“We often feel that Christianity is not all it’s cracked up to be. This Pentecost, the Church provides a beautiful antidote to that sinking feeling, but it is easy to miss it.” Tom Hoopes

 

Today as we meditate upon the incomparable gift of the Paraclete, I was blessed with yet another gift, an answer to what I as a Catholic have long thought of as “Bono Syndrome” – you know, Bono, as in U2. The group will always be associated in my mind with the lyrics to their hit, I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For:

 

I believe in the Kingdom Come

Then all the colours will bleed into one

Bleed into one.

But yes, I’m still running.

You broke the bonds

And you loosed the chains

Carried the cross of my shame

Oh my shame, you know I believe it.

But I still haven’t found

What I’m looking for….

 

 

Sadly, this has been the experience of many a believer. When Marx famously slurred religion as “the opium of the people,” he missed reality by a mile. For so many of us, our fervent belief in Christ and in His promises can be the source of a world of pain, as our hopes and dreams collide with His very human body.

 

To this, Tom Hoopes at The Gregorian Blog replies with a little-known prose version of the prayer many of us have been praying for the last 10 days:

 

Come, Holy Spirit, and from heaven direct on man the rays of your light.

 

Come, Father of the poor, come giver of God’s gift. Come, light of men’s hearts.

 

Kindly Paraclete, in your gracious visits to man’s soul, you bring relief and consolation. If it is weary with toil, you bring it ease; in the heat of temptation, your grace cools it; if sorrowful, your words console it.

 

Light most blessed, shine on the hearts of your faithful — even in their darkest corners; for without your aid man can do nothing, and everything is sinful.

 

Wash clean the sinful soul, rain down your grace on the parched soul, and heal the injured soul.

 

Soften the hard heart, cherish and warm the ice-cold heart, and give direction to the wayward.

 

Give your seven holy gifts to your faithful, for their trust is in you. Give them reward for their virtuous acts, give them a death that ensures salvation, and give them unending bliss.

 

Tom contends that Christians suffer from a fundamental misunderstanding of the role of God the Holy Spirit and of the grace He bestows. God, according to Tom:

 

…is not a narcotic and he is not a means of escape and he does not interfere with man’s freedom. …what he brings isn’t an artificial relief, but grace. Grace is not a peace drug…”

 

Go read it for yourself. May the Spirit rain down His grace upon our parched souls.

 

 

On the solemnity of Pentecost

 

Deo omnis gloria!

My coworkers and I often just have to shake our heads in disbelief. Working in a medical office as we do, we see a lot of sick people who want to be well. They are sick of being sick. Many of them will insist emphatically that they will do anything, “whatever it takes,” to regain their health, and yet… when the doctor starts making his recommendations, their “anything” turns into “anything but that!”

 

Yep, one of the sad truths of modern medicine is that, even in this world of miracle drugs, you still have to take your medicine. That’s reality. No getting around it….

 

We Christians often react the same way when God tries to straighten us out. We pray and pray for a cure to our perceived ills, and God provides one. Our reaction sounds a lot like “Thanks, God – but no thanks!” We are following in the footsteps of our spiritual ancestors as encountered in the Old Testament as well as in the New. Naaman the leper, having explored every avenue of healing available to him in his native land, travels out of desperation to the Jewish prophet Elisha. Elisha, for his part, doesn’t even bother to speak to the man; he sends a servant to announce to him “Go, wash yourself seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will be restored and you will be cleansed.” This prescription was not exactly received in a spirit of thanksgiving:

 

Naaman went away angry and said, “I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, wave his hand over the spot and cure me of my leprosy. Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Couldn’t I wash in them and be cleansed?” So he turned and went off in a rage.

 

Lot’s wife was yet another noncompliant patient. The Lord in His mercy wanted to save her; all He asked was that she not turn around and look back. In the New Testament the rich young ruler was eager to inherit eternal life, but he found the prescription too difficult to fill; “Sell everything you have and give to the poor…. Then come, follow Me.” What? You mean I have to do something I’d rather not do? Can I negotiate a better deal, Lord?

 

Fortunately for Naaman the leper, his servants were more level-headed than he:

 

Then his servants came near and spoke to him and said, “My father, had the prophet told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more then, when he says to you, ‘Wash, and be clean’?” So he went down and dipped himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God; and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child and he was clean.

 

This good advice, of course, is exactly in accord with the directions given by the Blessed Virgin to the servants at the wedding feast of Cana. It’s simple, yet profound: Do whatever He tells you. Like it or not, you have to face reality – He established His Church upon Peter (Mt 16:18), His Church is the pillar and foundation of the truth (1 Tim 3:15), and if you want a remedy for your ills, you will need to receive His Body and Blood from that Church (Jn 6:53). Don’t even try to negotiate; there is no better deal. He’s the Great Physician, and He’s written His prescription. Now it’s up to you to get it filled.

 

 

On the memorial of St. Charles Lwanga and companions

 

Deo omnis gloria!

Of all Christian holy days, I do believe that it is the feast of the Ascension that scares me the most. Abandonment – that’s what we’re celebrating, actually. We’re celebrating the day that Jesus commissioned His apostles to go out into the world and make disciples of all nations, while He supervises from on high. Sure, as the angels instructed the thunderstruck apostles, “this Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw Him go into heaven,” but that doesn’t really answer the question, does it? – how are we supposed to do this ourselves?

 

Obviously, the apostles figured it out eventually. After the descent of the Holy Spirit they burst out of the Upper Room and proceeded to preach the Good News to the ends of the earth – according to tradition, as far as western Spain, eastern Turkey and southern India. Part of their job was to teach their converts to do the same, to be the body of Christ here on earth. The results were frighteningly mixed, as documented in St. Paul’s letters to the Corinthians:

 

… in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that divisions exist among you; and in part I believe it. For there must also be factions among you, so that those who are approved may become evident among you. Therefore when you meet together, it is not to eat the Lord’s Supper, for in your eating each one takes his own supper first; and one is hungry and another is drunk. What! Do you not have houses in which to eat and drink? Or do you despise the church of God and shame those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you?

 

Jesus Himself had a few choice words for the members of His body (in Thyatira) in His Revelation:

 

I have this against you, that you tolerate the woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, and she teaches and leads My bond-servants astray so that they commit acts of immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols. I gave her time to repent, and she does not want to repent of her immorality. Behold, I will throw her on a bed of sickness, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of her deeds. And I will kill her children with pestilence, and all the churches will know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts; and I will give to each one of you according to your deeds.

 

Yep, and it’s remained a mixed bag down through the centuries, this body of Christ. I always greet the Easter Vigil with mixed emotions – mixed because I myself as a convert know the inexpressible joy of being reconciled to the Church, as well as the bumpy reality of life in this struggling body of Christ. I know that those entering the Church at the Vigil will sooner or later have to face what all converts have to face: you and me.

 

It’s not a pretty scenario. Pity the poor convert who rises early to attend the daily recitation of the Rosary before Mass. She arrives starry-eyed, only to be greeted by – me. Bear in mind that I am not a morning person, nor am I a people person, and becoming a member of the body of Christ did not change that overnight. As I sit silent and aloof in my corner, you enter the room. You are by no means as antisocial as I am, not by a long shot, but after having had the mother of all arguments this morning with your better half (she was right, and you know it), you are in no mood for small talk. Ms. Convert waits uncomfortably for something to happen, and it does – Ramona bursts in, she of the huge devotion to the Blessed Virgin and the even huger devotion to the sound of her own voice. The daily wrestling match ensues between you and Ramona, as you struggle to get the Rosary started so we can end before Mass, and Ramona struggles to fulfill her pathological need to recount a blow-by-blow of her recent pedicure. Ms. Convert’s eyes widen as she wonders exactly how uncharitable this is going to get. You can see her straining her brain, trying to remember why exactly she was so keen on becoming Catholic….

 

For all those converts who are starting to have trouble remembering, the only valid reason to enter the Church is Jesus Christ. That’s why it is fitting that converts be initiated at the celebration of His triumph over sin and death. The problems arise when starry-eyed converts knock at the door of Jesus’ house and find us, the ones He left here to carry on, the spouse charged with conducting His business until He returns. It can be a shock to them when they find out how imperfect we are; we are in many cases even less appealing than some people who don’t pretend to be Christian – at least they’re honest….

 

But remember, O earnest, Christ-seeking convert, that we are all converts, too – even the cradle Catholics. Our conversion is meant to be daily, even moment-by-moment, for we too are here to encounter Christ in the Holy Catholic Church. He is truly Emmanuel, truly “God with us,” in the Holy Eucharist, and yes – in His people as well, despite all appearances to the contrary. Bread maintains the appearance of bread, and the body of Christ here on earth still looks an awful lot like me and you. Yet the Ascension of Christ was not some grand letdown or a Plan B; it was the beginning of something greater than any of the apostles could have imagined. For if you have been crucified, killed and resurrected, what do you do for an encore?

 

You indwell Your body, so that each member may learn to rise to new life as well. Despair not, O convert – He is making all things new.

 

 

On the memorial of St. Augustine of Canterbury

 

Deo omnis gloria!

“To these [the apostles] He also presented Himself alive after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God.” (Acts 1:3)

 

Scene

The Upper Room

Time

The 40-day period between the Resurrection and the Ascension.

 

 

    SETTING: Jesus’ hand-picked apostles are clustered around the Risen Master in the Upper Room. Jesus is

teaching them everything they will need to know

when they go out into the world to make disciples

of all nations.

 

Jesus: Today we will be talking about the subject of baptism.

 

(James the Lesser nudges Philip, who winks at him)

 

Philip (whispering): We’re finally getting to the good stuff!

 

(Jesus clears His throat, and the whispering stops)

 

Jesus: Okay, men, about baptism – Go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Any questions?

 

(Simon the Zealot, sitting in the back, raises his hand)

 

Jesus: Yes, Simon?

 

Simon the Zealot: Okay, Lord, I’m a little fuzzy on this. When You say “baptizing,” what You actually mean is full immersion in water, right?

 

Simon Peter (butts in): No way, Simon. Obviously, what the Lord means by “baptizing” is to immerse someone or to pour water over their head – isn’t that right, Jesus?

 

Jesus (smiling benevolently): What do You think I mean?

 

Simon Peter (with furrowed brow): Well, actually, Lord, I was asking You….

 

John (piping up): I think even sprinkling with water would be sufficient to say that someone had been “baptized,” right, Jesus? After all, was it not prophesied that God will sprinkle clean water on us, and we will be clean?

 

(Jesus spreads His hands out in front of Him in a gesture open to interpretation, and John sighs.)

 

Andrew: My problem, though, Lord, really isn’t with the “how” of baptism – it’s with the “why.” Does this baptism actually do something to the baptized, or is this baptism You’re proposing merely a sign of the change that has already taken place in their hearts? I mean, is this like in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few were brought safely through the water, and corresponding to that, baptism now saves us?

 

Simon Peter: Well put, bro!

 

(Jesus smiles benignly but noncommittally. Simon Peter and Andrew glance nervously at each other and then fall silent.)

 

Thomas (mumbling): Well, whatever.

 

Nathaniel (timidly): You see, Lord, it would be really, really helpful if You would explain to us exactly what it is we’re to go out and teach before we go out! I mean, seriously, how’s it going to look if John here is teaching one thing, and Thomas is teaching something different? You prayed that we might be “perfected in unity” so that the world may know that the Father sent You, right? Now, it seems to me that unity of doctrine would be the hallmark of any kind of authentic unity, right? I mean, either full immersion is necessary or it isn’t; either baptism now saves us or something else does. Our opinions are mutually contradictory, and we’re talking about salvation here! Before we go and make disciples of all nations, isn’t it kind of important that we all be on the same scroll, so to speak?

 

Jesus (embracing all those present with an expansive gesture): Well, let’s open that question up to discussion, then, Nathaniel. Tell Me, men, what does baptism mean to each of you?

 

 

 

Do you get the feeling that the above scene never actually took place? What excuse is there for Protestant indifference to unity of doctrine?

 

As I have already observed, the Church, having received this preaching and this faith, although scattered throughout the whole world, yet, as if occupying but one house, carefully preserves it. She also believes these points [of doctrine] just as if she had but one soul, and one and the same heart, and she proclaims them, and teaches them, and hands them down, with perfect harmony, as if she possessed only one mouth. For, although the languages of the world are dissimilar, yet the import of the tradition is one and the same. For the Churches which have been planted in Germany do not believe or hand down anything different, nor do those in Spain, nor those in Gaul, nor those in the East, nor those in Egypt, nor those in Libya, nor those which have been established in the central regions of the world. But as the sun, that creature of God, is one and the same throughout the whole world, so also the preaching of the truth shines everywhere, and enlightens all men that are willing to come to a knowledge of the truth. St. Irenaeus of Lyons, c. 180 A.D.

 

 

On the memorial of St. Paschal Baylon

 

Deo omnis gloria!

We moderns have got some funny ideas. Many of us educated 21st-century folk defend the view that an unborn child is somehow not a human being. Fewer and fewer of us these days believe that there is a God, and some look to the brave new world of genetic engineering to usher in a golden age of transhumanism. Those of us who reject such folly and dedicate ourselves to the Christian belief system are still not immune to the lure of decidedly weird notions. We fool around with worldly pleasures, convinced that aiming for Purgatory is, well, close enough. We fall for worldly values such as looking out for Number One. We make ourselves believe that the times in our life when we are drawn particularly close to God are meant to define our own new, personal status quo. God, we forget, is Constancy itself. We are human. God woos and waits for us to respond, and we humans may respond passionately for a time, mistaking our ardor for a permanent state. Inevitably though, our passion cools – and we panic. Waking up one Sunday and realizing that we are actually toying with the idea of skipping Mass can be a real jolt. Being the generation that disposes of relationships as easily as used tissues, we are tempted to assume that our response to God was “a phase,” because of course the fervor of “real” love will never cool. As Anne Morrow Lindbergh put it:

 

We have such little faith in the ebb and flow of life and of love and of relationships. We leap forward at the flow of the tide and resist in terror its ebb, for we are afraid it will never return.

 

How can I feel this way? If I were really the Catholic I thought I was, I would never, ever lose my ardor….

 

Imagine a child who visits the seashore and watches the waves recede. It would never dawn on him that what he was watching has been occurring since the oceans were formed, and that the water he sees receding will return with full force if he simply gives it enough time. So it is with us. We will have experiences that promise us Heaven, followed by droughts that leave our souls parched and pondering whether we have only imagined the existence of God. When those latter times come, prayer and Mass attendance become even more important as we beseech God for the grace of perseverance in the Faith and in all good works – easy to say, but particularly hard to carry out when our boat has been deserted by the ebbing tide of our emotions. Yet with such perseverance comes hope. Just as we can be confident that low tide will be followed by high, and high by low again, so also can we “be confident of this very thing, that He Who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus” – not simply despite the ebb and flow of life, but in it and through it.

 

 

On the memorial of Bl. Ivan Merz

Deo omnis gloria!

 

 

One of our favorite things to say about Catholics, back in my Evangelical Protestant days, was “if Catholics would only read the Bible!”  If we could just get a Polish translation of the KJV into the hands of John Paul II, for example, he would feel compelled to abdicate, assuming he’s an honest man, when he sees how thoroughly unbiblical his beliefs are! We were convinced that if Catholics would just read through the Bible once, they would see how ridiculous it is to subscribe to unscriptural, man-made doctrines like the belief in a hierarchical Church (Isa 22:20-22, Mt. 16:16-19, Mt. 18:17-18, Lk. 10:16, Acts 1:15-26, Acts 6:6, Acts 15, Acts 16:4, 2 Cor 10:6, 2 Thess 3:14, 1 Tim 3:15, 2 Tim 1:6, 2 Tim 2:2, 2 Tim 4:1-2, Titus 2:15, 1 Jn 4:6, Heb 13:17, etc.) You see, Protestants don’t realize how Biblical certain Catholic beliefs and practices are because they do not know the Scriptures. Oh, they THINK they know the Scriptures – most study them at least once a week, if not every day. But the truth is, they read the Bible through their denomination’s schema, which serves to filter out anything that sounds different from what their pastor happens to be teaching. That’s how they end up with bone-headed notions like “nowhere does the Bible teach some kind of distinction between ‘mortal’ and ‘venial’ sins,” (1 Jn 5:16-17) or “nowhere does the Bible say mere men can grant absolution” (Jn 20:21-22). Really, it’s right there. Former Protestant pastor Marcus Grodi of the Coming Home Network often speaks of “the verses I never saw,” verses like 1 Timothy 3:15 and Revelation 14:13, verses that contradict the Protestant narrative and therefore are glibly glossed over (“You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone” being a perennial favorite). The verse that knocked me personally for a loop was a verse in a passage I knew well. It was the passage read whenever we Evangelicals celebrated the Lord’s Supper:

 

For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is fore you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. 1 Cor 11: 23-30

 

I do believe that most Evangelicals would claim familiarity with those words. And yet, hidden in that passage was a phrase that would rock my theology: Anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. Body? What Body? Since I had been taught to take figuratively the Lord’s discourse in John 6:22-69, that phrase blew in one ear and out the other, communion after communion after communion. Then one day it dawned on me that I as an Evangelical took Jesus’ words in John 6 figuratively because I lacked the faith to believe what He had actually said (and what everyone present had understood Him to say, and what every Christian for 1,000 years after that would believe He had said). Those words in 1 Corinthians exploded into my consciousness: we must discern Christ’s Body when we eat the bread and drink the cup, or we are drinking judgment on ourselves.

 

Holy moley….

 

So, if your Protestant next-door neighbors ever start complaining to you about the “unscriptural” Catholic Mass, why not suggest just for fun that they mail a couple of Spanish KJV’s to the Vatican? After all, our Holy Father is known for his sense of humor. I think he’d get a kick out of it, don’t you?

 

 

On the memorial of St. François de Laval

 

Deo omnis gloria!

Tom, Dick and Teri are employed by a large corporation. Although each is a member of a different Protestant denomination, they meet in the lunchroom every day to encourage and pray for one another. Today Teri is running late, and Tom and Dick have started their lunch without her.

 

“So you’re moonlighting?” Tom asks Dick as he cuts his lasagna into bite-sized pieces. “Really?”

 

Dick shakes his head. “No, I don’t get paid for it. But I’m excited to have the chance to help this ministry get off the ground. A deacon at my church has written a historical defense of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. It’s really well done. It shows why skeptics like C.S. Lewis and Josh McDowell became Christians when they sat down and examined the facts concerning the life of Christ, facts like the historical witness of Josephus and Tacitus. Our deacon started a website and got his articles translated into 8 different languages. It’s great! I can’t tell you how good it is to go home from this place and spend a couple of hours doing work of eternal significance!”

 

Tom nods as he wipes his mouth with his napkin. “It must be very rewarding! What exactly do you do? Are you the tech guy?”

 

Dick stabs a cherry tomato with his fork. “Well, no – the deacon’s son is the tech guy. My job is actually to translate the Norwegian comments into English.”

 

Tom’s eyes widen. “I didn’t know you spoke Norwegian!”

 

Dick looks down at his salad. “Well, actually, I don’t really. My father’s mother was Norwegian, and she taught me a little when I was a kid. I actually don’t know much at all.”

 

“So, how does that work?” Tom asks through a mouthful of garlic bread.

 

“Well, it leaves a lot to be desired. I actually rely on Google Translate,” Dick admits.

 

“Seriously?” Tom replies. “But, Google Translate is notoriously….”

 

“Inadequate?” Dick agrees. “Yeah, no sense many the translations don’t make. But what can we do? The articles were professionally translated, so we’re confident that they’re comprehensible. We’re pleased to be reaching Norway with the word of God. For now we’re just doing the best we can with what we’ve got.”

 

“Are the other languages being handled that way?” Tom wants to know.

 

“Well, we’ve got people in this area who actually speak a few of the languages. For the others, they’re making do with people like me.” Dick shrugs.

 

Tom leans back in his chair. “Well, I’m glad you’re able to take part in this. It must be really faith-building.”

 

Dick nods. “It is. I was a little disturbed by one incident, though….”

 

Tom leans forward, and Dick continues.

 

“This woman wrote to us practically begging us to help her. If I understood her correctly, she said that she’d basically made the rounds of all the Christian denominations. She said she was really seeking the truth, and since different denominations teach different doctrines, she asked us to point her towards the denomination that teaches the truth.”

 

Tom frowns. “So what’d you do?”

 

“Well, I forwarded the comment to our deacon, and he sent me his reply to send back to her.” Dick explains.

 

“And?” Tom asks.

 

“And he basically told her to Google churches in her area, then pray about it and go to the one she felt God was leading her to.” Dick shifts uncomfortably.

 

“Your deacon told her that?” Tom questions him.

 

“Well, yeah, he pretty much had to,” Dick admits. “You see, some of the people working on this project don’t belong to our denomination. We’re all working together towards this common goal, so he really can’t take the opportunity to tout our denomination as ‘the church that’s teaching the truth.’ How would that sound? What bothered me was that the woman had done just what he suggested before she ever contacted us, and the best we could do is suggest that she do it all over again and hope for better results the second time around.”

 

Tom’s frown deepens, and Dick looks embarrassed. “So how did she take it?” Tom asks.

 

“No clue – she never got back to us. Of course, that could be because she couldn’t understand what we were getting at. I had to Google Translate it back to her….”

 

Tom chuckles in spite of himself. “It’s too bad you can’t connect with a Christian group in Norway that can help you out. You know, you could refer inquirers like her to them.”

 

Dick shakes his head as he bites thoughtfully into his breadstick. “Can’t do that. Most Christian groups in Norway seem to be Lutheran. There’s no way my Presbyterian deacon is going to officially encourage anybody to join up with the Lutherans. The best he can do is remain totally nondenominational about the whole thing. He gives the same advice as Billy Graham: attend the Bible-believing church of your choice.”

 

“Which leaves your inquirer high and dry,” Tom points out. “Pretty much all churches are ‘Bible-believing.'”

 

“No, they aren’t,” Dick argues, dipping a carrot into his salad dressing. “There are dozens of liberal denominations that try to explain away Biblical accounts like the miracle of the loaves and fishes, or even the Resurrection itself. Our deacon wrote his articles to combat that kind of thing! He’s not going to send anybody to one of those churches!”

 

“Actually,” Tom explains, laying his fork down on his plate, “I think those ‘liberal’ denominations believe the Bible, but they don’t take literally the same passages that we do. It’s a matter of interpretation. If you ask them if they believe the Bible, they’d probably say that they do – all the while merrily re-interpreting various passages to suit their postmodern outlook. Take your Presbyterian church and my nondenominational church, for example. You believe that baptism regenerates. My church teaches that baptism is just a symbol. Both of our churches believe the Bible, but we interpret it differently.”

 

Dick frowns. “So what’s your point?”

 

“My point is that if someone is seeking a ‘Bible-believing church,’ they could even end up in a non-Christian group like the Jehovah’s Witnesses. The JW’s believe the Bible, but they interpret it in a radically different way from the Christian understanding. My aunt Lou became a Jehovah’s Witness because they showed her all their non-trinitarian doctrines straight from Scripture.”

 

“They don’t believe that Jesus is God, do they?” Dick asks.

 

Tom shakes his head. “No, they believe that Jesus was created by God. My uncle was really disgusted when she joined their group – not that he believed in God, quite the opposite. He thought Jesus never really existed.”

 

“See, that’s the kind of nonsense these articles of ours are attempting to debunk,” Dick enthuses. “We’re taking a solidly historical approach to the Resurrection, laying out all the evidence, the witnesses, and the reaction of the terrified apostles who became martyrs for the faith after encountering the Risen Christ, whom they called God.”

 

“Write down the website for me; I’d love to read this for myself.” Dick takes out a pen and writes the address down on a napkin.

 

“I do have one question, though,” Tom says as he accepts the napkin. “Your deacon has thoroughly researched the historical evidence concerning the life, death and resurrection of Jesus to write these articles, right?”

 

Dick nods vigorously.

 

“And he accepts extrabiblical accounts of the Crucifixion as valid, right?”

 

Dick nods again as he tastes his tiramisu. “Of course he does! That’s the great thing: we can use the historical record to buttress what the Bible says. There’s no contradiction there.”

 

“Right, I agree with you,” Tom acknowledges. “So here’s my question. If you accept the historical evidence for the Crucifixion and the Resurrection, using it to buttress your contention that the biblical Crucifixion and Resurrection accounts must be taken literally, why do you reject the historical evidence that shows that the early Christians were convinced that John 6 and Matthew 27 must be taken literally – you know, “unless you eat My flesh and drink My blood, you have no life in you” and “This IS My body – this IS My blood”? Why is the historical evidence for the life of Christ admissible, but the historical evidence for the beliefs of the first Christians not admissible?

 

Dick stops chewing. “We don’t accept that evidence because it contradicts what the Bible teaches,” he tells Tom. “That’s how we know that some Christians in the early church taught error.”

 

“No,” Tom insists. “Think about it, Dick. You don’t accept that evidence because it contradicts your narrative, your interpretation of what the Bible teaches – and that’s exactly how a Resurrection-denying liberal Christian would feel about your historical evidence for the miracle of the Resurrection!

 

Dick scowls, but Tom plows ahead. “When a denomination’s interpretation of the Scriptures conflicts with the historical evidence, that denomination’s witness is kind of like Google Translate – all the words are there, but the sense is garbled. When a denomination’s interpretation of the Bible jibes with the evidence of history – then and only then does everything make sense.”

 

Dick opens his mouth to reply, but sees Teri approaching and thinks better of it.

 

“Hi, guys,” Teri chirps as she places her tray on the lunch table. “You talking about me?” she asks jokingly.

 

“We’re talking about Google Translate as a metaphor for Protestant life,” Tom quips.

 

“Huh?”

 

Tom looks meaningfully at Dick. “Exactly.”

 

 

On the memorial of St. Joseph the Worker

 

Deo omnis gloria!

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