You are currently browsing the monthly archive for May 2014.

Exaudi Sunday follows the Ascension of Christ into heaven and precedes Pentecost Sunday.

This year, Exaudi Sunday falls on June 1, 2014.

For more information about this bittersweet feast day with New Testament citations, please read my post from 2013.

As I shall be offline more than on over the next few days, I have temporarily turned off the comment facility.

I shall turn it back on again once I am in a better position to respond.

That said, new posts will continue appearing as usual.

In closing, I extend a warm welcome to my latest subscribers. For those who are new to the site, much of my back catalogue can be found on the topics listed at the top of the page.


CB064038For decades now, older denominations — Catholic and Protestant — have turned to the social gospel rather than the Gospels.

They think it’s working. Meanwhile, churches are losing more members every year.

True Christians recall Christ’s Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20) and wonder why clergy do not follow it:

The Great Commission

 16Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. 18And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Christ’s message in the Gospels is one of faith; no one can say they believe in God unless they also believe in Him.

And once we study the Gospels and hear solid preaching on their content, the rest of our problems take care of themselves. We have shocking social problems because we lack belief. We advocate serious sin (e.g. abortion, euthanasia) because we are, at heart, unbelievers.

Our clergy have a serious flaw in this regard when they preach the social gospel. Fundamentally, many of them lack belief in Jesus Christ. They must do, otherwise, they would be preaching and following His teachings.

This means that churchgoers do not really know what the Gospels or the Epistles say. Therefore, whatever the world promotes in the media holds more importance for them than Holy Scripture.

A equally serious problem presents itself, however, when senior clerics present Christianity in such a complex manner that it becomes frustrating for the layman to understand.

One case in point is the Catholic Church. In November 2013, the Vatican issued a survey to parishes around the world requesting that laymen complete it and return it to their diocese. Will Heaven (!) of the Telegraph shared a few of the questions in his column. My mind boggled as I read them (emphases in the original):

Here is Question 1a, the very first in the survey.

Describe how the Catholic Church’s teachings on the value of the family contained in the Bible, Gaudium et Spes, Familiaris Consortio and other documents of the post-conciliar Magisterium is understood by people today? What formation is given to our people on the Church’s teaching on family life?

This assumes deep theological knowledge. And it needs translating into English.

Question 2a:

What place does the idea of the natural law have in the cultural areas of society: in institutions, education, academic circles and among the people at large? What anthropological ideas underlie the discussion on the natural basis of the family?

Eh? On Twitter, a Harvard doctoral student tells me “it seems like they’ve just pasted in Cambridge exam questions” …

So, is the Church about to soften its teaching on the family, marriage and contraception? Doubt it. Will it, more likely, fudge its pastoral guidance for priests, changing the tone but not the substance of the doctrine? Maybe.

Either way, it will have little to do with this utterly baffling survey.

As I write, the results are not yet available.

In February 2014, Heaven, himself a Catholic, reported the results of an international survey by Univision assessing Catholic social opinion compared with the Church’s teachings:

It’s blindingly obvious to most Catholics that – away from a few hives of traditionalism – the faithful have departed from official doctrine. What were once views held only by radical Catholics have become mainstream.

To give you an idea, here are some figures from the Univision poll in question: 86% of French Catholics think priests should be allowed to marry; 82% of Spanish Catholics think divorcees who remarry aren’t “living in sin”; 73% of Polish Catholics think abortion should be allowed in some cases; 93% of Brazilian Catholics support the use of contraception. Oh, and 54% of US Catholics support gay marriage.

Heaven says that Pope Francis (emphases mine):

has three choices: a) Persuade Catholics to adhere to the Church’s doctrine; b) Water down that doctrine to accommodate them; or c) Carry on exactly as before …

it’s 3) that is arguably Pope Francis’s strongest option. If Catholics don’t want strict doctrine, and the Church can’t or won’t water it down, he has only one choice: to refocus its ministry away from issues to do with sex and towards those in need, i.e. the poor and the sick. Here’s a quote from his letter Evangelii Gaudium, which supports that idea: “When we adopt a pastoral goal and a missionary style which would actually reach everyone without exception or exclusion, the message has to concentrate on the essentials, on what is most beautiful, most grand, most appealing and at the same time most necessary.”

Jesus Christ is the ‘most beautiful, most grand, most appealing’ and ‘most necessary’, moreso than social policy. John 6 teaches us that. Furthermore, social policy is not specifically Christian. Anyone can exercise mercy and compassion.

The Pope, like his Protestant counterparts (e.g. the Archbishop of Canterbury), is failing in his pastoral duty.

If clergy preached Christ and only Christ, churches would be full and our social problems fewer.


jesus-christ-the-king-blogsigncomChrist’s Ascension to heaven to be reunited with God the Father is traditionally commemorated on a Thursday.

Whether churches commemorate this event on the day is another matter. Catholics are advised to check whether their diocese regards this particular Thursday as a Holy Day of Obligation. Some have conveniently moved the date to the following Sunday, which is actually Exaudi Sunday, recalling the sadness of Christ’s Apostles and disciples.

My post from 2013 explains more about the significance of the Ascension, with New Testament citations.

Many years ago my mother had a colleague who had a chaotic home life.

Something dire was always happening to her or her children. They also had ongoing financial problems. Yet, she claimed they were all devout Christians. Mom gave me a daily update on this lady’s life. My word, it would have made a riveting television serial.

My mother found it amazing that this woman often quoted the Bible and then said of her problems:

The Lord will provide.

To Mum and me they seemed to be disconnected from what God wanted them to do. We couldn’t imagine that He wanted them to live in a messy house, fail exams, neglect their health or mismanage their meagre income.

They appeared to be awaiting a miracle.

There are many Christians like this. Not the ones suffering a few years of upsets but those who make it a lifestyle.

Yet, as The Baptist at The Other Christians says in his post ‘Don’t let God be an excuse for you not to act’:

God is helping but you have to do your part. You need to go to the doctor, work with your fellow man, vote…actively participate in the world.  Not doing so is sloth, which is a sin and separates us from God. 

He says that God has given each of us certain gifts that He intends for us to use in our daily lives.

Living an orderly life in line with Proverbs and Ecclesiastes honours God and reflects a good Christian example to others. In other words, it’s a means of evangelising and drawing others to Christ.

My mother’s favourite saying was

God helps those who help themselves.

Note the contrast of her outlook with that of her colleague.

If we want to do well in our studies, we need to apply ourselves. If we want a good marriage, we need to seek the right partner. If we want a new job, we need to present ourselves well at the interview. A good life doesn’t fall into people’s laps. There is a lot of energy, work, wisdom — and prayer — involved.

Even though I am a bit long in the tooth, I still enjoy reading biographies of self-made millionaires and billionaires, past and present. It’s fascinating to read that some of these men and women came from humble origins. They started out by working long and hard at a profession to become not just good at it but excellent. They sharpened their craftsmanship, interpersonal skills and innovative ideas. Not satisfied with that, they continued taking them to the next level. Most of them then started philanthropic funds. Some think of Bill Gates here. I would also add Andrew Carnegie.

Incidentally, the origin of my mother’s favourite saying is not Ben Franklin’s 1757 volume, Poor Richard’s Almanack, but rather Algernon Sydney, a 17th century English parliamentarian, political theorist and philosopher. He included the maxim in his work Discourses Concerning Government, published in 1698. That said, a similar and ancient Greek maxim appears in Aesop’s Fables, namely:

The gods help them that help themselves.

Since that time, manuscripts of Aesop’s Fables have travelled around the world and have been adapted by nearly every culture and major world faith through the millennia.

It was my favourite book as a child. If your children don’t have a copy, please buy them one. With the Bible in pole position, Aesop’s Fables is the next best book for them to reread and treasure.

Pastor Ashcraft of Mustard Seed Budget has a thought-provoking post on a few famous men of letters.

In it, he says (italics in the original):

It amazes me that people can read Hemingway and not turn to God. They embrace his hopelessness and rail against God. His message led him to commit suicide at 61. The Bible says: You will know the tree by its fruit. In other words: Before you buy into someone’s message, see if it worked for that person, at least.

Fellow Christians cannot help but agree. Some would say not to read the writings of such men, yet, Ashcraft enjoys Hemingway as a storyteller, not as someone whose outlook on life should be followed.

Please read his post to find out more of what about happened to Hemingway and other faithless men of letters such as Jean-Paul Sartre and Friedrich Nietzsche.

Stained glass question jeremypryorwordpresscomIt is puzzling that families have so-called ‘secrets’ which are not scandalous.

Why would it be scandalous to share information about illness or something else about oneself or one’s spouse such as a job loss?

Chances are everyone else knows anyway ‘on the QT’, as Americans say.

I once knew two families well. One was very secretive. The other was open.

The end result was that Secretive Family had quite a few divorces through two generations as well as abusive marital relationships during that time.

Open Family had healthy relationships among everyone through the extended family. When they knew something was amiss, they restrained comment but offered help.  They really meant it.

To date, Open Family has had long-standing marriages with no divorces.

Go figure.

What does that mean?

One cannot help but reach for Luke 12, specifically, verses 2 and 3 (emphases mine):

2Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. 3Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops.

That is all.

Make of it what you will.


Bible treehuggercomContinuing a study of the passages from Luke’s Gospel which have been omitted from the three-year Lectionary for public worship, today’s post is part of my ongoing series Forbidden Bible Verses, also essential to understanding Scripture.

The following Bible passages have been excluded from the three-year Lectionary used by many Catholic and Protestant churches around the world.

Do some clergy using the Lectionary want us understand Holy Scripture in its entirety? You decide.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Luke 12:4-7

Have No Fear

 4“I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. 5But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell.[a] Yes, I tell you, fear him! 6Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies?[b] And not one of them is forgotten before God. 7Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.


The first three verses of Luke 12 record Jesus’s warning against being a hypocrite because everything we do in secret will be revealed.

This week’s passage continues with his discourse.

Jesus counsels his disciples against fearing those who have the power to kill them (verse 4). The most anyone can do to us is to kill our bodies. No one can kill our souls, which are much more important.

On this verse Matthew Henry’s commentary says:

Note, Those [enemies] can do Christ’s disciples no real harm, and therefore ought not to be dreaded, who can but kill the body for they only send that to its rest, and the soul to its joy, the sooner.

Jesus then says that the one to fear is God (verse 5). He doesn’t mention it once, but twice, emphatically:

Yes, I tell you, fear him!

These are Jesus’s words, not the words of a prophet or an apostle.

The first footnote above says that hell refers to Gehenna. John MacArthur puts this into context for us (emphases mine):

Gehenna from ge, valley and hinnom, the valley of hinnom. If you go to Israel today, you can see the Valley of Hinnom, it’s right there. It’s south and west of Jerusalem, down off the plateau where Jerusalem sits. Originally when the Jews got into idolatry, that’s where they set up their high places to worship Baal and Molech. It was a place of perversity and blasphemy and idolatry. It was called Toffit[,] and Toffit, according to many of the lexicons[,] means a place of spitting out, or a place of vomiting, a place of abhorrence. And some indicate it could be connected to words that mean a place of burning. Well in each of those cases it’s representative of what happened there. Because what the Jews did there, going against God, of course, was they built a place to sacrifice to idols and the sacrifices were just staggering. What they did was create a massive pit at this high place of idol worship down in the valley. It had a very deep hole and they just poured wood into that deep hole and wicked kings, Ahaz and Manasseh actually sacrificed their children there, threw them into the fire pit as offerings to the gruesome idol Molech, 2 Chronicles 28 and 33. And others followed, Jeremiah 32:35 talks about others copied it and they had these babies being sacrificed to Molech.

Well Jeremiah came along and predicted that God was going to bring divine judgment on this horrible place and this horrible practice, that God was going to come against this terrible wickedness that occurred in the Valley of Hinnom in Gehenna and He was going to come with mass destruction and the Valley would become known as the Valley of Slaughter. And, of course, that did happen when Israel’s enemies, Judah’s enemies came and destroyed them. God-fearing Josiah came along and for a moment there was a respite, God-fearing Josiah obliterated all the idolatry out of the place. You remember the reforms under Josiah, he stopped all the abominations, he stopped all the idol worship, 2 Kings chapter 23. And he turned it into the Jerusalem rubbish center…city dump. And the fire kept burning but it was burning the refuse of the city. And so the Valley of Hinnom known as Gehenna was a place of constant burning, constant smoke, constant inhaling of brimstone. And it was also associated with blasphemy and cursing. And so the Jews picked up the word Gehenna and made it the word for hell. Hell is an ever-burning fire, smoke, darkness, indicating wickedness, abomination, divine judgment and slaughter. And our Lord had so much to say about it, weeping, wailing, gnashing of teeth, darkness, blackness, aloneness, torment, burning. And our Lord says you want to fear somebody? Fear the one who can send you there. Yes, end of verse 5, I tell you, fear Him.

In summary, fear the One who can condemn your soul.

Henry cites John Hooper, an Anglican bishop who died for the faith in the 16th century:

life is sweet, and death bitter but eternal life is more sweet, and eternal death more bitter.

A true Christian does not fear bodily death.

In verse 6, Jesus talks about sparrows which, in His day, an inexpensive protein source and, yet, God in His omniscience knows about all of them because He created them.

The second footnote above reads:

Greek two assaria; an assarion was a Roman copper coin worth about 1/16 of a denarius (which was a day’s wage for a laborer)

The Gospels often mention sparrows. MacArthur explains:

They were cheap food for the poor. Nobody cared about sparrows, the only reason the poor cared about sparrows was they could eat them. If there was anything, you’d think God wouldn’t bother Himself about it would be sparrows. 

Jesus goes on to say that if God knows about every sparrow, He also knows everything about us, even down to the number of hairs on our heads (verse 7).

He concludes by saying that we are worth more to God than sparrows. This is because He gave us souls. In our era of legalised animal rights (in certain Latin American and European countries) and lack of Christian faith, many people equate fauna with humanity. It is a mistake to do so. When an animal dies, it dies. On the Last Day, God will judge whether we spend eternity with Him or send us to everlasting damnation.

As MacArthur says:

If you are fearing God, don’t fear. He knows everything and He knows you are His. If you are not His, time to fear God who will uncover the truth, who will sentence you to hell and who knows everything.

But how do you come to know God? What is the only way to come to know God? You cannot honor God unless you honor the Son.

Next time: Luke 12:8-12



Karina Sussanto of Karina’s Thought recently published a thought-provoking post on Andrew the Apostle. Please take the time to stop by and read it in full.

In short, Karina reviewed Gospel verses which mention Andrew; she tells us that, whilst few, they give us an insight to the personality of the first Apostle. Although he does not have a huge presence in the Gospels, we discover that he was the one Apostle who thought differently.

She cites John 1:41-42, which relates that Andrew told Peter he had found the Messiah, and tells us (emphasis mine):

We all know that the later Simon Peter became a great apostle. But the important thing is, it all would not have happened if Andrew not brought Peter to Jesus.

Similarly, Karina says, the feeding of the Five Thousand shows Andrew’s different way of thinking. Where Jesus gave Philip a little test of faith by asking him where they would be able to buy bread to feed the crowd, Andrew introduced them to the boy with the loaves and fish. Andrew’s faith was so strong, he instinctively knew Jesus could do something with the contents of that basket to feed the crowd.

Early Church documents state that after that first Pentecost, Andrew travelled to the lands around the Black Sea and further north, as far as Ukraine and Russia.  He is a popular patron saint in that part of Europe as well as some countries along the Mediterranean.

Andrew, like the other Apostles with the exception of John, was a martyr. He died for the faith. He was crucified but specified that his cross be in the shape of an X, as he was unworthy of having the same type of cross as Christ had. Hence the saltire on certain nations’ flags which have St Andrew as a patron. Scotland’s and blue and white flag is one example.

Andrew really did embody the notion of thinking differently. May we share that same faith.

As was yesterday’s post on neighbourliness, today’s is another blast from the recent past.

In the American Catholic priest’s — Fr Z’s Blog — the Revd John Zuhlsdorf explores why Catholics no longer have Masses of Christian Burial for deceased family members.

Fr Z, as one would expect, points the finger at lax laity. However, the comments reveal that the laity have difficulty engaging clergy for significant final events, including administering last rites and committal!

I take Fr Z’s point about today’s middle-aged and younger Catholics being less inclined to attend Mass and, with that, belonging to a local congregation.

However, when his readers say that priests refuse to administer the last rites, the deceased’s wishes for a Latin Mass funeral are denied and that bereaved Catholic families have to find Protestant (!) clergy to perform committal rites, what Fr Z and other Catholic clergy have to say reflects a lack of understanding the broader picture.

Fr Z says (emphasis his):

It is a corporal work of mercy to bury the dead.

That’s right.

So, why is it so difficult for an out of town Catholic family to bury their dead in their original hometown where the deceased was born and raised but moved away in early adulthood?

This is not entirely the laity’s fault. Some people have their funeral Masses where they lived and are then buried in another location, possibly out of state and far away. In such cases, it is difficult to engage a Catholic priest in the town or city of burial who will officiate at the interment. This is true even where the deceased’s hometown has a Catholic university or seminary.

Fr Z cites various articles from the Bishop of Worcester, Massachusetts. Would that Catholic clergy be as committed as the Most Reverend Robert J McManus is in respecting the dead (emphasis mine):

Bishop McManus reiterates the three parts of the funeral rite which include the wake, the Mass and a committal service.

May more Catholic clergy practice what they preach. They put an onerous burden on Catholics who wish to bury their dead with the requisite rites of that denomination.

It seems somewhat pharisaical for clergy to demand these rites of laity then refuse to perform them because the deceased did not meet certain conditions (i.e. lived out of town, weren’t members of their parish).

One day, questions will be asked. Laity will not always be the ones whom the Almighty will hold responsible.

Catholics may ask if Protestant clergy are any better at funerals and burials. Yes, they are. They meet with you, even at home, and take an hour to work out readings, prayers and hymns. I’ve been involved in planning Catholic and Protestant funerals for family members. Protestant clergy are much more responsive and compassionate.

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