Needing Kneeling

As a Catholic I’ve heard people poke fun at the different motions we have at Mass.  We sit, stand, genuflect, and sometimes even bow.  As I participated in Mass today I appreciated something new about kneeling.  I looked around and saw moms, dads, and kids kneeling.  Some people were elderly, and others were young.  It didn’t matter if they were the CEO or unemployed, serving in the military or an undocumented person, lacking a high school diploma or possessing a PhD, the holiest philanthropist or the estranged believer, we were all kneeling together.

Some people rag on the movements and postures we use at Mass, but at least once a week I’m given the concrete reminder that there is one before whom we all kneel.  It isn’t just an abstract idea for me, but a regular reality.  Whether the world judges us great or pitiful, we all fall on our knees before the only judge that matters.

Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:9-11)


Claim 1: Catholicism Denies the Gospel (Part 3)

4. + the Work of Mary?

If I praised St. Paul for his prolific letter writing, tireless fight against the Judaizers, unquenchable desire to spread the Gospel, and legacy of church planting by saying “I don’t know where the Gospel would be without Paul” no one would bat an eye.

However, I can’t do anything like that with Mary.  I could never utter “Without Mary there is no Incarnation.” I don’t dare bring up that if we all bore Christ into the world, proceeded with haste to be with others, cared for children in danger, sought out the lost, pondered the actions of God in our heart, meekly interceded on behalf of those who may not be aware of their need yet, stood by those suffering, and gathered with the Church in prayer (aka if we were more Marian) then Christianity would be richer and more vibrant.  Saying any of that will likely mean I am accused of being a gospel denying, apostate, idolater.  Now you may say, “I don’t have a problem with what you said, except when you make Mary necessary for salvation.”  That raises a great question.  Was Mary necessary for God to achieve our salvation?  No.  Did God, by choosing to take flesh through Mary, give her a necessary role in our salvation?  Unequivocally, yes.  It’s a lot like the Cross.  Read this Socratic Dialogue [15] if you are confused.

5. + Prayer?

Many Protestants will be quick to point out that the Bible calls us all saints.  Which is true, which makes their denial of the intercession of the saints strange.  Denying the intercession of the saints as a violation of Christ’s mediation is to deny that any of us can pray on each other’s behalf.  However, interceding on behalf of one another, even loving someone to express God’s love for him/her (you could call that mediation) does not violate Christ’s singular role as the mediator of the New Covenant between heaven and earth, God and humanity.  Catholics are no different from Protestants in believing that we can and should pray for one another.  However, we differ because Catholics believe that those standing face-to-face with the Lord and Lover of Souls can pray for us.  They pray in and through Christ.  Their prayer like mine or yours, not Christ’s unique mediation from the altar of the cross.  And once again, the Protestant obsession with only/sola statements butts up against the Trinity as it is very clear in Scripture that the Holy Spirit intercedes on our behalf (cf. Rom. 8:26-27).  I bring this up because the Protestant proof text against a Catholic understanding of the intercession of the saints is 1 Tim. 2:5, in which Paul specifically emphasizes Christ’s incarnation, His humanity, as the linchpin of His unique mediation.  The point being, that the common Protestant apologetic regarding this passage proves too much as it was not the Spirit that became incarnate.

6. + Tradition?

Did you know the reformed theology that seems to have saved the Gospel from the shackles of Catholicism is a tradition?  Did you know the Table of Contents in the front of your Bible is a tradition?  Did you know the Bible is in fact written tradition?  And in written tradition we find the command to observe all that was passed down by letter and word of mouth. [16] Weird…

“[Christ] is himself both the mediator and the sum total of Revelation” (Dei Verbum, 2).

7. + Response?

Why does free gift equal no response in reformed theology but nowhere else in God’s universe?  My life is a free gift… guess I don’t need to breathe.  In all seriousness, Catholic theology talks about response, Challies though decides to articulate it as effort possibly to emphasize his accusation of a works doctrine.  More about this in # 9.  (Read Bonhoeffer’s chapter in The Cost of Discipleship on “Single-Minded Obedience” to really see an honest wrestling with the need for response from a very faith-filled Protestant Christian) [17].

8. + The Mass?

The Mass is not added to the Cross. It is the door to the Cross.  Check out The Lamb’s Supper, Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist, The Mass of the Early Christians, or The Fourth CupSeriously, I’ll buy it for you.  (Here is my email:

Next Post:
Claim 1: Catholicism Denies the Gospel (Part 4)

16. What do Catholic’s believe about the transmission of that “faith that was once for all handed down (traditio) to the holy ones” (Jude 1:3)?  Find out in Dei Verbum (On Divine Revelation) from Vatican II.
17. “Single-Minded Obedience,” 79-85.

Blessed are Those Called to the Supper of the Lamb

Blessed is the one who will dine in the Kingdom of God.

These words are said to Jesus as he sits at table in the beginning of today’s Gospel.  He then proceeds into a long parable about a feast to which the rich and great are being invited and turning down the invitation.  The Master of the house responds by widening his circle of invitations not just to the poor, blind, and lame, but even to the highways and hedgerows (seemingly a place where robbers lay in wait).

In telling this parable, Jesus affirms this person’s statement, but flips it on its head.  Like the speaker, we commonly think “I’m invited because I’m blessed, because I’m good, because I’m great.”  Jesus is saying, “You are blessed because you are invited.”  The difference is substantial.  The former leaves me where I am, for if I was invited because I’m good then nothing needs to change.  The latter calls me to a higher station, thus it calls me up out of whatever mess I’m in at that moment.

So, at Mass when we hear the words “Blessed are those called to the Supper of the Lamb.”  We rightly respond, “I am not worthy” because we aren’t kneeling in front of the Lord because we are great, but because He is great and, by His invitation, hopes to make us Blessed.

Sunday School

There is a strange line in today’s first reading.  Paul, in an almost off-handed manner, references how the Thessalonians have been instructed by God in fraternal charity.  It is almost like God is teaching Sunday school in Thessalonica (for which I imagine there would have been a lengthy waiting list!).  In all seriousness though, what is Paul referencing?  When did God hold a fraternal charity seminar in Thessalonica?  In today’s reflection I wish to explore three possible answers to that question, because — as disciples — we should all long to sit in the school of charity.  For if we have not love, we are nothing. Continue reading “Sunday School”

Welcome to the Jordan

A Reflection on John 1:29-51

BeholdA very wise friend of mine told me of a habit he practices while reading scripture.  He said that whenever he encounters the word “behold” he pauses.  He closes his eyes or finds a way to stop from reading ahead and he prepares his mind and heart to behold what he will read next.  It may sound like an odd habit, but it makes tremendous sense. Continue reading “Welcome to the Jordan”

Centurion’s Faith

A reflection on readings from Genesis & Matthew from the Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time

I love the story of the Centurion and his servant.  I love the way that he identifies Christ as one who cares about the lowest people in society and also has great authority.  I love that in this scene Jesus is described as being amazed and then calls out his disciples on the fact that this Roman oppressor has greater faith than them — ouch!

That said, this might be the first time that I’ve seen the Centurion’s story placed alongside the story of Sarah laughing in denial of God’s promise of a child.  When these two passages are set side-by-side you get an interesting perspective on faith that I think is quite applicable for us as we approach the Eucharist.

For many of us, the Eucharist is a difficult teaching to accept.  It looks like bread and wine.  It smells like bread and wine.  It tastes like bread and wine.  In many ways we can be tempted to be Sarah in this moment and laugh at the prospect of believing that we are being presented with Jesus Christ.  So I find it telling that every Mass we repeat the words of someone in particular.  We don’t repeat an apostle, prophet, or church father.  Instead we repeat the words, or better yet, repeat the confession of faith of the Centurion.  This Centurion, a man of authority, looked at this itinerant rabbi from a region he helped control and a people incapable of throwing off Roman rule.  Somehow, despite the appearances, he saw a man with the authority to cure his servant with a mere word and even from a distance.  And this faith “amazed” Christ.

I’ve often wondered about this idea of “amazing” Christ.  How can I have the faith to amaze my Lord?  I think we access that faith at every Mass.  We look to the Eucharist and we might think, “He looks like bread and wine, He smells like bread and wine, and He’ll even taste like bread and wine.”  But, it is the Centurion’s faith that reminds us that Christ has all authority to approach us in whatever way wishes. Thus, seeing bread and wine, we confess that here is our Lord.  Because when we say the words, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed,” we aren’t talking to some abstract and distant Jesus sitting on a cloud somewhere.  We are speaking to the Eucharist.  In this moment we can be Sarah, looking at all the externals and denying; or the Centurion, looking at all the externals and believing.

Originally posted on Ite Missa Est