the things we need to remember.

If you’re new to the Bible or just need a fantastic “Big Picture” refresher on God’s Word then make plans and join us as we Unlock the Mystery of the Bible.

There’s only two things you need to do:

First: sign up and register for the class.
You can do that by visiting the St. Martin de Porres Bible Study website (click HERE) and follow the instructions for registration.
OR,
you can go directly to Ascension Press (click HERE) and register.

In either case, after you register and purchase your student book (only ~$20), it will be mailed directly to your mailing address. Allow about 1 week for delivery so don’t delay if you want to receive your book before the first class.

Second: Clear your calendar and join us.
Stop by beginning Wednesday September 28th at 7:00 pm at St. Marin De Porres Catholic Church in Yorba Linda, CA. We will meet in the St. Elizabeth classroom for 8 consecutive Wednesdays – Sept 28th through November 16.

 
Any questions? email us at:

tom@simplecatholictruth.com
or
garyp@smdpyl.org

 

God’s Power and Man’s Free Will – Part 3 – Graphical TULIPs

In this post we will continue to explore that age-old dilemma of reconciling the infinite power of God with the existence of man’s free will as it pertains to man’s Salvation.

In my last post I presented in written form a summary of the Calvinist position on Salvation. [These beliefs are often referred to with the acronym TULIPtulip-pic which stands for Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace and Perseverance of the Saints.]

I believe that TULIP represents an unreasonable theological position because if you believe TULIP, then you must also believe some rather uncomfortable ideas about the nature of God and man (which we’ll discuss later). It’s certainly true that discussions about Salvation can get very complicated very quickly and TULIP is no exception. Here at SimpleCatholicTruth we strive to explain the complicated in simple terms. Therefore, I thought we’d have some fun and look at TULIP in cartoon/graphical form.  Let’s get started:

Continue reading “God’s Power and Man’s Free Will – Part 3 – Graphical TULIPs”