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Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The Bible Mini Series - Catch it now

Did you miss the Bible mini series that was shown on the History Channel? Or did you watch it and want to watch it again?

Maybe you're wondering what I'm rambling about.

The Bible is breathtaking in scope and scale. It features powerful performances, exotic locales and dazzling visual effects that breathe spectular life into the dramatic stories of faith and courage from Genesis through Revelation. This historic television event has entertained and inspired the whole world and beaten secular TV show ratings.

It's now been released as a 4-DVD set that includes all 10 episodes. The running time is 440 minutes. These are the 10 episodes:

1. The Beginning - Noah, Abraham thru Jacob, Israel begins    
2. The Exodus - Pharaoh, Moses, Red and Ten Commandment
3. The Homeland - Joshua, Samson, Judges, David & Goliath 
4. The Kingdom - David, Saul 
5. The Survival - Zedekiah, Nebuchadnezzar, Danie
6. The Revolution - Roman, birth of Christ, John the Baptist, Jesus, 
7. The Mission - Pharisees, Jesus, miracles, Disciples 
8. The Betrayal - Last supper, Judas, Peter's Denial 
9. The Passion - Nicodemus" Pilate, Crucifixion, Resurrection 
10. The Courage - Jesus returns, Holy Spirit comes, Disciples die, John survives death, exiled to Patmos, Revelation 

This movie stars Portuguese actor Diogo Morgados as Jesus Christ and is narrated by Emmy award winning actor Keith David.

This miniseries was produced by the husband and wife team of Roma Downey and Mark Brunett.

Irish-born Roma Downey is best known for her role as Monica on the hit TV series "Touched by an Angel': Now Downey and her husband, Mark Brunett, best known for producing prime-time hit reality shows (The Voice; Survivor).

Downey stars as Mother Mary in the series. In a recent interview with Catholic Digest, Downey said, "I was raised a Catholic; I've loved the Lord my whole life, and I've loved Mary my whole life. What a privilege to portray her on screen through her eyes and feel the story through her heart."

When asked how she prepared herself to play the role of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Downey simply replied: "I prayed. And my prayer was the Hail Mary. My father slept with a rosary under his pillow every night, and when he passed away, his rosary was given to me. I had the rosary on the set WIth me, and I made sure it was always near me. I actually wore it around my neck, hidden inside my tunic."

Playing the role of Mary has also influenced her life as a parent of 3 teenagers. "Loving Mary has widened my heart. She fills me with strength... I can't even begin to imagine as a parent what she must have been going through and feeling."

"Every day, my husband and 1 pray that there will be less of us and more of Him."

You can get you own set here on Amazon, by clicking the image...

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Once Saved, Always Saved - The Biggest 500 Year Old Lie

I'm not sure how old this heresy is. The one that says that once you're saved, you're salvation cannot be canceled. I guess it began during the Protestant Reformation, but it could have existed as far back as Arianism.

Anyway, it's probably one of the oldest lies, still making it's rounds especially among the Evangelicals and several mainstream Protestant denominations.

Many Protestants and almost all Fundamentalists believe that private interpretation of the Bible thumps Church authority. In most cases there's no central Church authority, except probably the pastor who set up his church. Firstly, it's interesting that members of a Fundamentalist church give more respect to their Pastor (whom the Scriptures never confirmed that Jesus built His Church upon that guy) but are dead against the Catholic Pope (whom Scriptures confirm Jesus built His Church upon)!

Back to today's theme, based on my private interpretation.

The premise behind this fallacy is that once you say a magical phrase, a force field envelopes you and even God can't prevent you from entering Heaven. That abracadabra phrase is, "Jesus Christ is my personal Savior." Guess what, this theory is not found in the Bible. Maybe I missed it and hope you can point out to me the verse.

Too many Protestants believe that either you can't sin, because you made that declaration, or the sin can't stop you from entering Heaven.

In today's reading for the day, in 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8, St. Paul makes it very clear that God wants us to live Holy lives. He wants us to keep away from sin. Now why would the Wise One want us to do that, if sin can't affect me? After all St Paul was writing to Christians, people who have apparently been saved and can never falter.

St Paul goes on to talk about karma - what goes around comes around. There will be pay back day, if you sin. So how can anyone claim they can't sin because Jesus' Precious Blood automatically stops them from sinning, or that they won't ever see punishment for sins committed after taking Jesus as their personal savior.

Finally, St. Paul says that anyone who sins, is rejecting God, by rejecting the Holy Spirit. Now, as I understand it, if you don't have the Holy Spirit, you don't enter Heaven. Period. Now, I'm beginning to wonder if St. Paul has a good understanding of this hypothesis about "once saved, always saved." If he did, why waste time writing a letter that is useless to people who have been saved and will remain saved, whatever they do. To be saved means you have been cloaked with the Holy Spirit and Paul is warning that you can easily chuck the Holy Spirit aside by sinning.

Without the Holy Spirit, you don't have the force field anymore and you're doomed. Now that's the reason why Jesus Christ instituted the Sacrament of Reconciliation. So that the Holy Spirit will return to you and help you so that you can eventually enter Heaven.

Catholic theology simply teaches that salvation is not a one off event that occurs when you say some magical phrase but you build on your salvation as you walk through the temptations of life and come our victorious through God's graces. And that's why also Scripture teaches us to work out our salvation.

Sure, Jesus has done the heavy lifting, but we too have some light lifting to do. It's like Jesus's death blasted a path through a mountain, but we have to clear the debris along the path that leads to Heaven.

This is the reason Protestants poke fun at Catholics because they are never sure if they're goint to enter Heaven. Now you know. We don't pretend that we cannot sin because of baptism or by saying that Jesus is my personal savior.

Today's Gospel reading from Matthew 25:1-13, just proves that this thinking is false. Why would Jesus warn people to be ready for the Savior to return? What do they have to be ready for, if they've already accepted Jesus as their personal saviour? What else is there to do?

Obviously, a lot. That's why those who knew Jesus can go astray and be surprised that they were locked out of the Biggest Party in the Universe. They tried to claim to know Jesus by calling Him Lord.  And God said, "and who are you again?"

God doesn't owe you Heaven just because you claim He's your buddy. You got to prove it, just as you prove to your spouse by remembering the wedding anniversary. You can't tell her, since you've taken her as your personal wife, that you don't need to work on your marriage.

The world has abandoned belief in Hell because they assume that God being the Ultimate Benevolence can make Hell disappear and force everyone (including those who hate Him) to sit with Him in Heaven for eternity - what torment that must be for those who hate Him.

Friday, August 23, 2013

The Creation Story - Alternate Version

Here's an alternative creation story...

First God created the Cow and said, “You must go with farmer daily to the field all day long and suffer under the Sun, have calves, give milk and help the farmer. I give you a span of sixty years.” The Cow said, “That’s surely tough. Give me only twenty years. I give back forty years.”

On Day Two God created the Dog and told him, “Sit all day by the door of your house and bark at strangers. I give you a span of twenty years.” The Dog said, “Too long time for barking. I give up ten years.”

On the third day God created the Monkey and said to him, “Entertain people. Make them laugh. I give you Twenty years.” The Monkey said to God, “How boring, Monkey tricks for twenty years. Give me only Ten years”. Lord agreed. 

On the fourth day God created Man. He told him, “Eat, sleep, play, enjoy and do nothing. I will give you twenty years.” 
Man said, “Only twenty years. No way.

I will take my Twenty and give me the Forty the cow gave back, the Ten that the Monkey returned, and the Ten the Dog surrendered. That makes eighty. OK?” OK said God. 

That is why for the first twenty years we sleep, play, enjoy and do nothing. 

For the next forty years we slave in the sun and at work to support our family. 

For the next ten years we do monkey tricks to entertain our grandchildren. 

And for the last ten years we sit in front of the house and bark at everybody. 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

The Assumption of Virgin Mary

During the sermon today, our parish priest told us the story of his RCIA facilitator's experience attending a Protestant meeting in the 60s. The facilitator was a 18-year old.

That was the time when there no detente between the Protestants and Catholics.

During the meeting, the Pastor started berating Catholic theology and insulting Mother Mary. He said that she was a mere simpleton who the wayward Catholic Church elevated to the lofty position of Mother of God.

After a while, he asked members of the congregation to come up and say their piece. Several of them went up one after the other. The all parroted the Pastor by condemning Mother Mary.

Eventually, this RCIA facilitator raised his hand for permission to speak and the Pastor invited him up, not knowing he was Catholic.

The RCIA facilitator went up and said that he was an 18 year old boy and the person he loved the most in the world was his mother. He acknowledged his love for his mother because of how she looked after him. He then said that if anyone were to deride his mother, the congregation had done to Jesus' mother, he would kill the person. And he walked away...

Our parish priest didn't mention what the reaction of the congregation was.

There are some lessons from the story, that I see.

1. Protestants say they were right in forming their respective churches, because the Catholic Church became corrupted and was teaching wrongs as opposed to truths. It always surprises me that Protestants haven't figured out that each time they repeat such things, they are effectively saying that they praise and worship a liar. They don't seem to understand that the guy they pray to is not trustworthy!

How can they believe and trust in a Trinity that can't even be truthful. One of their members said that He would be with the Church and the gates of hell will not prevail until the end of time.

Protestants claim that the Catholic Church meandered, means that Jesus lied because He didn't guide the Popes and Magisterium and the Holy Spirit was on extended leave and returned during the Reformation?

If these Two Persons of the Trinity did this to the Catholic Church, what guarantee is there that they won't repeat their shenanigans and abandon them too?

2. I'm always amused that almost all Protestants love their mothers and take pride in reciting the Commandment that says honor your mother and father and in the same breath they insult their Saviour's mother. As if this is going to make Him leap and do cartwheels.

Can anyone gain brownie points by telling their boss that he admires the boss so much but thinks the boss' mother is an uncouth person?

I guess at the end of the day, we can only say the prayer Jesus said on the cross - "Forgive them Father, they know not what they do."

God and Satan - Food Creation Story

Watch this funny creation story about how food came to be as it is today...

Monday, August 12, 2013

Resurrection of the Body and a New Earth

Catholic theology teaches that at the end of time, there will be the Final Judgement and also the Resurrection of the Body.

Those that God judges to be holy will all be resurrected with glorified bodies. If you've watched Mel Gibson's Passion of the Christ, the final scene depicts Jesus in His Glorified Body, though with the scars (or holes made by the nails).

From the account of St. Thomas (Doubting Thomas), we know that Jesus still retained the hole in his chest made by St Longinus (the centurion who pierced Jesus' side on the cross).

Now the question is, what eaxactly does a glorified body look like? Will someone who has a physical handicap, become normal after the resurrection, since it should be a glorified body. All physical impediments are the cause of original sin, therefore, in the New Earth where original sin doesn't exist anymore, will this be the reality? Physical handicaps in this context includes all diseases and medical conditions, like depression, diabetes, deviated septum, etc.

Let's take this imagination one step further. Let's say a baby who died as a result of miscarriage. Will it still be a baby at resurrection? I have no idea, but I think it sounds silly, since in the New Creation, it'll still be dependent on it's parents.

But Jesus said that in Heaven, there will no longer be marriages, so how will this "baby" have parents to look after it. Therefore, I guess, it'll be an adult woman or man at resurrection. Is your mind spinning like mine is?

Some theologians say that the resurrection of the body applies to all bodies, including those of the sinners. So, will sinners have glorified bodies? Obviously not, since they have carried their sins into the afterworld and therefore, they will be walking around with whatever impediments they have. Maybe their New World will be separated from the Saints' New World.

Now comes another complication. The New World or New Creation will be exactly what God originally wanted when He created the Universe 11 billion years ago. So will the New Earth have animals as well?

We know from the Bible that God created the animals to help humans. Let's examine the cows above (courtesy of my niece, Maya). Will the resurrected human need cows for their milk and meat? Several Bible verses say that in Heaven, there'll be no mourning, no hunger, thirst, disease, sadness, etc. Since we don't need to eat or drink, we also don't need cows to help plough the land, since we don't need to plant anything anyway. I guess too God won't make bacteria, parasites and viruses, since they cause death most of time or misery.

So maybe there won't be animals in the New World.

The huge question in my mind, is what will we do on the New Earth with our Glorified bodies?

If you have any hypothesis, please add them in the comment box below.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Benefits of Faith in God and Adverse Effects of a Lack of Faith

Today's reading from Numbers and from Matthew, juxtapose two scenarios. In one, there's a group who show a lack of faith in God. In the second, one person shows absolute faith in God.

In Matthew 15:21-28, we see a Canaanite woman, whose faith in Jesus results in her daughter being healed. I've listened and read this verse and the same lesson jumps out - having faith in God has benefits. We all know that we have to believe before we see, as opposed to what science says is the reverse - seeing is believing. Because this woman believed and believed to the extent of being desperate for Jesus' help. She was so desperate that she pushed back on Jesus' seeming insult.

Most times, when we read or listen to this verse from Matthew, we probably yawn and say, what's new? Probably nothing. But we all know that it's tough to really, really, really have absolute faith in God. It could be because we are cynical or even because our previous prayers did get the result we wanted. We forget that God always answers our prayers. It's either, Yes, No or Not Yet. But the problem is that when we pray, it ends up as "My Will Be Done, Lord" and so we sulk and stop believing in prayers and start losing faith in God.

Now, the readings from Numbers 13:1-2,25- 14:1,26-29, 34-35 are quite scary. It shows what happens when you lack faith in God. It's not merely harmless, it can ruin you, especially if you keep repeating to yourself that God means for bad things to happen to you. Be careful of what you wish for - it can come true as these Israelites found out. Every one of them who whined to God, died in the desert and never made it to the Promised Land. Whiners are always losers anyway.

Very often, God shows us opportunities, but fear grips us by the throat and we start having negative thoughts about why something will not work. This becomes a self fulfilling prophesy. As Henry Ford uses to say, "whether you think you can or you can't, you're right."

Every runner on the track who breaks the tape at the finish line, goes to the starting line with a 100% belief that he/she will be the winner. No two ways about it. If there's even a nanosecond of doubt he will lose.

But I think, with God, even if we have that split second of doubt we can rectify it by asking God to forgive us for doubting that He will be with us. If He shows us an opportunity, why should you doubt you will win. The Israelites thought they had to fight the giants in the Promised Land all by themselves.

Use these readings to prop up your faith in God and go forth everyday with positive thoughts of smashing your obstacles and emerging victorious.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Who were Jesus' brothers & Jesus' family?

Today's Gospel reading (Mt 13:54-58), I guess answers the question.

But every Catholic and Orthodox Christian knows that this is wrong. In fact Catholic Christians and Orthodox Christians believe that Jesus didn't have any biological brothers and sisters but maybe half-brothers and half-sisters. We believe that Mary, always remained a virgin and so we call her Ever Virgin.

Many Protestant Christians refer to the verse above and similar ones to justify that Jesus had siblings. But within these passages from the Bible lies a hint that Protestant interpretation is wrong.

If we interpret these verse literally, then we are also at risk of admitting that Jesus was a mere mortal. What's that? The first sentence of verse 55 is, "This is the carpenter's son, surely?"

But all Christians know that Joseph was only Jesus's foster father and not his biological father. So how should we interpret the remaining verses that actually name Jesus' brothers and sisters?

You shouldn't see these verses with the lens of 21st Century Western culture. Instead you should look at the language of ancient times. In Hebrew, Indian and even European cultures, it was common to refer to a cousin as brother or sister. Even till today, the term used for cousin in South Asia, is either brother or sister.

There protoevangelium of James (which never made it into the Bible) says that Joseph was an old man who had kids from a previous marriage. These could be the brothers and sisters that several verses in the Bible refer to.

Now, let's assume that Jesus really did have biological siblings, then in ancient cultures and even today in most underdeveloped economies, a widow is cared for by the surviving siblings. So, it would have been a major insult for Jesus to ask John to take care of Mary after His death. Anyway, why should Jesus ask John to look after Mary? It's a totally stupid request from a non-spiritual view. He could have asked Mary Magdelene who was also at Golgotha.

John was like a brother to Jesus. That's why the Gospel of John frequently has John referring to himself as the disciple Jesus loved. And because John was Jesus' spiritual brother, Jesus asked him to look after her and instantly Jesus made her our mother too, just as she became the spiritual mother of John and all the Apostles and disciples. This is the reason why Catholics and Orthodox Christians call Mary, Mother Mary.

Every verse in the Bible has a message for our soul. Nothing there is mundane. It would be out of place for the Holy Spirit to inspire the authors of Scripture to record silly details that are merely for knowledge. Our salvation is not furthered one bit by knowing that Jesus had biological brothers and sisters. For the advancement of knowledge the Holy Spirit will use historians and scientists.

The purpose of these verses is to merely indicate that people couldn't accept Jesus because they thought they knew him as a mere carpenter who had human relatives. They wanted a Messiah who was wholly spiritual like YHWH.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Pray Without Ceasing

For Catholic worldwide, this Sunday's readings were:

  • Genesis 18:20-32
  • Psalms 138:1-3,6-8
  • Colossians 2:12-14
  • Luke 11:1-13
These readings were teaching us to pray and to pray without ceasing. It's not the Church that tells us to pray, but God Himself. God is delighted that we seek him rather than a golden calf or relying on ourselves solely.

I guess, we are all experts in this area. Which Christian doesn't know how to ask God for something. But some Christians believe we shouldn't bother God with the small things and therefore only ask God the big, hairy audacious stuff. They think that God is too big for the small, mundane things.

That's not what God is teaching through these readings.

Now, for Christian Catholics, we not only bug God, but also the Saints in Heaven with our petitions. Often too, we ask other Catholics, still living on Earth to pray for us. Lest they forget, we will remind them to continue praying for us, lest they forget. 

One of the Saints, who most of us would ask for their intercession is Mother Mary. She's the one who the Church teaches has a special power to move God, the same way Abraham did in trying to save Lot. 

So day in, day out, we will ask all the Saints, over and over to bring out petitions to the Almighty.

This made me think, if the Saints in Heaven also are continuously bringing our repeated petitions to God for Him to answer.

This is what I think, at least about Mother Mary. I think that she only needs to submit our prayer requests just once to God. There's no need for her to remind God, as if he has the memory of a mortal. I base this theory on the Scripture verses about the wedding in Cana. Here, Mary just told Jesus once about the problem the family had. In fact, notice that Mary didn't tell Jesus what the solution had to be. She just conveyed the problem and Jesus decided to act in the way he deemed fit for the moment.

My guess is this is what happens, whenever we ask Mary and the Saints for their help. They just submit the request to God once.

So then why should we pray without ceasing? Is once just enough?

Well, the case is different for us mortals on this side of Heaven. We pray to bring about some change. But whatever we pray for, at the end of the day, prayer brings change to ourselves as well. The more we pray for something, either we will eventually decide it was a frivolous request or we may modify the request so that the outcome is to glorify God and just for our benefit.

In Heaven, as everyone there is already perfect, unceasing prayer will not change them one bit. So what does Revelation indicate about the unceasing prayers of the Saints? 

The Saints don't just submit requests. The bulk of the time (however, that's measured there), is spent praising and worshiping God. 

Catholic author, Teresa Tomeo is releasing this book that'll help you achieve happiness here on Earth, whetever answer God gives to your prayers...

What's your take on this?