Getting the Terminology Right
Catholics go to Mass on Sundays (and other occasions). We don’t go to “Sunday service”, “worship”, or even “church” (though we do “go to the church” to attend Mass).
Why are these other words inadequate to describe what Catholics do?
“Service” is what takes place outside the doors of the church building. As we practice charity towards others, we are performing service - specifically, we extend the forgiveness and love that we have ourselves received through the sacraments that take place inside the church building. At the end of Mass, we are sent forth “to proclaim the Good News” (literally: “the Gospel”). That is a command to serve the world.
“Worship” is part of what happens at Mass, though it is only one part of what takes place. In addition to worship through praise of God, we are also joining in mystical communion with the entire body of Christ, we are being fed by the Word of God in the Scriptures and in the preaching, and we are being nourished by His sacred Body and Blood in the Eucharist. As an act of worship, we receive the gift of Christ himself, and we then offer it (joined together with our charitable service) back to God the Father as an act of worship.
“Church” is a multilayered word that can mean (among other things) the physical building in which we celebrate Mass (and the other sacraments), and the people who comprise the mystical Body of Christ (both living here presently and those who have died). Other meanings are explored in Avery Dulles’ monumental work, Models of the Church. To say that you are going “to church” doesn’t make a lot of sense, given the many possible interpretations of the word!
I could write more, but I need to head off to Mass right now, in order to worship in the church.
The Atrocities of Theism and Atheism Compared
“Science flies people to the moon. Religion flies people into buildings”
Dr. Richard Dawkins
“Radical theists blow people up; radical atheists are mean on the internet”
One atheist blogger
I’ve heard people refer to the crusades, witch-burning, inquisition, Galileo, terrorism, abortionist murderers as reasons why religion is dangerous and without it there would be a lot less death and suffering in the world.
The facts and figures tell a different story, however.
Below are three pie charts comparing democide (this includes genocide, politicide, and mass murder, but not war-dead) with war-dead, atheist regime murder and the Black Plague. The first is Pre 20th C, the second is Post 20th C and the third combines all of history.
If you would like to see the break down of these numbers, click “Read More”.
The atrocities from religion are inexcusable. The death of one person is tragic, and these numbers are so huge they lose all meaning. What should be learnt from this that getting rid of religion will certainly not spell the end of war, genocide and political murder.
Reflections on “Ecclesia de Eucharistia”
For the past three years, I have been working on earning a Master of Arts in Pastoral Ministry degree. My final academic paper in this course of studies, written for my Ecclesiology class, is a set of reflections on the 2003 Papal encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia by Blessed Pope John Paul II, about the relationship of the Eucharist to the Church. Here is the paper:
The goal of this encyclical is to “rekindle”, at the beginning of the Third Millennium, our “amazement” at the mystery that is the Eucharist (n. 6). I believe that this particular chronological setting is the key to understand not only this encyclical, but the entire magisterial thrust of Pope John Paul II. For him, the millennium represented an opportunity to return to the roots of the faith, to ourselves become “re-evangelized”. This is the meaning of “the New Evangelization” which he had spoken of for his entire pontificate, and which animates this encyclical (along with the two others which together form his “Jubilee Triptych”, Novo Millennio Ineunte and Rosarium Virginis Mariae).
I am inspired by the Holy Father’s reflection on the cosmic nature of the Eucharist: “even when it is celebrated on the humble altar of a country church, the Eucharist is always in some way celebrated on the altar of the world. It unites heaven and earth. It embraces and permeates all creation. The Son of God became man in order to restore all creation, in one supreme act of praise, to the One who made it from nothing. He, the Eternal High Priest who by the blood of his Cross entered the eternal sanctuary, thus gives back to the Creator and Father all creation redeemed. He does so through the priestly ministry of the Church, to the glory of the Most Holy Trinity” (n. 8).
When we take part in the celebration of the Eucharist, we renew and strengthen our own participation in the Mystical Communion that is the Church, the sacrificial gift of Jesus Christ offered to the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit. This calls me into a deeper sense of reverence and devotion, no matter the specific circumstances of the celebration I am attending, whether my senses are being overwhelmed by incense and the sound of sacred polyphony in a huge basilica, or I am gathered with family around the coffee table in the living room of a sick relative. This calls me to remember that it is the power of the sacrament itself that is what is important, and while when possible it should be celebrated with all solemnity, the Eucharistic celebration is just as efficacious when prayed with dignified simplicity.
Chapter I: The Mystery of Faith
I have a particular interest in apologetics work, and the Eucharist is one of the issues that come up especially in discussions with Evangelical (“Bible”) Christians. I have been confronted with the claim that the Catholic Church is attempting to “re-crucify Jesus” every time Mass is celebrated. John Paul addresses that charge when he writes, “The Eucharist thus applies to men and women today the reconciliation won once for all by Christ for mankind in every age… The Mass makes present the sacrifice of the Cross; it does not add to that sacrifice nor does it multiply it. What is repeated is its memorial celebration, its “commemorative representation” (memorialis demonstratio), which makes Christ’s one, definitive redemptive sacrifice always present in time” (n. 12). Of course, I usually also point out that we are fulfilling Jesus’ own command to “Do this in memory of me” (Lk 22:19), and that even St. Paul, though he was not present at the Last Supper, witnesses to the centrality of the “breaking of the bread” for the communities he himself founded (cf. 1 Cor 11).
The importance of not only attending the celebration of the Eucharist, but also partaking in Holy Communion is stressed when John Paul writes, “The saving efficacy of the sacrifice is fully realized when the Lord’s body and blood are received in communion. The Eucharistic Sacrifice is intrinsically directed to the inward union of the faithful with Christ through communion; we receive the very One who offered himself for us, we receive his body which he gave up for us on the Cross and his blood which he ‘poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins’ (Mt 26:28)” (n. 16). He continues, “Proclaiming the death of the Lord ‘until he comes’ (1 Cor 11:26) entails that all who take part in the Eucharist be committed to changing their lives and making them in a certain way completely ‘Eucharistic’. It is this fruit of a transfigured existence and a commitment to transforming the world in accordance with the Gospel which splendidly illustrates the eschatological tension inherent in the celebration of the Eucharist and in the Christian life as a whole: ‘Come, Lord Jesus!’ (Rev 22:20)” (n. 20).
I understand that prior to the Second Vatican Council, many Catholics did not receive the Eucharist regularly, but this does not fit with my (entirely post-Vatican II) experience, when most worshippers queue up to receive the Eucharist at the Mass. Later in the document, the Holy Father will speak of the importance to reflect carefully on the state of one’s soul before receiving the Eucharist, and I think we would do well to do that ourselves, and continue to educate our fellow Christians on the importance of regular celebration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation before receiving the Eucharist, without suggesting any form of “public conscience witch-hunt”.
Chapter II: The Eucharist Builds the Church
The Holy Father echoes the teaching of the Second Vatican Council, which said that the Eucharist is the “summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed; at the same time it is the font from which all her power flows” (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 10). John Paul builds upon this statement by connecting this amorphous “activity of the Church” with the work of evangelization: “From the perpetuation of the sacrifice of the Cross and her communion with the body and blood of Christ in the Eucharist, the Church draws the spiritual power needed to carry out her mission. The Eucharist thus appears as both the source and the summit of all evangelization, since its goal is the communion of mankind with Christ and in him with the Father and the Holy Spirit” (n. 22).
At the end of Mass, shortly after receiving the body and blood of Christ, we are told, “Go, and announce the Gospel of the Lord.” I’ve always been struck at how short the Concluding Rites of the Mass are, in comparison with the Introductory Rites. We are sent forth, with the taste of the Eucharist still literally on our tongues, to tell what we have heard, like the disciples on the Road to Emmaus who ran to proclaim their experience of the risen Christ in the breaking of the bread (cf. Lk 24:13-35). I often think of this when I am subjected to a closing hymn of 5 verses!
Having already listed regular Eucharistic adoration as one of the bright “lights” of faith in the introduction to the encyclical, the Pope again strongly promotes Eucharistic devotion outside of the Mass as a source of grace for deepening our own faith as well as increasing communion within the universal Church: “The Eucharist is a priceless treasure: by not only celebrating it but also by praying before it outside of Mass we are enabled to make contact with the very wellspring of grace. A Christian community desirous of contemplating the face of Christ… cannot fail also to develop this aspect of Eucharistic worship, which prolongs and increases the fruits of our communion in the body and blood of the Lord” (n. 25). At my own parish, we have exposition and adoration 5 days a week, and I know that many of the faithful take advantage of the opportunity to pray before the Eucharistic Lord during their lunch hour before returning to their jobs and families. According to John Paul, it would be good if every parish offered and promoted a similar devotion, led by the personal prayer witness of their pastors.
Chapter III: The Apostolicity of the Eucharist and of the Church
The Eucharist is both our necessary connection to the historical Christ through the successors of His Apostles, and at the same time the very guarantee that we indeed are connected to Christ and those same Apostles who first broke bread with Him in the Cenacle: “The assembly gathered together for the celebration of the Eucharist, if it is to be a truly Eucharistic assembly, absolutely requires the presence of an ordained priest as its president. On the other hand, the community is by itself incapable of providing an ordained minister. This minister is a gift which the assembly receives through episcopal succession going back to the Apostles. It is the Bishop who, through the Sacrament of Holy Orders, makes a new presbyter by conferring upon him the power to consecrate the Eucharist.” (n. 29)
In a Church animated by the Eucharist, it is imperative that the Church have access to the priests who make the Eucharist present: “All of this shows how distressing and irregular is the situation of a Christian community which, despite having sufficient numbers and variety of faithful to form a parish, does not have a priest to lead it. Parishes are communities of the baptized who express and affirm their identity above all through the celebration of the Eucharistic Sacrifice. But this requires the presence of a presbyter, who alone is qualified to offer the Eucharist in persona Christi… It should also be an incentive to mobilize all the resources needed for an adequate pastoral promotion of vocations, without yielding to the temptation to seek solutions which lower the moral and formative standards demanded of candidates for the priesthood.” (n. 32)
This is a difficult thing to reflect upon, since I myself studied for the priesthood believing that I had a vocation to the ordained ministry. Through discernment both personal and communal, it was made clear to me that my vocation was not to the priesthood, and I accepted that decision with, if not joy, at least resignation until my true vocation became clear. I have always been part of a community that has regular access to the Eucharist, and so I don’t know the pain of longing for the Eucharist when there is no priest to celebrate. It is interesting that in this section of the encyclical, the Holy Father doesn’t categorically eliminate the option to change the discipline regarding unmarried priests, just offers the directive that we ought not lower our “moral and formative standards” in the face of priestless parishes.
Chapter IV: The Eucharist and Ecclesial Communion
This chapter is all about ecclesiology, and Pope John Paul emphasizes the intertwined spiritual, personal, and the institutional aspects of the Church: “The sacrament is an expression of this bond of communion both in its invisible dimension, which, in Christ and through the working of the Holy Spirit, unites us to the Father and among ourselves, and in its visible dimension, which entails communion in the teaching of the Apostles, in the sacraments and in the Church’s hierarchical order. The profound relationship between the invisible and the visible elements of ecclesial communion is constitutive of the Church as the sacrament of salvation” (n. 35). This language echoes at least three of the “models of the Church” explored by Avery Dulles, specifically Church as Institution, Church as Mystical Communion, and Church as Sacrament.
Referring to the issue of being in right relationship with God that he hinted at in the first chapter, the Holy Father urges Christians to make sure they are personally in communion with one another and with God, that is, in a state of grace, before approaching to receive the Eucharist, echoing St. Paul’s teaching not to eat and drink the Cup of the Lord unworthily (cf. 1 Cor 11:27): “The judgment of one’s state of grace obviously belongs only to the person involved, since it is a question of examining one’s conscience. However, in cases of outward conduct which is seriously, clearly and steadfastly contrary to the moral norm, the Church, in her pastoral concern for the good order of the community and out of respect for the sacrament, cannot fail to feel directly involved. The Code of Canon Law refers to this situation of a manifest lack of proper moral disposition when it states that those who ‘obstinately persist in manifest grave sin’ are not to be admitted to Eucharistic communion” (n. 38). The question of public administration of Holy Communion is an ongoing question in regards to Catholic politicians who vote for laws and policies that the Church has spoken against, and different bishops may interpret this differently within their own dioceses.
Chapter V: The Dignity of the Eucharistic Celebration
As I mentioned in my reflections on the Introduction section, the liturgical environment in which we celebrate the Eucharist is not what makes it effective, but that does not mean that we ought to discount the importance of what we see and smell and hear as part of our worship. We are an incarnational people, and our senses enhance or distract from the full meaning of what we experience. Pope John Paul, having been an actor in his formative years, appreciates the work of artists and encourages us to think about what we bring to the Eucharist in terms of aesthetics: “The architectural and mosaic splendours of the Christian East and West are a patrimony belonging to all believers; they contain a hope, and even a pledge, of the desired fullness of communion in faith and in celebration. This would presuppose and demand, as in Rublëv’s famous depiction of the Trinity, a profoundly Eucharistic Church in which the presence of the mystery of Christ in the broken bread is as it were immersed in the ineffable unity of the three divine Persons, making of the Church herself an ‘icon’ of the Trinity” (n. 50).
This chapter celebrates and encourages the finest human achievements that have been put at the service of the Eucharist in music, art, and architecture, and also speaks of the importance of inculturation, balanced with the need to remain in touch (“in communion”) with the universal Church. Ultimately, for John Paul, the faithful celebration of the fullness of the Church’s rites is a sign of love for the Church: “Liturgy is never anyone’s private property, be it of the celebrant or of the community in which the mysteries are celebrated. The Apostle Paul had to address fiery words to the community of Corinth because of grave shortcomings in their celebration of the Eucharist resulting in divisions (schismata) and the emergence of factions (haireseis) (cf. 1 Cor 11:17-34). Our time, too, calls for a renewed awareness and appreciation of liturgical norms as a reflection of, and a witness to, the one universal Church made present in every celebration of the Eucharist. Priests who faithfully celebrate Mass according to the liturgical norms, and communities which conform to those norms, quietly but eloquently demonstrate their love for the Church” (n. 52)
Chapter VI: At the School of Mary, “Woman of the Eucharist”
The final chapter of this encyclical is a short survey of how Mary leads us to her Son’s Eucharistic body: “The Eucharist, while commemorating the passion and resurrection, is also in continuity with the incarnation. At the Annunciation Mary conceived the Son of God in the physical reality of his body and blood, thus anticipating within herself what to some degree happens sacramentally in every believer who receives, under the signs of bread and wine, the Lord’s body and blood… As a result, there is a profound analogy between the Fiat which Mary said in reply to the angel, and the Amen which every believer says when receiving the body of the Lord” (n. 55).
Pope John Paul, himself a devotee of Mary, gives a few brief insights into how several of the mysteries of the Rosary are reflections on the Eucharist. He points out that in the cycle of the Luminous Mysteries which he introduced to be prayed on Thursdays, he included “the Institution of the Eucharist”. I believe that by proposing that the Church reflect at least once a week in our meditative/contemplative prayer on the Eucharist in the context of Marian devotion, the Pope invites us to discover the deeper connection between the Incarnation, the Last Supper, the Crucifixion, and the Resurrection. In short, for Pope John Paul, the entire Paschal Mystery is presented in the “rattling of the beads”.
Finally, the Pope connects the Eucharist to the Liturgy of the Hours, wherein the Church daily repeats the words of Mary in her visit to Elizabeth with the Magnificat at Vespers: “In the Eucharist the Church is completely united to Christ and his sacrifice, and makes her own the spirit of Mary. This truth can be understood more deeply by re-reading the Magnificat in a Eucharistic key. The Eucharist, like the Canticle of Mary, is first and foremost praise and thanksgiving. When Mary exclaims: ‘My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour’, she already bears Jesus in her womb. She praises God ‘through’ Jesus, but she also praises him ‘in’ Jesus and ‘with’ Jesus. This is itself the true ‘Eucharistic attitude’” (n. 58). As one who prays the Divine Office regularly, the Pope’s reflections have begun to echo in my prayer as I sing Mary’s words in the light of the Eucharistic mystery.
One last inspiring reflection by the Pope sums up the ineffable mystery of the Eucharist, which can never be fully comprehended this side of the beatific vision: “If, in the presence of this mystery, reason experiences its limits, the heart, enlightened by the grace of the Holy Spirit, clearly sees the response that is demanded, and bows low in adoration and unbounded love” (n. 62). Beautiful!
Virtuous drinking involves male friendship, plain and simple. It’s usually a time for men to remove themselves from the company of women that they love and sit together around a fire pit, in the darkness, or on the back porch. Some of the most meaningful conversations that I have had with my father, my brother, and my friends have been over a Scotch. Real relationships are forged. It’s a beautiful thing.
Yes, beer can work. But whisky raises it to another level. To compare it to the Latin Mass, whisky is the extraordinary form of alcohol.”
– Dr. Taylor Marshall, interviewed on the “Whiskey Catholic” blog.
Paul and the Apostolic Succession
In my recent dialogue about the Catholic Church with a college classmate, he asserted that there was no hierarchical structure in the early church, at least not one found in scripture. I countered that Paul definitely refers to an order of precedence in 1 Corinthians 12, with the Apostles first, then prophets, and so on. Clearly a hierarchy.
While continuing to read in Paul, I hit upon an even more important reference to the Apostolic Succession, giving evidence that Paul agreed that the Apostles themselves were authorized to appoint others to the highest rank in the Church. Paul mentions in 1 Cor 15: 3-5 that
For I passed on to you as of first importance what I also received—that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day according to the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as though to one born at the wrong time, he appeared to me also. For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.
Note: Paul says that the risen Jesus appeared to Cephas (Peter) first, then to “the twelve”. Then to a large group of 500, then to James, then to all the apostles, then, finally, to Paul.
But, you may say, Judas had hung himself! There were only 11 apostles to see the Risen Jesus! Why did Paul say that Jesus had appeared to “the twelve”?
It all goes back to the first chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, where we learn of Peter leading the gathered believers in prayer in the Upper Room (the location of the Last Supper and the first resurrection appearance), and urging the community to select a replacement for Judas so that again there would be twelve Apostles. The criteria were that the replacement Apostle be “one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time the Lord Jesus associated with us, beginning from his baptism by John until the day he was taken up from us” (v. 21-22). They cast lots, and Matthias’s came up, “so he was counted with the eleven apostles” (v. 26).
The timing is definitely off between the two accounts, with the Author of the Acts of the Apostles placing this discussion after the Ascension of the Lord, but before the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Paul seems to indicate in 1 Corinthians 15 that this event happened before the Ascension. Either way, Paul clearly accepted that there were 12 living apostles who witnessed the Resurrection, before Paul saw the Lord Jesus and came to be counted among the Apostles himself. Note that Paul wouldn’t have even qualified to be an Apostle by the criteria that Peter established, because Paul hadn’t been with the disciples during the time that Jesus was with them in the flesh.
Some have argued that the Eleven were wrong to do this, since God had destined Paul to fill the space left by Judas. These naysayers point to the use of the casting of lots (basically, playing dice) as being not authorized by Jesus, therefore the selection of Matthias was invalid. They say that Paul was the true Twelfth Apostle, that Judas’ space should’ve been left open for him. But this ignores that Paul himself clearly accepted Matthias as a legitimate Apostle.
There is an obvious corollary that has consequences for us today: the number of Apostles was not limited to 12. We know that Paul was, by all accounts, an Apostle, as was Matthias. That means that there were at least 13 Apostles within a short time after the resurrection of Jesus. Why should there not be more? As a matter of fact, the Catholic Church teaches that its bishops are the “successors to the Apostles.” There are many more than 12 or 13 bishops throughout the world - and there is nothing in scripture to oppose their legitimate claim to be Apostles, as part of the college of bishops in continuity with the Apostles who walked with Jesus. Just like Matthias.
Fr. Dwight Longnecker, who was first an Evangelical Christian, then an Anglican who finally swam the Tiber to become Roman Catholic, gives a far more eloquent set of responses to the historical and theological falsehoods that I tried to take down in my posts about the primacy of Peter (my response in two parts, Part 1 & Part 2). Kudos, Fr. Dwight! Keep up the good work!
In the debate about priestly celibacy and married clergy, in discussions about a vocation to service in the church versus the vocation to marriage people often forget that the figure of married clergy already exists in the Catholic Church. What about the deacons?
St. Thomas Aquinas found only one serious objection to the existence of God: the existence of evil in the world. Philosopher Peter Kreeft explains how St. Thomas addressed the existence of evil and eviscerated the objection.
On the Truth of the Catholic Faith and the Primacy of Peter, Part 2
I here continue my response to my collegemate who believes that the Catholic Church is, essentially, the whore of Babylon. But it is with heavy heart that I write this Part 2, because today my interlocutor responded to Part 1 by telling me that “We’re going to go in circles, because you have your history, and I have mine.”
Unfortunately, history doesn’t work that way. There is ONE history, and it’s on the side of the Catholic Church. I’ve responded to his original message point-by-point, and now he’s attempting to make the ol’ cut-and-run response when faced with the overwhelming truth. I beg prayers for my friend, please!
Now, once more into the breach.
The Catholic church even has very serious issues with Apostolic succession. There are way too many gaps and theories. On Jan.18, 1947, a dispatch came from Vatican City which said:
“…the Vatican’s new official directory has dropped six popes from its old list. It placed two others in doubt, as possible anti-popes and listed as a true pope one who had not been included until now… Information was changed on 74 popes. The changes ranged from corrections in the dates of their pontificate to the assertion that one of them, Pope Dono II, who was listed as pontiff for three months in the year 973, never really existed…”
“In one book that was presented to Pope Pius XII, the third and fifth popes, Cleto a Roman, and Anacleto, an Athenian, were combined as one and the same person. Felix II, who was listed as a saint and as a pope from 363 to 365 is removed from the list as an anti-pope… Christoforo, 903 to 904; Alexander V, who claimed to be pope from 409 to 410, and John XXIII, from 1410 to 1415, were also dropped from the list of popes, while the legitimacy of Gregory VI, 1044 to 1047, was placed in doubt…Boniface VI, who was not in the old list, is put down as the legitimate pontiff for a few days in April 896. Possibility was admitted that Dioscoro was pope for 22 days in September and October 530, and that Leo VIII was pontiff from 963 to 965. Both were omitted from the list until now.” (Secrets of Romanism, Zachello, 48-49)
These are cases of investigating the varying extant lists that had been compiled by various writers and historian over the centuries and trying to reconcile them many years after the fact. What is interesting and important is that in every case involving antipopes, there was never any confusion of who the real bishop of Rome was. Antipopes are a curious lot, because history tends to remember them, but no one (or at least no one but a small group of nutjobs) at the time ever listens to them. Did you know, for example, that there is a man in British Columbia currently claiming to be Pope Pius XIII? Here’s a dose of reality: he ain’t.
But back to the historical record. Let’s take one of your examples, the case of Felix II. The actual Pope, Liberius (352-366), had been forcibly taken to Milan in 355 by the emperor Constantius II under the influence of heretical Arians who had the imperial ear. Liberius was forced to assent to a doctrinal statement that he actually did not support, then exiled to Berea in Thrace, and then to modern-day Serbia. In the meantime, not knowing what had happened to their bishop and fearing the worst, the Roman people elected Felix II to sit on the throne of Peter. But Pope Liberius hadn’t died, and was eventually permitted to return to Rome, where he was immediately received back by the Roman people with shouts of, “One God, One Christ, One Bishop!” and restored to his rightful place as bishop of Rome.
It is obvious with just a short study of papal history that there are serious gaps in the so-called “unbroken line”. In 1409, a Council was convoked in Pisa, where they elected Alexander V to usurp the two popes, Gregory XII and Benedict XIII, (who were already reigning), on the grounds they were “heretics and schismatics”.
The late 14th and early 15th century were a time when the political pressures of empire and kingdoms exerted undue and regrettable influence on the papacy, no doubt. But interestingly, it didn’t have any lasting effects, because not one antipope ever pronounced any doctrinal statements that affected the deposit of Faith or the official teaching of the Church.
The Council of Pisa, which was not an Ecumenical Council (the highest form of authority, one which is presided over by a Pope or his legate) but merely a regional council with just a handful of bishops and cardinals in attendance, did indeed attempt to elect a new pope - without the authority to do so. They failed. Alexander V was never accepted by the universal Church as the Pope, and died, disgraced, as an antipope. The man known to history as the antipope Benedict XIII had been elected by a group of French cardinals in Avignon, but also was never accepted by the universal church as the Pope. Only Gregory XII (1406-1415), in Rome, was the actual pope.
Can you imagine how the people must have felt when they woke up to the news that there was now a third pope! Can you imagine their further consternation when they were told that the Roman Catholic Church needed this third pope because the two currently reigning were frauds? This little bit of history alone should be enough to debunk the lie that the Roman Catholic Church is infallible and cannot err until the End of Time!
I guess Jesus was lying, then, when he promised that the gates of hell would not prevail against his Church (cf. Matt 16:18-19)? Or that the Holy Spirit would never leave us orphans (cf. John 14:16-18)?
Much to the contrary: as noted above, no antipope is ever noted as issuing a pronouncement that affected the actual teaching of the Church. The gates of hell have not prevailed. We have not been left orphans. The Catholic Church has not taught error, even in confusing historical times. The burden of proof is on your shoulders.
A new version of the Apostles Creed was popular at that time [15th Century] “I believe in three holy Catholic churches”.
Do you have a reference for this “version” of the Apostles’ Creed? Any historical scholarship? I’d be interested to dig into the record. As it is, that particular phrase doesn’t seem to exist in “the google”. And that’s odd, because lots of other heretical teachings show up when I search “the google”.
The Catholic people had endured absentee popes, no popes for two and three years (the cardinals could not agree), and popes who bought their way into the papacy. Now, they had three “infallible” popes, all claiming supreme authority over the church, and all disagreeing with each other!
After only ten months in office, Alexander V died and John XXIII took his place. Peter DeRosa, in his book Vicars of Christ, page 94 says of Pope John XXIII:
“He was noted as a former pirate, pope-poisoner (poor Filargi), mass-murderer, mass-fornicator with a partiality for nuns, adulterer on a scale unknown outside fables, simoniac [one who sells ecclesiastical pardons and even his office] par excellence, blackmailer, pimp, master of dirty tricks. On his election to the papacy in Bologna, Cossa [John XXIII] was a deacon. Ordained priest one day, he was crowned pope the next. This charlatan was recognized by most Catholics as their sovereign lord who held the church together by his rock-like faith. When another Pope John XXIII was elected in 1958, several Catholic cathedrals had hastily to remove the fifteenth-century John XXIII from their list of pontiffs.
Sounds like quite a dastardly character! But the antipope John XXIII (the one of the 15th century) was a “successor” to an antipope. He was never counted among the legitimate popes. Never. By the way, Peter DeRosa’s book has no scholarly references to back up any of his claims other than two general encyclopedias of the 19th century. I’d suggest you pick up a copy of Anglican scholar J.N.D. Kelly’s Oxford Dictionary of the Popes for a widely-accepted historical chronicle of the Papacy.
“Without any scriptural proof, Roman Catholicism has blatantly lied about the Apostle Peter’s whereabouts from 42 A.D. to 67 A.D., so as to lend some credence to their “apostolic succession”. They have placed Peter in Rome reigning as a pope when the Bible paints us a totally different picture. Lorraine Boettner, in his book Roman Catholicism, pages 121-122, dates Peter’s journey using the Bible as his only source.
Scripture is actually silent on the precise whereabouts of Peter, but the preponderance of extrabiblical historical evidence points to him moving to Antioch and then Rome. St. Ignatius of Antioch, who was himself a student of John the Apostle, was appointed as the third bishop of Antioch, succeeding Evodius, who had succeeded Peter and (like Peter) died around 67AD. The Epistle of First Peter was certainly written from Rome, as was Second Peter (which scholars date to about 40 years after the martyrdom of Peter, making it the last canonical NT book to be written).
St. Irenaeus, in his Against Heresies circa 180 AD, tells us that Peter and Paul established the Church in Rome, and then gives us the list of bishops of Rome who succeeded Peter. Tertullian, writing around 200AD, tells us that Peter ordained Clement in Rome. Clement is listed as the third bishop of Rome, after Peter himself and then Linus.
As another aside on your sources, Lorraine Boettner’s book is described by history professor Stephen J. Gardner (a self-described Reformed Protestant) as full of “innuendo, guilt by association, half-truths, and distortions of Roman Catholic teaching. Today, the book is also rather dated, failing to take account of the Second Vatican Council and other developments in 20th century Roman Catholic biblical and theological studies. For all its 450 pages, there is very little of continuing and helpful substance.” I find it interesting that Zachello’s “Secrets of Romanism” is cited throughout Boettner’s book, by the way. One bad apple has spoiled that whole cart.
Ken, this doesn’t account for major scriptural problems with Roman Catholicism and the bible. What about the catholic church teaching on celibacy of Priesthood and abstaining from certain foods. What does scripture say, “The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. 2 Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. 3 They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth. 4 For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, 5 because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.”
St. Paul, who himself was celibate, would argue vociferously with you - and did so, in his letter to the Corinthians, on both of your points. He wrote that he wished that all men and women were celibate, and that marriage was itself a concession to weakness (1 Corinthians 7). As to forbidding food, Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 8 that if food causes you or your weak brother to sin, then you should avoid it!
Let’s imagine you are a judge and you had to make a decision if someone was guilty or not. You would look at all the evidence and make a reasonable decision. What if my description came back, “Brown hair, blue eyes, 6 foot 1, shoulder on right slightly higher, leg lift in left shoe, etc.” The first couple descriptions could be anyone. THe next few would pin me to the ground. You can’t look at Revelation 17 and doubt it’s anyone but Roman Catholicism. It’s the most clear match. If you did a statistical analysis on it, it would be so overwhelming after the first 3 descriptions you wouldn’t have to go any further. “City on Seven Hills, Drunk With the Blood of the Saints, Holds A Golden Cup in Her hand, Colors are Scarlet”… The entire list is a dead match to Roman Catholicism. If I showed this to any decent judge and they had to chose, Roman Catholicism would be Guilty, Guilty, Guilty! without a shadow of a doubt.
The Roman Empire of the time of Christ and the Apostles would be guilty, yes. The pagan Rome that persecuted the Saints and martyred the Apostles. But that’s not the same as the Roman Catholic Church, which presides over all the Churches in charity, and has done so since before the death of the last Apostle.
It all comes back to Jesus promising that the gates of hell would not prevail against the Church He established on the Rock of St. Peter. If you deny that, then you’ve denied that Jesus meant what He said. And once you start down that road, you have nowhere to go but to leave the faith completely.
I could go on forever. For me it’s not about Religion, It’s about relationship. Jesus didn’t die to give me a system of rules. What happened to the man on the cross next to Jesus. His “Works of righteousness” which the bible says are like “used menstrual clothes” were stuck to the cross. He couldn’t do anything to save himself. All he had to do was give his heart to Jesus. What did Jesus say to him, “Today you’ll be with me in paradise.” This guy was a criminal, but Jesus still welcomed him in to the kingdom because of the condition of his heart. He believed.
Yep, I’m with you. Tradition names the “good thief” next to Jesus as St. Dismas. And I pray that we may all be like him, together with Jesus this day in Paradise. But we must, on Paul’s suggestion, work out our salvation in fear and trembling (cf. Philippians 2:12-16), running the race that we might win the glorious crown. I don’t want to be the guy that cries “Lord! Lord!” only to hear the response, “I do not know you” (cf. Matt 7:21-23). Only those who persevere in charity and do the will of the Father in heaven will enter the Kingdom. May we all be so lucky.
On the Truth of the Catholic Faith and the Primacy of Peter: Part 1
I recently nosed in to a discussion on a former collegemate’s Facebook wall about Pope Francis. The substance of that discussion led to the reveal that my collegemate has become an anti-Catholic fundamentalist, and he wants to help me realize the error of my (and my Church’s) ways. I promised to respond to him - as Facebook doesn’t allow enough space, and this is a discussion that will be interesting to many, I bring the anonymous dialogue to my public blog, stripped of my interlocutor’s identity in order to protect him.
His quotations will be set off in blockquotes, with my responses below each section:
Let’s imagine for a second you are one of the early disciples. You watched Jesus live, you watched him die, you watched him rise from the dead. You watched the beginning of the book of acts take place. Imagine you were in the inner circle of the 12 knowing specifically what Jesus said about “who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven”. Imagine being John and having the Old Testament in your possession.
First off, the “Old Testament” didn’t exist as we know it until around the death of John. The exact content of what Jews acknowledged as the scriptural canon wasn’t decided until the 2nd or 3rd century after Christ. Even during the life of Jesus, some groups like the Saducees accepted just the first five books (“the Law”), some like the Pharisees accepted the Law, the Prophets, the Writings (the books of the Kings, the Chronicles, etc.), and an extensive oral tradition called the Torah. Others - like most of the Jews that Paul converted on his missionary journeys - accepted the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings, but in a Greek translation known as the Septuagint, which also contained 6 additional books not written originally in Hebrew (though even that is disputed, as there have been discoveries of Hebrew versions of Baruch and Sirach among the Qumran community, indicating that these texts were known and accepted by Jewish communities in Palestine itself, cf. Unabridged Christianity, p. 12).
This Septuagint version is what the Christian Church eventually settled on, after being thrown out of the Jewish synagogues in the late 1st century. Because the content of the canon was not a settled question among the Jews before the Christians were excluded from their community, the eventual Hebrew canon really has no bearing on what the Christian Church accepts as canonical. But this historical fact was lost on the Reformers, who mistakenly believed that the Hebrew Scriptures were “added to” by the early Catholic Church, and subsequently rejected the Bible as known by Christians since the foundation of the Church. In reality, it was the Reformers themselves who violated the commandment (related by John in Revelation 22:18-19) to neither “add to… nor take away from” any of the books of prophecy!
Imagine watching the end unfold in visions. Imagine being part of that early group of disciples who wrote what they saw. Imagine being part of that intimate group of men and women who were part of the first church and how important and critical the first writings of the church fathers must have been. Can you imagine how sacred they kept the early writings and how much it bothered them to have heathen documents spread. Imagine you and a group of 10-12 other guys wrote a story about experiences you had on a life journey. Imagine 20-30 years later other men trying to add to those words as if they were part of the story. It would be very obvious to you and all your associates that these documents were false because you lived the story to tell about it. There would be no question as to the falsehood of such manuscripts. YOu and your followers would make certain to preserve those early text. Now imagine several hundred years later after you died, the organization that tried to kill you for centuries was now going to put their stamp on YOUR authoritative word saying “THEY assembled these books”. Imagine how bothered you would be at that.
Lots of invitation to “imagine” going on here, all of it disproved by the historical fact related above. No matter what I can imagine, the facts support the canon of the Bible as preserved by the Roman Catholic Church.
Imagine them hiring one man “Jerome” to assemble what he thought should be included. Imagine if you knew Jerome was an incredible scholar and studied your text heavily, but his authority made him include text that you knew were not “inspired works”. You knew that those works were used to fill in historical periods during the silent years, but they were not considered scripture by you or by the Jews. ….. Let’s stop for a second. Imagine you are Jerome and spent your life studying the Bible and history. Imagine knowing everything you know and some man (a converted pagan) tells you you must include books you don’t even agree with. Imagine knowing the word of God and being stuck with putting those words in to the book. You would do just what Jerome did and spend the rest of your life traveling the world telling people the truth. …… Telling me the Catholic CHurch wrote the Bible is like telling me John Doe who will live 250 years from now will validate my autobiography. I don’t need anyone to validate my story. There is plenty proof the Bible (66 books) were in circulation long before the Rome stamped their approval.
Go back to the facts and you’ll see that this speculation of yours is groundless. Jerome wasn’t hired by anyone - he started by working on a revision of the Latin translation of the Psalms from the Septuagint while living in Rome as an assistant (personal secretary) to Pope Damasus I (served as pope 366-384). After Damasus’ death, he moved around the Eastern part of the Empire, eventually settling in Palestine in order to pursue a life of scholarship. Living in Palestine led him naturally to work on a translation of the Scriptures from the Hebrew texts that were available to him. He also wielded his pen like a sword, issuing pretty bitter vindictive like it was his second job. Fortunately for all of us, God doesn’t choose only docile, milquetoast sheep to do His work, but he chooses whom He wills.
And your point that Damasus was “a converted pagan” actually glosses over the point that WE’RE ALL CONVERTED PAGANS, Jerome included. And Damasus’ father was actually a priest, so to even call him a “converted pagan” is a bit misleading. (Before you start off on celibate clergy, you should know that Damasus’ father was married, and at that time it was legal for Roman Catholic priests to be married.)
As for Peter being the first pope. Peter was called to the Jews, not the gentiles. When Jesus told peter, “Upon THIS ROCK I will build my church.” He didn’t say, “UPON YOU!”. He said You are Peter (petro=small stone) and upon this rock (Petra-MASSIVE STONE) I will build my church (The rock, was “THE FAITH” of the disciples. Look at scripture. Anytime you see “ROCK” it has nothing to do with Peter, but “JESUS CHRIST HIMSELF”. There is a big difference between PETRA and PETROS.
Grammar. “Petra” is Greek for “rock”, a feminine-gendered noun. “Petros” is the male-gendered equivalent, appropriate because Simon was a male. But the semantics of petra/petros actually is a lesser issue than the next phrase in Jesus’s declaration: “I will give you the keys to the kingdom.” “You” in this phrase is the direct object singular. This “power of the keys” is a reference to Isaiah 22:20-22, where we learn of Hilkiah receiving the power of government, given by the king to his chief steward. The power in question is unequivocal power, given to one person to stand in the place of the king himself - a vicar, if you will, to bear the government on his shoulders (cf. Isaiah 9:6-7). In Matthew 16, Jesus, the King of Kings, gives the power of the keys to bind and loose, to open and close, to PETER, the singular direct object.
It must be acknowledged that after the resurrection in the Gospel of John, Christ gives the Holy Spirit and the power to forgive sins to the other Apostles, as well (cf. John 20:19-23) - even to Thomas, who wasn’t there at that first appearance! But the Power of the Keys is one of shouldering the government of Christ’s Church, and it remains in the hands of Peter.
If Peter was the first pope then you have all kinds of troubles. The Apostle John, who outlived all the apostles, never mentions “pope” Peter’s death, burial or even “succession.” Church “fathers” such as Irenaeus, Polycarp, Origen, Cyprian, Jerome, Hilary and Ambrose, never acknowledged or taught that Peter was the first Pope nor acknowledge any type of succession of Popes. James and John were given special places of position with Jesus in the future Kingdom, yet Peter wasn’t consulted once nor did Jesus refer them to him. We also read in John’s Gospel, how certain Greeks went to Philip to have him introduce them to Jesus. Philip then went to Andrew (not Peter) to speak with Jesus. And at the end of this Gospel, Peter is rebuked by Jesus again, but this time for asking what John’s future fate would be. If anybody is to be considered as “Papal” material, it would not be Peter (a man who tried to kill Malchus; deny Jesus three times and preach a false gospel in Gal. 2, but Paul the Apostle.
We don’t understand why God chooses whom he chooses. Why did He choose Abram of all the men on earth to enter into covenant with? Because he was a powerful man? Because he was young and virile? Nope. Why did God choose Israel to enter into covenant with? Because it was the most powerful nation? Because it was the largest nation? Nope. Why did he choose me to enter into covenant with by baptism? Because I’m a great and holy guy? Nope.
Similarly, why did Jesus Christ, God, choose Simon Peter, the hothead, to grant the power of the keys? Why Simon Peter, the ignorant fisherman? Why did Jesus tell Simon Peter, “I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers” (Lk 22:32). The truth is, we don’t know why He chose Peter, but He did. And after the resurrection, Jesus told Peter to tend His lambs and shepherd His sheep (Jn 21:15-17). Jesus did not tell this to the other Apostles. He told Peter to be the shepherd.
Jerome, who was ordered by Constantine to put the Bible together said the following ” “But you say that the Church is founded upon Peter although the same thing is done in another place upon all the apostles, and all receive the kingdom of heaven, and the solidity of the Church is established equally upon all, nevertheless among the twelve one is therefore chosen that by the appointment of a head an occasion of dissension may be taken away” Cyprian said, “”Certainly the rest of the apostles were what Peter was, endued with an equal fellowship of dignity and power” Origin said, ” “But if you think that the whole Church was built by God upon Peter alone, what would you say about John, the son of thunder, or each of the apostles? Or shall we venture to say that the gates of hell shall not prevail against Peter but shall prevail against the other apostles and those that are perfect? Are not the words in question ‘the gates of hell shall not prevail against it’ and ‘upon this rock I will build my Church’ said in the case of all and each of them?”
First off, as mentioned before, Constantine did not “order” Jerome to create the Vulgate Bible - that was a personal project of Jerome’s. Not to mention the embarrassingly obvious problem that Constantine died in 337 - 10 years before Jerome was even born, in 347. Awkward.
But there’s also absolutely no basis to the idea that Constantine didn’t accept the primacy of Peter as chief of the Apostles. Constantine is known to have constructed the original basilica over the tomb of St. Peter in Rome - legend says that he personally took 12 basketfuls of earth from the site, one for each of the 12 Apostles. Think about that: Constantine, who ruled over the Roman Empire from Constantinople (modern-day Istanbul), travelled to Rome to personally build the basilica of St. Peter, in the presence of Pope Sylvester, the successor to Peter. That’s not the act of a man who doesn’t recognize the primacy of Peter.
And Constantine’s mother, Helena, went to the Holy Land and brought countless relics of the Passion of Christ (e.g., the stairs from Pilate’s palace, the sign that read “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews” from atop the Cross) not to the capital city of her son’s Empire, that is, not to Constantinople, but she brought them to Rome. She brought these precious relics to place them under the control of the bishop of Rome, Pope Sylvester, the successor to Peter. Many of these relics are visible to this day in the Basilica of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme, down the street from the Cathedral Basilica of St. John Lateran in Rome - the Pope’s seat of authority. Think about that.
And not one of the Church Fathers you quote was speaking primarily about the primacy of Peter in the context-free quotations you’ve provided, but were writing their comments to help their interlocutors understand the concept of Apostolic Succession, how every bishop is a successor to the Apostles. The fact that there are many successors to the Apostles does not negate the fact that there is one who presides over the others as “first among equals” - and that person was and is the successor to Peter the Apostle. Peter, by the way, was bishop of Antioch before moving to Rome, where he was eventually martyred - as was Paul. Rome’s primacy actually extends from being the site of martyrdom of the two greatest Apostles. Even to this day, every bishop from around the world makes a quinquennial trip Ad Limina Apostolorum, “to the threshold of the Apostles”, to meet with the Pope and venerate the relics of Peter and Paul, in an act of fraternal communion.
Even Paul said we are not to build on another mans foundation, “And so I have made it my aim to preach the gospel, NOT WHERE CHRIST WAS NAMED, lest I should build on ANOTHER MAN’S FOUNDATION” (Rom. 15:20.) If Peter was the first pope, why is it that Paul dominates the New Testament with his writings?
Because Paul wrote more than Peter did. Peter was essentially illiterate, whereas Paul was a highly-educated Pharisee prior to his conversion, and could write. And even in the Acts of the Apostles, after the Council of Jerusalem, Peter and the other Apostles essentially drop out of the story because the author (usually attributed to Luke, but even that is a tradition rather than written in scripture) was a travelling companion of Paul - and without modern means of communication, they were unlikely to be able to keep up on news of the spread of the Church back in Palestine and points east as they headed West toward Rome.
Why is it that James, the Lord’s half brother, is mentioned before Peter in superiority in Galatians 2:9?
You need to deal with the important verse of Galatians 2:7 before you get to 2:9. Verse 2:7 sure seems to imply that only Peter, and none of the other Apostles, was “entrusted with the Gospel to the circumcised”. Doesn’t that mean that the others had no responsibility to preach at all? Yet we know that’s untrue. Sure, 2:9 lists Peter (“Cephas”, in the Aramaic form) after James, as both being “pillars”, but Peter had already been mentioned as being “entrusted with the Gospel” - before any of the others. Your argument fails.
Why did Paul have to rebuke Peter in front of the entire church?
I assume you’re referring to the incident described in Galatians 2:11-14, where Peter follows the kosher practices that he had known all of his life, in spite of the conclusion at the Council of Jerusalem that Christians were free to break Kosher laws. Paul says that preachers should be all things to all people, and that’s exactly what Peter was doing - he originally was eating with the Gentile converts, but when other disciples came (the Jewish converts, “from James”) who would be offended because of their own weak faith, Peter withdrew from the Gentiles to eat with the Jewish Christians. Paul had already acknowledged that Peter was entrusted with the Gospel to the circumcised, that is, to Jewish converts to Christianity.
Ironically, Paul in another place (1 Cor 9:19-23) tells the Corinthians that they have full freedom in Christ, but that they ought not flaunt their freedom for fear of offending. Ultimately, Paul rebuked Peter because Paul was also a hothead, and Peter was merely acting in accord with Paul’s own teaching of not offending those who are weaker in faith. That’s how I interpret what Peter was doing, and Paul (inconsistently) went off on him for that. The whole incident happened because Peter and Paul were also human, not immaculate.
Why isn’t Peter the first to see the resurrected Christ?
I dunno, perhaps because he slept in on the morning of the Resurrection, and the women went to the tomb first? We know that he ran slower than John when word came that the tomb was empty, but even John didn’t go in until Peter had arrived. You should also take note that even in the story of the Road to Emmaus, which is ultimately a story about the Real Presence of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist, the Apostles didn’t believe that the resurrection had happened until Peter had seen Jesus (cf. Luke 24:33-34).
Why is it that he doesn’t close the churches first meeting in Acts 15, but James does?
Because James was the bishop of Jerusalem, and had the additional respect of being a relative of the Lord. By the way, did you notice that every time the three closest disciples of Jesus are mentioned in the Synoptic Gospels, it’s ALWAYS in the order “Peter, James, and John”? See the story of the Transfiguration in Mt 17,1; Mk 9,2; Lk 9,28; the garden at Gethsemane in Mt 26,37; Mk 14,33; the healing of Jairus’ daughter in Mk 5,37; Lk 8,51; and the story of the destruction of the Temple in Mk 13:3.
NO type of Heirarchy whatsoever is mentioned in scripture. There is no evidence Peter had any more authority than Paul. Actually, if you were to read scripture, Paul appears to have more authority, but he claims to be against a heirarchy structure. THe whole debate about who would be the greatest took place after Christ was gone, not before.
See earlier discussion of the Power of the Keys, and of Jesus telling Peter to strengthen his brothers, and of Jesus telling Peter to shepherd His sheep. And you’ll need to read through 1 Cor 12:27-28 and tell me again that there is no hierarchy mentioned in Scripture, where Paul explicitly says “And God has appointed in the Church first Apostles, second prophets, then…” “First” and “Second” and “then” are all words witnessing to order in the Church, which is hierarchy.
Also check 1 Timothy 3:1-7, which references “overseers” and “deacons” - the word for overseer is the Greek word “episkopos”, which in English is “bishop”. And Acts 20:28 has Paul speaking to the assembled overseers, saying “Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers [episkopos], to shepherd the church of God.” They’re “over” the flock and have responsibility to shepherd them, authorized by the Holy Spirit (the laying on of hands). That’s hierarchy and Apostolic Succession.
The discussion continues, but I need to get to my parish to celebrate the Good Friday liturgy. I shall pick this up tomorrow. I welcome your comments, criticism, and prayers.
This is a neat profile of a pioneer in the Catholic New Media, the Dutch priest Fr. Roderick Vönhogen. I have followed Fr. Roderick’s work since almost the beginning of his ministry - his was one of the first podcasts that I subscribed to back in the very infancy of the media. I hope someday to begin a media project worthy of being included as part of SPQN, the Star Quest Podcast Network, that he started!
Often we settle for a few prayers, a distracted and inconsistent presence at Sunday Mass, a random act of charity, but we lack this courage to “step outside” to bring Christ. We are a bit like St. Peter. As soon as Jesus speaks of the Passion, Death and Resurrection, of self-giving, of love for all, the Apostle takes him aside and rebukes him. What Jesus says upsets his plans, seems unacceptable, undermines the sense of security that he had built up, his idea of the Messiah. And Jesus looks at the disciples and addresses Peter with perhaps one of the strongest words of the Gospel: “Get behind me, Satan. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do”(Mk 8:33).
God always thinks with mercy: do not forget this. God always thinks with mercy: our merciful Father. God thinks like a father who awaits the return of his child and goes to meet him, sees him coming when he is still far away … What does this mean? That each and every day he went out to see if his son was coming home. This is our merciful Father. It is the sign that he was waiting for him from the terrace of his house; God thinks like the Samaritan that does not approach the victim to commiserate with him, or look the other way, but to rescue him without asking for anything in return, without asking if he was Jew, if he was pagan, a Samaritan, rich or poor: he does not ask anything – he does not ask these things, he asks for nothing. He goes to his aid: This is how God thinks. God thinks like the shepherd who gives his life to defend and save his sheep.”
– Pope Francis, Wednesday General Audience, 27 March 2013