Biblical Exposition

From Taylor Marshall’s blog.

Images
“Thou shalt not make unto thyself any graven image.”

If you look at the context of the commandment, you’ll see that it speaks to worshiping an image. This is wrong because God is invisible and without form. He is so transcendent that even His name is simply “I AM”.

So why do Catholics venerate images? Firstly, it should be said at the beginning that Catholics do not “worship” images. They worship and adore God alone. They venerate and honor saints, regular people (e.g. George Washington or their spouses), relics, altars, flags, etc. This is a very important distinction.

Things have changed since the Old Testament. The Word was made flesh. Christ is the image (Greek: icon) of the Father. God manifested Himself and once and for all in Christ.

The sacred image, the liturgical icon, principally represents Christ. It cannot represent the invisible and incomprehensible God, but the incarnation of the Son of God has ushered in a new “economy” of images. (Catechism of the Catholic Church #1159)

Christ was a true man and able to be depicted. If you took a photo of Christ it would turn out like any other photo. Thus, we can depict Him. And we can depict Mary and the saints with pictures and statues just as we would depict Abraham Lincoln in a memorial or have a picture of our wife on our desk at work.

Moreover, we can show honor to these images – though we may not worship them, because they are no God. We can salute a flag of the USA. We can salute an image of Mary. Mary gave a body and blood to the Christ for our redemption. If we salute a flag that symbolizes the USA, why not salute a picture that symbolizes Mary? Same goes with the cross or even a Bible. We show honor, but we don’t worship. Worship is given to God alone.

The honor paid to sacred images is a “respectful veneration,” not the adoration due to God alone (Catechism of the Catholic Church #3132)

This “respectful veneraton” is what Catholics show to the physical signs of redemption in our midst.

God commanded images (two and three dimensional) to adorn His holy temple in the Old Testament. Catholics follow this Old Testament example and the earliest Christian worship places also were decorated with images.

{ 0 comments }

Vine, Branches & Fire: Where Will You End up?

by Steve Ray on July 2, 2018

I was out cutting vines out of the trees and thought of the words of Jesus.

{ 0 comments }

A painful price is paid when one reaches his hand into a swarm of bees to swipe some of their honey. Stingers fly and welts flare. I raised hives of bees as a boy and once I was stung 35 times in one day.

Wild honey is not collected from wild bees without burning pain and suffering. Today there is protective equipment and methods to harvest honey, but in times past it took a man willing to experience bitter pain today for the sweet rewards later.

There seems to be a principle built into the real world that is expressed with maxims such as “good things take time,” and “no pain no gain.” A paycheck is preceded by forty hours of work. Muscles appear after weeks of sweat equity and exercise.

Shortcuts seldom pay off and if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Achievement takes effort and rewards are given to those who work hard.

Suffering is shunned by most people. Pain is avoided. We usually chose the path of least resistance. It seems most people are hard-wired for pleasure, relaxation and personal gratification. Following these baser impulses rarely reap the rewards human beings aspire to.

The number forty is used symbolically in the Bible over and over again. Jewish and Christian tradition has known this from the beginning. Forty is the number of testing, suffering, fasting, repentance and self-denial.

It often precedes new beginnings and new stages of salvation and restoration. Noah’s flood lasted forty days, Israel wandered in the wilderness forty years, Jonah gave Ninevah forty days to repent, Elijah fasted forty days and nights—as did Jesus in the wilderness.

John the Baptist wandered in the Judean Wilderness east of Jerusalem. He wore rustic clothing and suffered the pain of harvesting his own wild honey. He ate his wild honey with locusts, another word for a grasshopper.

Such hopping insects were declared “clean” foods for the Jews (Lev 11:22). I once jokingly told a group of pilgrims I “loved living the Bible in the Holy Land” and if they found a grasshopper I would eat it like John the Baptist had done. They went on a mission and found a 4” wiggly grasshopper. I had no choice but to imitate the Baptist. (See me eat it here.)

In the summer months the wilderness of Judea hovers around 120?. John looked and acted a lot like Elijah the prophet and it was from this exact location that Elijah was assumed body and soul into heaven.

No wonder the Pharisees questioned if John was the Elijah who was to come. He was baptizing repentant Jews about thirty miles down from the mountains of Jerusalem and about three miles from the ancient community of Qumran.

John undoubtedly associated with these devout Essenes who had moved to the hot wilderness to seek God and become the Children of Light. The wilderness, like the number forty, is usually associated with seeking God and a sincere holiness brought about by self denial and isolation.

Christian tradition from the earliest times understood the spiritual benefits of established periods of fasting, repentance, prayer and self-denial. This practice of self abandonment to the wilderness for forty days was incorporated into the liturgical year. It was called Lent. The word originates from an old English word meaning “spring” and was used because Lent, the time of fasting and prayer was practiced in the spring of the year in preparation for Easter.

 John the Baptist wandered in the wilderness to mortify the flesh and earthly desires, focusing his mind and heart on things above. He was seeking holiness and spirituality. Jesus was driven by the Spirit into the same wilderness to be tempted by the Devil and prepared for his ministry.

The Church wants us to share in this deeper life of God. Lent is a time set aside so that we can join John in the wilderness—setting aside the distractions of daily life and earthly pursuits, turning to God and prayer.

Of course it is not as easy for most of us since we have families, work schedules, diapers to change, houses to clean and on and on. The Lord and the Church understand this completely. But even the daily service of a family, the quality labor provided on the job and extra love shown to others can be an act of penance and self-giving.

We can all fit in time for confession, a bit more prayer and spiritual readings, deny ourselves a few extravagances or pleasures and seek to get closer to God. It is never easy—it wasn’t for John, Jesus or others who wandered for forty days looking for a deeper walk with God and a richer human experience.

We buy honey in the store and few of us like John are willing to reach into a hive and grab the honey at great cost. But like John we can impose a bit of self-denial upon ourselves, entering into penance, prayer, repentance and self-denial—though it often feels like reaching for the honey. The minimal pain of Lent can bring about the sweetness of holiness.

These places in the desert still exist. We can walk through the ruins of Qumran, see the mist over the Dead Sea and the mountains of Moab in Jordan and stand on the shore of the River Jordan at the place Jesus met John after his forty days of temptation when he stepped out of the wilderness to have the Holy Spirit descend upon him. No prayer or sacrifice, no self denial or charitable act will go unnoticed by God. The sweetness of the Spirit will certainly be our reward.

{ 0 comments }

Mary and the Apostles are Dead! Only Jesus can Mediate for Us! Really?

June 23, 2018

 Confusion of Many Protestants Too often well-meaning Protestants get confused and accuse of things that are outright nonsense if not lies. It is usually because they never take the time to really understand what the Catholic Church actually teaches and practices. Below is a good example of a kind and well-meaning Protestant pastor who wrote […]

Read the full article →

Jesus Was A Jew – So What is That To You?

June 20, 2018

Jesus was a Jew… This fact may escape the casual reader of the New Testament, but it is crucial to understanding Jesus and the book written about him—the Bible. Unhappily, in 21st century America we are far removed from the land of Israel and the ancient culture and religion of Judaism followed by Jesus and […]

Read the full article →

Did St. Paul Pray for the Dead? Yes!

June 18, 2018

I posted an article I wrote about St. Paul praying for the dead HERE. But I thought you would appreciate Dave Armstrong’s recent article about the same passage with confirmation and a new set of eyes on the text and the reasons for many Protestants to reject the claim… St. Paul Prayed for Onesiphorus, Who […]

Read the full article →

Did St. Paul Pray for the Dead? Yes!

June 17, 2018

St. Paul wrote 2 Timothy shortly before his martyrdom. He spent the last days of his life in the Mammertine Prison in Rome, north of the Roman Forum. While in that prison he wrote to Timothy and says a prayer for a man dead man. “It seems apparent that St. Paul DOES pray for the dead. […]

Read the full article →

Hey Steve: Jesus Taught us to Pray to the Father Alone, not Dead Saints

June 16, 2018

 Barry wrote in my combox today – in response to my post entitled “Where Does the Bible Say We Should Pray to Dead Saints?” – Resources about Communion of the Saints I thought I would respond briefly. Barrry wrote: Would you please read the Lord’s prayer. Jesus prayed it. He was giving an example of how to […]

Read the full article →

What is the Opposite of the word “Believe” in the Bible?

May 29, 2018

I received an email today regarding one of my talks I gave at Franciscan University of Steubenville. It is on my audio CD “Born Again? Faith Alone?” In the talk I said that the opposite of “believe” is to “disobey.” In other words, Jesus does not just require that we “believe” in him like we […]

Read the full article →

Did John the Baptist Doubt that Jesus was the Messiah?

May 24, 2018

I get asked this question a lot and thought others would find my answer helpful. Not that I claim to have discovered this myself but reading and gleaning has brought me to this conclusion. In Luke 7:19-28, John the Baptist was in prison and sent two of his disciples to Galilee to ask Jesus a […]

Read the full article →

Sola Scriptura and the Canon of Scripture

May 23, 2018

Sola Scriptura and the Canon When non-Catholics are asked to provide biblical support or their belief that the Bible Alone is the sole rule of faith for the believer, they usually cite 2 Timothy 3:16-17 which states that “all scripture is God-breathed and is useful”. However, they somehow miss the fact that the two verses […]

Read the full article →

Is Peter the Peg of Isaiah 22 that will be Broken Off?

May 14, 2018

A Protestant friend who is currently splashing in the Tiber and scrambling out on the Catholic side wrote and asked about the Peg of Isaiah 22:23?25. Below is his query and my response. He wrote: >>>The only issue which has unsettled me scripturally which I have not been able to find an answer that suits […]

Read the full article →

My Updated Article on Infant Baptism

May 2, 2018

Even among Evangelical Protestants there is much debate about Infant Baptism. My old Baptist tradition rejected it as a Catholic tradition of men. Dr. Francis Schaeffer, my favorite Evangelical Presbyterian theologian wrote a booklet entitled Infant Baptism in favor of the practice – my wife Janet was raised Presbyterian and baptized as an infant. It […]

Read the full article →

Is DOGMA an Oppressive Catholic Word?

April 29, 2018

When I was an Evangelical Protestant, I thought DOGMA was a dirty word. It had bad connotations. It represented unbiblical teaching forced down people’s throats by the hierarchy of the Catholic Church. They invented new doctrines not found in the Bible and then called them dogmas and told Christians if they didn’t believe them — […]

Read the full article →

Hair Cut only Once a Year

April 22, 2018

David had a very handsome son. His name was Absalom and he betrayed his father the king and led a rebellion against him. The Bible says that Absalom was “beautiful“ and he only cut his hair once a year. Here is what the Bible says about him: “Now in all Israel there was no one so much to be praised […]

Read the full article →

Crap, Castration & Two Creations – Colorful New Testament Wording

April 12, 2018

Since we are in Philippi Greece today, I thought I would post this colorful blog :-) We miss a lot when reading the English Bible. We’re at a great disadvantage. The early Christians read the writings of the apostles in the original language – they understood the words and expressions must better than we do. […]

Read the full article →