30 March 2017

God’s Pulpit

The cross is God’s pulpit. From Calvary the Lord God speaks loudly and clearly to all humanity.

By the cross God warns us about the seriousness of sin. Its consequences are appalling and fatal. If God did not spare his Beloved Son, most certainly no sinner will escape his wrath and condemnation on the day of judgement. Let us not mistake the clear warning of the cross: the wages of sin is death.

By the cross God announces his love and mercy to sinners. He who died on the cross was sent by God himself to make amends on behalf of sinners, to die as their substitute. Jesus had no personal sin whatsoever. On Calvary he took upon himself the sins of his people, and suffered and died to deliver them from the penalty that was due to them.

By the cross God proclaims his good news to the world. Christ is no longer hanging on the cross. On the third day Jesus arose from the grave. His sacrifice was accepted by the Father. The cross has become the way of reconciliation and forgiveness to all people. Christ is alive and exalted to the highest heaven. He is able to save completely all those who come to God by faith in him.

My friend, hear God’s warning and take heed. Welcome his invitation and trust your salvation to Jesus Christ, the Lord of all. Then hear from God’s pulpit the sweet declaration, “I have loved you with an everlasting love, therefore I have drawn you with lovingkindness” (Jeremiah 31:3).

4 March 2017

Satisfaction for sin

Fasting, prayer and almsgiving are three major forms of penance in the Catholic religion (Catechism 1434).

But what is penance? The Catechism explains that, "raised up from sin, the sinner must still recover his full spiritual health by doing something more to make amends for the sin; he must 'make satisfaction for' or 'expiate' his sins. This satisfaction is also called 'penance'" (Catechism 1459).

Penance is a matter of justice. It is a punishment for sin. "[Satisfaction] is meant not merely as a safeguard for the new life and as a remedy to weakness, but also as a vindicatory punishment for former sins" (Council of Trent, Session 14, Chapter 8). In a word, the Roman Catholic religion prescribes prayer, fasting and almsgiving as means to ‘made satisfaction’ and a ‘punishment’ for sins.

I am deeply troubled by such teaching. It twists the very purpose for doing good works; it also misleads people from the way of salvation.

The Bible declares that Jesus "by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified." Since Christ’s offering on the cross perfects his people and God forgives their sins, any human attempt to offer something more is both superfluous and offensive to the blood of Christ. "Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin" (Hebrews 10:14-18). Friend, if you are burdened by guilt, stop attempting to make satisfaction by your efforts. Go to Calvary. There is the one and only offering for sins that God accepts. Jesus is the full and complete satisfaction for the sins of his people.

As Christians we fast and pray to humble ourselves before God and to seek his face, but we wouldn't dream of relying on these works to make satisfaction for our sins. We also give alms to help the poor and needy, but we do not consider this privilege as a punishment! We joyfully give charity because God gave us the greatest Gift of all! God gave us his Son to die in our place that we may be freed from all our sins.

Which way will you go? Will you attempt to make satisfaction for your sins by prayer, fasting and almsgiving? Or will you look to Christ and say, He took my punishment; he made full satisfaction for all my sins!

(Gospel e-Letter - March 2017).

29 January 2017

Mary, a testimony to God’s mercy

Why is it that some people prefer to pray to Mary and the Saints in heaven rather than to God the Father? Maybe they imagine God to be distant, indifferent or even hard-hearted?

Mary shatters this grotesque and idolatrous image of God. She joyfully declares that “his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation” (Luke 1:50). God is merciful. His mercy reaches even to us today.

Mary tells us that God exalts the humble. They fear God because they know that they are unworthy and that he is just and holy. 

Even so, they take courage and approach the throne of grace. They humbly come to him with reverence and awe. Their confidence is based on the conviction that God is merciful. God has never turned away anyone who pleaded for his mercy.

Mary is a witness to God’s goodness. She testifies that God so loved the world that he gave his only Son. She herself carried him in her womb, gave birth and took care of him as a child. Mary also testifies that Jesus suffered and died, the just for the unjust, to bring them to God. She was present under the cross seeing her Son offering his life as a ransom for many.

If you ever had any doubt about God’s goodness and love, look to the cross of Jesus. It was God the Father who sent and offered him for our salvation. Jesus is the measure of God’s mercy! Let us therefore take heart and approach God the Father with reverence and faith. He will embrace us in his mercy if we come to him through his Son.

(Gospel e-Letter - February 2017).

31 December 2016

Here I am Lord

Amidst the uncertainties and vicissitudes of life, the word of God is the solid rock upon which we can build our future.

How then should we respond to God’s word? Mary is our perfect model in this respect. When she received the message from God, Mary answered the angel: “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38).

Mary believed and submitted herself to the command and promise of God. ‘I am the servant of the Lord,’ she declared. In other words, I recognise your authority over me and my duty to obey you; I am ready and willing to do whatever you tell me.

Mary did not object to the danger of spoiling her marriage or ruining her reputation. All fears were calmed by her solid belief in God’s wisdom and goodness. Moreover, she was convinced that God would fulfil his promise even though she did not understand how she could conceive a child without knowing a man. It was enough for Mary to trust in the power of Almighty God.

Finally Mary expressed her desire and longing to receive God’s promise. She prayed, ‘Let it be according to your word.’ That was her ‘amen’ to the promise of God. Her hope for the future was based on the faithfulness of God: the Lord will certainly perform what he has promised.

May we also adopt a humble and reverent attitude. When we hear God’s word, let us set aside every doubt and objection, and embrace it with all our heart. God will certainly keep his promises and bless us beyond our imagination in our faith and obedience.

(Gospel e-Letter - January 2017).

19 November 2016

Crushing the serpent's head

The depiction of Mary with the serpent’s head under her feet is taken from Genesis 3:15 in the Vulgate, the Latin translation of the Scriptures. In the New American Bible this verse reads: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; He will strike at your head, while you strike at his heel” (Genesis 3:15).

According to this translation it is not the woman, but “He” – that is, the woman’s offspring – who crushes the serpent’s head. This agrees with other Bible translations, including the new version of the the Vulgate on the Vatican’s website, and more importantly, with the original Hebrew text.

This passage is known as the protoevangelium, the first proclamation of the gospel, and it a great encouragement to God’s people.

The War

The serpent deceived Eve and our first parents fell in sin. Maybe the devil thought that he had permanently ruined God’s good creation and that he had sealed humanity’s doom.

God quickly intervened and declared war on him. The devil and his seed would be engaged in a conflict with the woman and her seed. The seed of the woman is Jesus, born of the virgin Mary, who came to earth to destroy the works of the devil.

The decisive battle was fought at Calvary. The devil bruised Christ’s heel. In that dark hour Christ was betrayed, oppressed and crucified. But the inflicted wound did not take long to heal. On the third day the Lord Jesus rose victoriously over sin, death and the devil.

In the same battle the devil received the mortal blow. He had one destructive weapon against us, namely his accusation before God that we are guilty and therefore we should perish with him. As long as humanity was burdened with guilt, all people were slaves of Satan. But by his sacrifice on the cross Christ made reparation for the sins of his people and obtained their freedom. Their enemy was disarmed and he cannot accuse them any longer. Christ has crushed the serpent’s head.

The Victory

God’s people will be buffeted for some time by their defeated enemy, but not for long: “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet” (Romans 16:20). Christ’s triumph is their victory too! Satan will be cast into the lake of fire forever.

The first woman, Eve, listened to the serpent’s lie. God’s children do not. The Lord gives them a new heart so that they respond obediently to God’s Word, just as Mary did: “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38).

Moreover, they understand that God had eternally planned their redemption through the suffering of his Son, “he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities” (Isaiah 53:5). The serpent’s vicious attack on the woman’s seed resulted in their liberation.

Glory to God for this wonderful picture that the Scriptures portrays of Christ crushing the serpent’s head under his feet. Let us give thanks and praise God for the hope and victory we have in him.

(Gospel e-Letter - December 2016)