The Rise of God’s Prophets
From Man’s fall into Original Sin (Gen 3), God proclaimed the Protoevangelium (First Gospel), the prophecy of Mary and the salvation of Jesus Christ (CCC 411). From then on, God raised up prophets (e.g. Abraham, Moses, Samuel, Elijah, Isaiah, Daniel, Jeremiah, Ezekiel) over thousands of years to speak the Truth of God to Man. Old Testament prophets spoke Truth inerrantly through a special charism (gift) of Grace called “the Spirit of the Lord” (1 Kings 22:24; Is 61:1) and “the word of the Lord” (Jer 1:2, 4; Ezek 1:3). The prophets called Israel and all nations to turn to God (CCC 64, 2595) by reasserting God’s laws, performing miracles and by offering future predictions. False prophets emerged, leading people away from God (Is 28:7; Jer 5:31, 6:13, 23:9–40; Ezek 13:1–23; Mic 3:5–7) and were condemned to death by Moses (Deut 13:1-18) and by Elijah (1 Kings 18).
False Prophets in the Modern Age
False prophets continue to draw Man towards away from God. Some idolize humanistic forces (e.g. Nietzsche: power, Marx: economics, Freud: sex). Some idolize ideologies (e.g. secularism, progressivism, conservatism, nationalism, scientism, environmentalism, feminism, homosexualism). Some idolize people (e.g. “gurus”, political messiahs, celebrities). Some promote religions that reject the Truth of Jesus Christ preserved in the Catholic Church (e.g. Chinese Folk, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Mormonism, Tribal religions, neo-paganism, Wiccan, Satanism). Some perpetuate Christian division built upon previous heresies and schisms that “wound the unity” (CCC 817) of the “sole Church of Christ” (CCC 816): Orthodox and Protestants, while still sadly separated in these old errors, are accepted with affection as “brothers in the Lord” (CCC 818). The Church continues to pray that the Father will “reunite all His children, scattered and led astray by sin…into His Son’s Church” (CCC 845).
Jesus Christ – Divine Prophet
Jesus Christ is the Divine Prophet. Jesus:
- Is prophesized in the Old Testament – The Messiah is long foretold and awaited Prophet (Deut 18:15, 18; Is 49): “It was necessary that the Messiah be anointed by the Spirit of the Lord at once as king and priest, and also as prophet” (CCC 436; Is 11, 61:1-2; 58:5; Zech 4:14, 6:13).
- Is announced by the last of the Old Covenant Prophets – The 500 year-old prophecy of John the Baptist (Mal 4:5) as the final precursor to Christ (Matt 3:3; Luke 1:76; CCC 719) was confirmed by Jesus: “for all the prophets and the law prophesied until the time of John…he is Elijah who is to come” (Matt 11:13).
- Is anointed like a prophet – Like some prophets in the OT (Ex 29:7; Lev 8:12; 1 Sam 9:16; 10:1, 16:1, 12-13; 1 Kings 1:39, 19:16), Jesus is anointed (Lk 4:16-21) at His Baptism (Lk 3:21-22).
- Acts like a prophet – Jesus’ public acts were reminiscent of OT prophets. Like Moses, Jesus offers the blessings of the Commandments (Deut 6:5-25; Matt 5), selects 12 disciples (Num 13:2-6; Matt 10:2-4) and cures leprosy (Num 12:10-13; Matt 8:2-3). Like Elijah, Jesus raised the widow’s son from the dead (1 Kings 17:17-24; Luke 7:11-17) and offers miraculous feedings (2 Kings 4:8-37; Matt 9:23-25). He acted in dramatic form, cursing and killing a fig tree (Mark 11:13–14) and cleansing the Temple (Mark 11:15; Is 56:7; Jer 7:11), causing people to marvel in fear (Luke 7:11–16; Kings 17:17–23).
- Speaks like a prophet – Jesus speaks for God: “You must listen to what I have to say, because the words I speak are not mine; they are the very words of God” (John 3:34). Like the OT prophets, He warned of the judgment to come (Matt 11:21–24, 23:13–29; Luke 6:24–26) and offered promises of blessings from God (Psalm 9:7-8; Matt 5:3–11, 13:16–17; Mark 10:29–30). He denounced hypocrisy, quoting Isaiah (Matthew 15:7; Isaiah 29:13). He speaks of Himself as the prophesized “Son of Man” (Dan 8:17; John 5:27) who will sit in judgment.
- Is prophetic about the future – He makes offers prophetic insights to Nathaniel (John 1:47-49) and the woman at the well (John 4:39). He predicts His Passion and Resurrection with amazing detail including that: Judas will betray Him (John 6:70-71), He would die in Jerusalem (Luke 13:33), be rejected by the priests and elders (Mark 8:31), be delivered to the Gentiles to be mocked, spit upon and scourged (Mark 10:33-34), crucified (John 3:14) and be resurrected in 3 days (Matt 12:39-40). Jesus accurately predicts the fall of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. (Mark 13:2).
- Is recognized as a prophet – Jesus was widely considered a prophet by His disciples (Luke 4:19), by those who witness miracles (John 7:16), by those who are healed (John 9:17), by those who hear His prophecies (John 4:19; Matt 16:14; Mark 6:15; 8:28; Luke 7:16; 9:8; 24:19; John 6:14; 7:40; 7:17; Acts 3:22). He is proclaimed a prophet upon entry to Jerusalem (Matt 21:11) and is arrested because “they feared the multitude, because they held him to be a prophet” (Matt 21:46), the Romans taunt Him as a prophet (Mark 14:65; Matthew 26:68; Luke 22:64) and is murdered like the prophets (Matt 23:30, 31, 37).
- Is greater than all the prophets – Jesus spoke of Himself as a prophet. When rejected in Nazareth, He responds, “a prophet is not without honor, except his own country” (Mark 6:4; Luke 4:24). He contrasted Himself with “false prophets” (Matt 7:15, 24:11, 24; Mark 13:22), identified with Israel’s great prophets (Luke 13:31–33) and sends out prophets in His name (Matt 10:41). Jesus taught that He is “greater than Jonah” (Matt 12:38–41) and greater than Moses (John 6). The greatest OT prophets, Moses and Elijah are called to witness Christ’s Transfiguration (Matt 17:3).
- Endows the early Church with prophets – Prophets played an important and esteemed role of the early Church (Acts 11:27, 13:1, 15:32, 21:10; 1 Cor 12:28, 14:3-5; Eph 4:11; 1 Tim 1:18, 4:14). They were among the teachers of the early Church (Rom 12:6; 16:26; 1 Co 12:10; Eph 2:20), guided with insights from Christ (1 Cor 13:2, 1 Pet 1:19-21; Rev 1:1, 4-5) to encourage believers (1:Cor 14:3) and with the apostles form the foundation on which the Church was built (Eph 2:20).
- Continues to call the Church to His Prophetic Office – “Jesus Christ is…established as priest, prophet, and king. The whole People of God participates in these three offices of Christ and bears the responsibilities for mission and service that flow from them” (CCC 783). The laity is especially called to offer prophetic witness by their holy lives and by proclaiming Jesus Christ to make Him known (LG 35; CCC 897-900).
Sin, Sacrifice and Priesthood
Created in God’s own image (Gen 1:27), Man is a “religious being” with a natural desire to draw near to God through religious rituals (CCC 27-28). After the fall into sin at Eden, the first sons brought religious sacrifices to God: Abel’s sacrifice of the first-born from the flock pleased God while Cain’s sacrifice from the soil was not pleasing to God. Full of sin, Cain killed his brother Abel; the first murder was motivated, in part, out of jealousy from the first sacrificial offering (Gen 4:3-8). Melchizedek, a “priest of God Most High” (a Gentile and the first mentioned “priest” in the Bible; was perhaps Shem, the son of Noah), blessed Abram for his heroic deeds with a sacrificial offering of bread and wine (Gen 14:14-20). Abram obediently prepared to sacrifice his first-born son Isaac to God, who instead commanded Abram to sacrifice a ram (Gen 22). In the earliest recorded written human experience found in the Bible, Man seeks to reconcile with God for sin through sacrifice led by priests (from Latin, presbyter, meaning “elder”, a masculine noun).
The Rejection of Sin, Sacrifice and Priesthood
The Postmodern culture is perverted, rejecting Man’s inborn aversion to sin and the hope of reconciliation with God through sacrifice and the priesthood. Influencers of culture (e.g. academics, psychologists, scientists, politicians, activists, media and corporate elites) reject age-old definitions of sin and embrace perversion (e.g. fornication, denigration of marriage, contraception, abortion, homosexual acts, pornography). Where there is no sin, there is no need for sacrifice: many men are withdrawing from manly responsibilities and self-sacrifice into sloth, self-indulgence, a perpetual adolescence of bachelorhood without commitments to a wife and children and service to society. Where there is no sin or need for sacrifice, there is no need for priesthood. The Postmodern culture rejects religious priesthood, seeking to comfort guilty consciences with secular pseudo-priests: psychologists, philosophers, pop-gurus, political messiahs and entertainment idols. Tragically, these secular pseudo-priests offer only temporary distraction, not absolution and salvation.
Jesus Christ – Divine Priest
Jesus Christ condemns sin and becomes the Perfect Sacrifice as the Divine Priest. Jesus:
- Condemns Sin and confirms the reality of Hell – As a Person of the Trinity, Jesus condemns sin in the giving of the 10 Commandments to Israel at Mt. Sinai (Ex 35) and Moses keeps the stone tablets in the Holy Ark of the Covenant (1 King 8:9; Heb 9:4). In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus amplifies the description of sin in the 10 Commandments to include thoughts of lust and unrighteous anger (Matt 5:21-32). Jesus also speaks repeatedly about the punishment of Hell for unrepentant sinners (Matt 7:13-14, 25:46; Mark 9:47-48) and the Church continues to faithfully teach the reality of Hell as punishment for unrepented mortal sin (CCC 1035).
- Institutes a sacrificial system by priests of Israel – “Sacrifice is a ritual offering made to God by a priest on behalf of the people, as a sign of adoration, gratitude, supplication and communion” (CCC 2099). After the people engage in an orgy around the Golden Calf (Ex 34), God instructs Moses to establish the Levitical priesthood (Ex 40:12-16), the exclusive priesthood of Israel (Num 17:1–13, 18:1–7). In Leviticus, the definition of sins and the sacrificial economy were made explicit; the rituals of sacrifices to God, led by priests, were at the center of Jewish life.
- Prefigures His Priesthood in the Old Testament – The mysterious priest-king Melchizedek (King of Salem, which becomes Jerusalem), a priest of God the Most High, blesses Abram with offerings of bread and wine (Gen 14:18-20; Psalm 110:4). Abram follows God’s instruction to sacrifice his first-born son Isaac on Mount Moriah (renamed Mt. Zion in Jerusalem) but God instead provides a ram for sacrifice (Gen 22:1-19). These events prefigure Christ’s Priesthood in which He offers the Eucharist in the bread, wine and His Holy Sacrifice as the Lamb of God on Mt. Zion in Jerusalem.
- Signals His Divine Priesthood during childhood – Mary is seen by Blessed John Paul II as the first communicant of Christ’s Eucharist, having the actual body and blood of in her womb (Ecclesia de Eucharistia, no. 55). The Magi travel to give homage to Christ as King but also as Priest, offering myrrh, a tree resin used to anoint Levite priests (Ex 30:23-33). Mary and Joseph present Jesus, the first-born son at the Temple consistent with the Law (Ex 13:2), perhaps implying that Jesus was consecrated as priest (Luke 2:22-24). At twelve, Jesus remains in the Temple in Jerusalem, “amazing” the learned rabbis (Luke 2:47), a signal of His Divine Priesthood.
- Previews His Sacrifice in the Eucharist in the Feeding of the 5000 – Jesus feeds the 5000 with bread and then offers His Bread of Life discourse, explicitly describing the Eucharistic feast of His body and blood that gives eternal life (John 6).
- Gives the Perfect Sacrifice of Himself in the Eucharist – “At the Last Supper, on the night He was betrayed, our Savior instituted the Eucharistic sacrifice of His Body and Blood” (CCC 1323). By offering Himself once and for all as the unique and Perfect Sacrifice (Heb 10:14) in the Eucharist, Jesus provides the true meaning and perfection to the Old Testament sacrificial cult (cf. Heb 5:10, 6:20). His Sacrifice is commemorated and mysteriously present in the Eucharistic sacrifice of the Church (CCC 1357, 1544) at every mass.
- Is recognized by the early Church as Divine Priest – While Jesus does not explicitly give Himself the title of “priest”, He clearly acts as the Divine Priest and is recognized as Divine Priest by the Apostles. Throughout Hebrews, Christ is seen as the Divine Priest described in various ways: as the Son of God who reigns as priest forever (Heb 7:3); as the “great priest” (Heb 10:21); the “high priest” (Heb 2:17; and in nine other places); the “great high priest” (Heb 4:14); the priestly “order of Melchizedek” (Heb 5:6, 5:10, 6:20, 7:11, 7:17). The apostles of Jesus Christ affirm the continuity of His priestly action by preaching and “the breaking of the bread” (Acts 2:46), following Christ’s direction to “do this in memory of Me” (Luke 22:19; 1 Cor 11:24).
- Perpetuates the Eucharist through Catholic priests – Through the Sacrament of Holy Orders (CCC 1539, 1544, 1547, 1554), priests act in persona Christi to re-present the unique sacrifice of Christ on the Cross in the Eucharistic sacrifice of the Church (CCC 1554, 1562).
- Calls all Men to Sacrifice and to the Priesthood – In addition to ministerial priests in Sacred Orders, all the faithful are called by Christ to be a “kingdom of priests” (1 Peter 2:5; Rev 1:6, 5:10) through the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation (CCC 784). As “as priestly people” all baptized and confirmed Catholics are enabled to celebrate the liturgy (CCC 1119) and are called to live out their priesthood according to their own vocation (CCC 1546).
Bishop Lee Piché of the Archdiocese of Minneapolis and St. Paul gave the following address at St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church in Corcoran Minnesota on October 29, 2010. Bishop Lee Piché’s biography is available here: Most Reverend Lee A Piché – Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis
1. Prayer of Blessed John Henry Newman
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. I place myself in the presence of Him in whose Incarnate Presence I am before I place myself there. I adore Thee, O my Savior, present here as God and man, in soul and body, in true flesh and blood. I acknowledge and confess that I kneel before that Sacred Humanity which was conceived in Mary’s womb and lay in Mary’s bosom; which grew up to man’s estate, and by the Sea of Galilee called the Twelve, wrought miracles, and spoke words of wisdom and peace; which in due season hung on the cross, lay in the tomb, rose from the dead, and now reigns in heaven. I praise and bless, and give myself wholly to Him, Who is the true Bread of my soul, and my everlasting joy. Amen.
2. What was Jesus like as a leader of men? We cannot ask the casual bystander. We cannot ask the scribe or Pharisee. We cannot ask those who knew of him only from a distance or by reputation, such as Herod Antipas, the puppet-king of Galilee. To know something of the qualities of Jesus as a leader, we can turn to only one place: to the witness of his own disciples, most especially the Twelve.
3. Some preliminary observations:
a. The compelling attractive quality of his personality.
The gospels report how Jesus called his first disciples. “As he was walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon who is called Peter, and his brother Andrew, casting a net into the sea; they were fishermen. He said to them, ‘Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.’ At once they left their nets and followed him. He walked along from there and saw two other brothers, James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John. They were in a boat, with their father Zebedee, mending their nets. He called them, and immediately they left their boat and their father and followed him” (Mt 4:18-22). Not many people could do this; these moments of calling and decision were not pre-arranged. The description makes clear that the call happened, as it were, “on the spot.” Very likely these disciples had seen Jesus before this and probably had heard him preach; but we have the sense that the call to follow him, to accept him as their leader and master, came in an instant and essentially without any warning. In both instances, without any hesitation, these men left everything and followed Jesus. Only someone with a remarkable quality of attraction could do this. Was Jesus good-looking? I like to think so. But that is not what drew these men to him. Jesus was simply good. In other words, he had the quality of the best kind of leader, in that he himself was obedient to the Father, to the One who sent him into the world. That is the secret of his perfect goodness. He radiated all the characteristics that men, as men, desire to possess. Here we also learn something else about the first disciples: they had good hearts. They were not perfect; they had many faults and weaknesses; but fundamentally, they had a healthy interior life, in that they recognized goodness in Jesus and were drawn to it as if to a magnet.
b. The convincing message he proclaimed.
When Jesus began to teach, it was immediately evident to the serious listener that he was different from the ordinary rabbis of his time. As Saint Matthew reports, at the end of Christ’s ‘Sermon on the Mount,’ “When Jesus finished these words, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as their scribes” (Mt 7:28-29). This can be interpreted simply in terms of the method of his teaching: when other rabbis preached, they would always quote their sources, for example, they would say, “As Rabbi Akiba says, Always think before you speak.” Jesus had only one source: the Father. He did not quote other experts: he himself had first-hand knowledge of divine truth, and he understood human nature. As Saint John observes: “he did not need anyone to testify about human nature. He himself understood it well” (Jn 2:25).
But there is a deeper sense in which Jesus surpassed other teachers of his day. Remember who Jesus is, and how he described himself to his Apostles at the Last Supper. When Thomas protested that they did not know where Jesus was going, Jesus responded: “I am the way and the truth and the life” (Jn 14:6). Jesus not only spoke truth whenever he spoke, as if he were capable of doing otherwise. Jesus was, Jesus is truth. It is his nature. He cannot but speak truth, because he cannot be other than he is. So when he spoke, he claimed an authority greater than that of the greatest of the prophets, greater even than Moses himself. In fact, the formula he used for revealing the new Covenant shows that he claimed to be speaking as God. “You have heard that it was said to your ancestors, ‘You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you, whoever is angry at his brother will be liable to judgment” (Mt 5: 21-22a).
Not everyone accepted the teaching of Jesus. But his message had penetrated the minds and hearts of the Twelve. To them, the message rang true; it resonated with something deep within them. Even when their senses and their reason argued differently, they could not deny the power of Christ’s word. At a critical moment in the ministry, when it was time for Jesus to reveal the mystery that we would come to know as “Eucharist” and “Real Presence,” Saint John reports that many (repeat, many) of the disciples of Jesus abandoned him. He turned to the Twelve and said, “‘Do you also want to leave?’ Simon Peter answered him, ‘Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God’” (Jn 6:67-69). Not only did Jesus attract them with the charism of his personality, but the content of his preaching and teaching exerted an adhesive power, binding the Apostles to himself. His doctrine was difficult to understand, and even more challenging to live, but something told them that it was true – even when the majority of people around him rejected it. These men wanted truth, and in a very short time they had developed confidence that they would find the truth in Jesus.
c. Jesus respected the freedom of his followers.
It must never be forgotten that when Jesus chose twelve of his disciples to follow him more closely and be prepared to be sent out as apostles, he included Judas Iscariot among those Twelve. The inclusion of the one who would ultimately betray our Lord proves, I believe, that none of the Twelve were coerced, brainwashed, or in any other way had their freedom compromised in their encounter with Jesus and their extended time with him. Jesus was not the founder of a “cult” in the derogatory sense of that term. Any of the Twelve could leave at any time, just as so many others had. If they stayed, they chose to do so with complete freedom. And yet the bond of their relationship with Christ was strong. Here there was something stronger than fear. Something stronger than a mindless submission to a revered “guru.” Something stronger than hero-worship, or the adulation that “fanatics” give to a celebrity. The Apostles were anything but sycophants, hovering around a popular figure of the day. If anything, Jesus was the opposite of a celebrity. In spite of the fact that crowds followed him, looking for a miracle, Jesus was increasingly becoming a person of conflict, a “sign of contradiction,” as Simeon had foretold. The opposition to Jesus in the sacred corridors of power was mounting with each passing month. Still, these men stayed with him.
I would point out that another aspect of the bond between Jesus and his Apostles was the bond that kept the Apostles united to each other, especially in the moment of crisis. It is true that at the precise moment of Jesus’ arrest in the garden – as Christ himself had predicted – the Apostles scattered. At the Last Supper, he had said to them, “This night all of you will have your faith in me shaken, for it is written: ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be dispersed’” (Mt 26:31). Sure enough, when the posse came and arrested Jesus, “All the disciples left him and fled” (Mt 26:56). But we can conclude that before long, probably even before the night was over, the Twelve had returned to the Upper Room, and stayed together during the next several days. This cohesiveness of the band of the Twelve – or rather the Eleven now, because of the loss of Judas – this cohesiveness of the Apostles in the absence of their leader, the body without its Head – is another sign of the strength of the binding force created by Christ with the Twelve. What in the world can account for such staying power? Only one thing: Love.
4. The meat of the message. Jesus was the perfect and manly leader by reason of the unique friendship he created between himself and the Apostles, and the derivative friendship he created between the Apostles themselves. I say “unique” friendship, because it is unlike any other friendship we can experience on earth; for Christ Jesus does not cease being Lord and Master when he declares the Twelve to be his friends. Rather, he shares with them the very substance of his life, without himself being diminished in any way. He retains the full force of his divinity, his authority, his “otherness” as Son of God. And yet, the loyalty of the Apostles is sealed by their love for Christ – a manly love, the love of friends – rather than by intimidation. It is a loyalty that remains completely grounded in freedom.
It is only love, the love of friendship, that can make sense of the Leader, Christ, washing the feet of his Apostles. What manly leader you have ever heard about would ever stoop to the status of the lowest household slave and do such a thing? And yet, in washing their feet, Jesus was leading them. As he himself said, “I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do” (Jn 13:15). Then, to make it clear that he has not abdicated his responsibility as leader, Jesus immediately adds: “Amen, amen, I say to you, no slave is greater than his master nor any messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you understand this, blessed are you if you do it” (Jn 13:16-17).
Then, later that same evening, during the meal, Jesus makes the astonishing revelation. He tells the Apostles that in the very carrying-out of his commands, that is, in their obedient acceptance of him as their Leader, in their perseverance in that obedience, they are not so much his subjects, but his friends; they have entered into a new relationship with him, and through him, with God the Father. “You are my friends if you do what I command you. I no longer call you slaves, because a slave does not know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father” (Jn 15: 14-15). Here then is a Leader who, in the end, chooses to lead not by sheer will-power, not merely by the word of command, but by the far more-powerful influence of love and friendship. Those who refuse the offer of the friendship of Christ will experience, eventually, the full force of his will; whether they choose to or not, they will conform to the plan of God. But it is not that kind of “forced obedience” that Christ desires from his followers. He is seeking the kind of obedience that obtains in the relationship between friends who, because of the love between them, would do anything that the friend desires and asks. Such an obedience is more perfect, particularly when the friendship itself is founded on a shared commitment to what is truly right and good. For a friend of this kind would never desire nor request anything that would not lead to what is truly good; or to put it more simply and positively, true friends give to each other in virtually every request, if it is possible, because the basis of their friendship is goodness itself – because everything they ask of one another leads to a greater good.
Friendship implies equality. We can never be equal to the Son of God by nature; but through the transforming effect of sanctifying grace, that is, by our sharing in the divine nature of the Son of God through faith and baptism, and by our communion with Him through the Eucharist, we are capable of entering into an authentic friendship with Christ. An indication of a kind of real equality, which is Christ’s gift, can be seen in the reciprocity of the relationship. We have already heard Jesus say that the Apostles are his friends “if you do what I command you” (Jn 15:14). that is, if they have such a love and a trust of Christ that they cannot deny him anything that he might ask of them. If this were a one-way relationship, it would not be a real friendship; it would be nothing more than an enthrallment, a form of slavery. That is why Jesus went on to say, as he must, if he really means friendship: “It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you to go and bear fruit that will remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you” (Jn 15:16). Jesus chose them. Why? Because he loves them. He is a leader not only because his followers love him, but first of all because he loves his followers – with a love that is transformative, and raises them to the dignity of his equals, his friends.
The basis of this friendship is not anything that the Apostles have done. Such a tremendous gift is not based on merit but on grace; and yet, it comes to be realized only in those who willingly accept it, in those who are humble enough to let Christ love them in this way. Jesus stipulates that the basis of the friendship is knowledge. Not the knowledge of facts, but the knowledge of experience through revelation. He has shared with his Apostles everything that the Father has given to him. He has given them, as it were, a “view of the whole,” so that they can act with the same understanding that Jesus has, and be his actual partners in the mission, rather than mere “assembly-line” workers who see only their small part of the operation. This is not a matter of “just do what you’re told,” and accept it. Jesus is adamant about this: “I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father” (Jn 15:15). This sharing of knowledge, this “full disclosure” by Jesus to the Twelve, is the beginning of the fulfillment of the promise of friendship: in some sense, it proves that Jesus means what he says about their being his friends, when he states not once, but seven times (in various ways) during the course of the Last Supper: “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you” (Jn 15:7; cf. Jn 14:13, 14; 15:16; 16:23, 24, 26). Notice the reciprocity: You are my friends if you do what I command you; I am your friend, in that whatever you ask in my name, it will be done for you.
5. The last step in this reflection is to realize that Jesus desires to have with us the same relationship that he had (and still has) with the Twelve.
– He is our Leader and our Master. He leads by both word and example. As Master he commands us to live a certain way, to strive for a certain goal, to suffer for the sake of what is right, and to surrender to the will of the Father in all things, as he himself did – not out of fear, but out of trust.
– He draws us to himself by the attractiveness of his personality, most especially by his unblemished goodness and perfection, not so much as the Son of God (which identity is hidden from our eyes) but as the Son of Man – as a man like ourselves in all things, except sin.
– He speaks to us a message that, when seen for what it really is, moves our minds to assent, because it rings true; it resonates with the deepest part of our being.
– He cannot lead us unless we are willing to leave behind the preoccupations that are, in the long run, incompatible with following Jesus – our patterns of selfish behavior, our anxiety over passing things, our attachments to comfort, security, prosperity, and sensuality. We have to let go of the net, get out of the boat, and move away from the opposing influence of past associations, and take the risk of attaching ourselves to someone we do not yet know very well, for the sake of getting to know him better. In short, we need to set aside more time for prayer as a time of personal contact with Christ.
– We must open our hearts to the amazing possibility that what Jesus really wants with us is not cowering servitude, or reluctant compliance with a catalogue of moral imperatives, but an honest-to-goodness friendship. He desires our affection; he wants to be in our presence; and he wants us to want to be in his presence. He offers us a fair and equal exchange: I will share my life with you, even the most intimate aspects of it; will you share your life with me?
– Practically speaking, this is difficult to do. How do we experience such a friendship as the Apostles had with Jesus? They had the opportunity literally to live with him; in effect, they went on a three-year camping trip with him to the Boundary Waters of human experience, the outer limits of the created world – eating and drinking with the Creator-of-the-world-made-flesh. We don’t get that chance. Does that mean that we can never have the friendship with Christ that the Apostles had? No. We can. In fact, this is what Jesus was trying to teach them and us before the Passion, before he was taken from their sight. The Resurrected Christ lives in the Church – in fact, he is the Church; or rather, it is more proper to say, the Church is Christ. Christus Totus is both Head and Body; both the Risen Lord at the right hand of the Father and the mystical Body of Christ on earth – also including the Church triumphant (the saints) and the Church suffering (the holy souls in purgatory). This is the whole Christ. This in part explains why Christ’s farewell commandment to his Apostles, repeated several times at the Last Supper, was “Love one another.”
– We began with a prayer from Blessed John Henry Newman. It would be appropriate at the end to remark that, according to the same Cardinal Newman, the most powerful influencing force in the world is friendship. This is how Jesus chose to exert his influence as a Leader of men, as the Master of the Twelve Apostles. It is how he chooses to lead and guide you and me. This gives us something to ponder, each of us, men who move in various spheres that call forth our leadership qualities. What sort of leader am I to my family? In the workplace? Among my acquaintances?
– When our friendship with each other – like the friendship that existed between the Apostles Peter and James, Andrew and John, Philip and Bartholomew, Matthew and Simon and Jude, and the rest – when our friendship is founded on our shared admiration and love for Christ, on our shared commitment to live as Christ lived, on our shared common goal of reaching the perfection of a holy life and ultimately a place in heaven – then we will experience the same essential blessing of friendship with Christ that the Apostles experienced. During the time of Christ’s earthly ministry, but even more after the Resurrection, when they knew the friendship of Jesus. And even after the Ascension, when Christ was taken from their sight, they continued to experience their friendship with the Risen Jesus, through the working of the Holy Spirit, in their friendship and communion with one another.
Jesus was a Man of Action.
The Manly Actions of Jesus
- Takes on an apparent Mission Impossible – His mission is to free humans from sin that has plagued humans since the Garden of Eden and from the curse of the broken covenant with God. Born into poverty in the ‘backwaters’ of Galilee, the son of a carpenter, during the political domination of Jews by Romans and Herod, tyrannical puppet King.
- Jesus prays – Jesus has a deep personal relationship with His Father, praying often (Matt 14:23, Mark 1:35, 6:46, Luke 5:16), sometimes all night (Luke 6:12).
- Seeks out His heavenly Father at a young age – At the age of 12, stays behind by Himself in crowded Jerusalem to learn and teach at the Temple. When found, He chooses to be obedient to the authority of Mary and Joseph (Luke 2:41-52).
- Submits to Baptism by John – Despite being God and without sin, Jesus identifies himself with sinners when He lowers Himself to be baptised by John (Matt 3:13-17).
- Spends 40 days in Wilderness and battles Satan – Voluntarily goes into the Wilderness without provisions for 40 days. After surviving this ordeal, resists Satan’s temptations and forces Satan to “be gone” (Matt 4:1-11).
- Recruits an unlikely band of Apostles – Choosing men who appear to be unlikely leaders (e.g. fisherman, tax collector, without education, etc.), Jesus actively seeks out the Apostles at the start of His ministry (Mark 3:13-19).
- Jesus boldly lays down the new Law – Symbolically replaying Moses’ actions on Mount Sinai, Jesus gives the Sermon on the Mount, His first declaration of the new standard of the law of love (Matt 5-7).
- Jesus courageously reaches out to the “unclean” – After the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus touches and heals an unclean leper (Matt 8:1-4), heals the slave of a Centurion (enemy and Gentile) and exorcises a demoniac in Gentile lands (8:28-34).
- Jesus confronts the dominant Jewish religious leaders with Scriptural Truth – Despite not having a “pedigree”, Jesus has a superior knowledge of Scripture (and God’s will). On multiple occasions, Jesus teaches the Sadducees, Pharisees and scribes, despite consciously knowing they plan to kill Him.
- Jesus goes to the Cross – Despite the common knowledge of the brutality of crucifixion, Jesus willingly submits to beating, scourging and crucifixion.
- Jesus forgives on the Cross – Jesus personally experiences the greatest injustice ever committed (i.e. the killing of God) and yet He asks His Father to forgive us (Luke 23:34).
- Jesus commands us to spread the Gospel (Great Commission) – “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, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and behold, I am with you always, to the close of the age.” (Matt 28:19-20; CCC 905).
 Tim Gray and Jeff Cavins, Walking with God (West Chester, Ascension Press, 2010). 254-257; 233-239.
Attached is an audio for Father Bill Baer’s homily on “The Heroic Sacrifice of Jesus” that was given at St. Anne’s Catholic Church in Hamel Minnesota on January 28 2011:
“Pray/Prayer” – From Latin: precari “ask earnestly, beg”; “obtained by prayer.”
From the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) – Prayer is a vital and personal relationship with the living and true God (CCC 2558). Prayer is the raising of one’s mind and heart to God or the requesting of good things from God…humility is the foundation of prayer for we are all beggars before God (CCC 2559). Prayer is the response of faith to the free promise of salvation and also a response of love to the thirst of the only Son of God (CCC 2561). It is the heart, in covenant with God, that prays. If our heart is far from God, the words of prayer are in vain (CCC 2562).
Please see the CCC (Part 4 : 2558-2865) for the Church’s beautiful instruction on how to engage in a life of Christian Prayer.
Jesus – Man of Prayer (For more detail on Christ’s prayer life, see CCC 2598-2622).
- Begins His human prayer life in the womb of the Virgin Mary – One 2nd century tradition tells us that Mary was born to a devout long-childless Jewish couple who presented Mary to be raised as a temple virgin in Jerusalem, a life steeped in prayer and worship. In Mary’s beautiful Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55), the Blessed Mother shows her devotion through her great gift of prayer. From His conception, Jesus enjoyed Mary’s voice of prayer in the womb.
- Jesus is immersed in Jewish prayer life as a child – As devout Jews, Mary and Joseph took Jesus to the synagogue regularly and to the Temple in Jerusalem every year (Luke 2:41-42). He learned the “formulas of prayer from His mother” (CCC 2599) and was very familiar with the beautiful Jewish prayer traditions, including the prayerful singing of Psalms.
- At 12, He goes to the Temple to learn, teach and pray – At the age of 12, Jesus remains at the Temple in Jerusalem for 3 days (Luke 2:41-50). He sat among the teachers and “all who heard Him were amazed.” While He was “in His Father’s house”, Jesus would have participated in the worshipful prayer in what Isaiah calls ‘a house of prayer for all nations’ (Isa 56:7).
- Jesus makes His rich personal prayer life a priority – Jesus prays in solitude (Mark 1:25; Luke 5:16), often in the mountains (Matt 14:23) sometimes through the night (Luke 6:12) and in the early morning (Matt 14:23). Jesus often directs His eyes upward towards heaven when praying (Matt 14:19; John 17:1). He uses a variety of forms of prayer including vocal prayer, meditation on the scriptures and contemplation of the Father. “His words and works are the visible manifestation of His prayer life in secret” (CCC 2602).
- Jesus has an intimate prayer relationship with the Father – Jesus enjoys a direct and personal dialog with the Father, calling Him ‘Abba’. He speaks to and is heard by the Father (Mark 14:36) and the Father speaks exclusively to Jesus in a direct fashion (Matt 11:27). Sometimes, other’s can hear God’s words to Jesus (Matt 3:17; Mark 9:7).
- Jesus prays with the Holy Spirit – The Holy Spirit descends at Mary’s conception of Jesus (Luke 1:35), the Holy Spirit descends on Him at the Baptism (Luke 3:21), calls Jesus into the wilderness of the Temptation (Luke 4:1) and Jesus promises to send the Holy Spirit (John 14:16). “The Holy Spirit, whose anointing permeates our whole being, is the interior Master of Christian prayer (CCC 2672).
- Jesus teaches how He prays with the Our Father – The Our Father contains the essence of Jesus’ personal approach to prayer and teaches the essentials of the Christian prayer life (CCC 2759-2865).
- His other teachings about prayer reflect Jesus’ own prayer life – The Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5-7) and multiple parables teaches about Christ’s own prayer life including the importance of persistence, watchfulness, humility and accepting the Father’s will.
- Jesus prays before decisive moments in His mission – Jesus prays to the Father prior to major turning points in His life, including: His baptism (Matt 3:16), the selection of the Apostles (Luke 6:12), at Peter’s confession (Luke 9:18), before the miracles of the Feeding of the 5000 (John 6:11) and the raising of Lazarus (John 11:41-42), the Transfiguration (Luke 9:29), during His ‘Hour of Prayer’ (John 17), so that Peter’s faith remains strong (Luke 22:32) and before/during His Passion (Luke 23:34; Matt 27:46; Luke 23:46).
 Scott Hahn, Catholic Bible Dictionary (New York, Doubleday, 2009). 584.
Man’s Aversion to Poverty
Throughout history, there have been many explanations of the existence of poverty. Poverty is sometimes seen as the just wrath of God for a particular people’s sinfulness. Some see the poor as parasites seeking a free ride on the productive class. Some see poverty as a failing of human society to provide the means and opportunities for the poor.
Regardless of the reason poverty exists, modern man has a great aversion to poverty. Governments focus on economic growth and social safety nets, seeking to win the “war on poverty”. Vast taxes are collected and redistributed and charitable organizations plead for money to give to the poor. Many people battle against poverty by feeding the poor, going on mission trips or volunteering in homeless shelters. There is a hope that somehow poverty can somehow be eradicated like a disease, reduced or at least conveniently kept out of plain sight to reduce the guilt of the prosperous.
Instead of poverty, the modern culture embraces a wholesale pursuit of over-the-top material prosperity. In the secular society, lives are mortgaged to the hilt in order to consume like the prosperous, to support an unsupportable level of consumption. Every appetite is catered to in “supersize” fashion, be it the amount of food consumed, the size and finish of homes lived in, the cars driven, the entertainment and thrills pursued, the alcohol and drugs consumed or the pornography viewed. In some religious movements, a “prosperity gospel” is excitedly preached, a false belief that God’s whole point of creating humans is so they can be materially prosperous; the idea of “abundance” is twisted into irrational materialism.
Clearly, the modern world has an insatiable ambition for prosperity and an fearful aversion to poverty.
Jesus Christ’s Gospel of Poverty
In stark contrast, Jesus Christ, in the Incarnation, fully embraces poverty.
Rather then coming in material riches worthy of God, Jesus wholly embraces poverty. Stooping from the unimaginable infinity of His Divinity, God takes on the limiting poverty of humanity in the Incarnation. Jesus stoops to the lowest entry point of humanity, bypassing earthly riches and power, coming as a helpless child born to a young woman and an earthly father who is a “backwoods” carpenter. Jesus, the God of the Universe, allows Himself to be further bound in swaddling clothing, helpless and poor. His early life is spent on the run as a refugee in Egypt.
When He launches His public ministry, Jesus lives a life that embraces poverty. After His baptism, Jesus goes into the wilderness, living as a starving person might, without food for forty days. He lives the life of a poor itinerate preacher, walking on foot for thousands of miles and often sleeping outdoors. He lives with the poor, heals the poorest of the poor, the blind, the lame, the lepers and the possessed. He lives like the homeless, saying, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head” (Matt 8:20). Jesus tells the rich young man to give away all his possessions and to follow Him (Luke 18:22). He applauds the destitute widow who, even in her poverty, gives a penny to the Jewish treasury (Mark 12:42-44). Prior to Holy week, Jesus spends time in Bethany (from the Aramaic, meaning “The House of Poverty”). Jesus dies like a common criminal, stripped bare, beaten and hung on the Cross and watches the soldiers gamble for His robe, His one material possession (John 19:23-24).
There can be no denying that Jesus Christ embraces poverty and that “poverty” is one of the core messages in the Gospel; Jesus preaches a Gospel of Poverty. Jesus comes to “preach good news to the poor” (Luke 4:18). “Jesus shares the life of the poor, from the cradle to the cross, He experiences hunger, thirst and privation” (CCC 544).
Jesus Christ, in His Divine Genius, identifies and becomes the very embodiment of His Gospel message through His embrace of poverty.
What Jesus Teaches – The Point of His Poverty
How do we reconcile the great abundance of life that Jesus promises with His purposeful embrace of poverty?
The definition of poverty – Poverty comes from the Latin, pauper “poor,” perhaps a compound of paucus “little” and parare “to get”. In the Beatitudes, the word “poor” comes from the Aramaic word ányâ (or Hebrew ani) meaning, “bent down, afflicted, miserable”. Those in poverty get little, are bent down, afflicted and miserable.
Mankind must realize its complete dependence on God – The first words of Jesus’ first sermon (The Sermon on the Mount) are:“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt 5:3). In this phrase, Jesus articulates both man’s helpless state and the foundational motivation that man must seek salvation. We are all paupers, “bent over”, “getting little” and “afflicted” in a life that is only material, for we all suffer pain, illness and eventually death. When we acknowledge “the spirit”, that we are more then material, we must also acknowledge that we are trivial paupers compared to our awesome God. Jesus teaches that those who accept that God exists and that all humans have a radical dependence on God, are the “poor in spirit”. In this realization of spiritual poverty, man opens himself up to the Salvation of Christ in the promise of heaven. “The kingdom belongs to the poor and lowly, which means those who have accepted it with their humble hearts” (CCC 544).
Idolizing wealth draws mankind away from God – Over and over, Jesus makes it clear that the idolization and pursuit of wealth leads to death. He teaches that, “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God” (Matt 19:24). Christ teaches that we must “practice the virtue of temperance, so as to moderate attachment to the world’s goods” (CCC 2407). He tells us, “You cannot serve God and mammon” (Matt 6:24).
Jesus’ poverty inspires us to love the poor – In His complete embrace of poverty, Jesus Christ becomes poverty. “Jesus was born in a humble stable, into a poor family. Humble shepherds were the first witnesses to this event. In this poverty, heaven’s glory was made manifest” (CCC 525). He identifies with the poor, saying, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me” (Matt 25:45). “The Lord asks us to love as He does…and [to love] the poor as Christ Himself” (CCC 1825). We are to serve “the poor and suffering, in whom the Church recognizes the image of her poor and suffering founder” (CCC 786). Jesus teaches that all people, even the poorest of the poor, are worthy of respect and are worthy of love. If we are to love and follow Jesus Christ, we must love the poverty of Jesus Christ and we must love those whom Jesus Christ loved: the poor.
Jesus’ example of poverty prepares us to be disciples – In life, there is hardship and in being disciples we must be prepared for pain. Jesus teaches, “by His poverty He calls us to accept freely the privation and persecutions that may come our way” (CCC 520). “All Christ’s faithful are to live with the ‘spirit of evangelical poverty’” (CCC 2546). As the Body of the Christ, each of us in the Church are “urged on by the Spirit of Christ [and] must walk the road Christ himself walked, a way of poverty and obedience” (CCC852).
The words and acts of Jesus compel us to serve the poor – Jesus teaches in the Parable of the Sheep and Goats (Matt 25:32-46) that man’s ultimate fate is decided by how they respond to His call to serve the poor. “Those who hold goods for use and consumption should use them with moderation, reserving the better part for guest, for the sick and the poor.” (CCC 2405). “God blesses those who come to the aid of the poor and rebukes those who turn away from them.” (CCC 2443). But we must also seek to serve the poor, by meeting their spiritual starvation: “When the poor have the good news preached to them it is a sign of Christ’s presence.” (CCC 2443).
In poverty, all men are dependent on the Eucharist – The Eucharist is the source and summit of the Catholic faith (CCC 1324). At the core of Jesus’ genius of the Eucharist is the truth that all men are beggars, paupers, starving before God. In the Prodigal Son, the Prodigal, starving after wasting his inheritance and becoming a pauper competing with swine for food, returns to his father and a feast of the fatted calf (Luke 15:11-32). “The Eucharist commits us to the poor. To Receive in Truth the Body and Blood of Christ given up for us, we must recognize Christ in the poorest, his brethren.” (CCC 1397). All men are starving, hungry because of the emptiness of life without God. All men are spiritually in poverty, spiritually starving. All men need a Savior, all men need to be fed with bread from heaven. In the miracles of feeding the masses and in the establishing of the Eucharist at the Last Supper, Jesus drives home the point that all men are ultimately dependent on the Bread of Life for their salvation from spiritual desolation.
Disobedience and Destruction
The word “Obedience” comes from the Latin, oboedire, meaning “to obey, pay attention to, give ear.” The Church teaches that obedience “in faith is to submit freely to the word that has been heard, because its truth is guaranteed by God, who is Truth itself” (CCC 144).
The disobedience of men to the Father traces back to Eden. “Man, tempted by the devil, let his trust in his Creator die in his heart and, abusing his freedom, disobeyed God’s command…All subsequent sin would be disobedience toward God and lack of trust in His goodness” (CCC 397). Man’s “concupiscence” leads him to pursue pleasure to the point of sin, rising up in rebellion and disobedience against God (cf. CCC 1871). Since Satan deceived Adam, men have rebelled against the Father.
Disobedience is an epidemic today. All over the world, angry men are rebelling against governments, society, religion and all forms of authority. Feral young men are forming flash mobs around the world, bent on destructiveness, confusing mutiny for manhood. Men are rebelling against the “constraints” of marriage, siring children out of wedlock and divorcing wives. Sons are rebelling against fathers. Men actively and passively rebel against organized religion, choosing to sin rather then be held to a moral standard. Men, blessed to be Catholic, abandon or neglect their faith, becoming Casual Catholics.
Disobedience is destructive. Man’s disobedience has tragic consequences: the harmony of Creation is broken and man is subject to the bondage of decay, pain and death (CCC 399-400). History catalogs the destructive perpetual wars of man against man, of sons against fathers. Today’s society shows the awful scars of disobedience; destruction of the family, addictions to pornography and other perverted sexual behavior, addictions to alcohol and drugs, the murder of children in the womb, mental illness, social unrest and widespread criminality. At the center of all human suffering is disobedience to God.
Each man, young or old, is called to obedience to God, and each man, in his own way, has the need to be more obedient to God. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, comes to the world to teach men that joy and true manhood is gained through obedience to the Father.
What Jesus Teaches through His Obedience
Jesus Christ, the King of All Creation, the most powerful human of all time, seeks to save men through His perfect obedience to the Father. Through His Perfect Obedience, Jesus teaches:
The salvation of obedience to God – Jesus is resurrected from the dead after the obedience of the Cross for the Father. This spectacular gift of salvation sets right the disobedience of Adam, through the obedience of Jesus Christ, the New Adam (CCC 411). All sin today, “like the first sin, it is disobedience…and is diametrically opposed to the obedience of Jesus, which achieves our salvation” (CCC 1850). “The obedience of Jesus has transformed the curse of death into a blessing” (CCC 1009).
To keep the 10 Commandments – As the Son of God, Jesus Christ is perfectly obedient to all the commandments of His heavenly Father. His obedience to the Fourth Commandment to the Virgin Mother Mary and his legal father, Joseph, anticipates the obedience of Holy Thursday (CCC 532). As the Obedient Son, Jesus teaches men to obey their parents, for it pleases the Lord (CCC 2217).
The Devil is defeated through obedience to God – Jesus shows how one can beat the devils’ temptations through His complete obedience to God in each of His responses to the Devil’s temptations (Matt 4:1-11). “Jesus is the new Adam who… (is) totally obedient to the divine will. In this, Jesus is the devil’s conqueror… Jesus’ victory over the tempter in the desert anticipates victory at the Passion, the supreme act of obedience of his filial love for the Father.” (CCC 539).
To be obedient in work – “By his obedience to…his humble work during the long years in Nazareth, Jesus gives us the example of holiness in the daily life of family and work.” (CCC 564).
To obediently serve the poor – If man is to be obedient to Jesus Christ, man must obediently serve the “poor and suffering” as Jesus obediently served (CCC 786).
Be obedient to His call to Evangelize – “Having been divinely sent to the nations that she might be ‘the universal sacrament of salvation,’ the Church, in obedience to the command of her founder…strives to preach the Gospel to all men”(CCC 849). “This mission continues and…the Church, urged on by the Spirit of Christ, must walk the road Christ himself walked, a way of poverty and obedience” (CCC 852).
That holy obedience can overcome sinful passions – Jesus Christ’s obedience unto death gives men freedom through a holy life to make their bodies “obedient” and to resist “rebellion in (man’s) soul.” (CCC 908).
To render unto Caesar… – Jesus Christ teaches that God, first and foremost, must be obeyed, but that man must also cooperate with legitimate authority by “rendering unto Caesar” (Matt 22:21). But when human authority abuses “natural law or the Law of the Gospel”, Christians are called upon to obediently defend their rights and the Church (CCC 1897, 2242, 2286).
The Obedience of Prayer – Jesus followed strict habits of prayer, adoration of the Father and keeping the commandments. “Contemplative prayer is hearing the Word of God. Far from being passive, such attentiveness is the obedience of faith, the unconditional acceptance of a servant, and the loving commitment of a child.” (CCC 2716).
The example of the consecrated life – “In imitation of the Obedience of Christ, as an evangelical counsel, the faithful may profess a vow of obedience; a public vow of obedience, accepted by Church authority, is one element that characterized the consecrated life” (CCC 915).
The New Age of Moral Darkness
The western world has entered a new age of moral darkness (see Evangelium Vitae, Building a Civilization of Love). Under the guise of “enlightenment” and modernity, human dignity and freedom are being increasingly suppressed by a secular totalitarian state. Assaults against the dignity of human life are pervasive through legalized abortion, euthanasia and embryo destruction/genetic manipulation. Culture elites, the media and liberal activists are promoting sexual “freedom”, including the “hook up” culture and the homosexual micro-culture through mass media and the Internet. Government, academic, cultural activists are seeking to both denigrate and restrict religious liberty by enacting laws and regulations to force the acceptance of contraception, abortion and homosexual “marriages” against religious conscience. There is a grave assault occurring on the Body of Christ.
The majority of people are being engulfed by the growing moral darkness. Millions of children are being aborted and many millions are being born to single women. Large and growing numbers of adults are forgoing marriage or choosing to divorce, gravely injuring themselves and their children. Depression and suicide rates, especially among young people, are growing. Worse, growing numbers are losing sight of their eternal salvation, living their earthly lives without the light of Christ.
The Faltering Courage of Modern Men
Many men are confused and afraid to respond to the darkening culture. Some mistakenly attempt to “man-up” by engaging in thrill-seeking behavior (X-treme sports, flash mobs, etc.), sexual conquest, wild partying or in “manly” activities (hunting, fishing, sports, etc.). Others retreat into perpetual adolescence, fade into feminization or succumb to homosexualization. In the face of mass moral confusion and the relentless cultural pounding of “political correctness”, rather then standing and defending the moral high ground, men are being cowed into timidity or distracted displays of false courage. Sadly, many Catholic men falter in courage and fall into cowardice.
En-courage-ment from the Courage of Jesus Christ
Christ perfectly demonstrates the virtue of courage to en-courage men. The word “virtue” is defined as a “manly moral strength” and comes from the Latin, vir, meaning “man.” Courage, or fortitude, is one of cardinal virtues (CCC 1805), is one of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit (CCC 1831), is defined as “to make strong, to hearten” and comes from the Latin, cor (heart).
Jesus Christ, fortified by the Father and the Holy Spirit, comes to encourage (to make strong, to hearten) man, through His perfect demonstration of heroic courage:
Learns courage from the Virgin Mary and Joseph – Jesus Christ begins life as a refugee, His earthly father Joseph and the Virgin Mother escape Herod’s slaughter of the Innocents (Matt 2:13, 16). Jesus is raised, knowing the great courage of Mary’s fiat and Joseph’s chaste heroism and their total commitment to serve God in the face of persecution.
Stands up against Satan – Jesus stands up to and defeats Satan (1 John 3:8) when tempted in the Wilderness (Matt 4:10), by repeatedly casting out demons (cf. Matt 8:28-34) and by using the Satan-inspired evil of Judas (Luke 22:3) for the Glory of the Cross and Resurrection (CCC 2853). He defeats Satan on his home turf (Hell) when Jesus descends to offer His “redemptive works to all men of all times and all places…” (CCC 634). Christ’s courage against absolute and powerful evil is unflinching.
Evangelizes despite the ongoing plots to kill Him – After John the Baptist is imprisoned and eventually murdered, Jesus returns to Galilee to pick up where John left off (Mark 1:14). On many occasions, various groups plan and attempt to kill Him (John 5:16; Mark 7:5; John 7:30; John 8:59; John 10:20; Luke 13:31; John 11:53; Luke 19:47). Jesus courageously persists despite the murderous plots.
Stands up to false teachings of the Jewish elites – Repeatedly, He confronts the Pharisees and the Sadducees and provocatively corrects their falsehoods. He heals the paralytic (Mark 2:7) and the man with a withered hand on the Sabbath (Matt 12:10) to demonstrate His authority (Mark 2:7). Jesus pronounces the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit of the teachers of the law (Mark 3:22). He pronounces woe on the Pharisees and the experts of the law for their hypocrisy (Luke 11:53-54). Despite constant death threats, Jesus authoritatively teaches in the temple during Passion Week (Mark 11:27-28).
Stands up against corrupt economic powers – Jesus confronts the merchants and moneychangers and single-handedly clears the massive (35 acres) temple area (John 2:2:18; Matt 11:18).
Stands up against bloodthirsty mobs – Jesus braves the Nazareth mob that tries to cast Him off a cliff (Luke 4:28-29). He stands up to the bloodthirsty mob that is going to stone the adulterous woman (John 7:53-8:11). He protects the disciples from the violent legion when He is taken in the Garden (John 18:8). Jesus Christ alone is unafraid and courageous against any and all ruthless mobs.
Overcomes His anguish in Gethsemane – Jesus Christ, knowing full well the physical torture He will endure, sweats blood in His anguish but courageously accepts the Father’s will (Mark 14:32-42).
Stands up against the Romans – Despite the well-known horrific tactics of the Romans, Jesus Christ does not falter when questioned by Pilate, knowing that Pilate could spare Him (Matt 27:1-26).
Endures persecution and torture courageously – Though Jesus has many chances to recant or to finesse His Gospel, He does not yield, enduring beating, scourging, being forced to carry His Cross and being crucified (Matt 27:27-50).
Accepts death on the Cross with courage – Jesus makes an infinite sacrifice, for His life is of infinite value and he gives it for the sins of all mankind. He chooses a horrible death freely (John 10:18), saying, “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). In this, Jesus teaches to face the “hour of death” with courage (CCC 1014), promises to send the Holy Spirit to provide courage in old age and illness (CCC 1520) and gives men the strength to be martyrs for Christ (CCC 2473).
Modern Men are Confused about Truth
Today, many deny that “truth” exists. Pluralism argues that all “truths” are equally valid, while relativism argues that no “truth” is valid. Ironically, and satanically, secular activists deny that “truth” exists while militantly manipulating government to enforce their own “truth” (relativism/pluralism). The denial of knowable absolute truth is simply a modern version of Satan’s deception in Eden.
It is confusion about “truth” that has led modern society into darkness. The rejection of truth has resulted in the collapse of marriage and families, the attempts to pervert marriage, the slaughter of millions of children through legalized abortion, the mainlining of sexual perversion and adultery, growing acceptance of euthanasia and the rejection of Christ by millions. The lack of clear catechesis in Truth and aggressive secular tactics has intimidated the faithful into silence in the public square.
Jesus Christ is Truth
The Gospels proclaim that Jesus Christ is the Truth (John 14:6; CCC 217) and that He was born to “bear witness to the truth” (John 18:37). In contrast to the Light of Christ, Jesus identifies Satan to be a liar and the “father of lies” (John 8:44). Only in Jesus have “mercy and truth…met each other” (Psalm 84:11). Only in Jesus do Truth, Judgment and Justice reside (Isa 45:19).
Through the Natural Law man can, through reason, know what is true and good and what is a lie and evil (CCC 1954). But only in Jesus Christ can man fully “know the truth…[that makes them] free” (John 8:32). Only Jesus promises to send “the Spirit of truth” to guide men to all truth (John 16:13).
The Strategic and Tactical Attacks on Truth
Jesus was attacked by Satan, religious Jews (Sanhedrin, Pharisees) and by secular political forces (Herodians, Romans). Strategically, the attacks focused on Jesus’ Identity/Authority (Jesus is not God, a carpenter nobody) and on Jesus’ Doctrines (teachings on Sabbath, table fellowship, marriage, etc.).
The tactics of attack included direct confrontation/debate, public harassment/intimidation, character assassination (Jesus is morally corrupt: a blasphemer, associates with sinners, a glutton, crazy, dangerous), subversive attacks (plots, schemes, infiltration), political manipulation (Jews ally with Romans) and ultimately, deadly coercion (The Passion). Today, these the same tactics are used against Jesus and His Church by those who deny Truth.
Jesus Christ – Defender of Truth – The Divine Apologist
Jesus Christ successfully defends Truth and gives a model for modern apologists. Jesus:
Irrefutably demonstrates His Divine Identity and Authority – Jesus alone defeats Satan in the wilderness (Matt 4:1-11), by repeatedly casting out demons (cf. Matt 8:28-34) and by using the Satan-inspired evil of Judas (Luke 22:3) for the Glory of the Cross and Resurrection (CCC 2853). He performs miracles (healing, power over nature and death), offers divinely inspired teaching (parables, sermons, use of scripture), shows omniscience (able to read minds, prophesize) and rises from the dead with a miraculous glorious eternal body. He leaves the full Truth in His Church and the Gospels.
Exposes and demolishes false doctrines in public debate using scripture and logic –Jesus publically rebukes religious authorities with direct winning logical arguments across a wide variety of doctrines (cf. Mark 10:2, 12:28; Luke 11:15, 14:1, 20:20, 20:32).
Publically speaks Truth to corrupt power – Jesus stands for Truth against the Jewish elites and corrupt economic powers. Jesus confronts the merchants and moneychangers and single-handedly clears the massive (35 acres) temple area (John 2:2:18). Repeatedly, He confronts the Pharisees and the Sadducees and provocatively corrects their falsehoods and rebukes them.
Is not deterred by anger, threats and intimidation – On many occasions, His enemies persecute and attempt and plan to kill Him (Luke 4:29, 11:53-54, 13:31, 19:47; John 5:16, 8:59, 11:53). Christ does not falter when questioned by Pilate, knowing that Pilate could spare Him (Matt 27:1-26). In all cases, Jesus never is intimidated or deterred from presenting the Truth.
Speaks the Truth bluntly when necessary – He tells Peter “Get behind me, Satan!” (Matt 16:23). He bluntly rebukes Simon the Pharisee (Luke 7:36-50). He calls the Pharisees “guilty” (John 9:41). Jesus pronounces the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit by the teachers of the law (Matt 12:22-32). He pronounces woe on the Pharisees and the experts of the law for their hypocrisy (Luke 11:47-54).
Acknowledges that many refuse the Truth – He says that the lost “have ears but can not hear” (Matt 13:13). To Pilate, Jesus says, “everyone who is of the truth hears My voice”, to which Pilate replies, “What is truth?” (John 18:37-38).
Picks His battles – Jesus knows when to defend (numerous direct debates with Jewish leaders) and when to withdraw when it does not serve His purposes to be captured (Matt 12:15, Luke 4:30, John 6:15). Jesus chooses not to do direct miracles for the wicked (Matt 16:4).
Is not deterred by the weakness and confusion of disciples –Proclaims the truth even when His family thinks that He is crazy (Mark 3:21), when the disciples turn away (John 6:66), and when close disciples become confused (Luke 9:41, 9:55, Matt 26:69-75).
Makes the Truth personal – In addition to public sermons, Jesus teaches the truth directly in a personal way (cf. Woman at the well – John 4; Nicodemus – John 3).
Breaks false cultural/religious rules– Jesus picks grain on the Sabbath (Matt 12:2), heals on the Sabbath (Luke 14:1-6), eats with sinners (Luke 7:33-34) and touches the impure (Matt 8:3, 9:20, 25).
Takes aggressive action to promote Truth – Jesus physically clears the Temple (John 2:2:18), provocatively enters Jerusalem as a king (Mark 11:1-11), and suffers the Passion to proclaim Truth.
Prays that the Apostles be committed to Truth – At the Last Supper, Jesus ends His vocal prayer with the Father by proclaiming that Apostles “know the truth” and prays that they may be “sanctified” and “consecrated” in truth (John 17:17,19). The Church proclaims that all men come to be saved and know the Truth who is Jesus Christ (CCC 74) through the Holy Spirit (CCC 91).
Leaves His lasting legacy of Truth in His Church – The Truth of Jesus Christ is preserved by the Catholic Church through the oral Tradition and the written Gospels (CCC 126). The Church proclaims the Truth of Jesus Christ through preserving, interpreting and promulgating the Sacred Scripture without error (CCC 107). The Church is “the pillar and bulwark of the truth” (CCC 171).