Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Are Catholics "Predestined"?

Are Catholics "Predestined"? In Romans 8:29-30, doesn't St. Paul make it clear that the Calvinists are right (and Catholics wrong) about "Predestination"? If not, why not? What does free will have to do with anything if we're "predestined"? What does it mean to be "predestined"?

Answer: To avoid the "distortion" of St. Paul's writings that St. Peter warns us was common even in the apostolic age (2Pt.3:15-16), we always have to read them in context. Paul's reference to predestination is a classic example of this.

When St. Paul talks in Romans Chapter 8 about "those (God) foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son...And those He predestined, He also called,...(then) justified,...(then) glorified"(Rm.8:29-30), this passage seems to suggest --- if read very literally and taken out of context --- that those who go to heaven (i.e., “justified” and “glorified”) never even had to choose to believe in any god at all, much less in Jesus Christ. Instead, they were simply among the "elect" (Rm.8:33; 1Pt.1:2) who won the ultimate, eternal lottery! (Heaven picture by Daniel Holeman)

Of course, this interpretation would negate everything that St. Paul, the gospels, and all of the NT books have to say about the need to accept God's free gift of justification and ultimate glorification through what St. Paul calls the "obedience of faith" (Rm.1:5;16:26). It would also negate Jesus’ command: "Repent, and believe in the gospel"(Mk.1:15). Why "repent"? Why "believe in the gospel"? Why bother to "follow the path of faith that our Father Abraham walked"(Rm4:12), or that by others listed with Abraham in the famous "Faith of the Ancients" passage (Heb.11:1-38)? Why bother to "endure to the end" as Jesus, St. John, St. Peter, and St. Paul exhorted in the dozens of passages in scripture (some cited below*), if your salvation is not only assured once you're saved, but is assured beforehand by predestination regardless of whether you choose to believe, or choose to live an immoral life (Rm.1:18-32)?

Obviously, St. Paul is not contradicting everything he has said up to that point in Romans, nor is he contradicting what Christ or the evangelists have said or written. Yet, that is what those who embrace an overly literal interpretation of this passage, taken out of context, would have us believe.

So, what is St. Paul saying then? What he is saying (as is St. Peter in 1Pt.1:2) is that God has "foreknowledge" of everything that ever has been and ever will be. God has developed a perfect plan out of perfect love using His absolute power to accomplish it. All things have already occurred to Him, are present tense to Him, Who is "I AM". There are no surprises for God. He has taken all things, all of our free will choices, into account in exercising His absolute sovereign power. That is what St. Paul means by “predestined”. It is God’s absolute sovereign power, perfect love and provision for us, and total foreknowledge of all things, that St. Paul is trying to underscore in this “predestination passage”, which must be seen as flowing from the start of and throughout Romans Chapters 8 through 11--- “There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus”; and we can remain in Him, enduring all sufferings, precisely because we know that God has chosen us, we are His “elect”, just as were the Israelites before us (Rm.11:1-7), for whom He has sacrificed His Son, and so will provide --- and by His foreknowledge and plan from before time began, has already provided --- everything that we need to “conquer overwhelmingly through Him who loved us.”(Rm.8:37).
However, just as "God must be true even if every person is a liar" (Rm.3:4), because God's absolute free will cannot violate His absolute commitment to the Truth, Himself (Jn.14:6); so also, God's absolute sovereign power (His control over and foreknowledge of all things) cannot violate His gift of free will (part of His image and likeness imparted) to mankind: "For the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable" (Rm.11:29).

So, there you have the paradoxical mystery of "predestination": On the one hand, God clearly foreknows and calls, justifies and glorifies His "elect", His "chosen people", from before time began, providing them with overwhelming blessings: “theirs the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the Law, the worship, the promises, the patriarchs, …the Messiah”(Rm.9:4-5); ours the sacred Scriptures, Tradition, Magisterium, Catholic (universal) Church, Saints, Sacraments, including the Eucharist ---God’s perfect provision for His “predestined”, His “elect”. However, as St. Paul describes in Romans Chapters 9-11, the Israelites (God’s "chosen people", or "elect" in the OT) demonstrated that just because God has chosen you, that doesn't mean that you will choose God. God honored their free will choice or election, as He honors ours, to "repent and believe in the gospel"... or not. Since St. Paul then drives home this point in Romans chapters 9-11, again this underscores the importance of reading St. Paul's "predestination" passage in Rm.8:29-30 --- and other "hard to understand" passages, as St. Peter describes them --- in their full context.

Finally, the context for understanding this predestination passage in Romans Chapter 8 also includes the immediately preceding passages in Romans Chapter 7. There, the speaker, St. Paul as the universal man/believer, finally collapses out of exhaustion and despair, defeated in the “war” between sin (in his flesh) and his knowledge of what’s right (in his mind): “Miserable one that I am! Who will deliver me from this mortal body?”(Rm.7:24). St. Paul’s point is that he(we) is(are) defeated, hopeless in this spiritual warfare when man is self-reliant. (Note that St. Paul uses first person pronouns 50 times --- the “absolute I” --- in Romans Chapter 7). This then sets up the contrasting point in Romans Chapter 8 that those who rely upon or have faith in God through Jesus Christ, will be “more than conquerors” through the power of the Holy Spirit. We, Catholics, have an all-powerful, all-foreknowing, all-loving God on our side, who has “predestined” (perfectly preplanned and prepared,Rm.9:23) our victory through Him, if only we freely choose to accept His free gift of salvation on His terms, which St. Paul repeatedly calls the “obedience of faith”(Rm.1:5;16:26).

***”Whoever endures to the end will be saved”, Mt10:22;24:13;25:45; 1Jn2:22-28;3:6;4:11-15) (Paul -obey/endure to end:Rm1:5;2:6;3:5-8;4:12;5:1-10;6:1-6,15-19;7:4;8:13,15,18,24,-25,37;16:26; 1Cor1:8,18;4:4;5:11;6:9;7:19;8:11; 9:23-27;10:1-13; 11:29;13:2;15:2; 2Cor2:15; 5:10,15-17;6:1;7:15;10:6;11:2-4;13:5; Gal.1:6;2:19;4:9-19;5:1-9,13-21;6:7-9; Eph2:8-10;4:1-3,15-17,24;5:5-6,15;6:8; Phil.1:6,21,29;2:8,12; 3:10; Col.1:23-27,29;3:1-6,24-25; 1Thess4:3-8;5:8;1Tm1:19 2:15;4:16;5:8;6:10,19; 2Tm2:12;4:3-7; Titus1:16; Heb3:24;4:6-11;5:9;10:26-29,31-39;11:1-38;12:1,7-14 )

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Grace was Leaven of Spiritual & Geographical Journey

Pontiff Highlights St. Paul's Lenten Example
Says Grace Was Leaven of Spiritual and Geographical Journey

ROME, FEB. 26, 2009 ( Benedict XVI is encouraging Catholics to live this Lent practicing prayer, almsgiving and fasting following the example of St. Paul. The Pope affirmed this today in Mass before receiving and distributing ashes at the Basilica of St. Sabina. He began the Ash Wednesday events by presiding over a prayer assembly. A penitential procession of cardinals, bishops and laypeople traveled from St. Anselm to St. Sabina for the Eucharistic Celebration.

In the homily, the Pontiff spoke about the liturgy, which shows us "what the orientation of our spirit should be, and offers us the singular spiritual journey we are undertaking." He continued: "The call to conversion emerges as the dominant theme in all the components of today's liturgy. The entrance antiphon states that the Lord forgets and forgives the sins of those who convert."

"God's promise is clear," Benedict XVI affirmed, "if the people listen to the invitation to be converted, God will make his mercy triumph and his friends will be filled with innumerable favors."
In the Gospel, he said, "Jesus puts us on guard against the pangs of vanity, which lead to ostentation and hypocrisy, to superficiality and self-complacency, and stresses the need to nurture rectitude of heart." He added, "At the same time he shows us the means to grow in this purity of intention, by cultivating intimacy with the heavenly Father."

God's Ambassador

Referring to this year dedicated to the Apostle to the Gentiles, the Pope pointed out: "Paul experienced in an extraordinary way the power of the grace of God, the grace of the Paschal mystery which Lent itself lives. "He presents himself to us as 'ambassador' of the Lord. Who then better than he can help us to advance in a fruitful way on this path of interior conversion?" He added, "The whole of his preaching, and even before, the whole of his missionary life, was sustained by an interior force that led back to the fundamental experience of grace."

The Pontiff explained, "It is a consciousness that emerges in all his writings that functioned as an interior 'leaven' on which God was able to act to push him forward, toward ever farther frontiers, not only geographical but also spiritual. "St. Paul acknowledges that everything in him is the work of divine grace, but he does not forget that one must freely add the gift of new life received in baptism."

St. Paul shows us, he said, how to live Lent: "The disciple must make the victory of Christ his own, and this occurs first of all with baptism, through which, united to Christ, we have become living beings, returned from the dead. "However, if Christ is to reign fully in a baptized person, [that person] must follow the teachings faithfully: He must never lower his guard, so as not to permit the adversary to gain ground in some way."

The Holy Father underlined prayer, almsgiving and fasting as the means to fulfill our baptismal vocation faced to the ongoing struggle between good and evil. He emphasized Paul's example of prayer of perseverance and thanksgiving, almsgiving that puts priority on loving others, and fasting in watchful expectation of the Lord.

God's Word

Benedict XVI underlined the Apostle's devotion to the Word of God. He said that Paul "lived from the Word of God: thought, action, prayer, theology, preaching, exhortation, all in him was fruit of the Word, received since his youth in the Jewish faith, fully revealed to his eyes in his encounter with Christ dead and risen, preached for the rest of his life during his missionary run."

The Pope said to his listeners: "While we dispose ourselves to receive the ashes on our head in sign of conversion and penance, let us open our hearts to the vivifying action of the Word of God.
"May Lent, marked by more frequent listening to this Word, more intense prayer and an austere and penitential style of life, be a stimulus to conversion and to sincere love for brothers, especially those who are the poorest and neediest.

"May the Apostle Paul accompany us, may Mary, attentive Virgin of listening and humble handmaid of the Lord, guide us. Thus, renewed in the spirit, we will be able to celebrate Easter with joy."

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Pope Benedict XVI met with Nancy Pelosi

My Dear Siblings in Christ,

In a much anticipated meeting in Rome today, it is reported by EWTN and CNA that Pope Benedict met privately with Nancy Pelosi, reviewing with her the Church's consistent teachings throughout its history on the sanctity of human life (teachings Speaker Pelosi infamously misrepresented in nationally televised interviews last fall in which she also professed to be a "devout Catholic").

The story is offered at this website ( ) and is recapped below. Notably, the Vatican declined to allow the Speaker's papal audience to be exploited as a mere photo-op, choosing instead to keep all focused on the issues of faith and morals of far greater significance than anyone's political agenda. Please keep Speaker Pelosi in prayer for a Pauline change of heart as a result of the grace and truth she no doubt received through her meeting with Pope Benedict today,"for nothing is impossible for God."(Lk.1:37).

--- your brother in Christ, Greg

18-February-2009 -- Catholic News Agency

Pope Benedict Rebukes Pelosi over Abortion
Vatican City, Feb 18, 2009 (CNA).-

House speaker Nancy Pelosi's photo-op with Pope Benedict XVI turned sour when the Pontiff used the 15-minute meeting to reaffirm the teachings of the Catholic Church on the right to life and the duty to protect the unborn.

Immediately after the meeting, the Holy See's press office released a statement saying, "following the general audience the Holy Father briefly greeted Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, together with her entourage."

"His Holiness took the opportunity to speak of the requirements of the natural moral law and the Church's consistent teaching on the dignity of human life from conception to natural death which enjoin all Catholics, and especially legislators, jurists and those responsible for the common good of society, to work in co-operation with all men and women of good will in creating a just system of laws capable of protecting human life at all stages of its development."

A significant number of Catholic and pro-life organizations expressed concern over how Pelosi would use the meeting with Pope Benedict to further her position that it is possible to be Catholic and pro-abortion.

Last August, Pelosi was rebuked by several U.S. bishops for attempting to theologically justify her position during an interview with "Meet the Press."

On Tuesday, Jon O'Brien, president of "Catholics for Choice," a small, well-funded organization that provides theological arguments to pro-abortion Catholic politicians, told The Hill that today's visit between the Speaker and Pope Benedict would be an opportunity to highlight that one can be pro-choice and Catholic, and that there are much bigger issues out there to discuss, such as the fate of the poor in the global economic downturn.

"That would be a real conversation about choice, instead of this micro-obsession with abortion," O'Brien said.

Nevertheless, according to the Holy See's statement, the Pope spent the whole 15 minute conversation talking with Pelosi about the right to life and the need to defend the unborn.
A spokesman for Pelosi, who is now headed to Southern Italy as part of her Italian tour, said she would issue a statement later in the day regarding her meeting with the Pope.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Prayers Needed

Dear Siblings in Christ,

A very faithful couple, Tom and Lois, who have seen many trials in life are now in need of prayer, as they enter yet another faith-testing occasion (as St. Paul says in Rm.5:3) to "boast of (their) afflictions".

Tom, who has survived cancer and other life-threatening illnesses on multiple occasions spread across decades, has again been diagnosed with cancer. As members of Christ's Body, let us bear this burden with and for Tom and Lois by lifting them in prayer (along with so many others undergoing such trials) for this trial to yet again "produce perseverance... proven character... and hope, which does not disappoint".

A special website link was created to keep all concerned up to date on Tom's condition. (For those unfamiliar with it, CaringBridge is a nonprofit organization that helps friends and families stay connected during times like this on a pro-bono basis.) God bless you for all that each of you do to uplift others in Christ's Body who are weighed down.

--- your brother in Christ, Greg

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Seven Score and Eleven Years Ago


That's right, 151 years ago today...Our Lady appeared for the first time to someone who was a nobody (Bernadette Soubirous) in a little nothing town (Lourdes) in a formerly Christian country (France) that had largely become secularized. In the ensuing decades, what mighty miracles the Lord has effected through His worldwide web of prayer warriors who, like Bernadette, are mostly nobodies in little nothing towns throughout the world, linked together by the rosary, a spiritual weapon of great humility and power. Historians have noted that since Lourdes in 1858 (and, thereafter, Fatima in 1917), great military victories have been won as oppressive armies in Austria, Czechoslovakia, the Philippines, etc. have been miraculously repelled/expelled by armies of "nobodies" praying the rosary. It is important to recall the rosary, as a particularly powerful means by which to immerse ourselves in the mystery of God's love for us, and join ourselves with the mystery of His Mother's powerful intercession, as we face our challenges today.

Why the Lincoln-esque "SEVEN SCORE AND ELEVEN YEARS AGO" intro? Because tomorrow is the 200th anniversary of Lincoln's birthday, next Monday is President's Day, and our country is in the midst of another civil war now. What civil war? We are now, and for years have been, a nation deeply divided about whether we will remain "one nation, under God" --- our national motto, drawn from Lincoln's Gettysburg Address --- or will become, as was France in the time of Our Lady's appearances to Bernadette in Lourdes, a godless, secular nation which mocked God by abusing its God-given freedoms. In that same Gettysburg Address, Lincoln poetically called to arms even civilians in their own way to defend the national union and godly values at stake in his day, recalling the ultimate sacrifices made by those on the battlefield before him: "...It is for us the be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is...for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom..."

My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ through Mary, let us also be about the "unfinished work" and the "great task remaining before us". Let us also "take increased devotion" and give our "last full measure of devotion" to defend and restore "this nation, under God". As our government declares war on the unborn by multiplying its taxpayer funding of abortions domestically and internationally, let us take a stand and lock arms in prayer. As our government declares war on the family by seeking to promote homosexual rights regardless of the laws of God and nature, let us take a stand and declare with St. Paul, "I am not ashamed of the gospel" (Rm.1:16).

As our government declares war on religious liberties by imposing its anti-Christian, anti-historical, anti-tolerance agenda of political correctness on us, let us acknowledge with Lincoln that "Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation, so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war..." That battlefield is, my dear siblings in Jesus through Mary, in each of our nowhere towns in this great nation under God where each of us "nobodies" has been strategically placed by Our Lord.

Remember, "The Battle belongs to the Lord!" (2Chron.20:15) We are merely called to be His faithful, obedient, trusting servants in it, as were the Israelites when they saw the Lord's power bring down the seemingly insuperable walls of Jericho through persistent prayer (Josh.6). More specifically, the Israelites persistently prayed in their victory over Jericho by processing for multiple days as God prescribed with the Ark of the Covenant (Josh.6:4-13) as the clear sign of His power in their midst, as the clear sign that the victory would come through His power not theirs. All they need do was to pray and obey. What a silly gameplan for a military victory!!! Yet, what an awesome victory it was against seemingly insurmountable odds. Where is our Ark of the Covenant today? The new Ark of the new Covenant is clearly Our Lady (Rev.11:19-12:2), who both bore the New Covenant in her womb, and bears our prayers to Our Lord as we join with her in persevering prayer through the rosary.

Let us again recall with St. Paul that "our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with...evil spirits... Therefore, put on the armor of God, that you may be able to...hold your ground" (Eph.6:12-13). This is spiritual warfare being waged on a corporeal plane. It is a battle for the soul of our world, our nation, our children, ourselves. Let us take up arms, raised in prayer joined with Mary Our Mother, especially praying the rosary on this the anniversary of Her apparition in Lourdes for the conversion of an ungodly nation. Knowing that Our Lord and His Mother are with us as we encircle the city of the enemy, we confidently declare, "Who can stand against us? Whom should we fear?" Let us stand firm, my dear brothers and sisters, empowered by Him who made heaven and earth, and He will in His way and time "make all things new" (Rev.21:5).

--- your brother in Jesus through Mary, Greg