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Adult Faith Formation
CALENDAR OF EVENTS
It is often assumed that the Blessed Virgin Mary had other children besides Jesus because of the occasional references to Jesus’ “brothers” (e.g., Mt 13:55); and yet the early Church was firmly convinced that Mary was always a virgin; as St. Augustine states, Mary “remained a virgin conceiving her Son, a virgin in giving birth to him, a virgin in nursing him … always a virgin” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 510, emphasis added).
Importantly, the Church does not hold to Mary’s perpetual virginity based on Scripture alone, but because this is the faith of the Apostolic Tradition, handed down by the Apostles and maintained by the college of bishops; that said, biblical objections to this teaching can be shown to be unfounded for the following reasons:
Most people begin a calendar year by focusing on new beginnings. But to begin anything well, we need to consider the end – where we want to be or what we want to accomplish. This is also true for spiritual goals. As human persons our ultimate end or goal is eternal union with God, and one of the states most of us will pass through to reach that blessed end is called Purgatory. Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition—which together make up the one deposit of faith—enlighten us on the reality of Purgatory. The formulations of Church’s councils, especially Florence and Trent, as well as the writings of the saints and scholars throughout history, deepen our understanding.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) defines Purgatory as “a state of final purification after death and before entrance into heaven for those who died in God’s friendship, but were only imperfectly purified; a final cleansing of human imperfection before one is able to enter the joy of heaven” (CCC, Glossary; see also CCC 1031, 1472). As believers in God’s merciful love, we should want to be purified of our sins and imperfections; in this sense, we should desire Purgatory. It is a state of hope, a furnace of divine love that purifies us so that we can be with God forever in heaven. Purgatory makes us perfect in God’s love. As C.S. Lewis, the great Christian apologist has said, “Our souls demand Purgatory, don’t they?” Read More>>
The Thousand Year Reign & the Trial of the Church
Notes from Jeff Cavins
Jesus conquered the devil through his incarnation, life, death, and resurrection. Biblical authors all agree that although Satan’s power has been defeated, it has not yet been eliminated. The devil is still able to tempt God’s people and to oppose God’s plan. The complete and final elimination of the devil’s influence awaits Christ’s glorious return.
For a thousand years the devil is no longer able to exercise his former power to deceive the nations. The Jews and early Christians recognized the Gentile nations as especially subject to Satan, their worship of idols, in reality offered to demons, showed that they were deceived. Yet through his death and resurrection, Jesus tore open Satan’s deceptive web and bound his deceptive powers, rendering the Gentiles receptive to the truth of the gospel.
We are now in the thousand year reign. It began with Christ’s Incarnation and will continue until His second coming. It is not a literal thousand years, but symbolic of a long period of time. There are two major things happening over a period of a thousand years. First the devil is bound and cast into a pit which is sealed to keep the devil from deceiving the nations during this time. Second, the “first resurrection” of all the martyrs also including all the saints who’ve died and will reign with Christ during the thousand years. The resurrection refers only to their souls, not to their bodies. Their bodies will experience their resurrection after Christ’s second coming.
Christ inaugurated the the kingdom on earth, leaving the visible sign of his kingdom and reign, the Church. Thought we experience the kingdom now, through the Church and her life-giving sacraments, it remains an “already not yet” reality that will be fulfilled in the end of time.
After the thousand years Satan will be set free and makes one vain attempt to deceive the nations of the world (Gog and Magog) and gathers them for battle against the new Jerusalem. In spite of the appearance of overwhelming odds in the devil’s favor, God intervenes and gains a conclusive and final victory over Satan and all who follow him.
All the dead will be raised and brought before God’s throne to be judged. Each person will be judged according to what he or she has done in relationship to God, his Christ and the Gospel message. Those united with Christ will find their names in the Book of Life.
In the final days, the Church will pass through a trial that will test and shake the faith of many. People will be tempted to deny God and accept a worldly solution (portrayed by the seduction of the Great Harlot in Revelation 17. The Harlot is unfaithful Jerusalem who persecuted the early Church). Just as Jesus did not defeat Rome in his lifetime by gathering earthly, military power, so that final defeat of evil will not happen because the Church has grown in earthly power. rather, the world’s power will appear to grow; this “final unleashing of evil” will be overcome by God himself. The Church will follow Jesus and pass through its own “Passover,” uniting itself with the death and resurrection of Christ and emerging glorious to live forever with God.
(See Catechism Nos. 675-677).
A New Heaven and A New Earth
Peter S. Williamson (STD, Pontifical Gregorian University) holds the Adam Cardinal Maida Chair in Sacred Scripture at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit, Michigan. He is the author of several books, including "Ephesians" and "Revelation" in the Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture and "Catholic Principles for Interpreting Scripture". He is also the coeditor of "John Paul II and the New Evangelization".
The Church takes its second reading on the Sundays of Easter from the book of Revelation in order to meditate on the implications of Jesus’ resurrection for us. This
Fifth Sunday the readings from John’s vision of the ultimate future for God’s people.
Here is a comment and reflection on Rev 21:1-5a from Peter S. Williamson's "Revelation"
In his final series of visions John sees the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy to create a
new heaven and a new earth where “the things of the past shall not be remembered
or come to mind. Instead, there shall always be rejoicing and happiness in what I
create” (Isa 65:17-18). The mention of a new Jerusalem is entirely fitting here since
the prophecy that promises a new heaven and earth also promises that God will “create
Jerusalem to be a joy and its people to be a delight” (Isa 65:18).
John sees this city coming down out of heaven from God to indicate that the city
where God’s people will live is not be the result of human effort, but will be God’s doing,
It is significant that the heavenly Jerusalem (mentioned in 3:12) descends and is
established in all its fullness on a re-created earth. This text reveals that God’s ultimate
plan for the human race is not that we go to heaven, but that heaven, the dwelling of
God, descends to a re-created earth. When the resurrection occurs, besides receiving
back real but radically transformed bodies, we will live on a transformed earth.
Most Catholics think that if they remain faithful, their ultimate future will be to spend
eternity with God in heaven. But this is not the teaching of Revelation and not exactly
the teaching of the Catholic Church. A close look at the Catechism shows that it devotes
one section to “Heaven” (par. 1023-1029), and, after the section on the “Last
Judgment” (par. 1038-41), a separate section to “The Hope of the New Heaven and the
New Earth” (par. 1042-50).
Summing up the Catechism, heaven is where the souls of “those who die in God’s grace
and friendship” go to live with Christ immediately after death (or after their purification
is complete in Purgatory) before the resurrection of their bodies (1023). There they live
in a “communion of life and love with the Trinity, with the Virgin Mary, the angels and
all the blessed” (1024), a reality beyond human understanding. Already, “They reign
with Christ.” (1029). In heaven God gives souls the ability to see God in his heavenly
glory, what theologians describe as “the beatific vision” (1028).
However, turning now to Catechism 1042-1048, the ultimate future of God’s people,
after they have been raised in their glorified bodies and passed through the last
judgment, is to reign with Christ in a re-created cosmos. Then “the Kingdom of God will
come in its fullness….The righteous will reign forever with Christ, glorified in body and
soul. The universe itself will be renewed” (1042). “Sacred Scripture calls this mysterious
renewal, which will transform humanity and the world, “new heavens and a new
earth” (1043). “In this new universe, the heavenly Jerusalem, God will have his dwelling
among men” (1044). “For man, this consummation will be the final realization of the
unity of the human race, which God willed from creation…. Those who are united with
Christ will form the community of the redeemed, “the holy city of God, “the Bride, the
wife of the Lamb…. The beatific vision… will be the ever-flowing well-spring of
happiness, peace, and mutual communion” (1045). “For the cosmos, Revelation affirms
the profound common destiny of the material world and man (1046). The visible
universe… is itself destined to be transformed, ‘so that the world itself, restored to its
original state… would be at the service of the just,’ sharing their glorification in the risen
Jesus Christ” (1047). “‘We know neither the moment of the consummation of the earth
and of man, nor the way in which the universe will be transformed’” (1048).
So what’s the difference? When the kingdom of God comes in its fullness, God’s people
will receive their resurrected bodies and live on a renewed earth.
Nevertheless, there is continuity between heaven now and the new creation in the future
age. In both human beings enjoy the beatific vision; in both they reign with Christ, in
both they are freed from all suffering and sorrow. If heaven is defined as where God is
present and reigns completely, it is clear that when the new heavens and the new earth
are created, heaven comes to earth.
Holy Mass: Chapters 4 & 5 in the Book of Revelation
The most significant chapters of the first 11 in the Book of Revelation, in my opinion, were Chapters 4 and 5. It reveals to us the Holy Mass, liturgical prayer. You will never be bored at Mass again if you truly understand this!
We see images of the throne room and are transported into heaven. The heavenly liturgy is the standard for our earthly liturgy. It is celebrated in the Holy City Jerusalem where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. There is an open door. “COME UP HERE AND I WILL SHOW YOU WHAT WILL HAPPEN.” At Mass we say lift up your hearts! What is celebrated here is celebrated in heaven, with the saints, even with our relatives. We are taken up. On the other side of that door is the fullness of the Kingdom of God.
Catechism 1026 says by His death and resurrection, Jesus opened heaven to us, we have access to it. We are lifted up to heaven in a mystical way, not a symbolic way. What do we mean by “mystical”?
Mystical refers to various disciplines involving meditation and asceticism by which one can attain intuitive knowledge of or direct union with God. It states that is is possible to have immediate intuitive experience of realities beyond man’s senses or rational faculties.
In the liturgy is the THRONE at the center of our worship. Everything we do on earth is focused on the throne. In this world our lives are a bit disordered; we get confused. The liturgy brings them back in order, we focus on what’s really important. We calibrate our lives.
The 24 elders, the priests, sing and worship God in heaven. When we do 24 hour adoration, we are joining with others in heaven who are adoring/worshiping the Lord. The fire in Revelation is the symbol of the transforming action of the Holy Spirit. There are the 4 living creatures who day and night sing, holy, holy, holy...Hosanna in the highest. Then we kneel (at Mass), fall down before Him on the throne. And He comes into our temple our body and cleanses it.
CCC 2642 We can worship the Lamb day and night in our Temple in a covenant filial relationship. The best place during a trial is to go to heaven...in the Mass.
Worship is what changes the world. We have an audience with the King. What we do @ Mass: confess our sins, confess our faith, take solemn oaths, receive forgiveness, offer intercession for others, receive instruction, commune with Jesus as we eat at His table, give thanks for everything, offer our lives, our triumphs and trials in union with Him, and watch Him redeem our trials and make them positive to live, in love, to serve.
The scroll is a covenant document that contains all of God’s promises in the O.T. Christ is the only one worthy to open the scroll which means to fulfill the covenant and give THE TRUE INTERPRETATION OF HISTORY; no one else can make sense of it. There is someone who can make sense of what we are experiencing in our trials.
A Lamb is standing as though it had been slain. In the Jewish Temple 2 lambs were slain daily. This is called the Tamid offering: 6 a.m. the lamb was tied to the altar for inspection and sacrificed at 9 a.m. At noon another lamb was tied to be sacrificed at 3 p.m. Tamid is a standing continual offering. God is shouting: “I have kept my word.” The times of Christ’s trial and crucifixion correspond with the times of the Tamid offering.
Catechism # 966 the saints are a greater help in heaven than on earth. Our family prays for us.
When we together say AMEN, it expresses His faithfulness and our trust in Him. AMEN verbalizes an oath, reaffirming our Covenant relationship with God. We utter AMEN through Christ for He is faithful. We are swearing an oath.
What happens in the Liturgy directs history. We are overcomers, not by the ballot box, (although that is important), but by the blood of the Lamb. The battle is a heavenly, cosmic battle. If we enter into prayer, into worship, God’s hand begins to move on the earth. It will be not by might or power but by His Spirit. It turns in worship. This is what happens in the sacrifice of the Mass. We are entering battle when we come to Mass. Both worship and battle happen in communion with all the saints of the Old and New Testament and our loved ones around the throne. Worship in the Mass is our weapon of choice!
Adult Faith Formation Facilitator