3 Reasons Why Critically Reading John 6 Will Convert Protestants

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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on July 27, 2019.


From a young age, I always saw the world through a scientific lens. I needed to understand how the world works. When I attended college, that way of thinking applied to research papers and ensuring I had logical and concise arguments to articulate my interpretation of a particular historical event.

When I read the Gospel of John there is a logical flow to his account of the Gospel events. His entire gospel is masterfully written and laden with tons of symbolism. As a cradle Catholic, I heard John 6 [Jesus’ Bread of Life Discourse] preached frequently during the Mass. It took years of analyzing this chapter and critically viewing it before I realized the genius and truth contained in Christ’s message. Inevitability my close reading of John 6 led me to this conclusion– the evangelist truly believed that Jesus was the literal bread of life that gives humanity eternal life! I give three strong pieces of evidence for this case:

Jesus as a Good Teacher

 I think most people would agree with me that Jesus’ followers considered him a good teacher. Jesus could relate to an array of people: rich, poor, fisherman, tax collectors, sinners, and strangers alike. Secondly, Jesus taught using a plethora of means including: sermons, parables, and miracles to name a few. A quality in any good teacher is consistency in content along with the ability to clarify their subject content should disputes arise. In the bread of life discourse in John 6, Jesus presented both his teaching consistently and clearly. Within a span of 24 verses [John 6:35-59] Jesus mentions point blank at least 6 times he is the bread of life. In verse 35, Jesus states, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst.” Verses 38, 48, 53-58 also support the Nazarene’s intrepid claim.

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It’s all Greek to Me

There are a variety of Greek words for the English verb “to eat”. Jesus says in John 6:54, “he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life and I will raise him on the last day.” The Greek word that the Evangelist uses in this verse is trōgō. Trōgō  translates as “chew” or “gnaw”. Why would John use such a fleshy and literal word for eat in this context? This translation only makes sense if we accept that Jesus literally meant that he is the bread of life. John even goes on to use trōgō in verses 56, 57, and 58– a grand total of four times!

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Loss of Followers

The evangelist writes in John 6:66 that many people who followed Jesus from the start of his ministry left him never to return. They were scandalized by the teaching of Jesus as the bread of life. I thought long and hard on this point. Why would many of Jesus’ followers leave him if he only spoke symbolically that he was the bread of life?

Well, if Jesus truly did intend for his claim that he is the “bread of life” to be interpreted figuratively, I doubt many followers would have left him that day. I mean think about it! People tend to become disenchanted with a leader when his or her message becomes too scandalous to bear. I doubt a man speaking figuratively, and poetically, would gather such scandal. Jesus repeatedly claimed “I am the bread of life”. He never qualified that assertion to be taken figuratively. Such difficult news may have been too much for these fair weather followers to swallow.

Most Holy Eucharist

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “The Eucharist is “the source and summit of the Christian life” (CCC 1324). It is a non-negotiable belief. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, Saint John knew of the importance of this sacrament and he stressed it frequently in Jesus’ Bread of Life Discourse. Through my Catholic faith, I accept Jesus’ claim that he is the bread of life. I ponder this question of Jesus frequently: Will you also go away? I ultimately hope that my answer is consistent with Peter’s response, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know that you are the Holy One of God” (John 6:67-69).

Catholic funny Eucharist meme

Related Links

7 Reasons to Go to Eucharistic Adoration

Early Church Evidence for the Eucharist

John 6- New American Bible

Are Catholics Wrong About John 6? Part I

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How God Continues to Bring Joy (Out of a Sorrowful Miscarriage) on All Souls Day

Below is a letter I wrote to my unborn son Jeremiah who left this life on All Soul’s Day 2014.

Read the letter here: A Letter to Jeremiah

We picked the name Jeremiah because of the comfort the prophet found in God despite his suffering and it matched the rhyme pattern of our older kids (Noah and Amelia).

I just discovered something that HAS to be from God.

As I was looking up the New American Bible translation of the Bible verse below I realized the header above the First Chapter of Jeremiah reads:

“Oracles in the Days of Josiah”

Why is this significant???

Because in 2015 sometime in June I was continuing to battle depression and told my wife, “I just want something good to happen in my life”(in hindsight I know God already surrounded me with Jenny and my older two kids but despair limits our vision).

We found out a couple days later she was pregnant and we disagreed on names (she wanted Isaiah while I preferred Elijah).

Somewhere/somehow I was nudged toward the name Josiah.

Josiah my rainbow baby 🌈 who brings us joy wearing his carwash brush costume. 🙂

Two things I didn’t know about the name when I discovered it:

❤️ Name literally means “healer”

❤️ Josiah was referenced a few verses before one of the passages that gave me comfort in the wake of losing Jeremiah (again I only learned this five minutes ago from writing this post)

🤯🤯🤯🤯🤯

I thought the miracle of Jeremiah and Josiah was already amazingly connected but God keeps adding to the mystery of this memorial of suffering for my family.

It is both sorrowful and joyful.

God truly does work everything for the good (because He loves you)!

Please pray for the repose of Jeremiah’s soul and all other unborn babies who died before mother’s and fathers could hold them.


“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you.”
—Jeremiah 1:5

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How the Letter of Saint James Guides Your Speech (and Heart)

Saint James the Less

The Sacred Scriptures contain truth and wisdom from God. These truths are eternal and ever relevant— and practical. When you live in accordance with the Word of God everything in your life is ordered. This doesn’t mean you will be free of struggles and suffering. However, you will experience an otherworldly joy and peace more often than when you don’t follow the Word of God.

One of my favorite books of the Bible is the Letter of Saint James. Despite being a short epistle (five chapters) it’s rich in wisdom and practical advice. Chapter 3 is especially relevant for my battle against sin. Saint James details out the importance of how your words can guide your spiritual life. The old adage, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me” is false. Words matter. How you phrase something helps or hurts people. The Apostle gives a few tangible examples in chapter three of his epistle showing how speech helps or hinders the spiritual life.

Bridle the Tongue

How many times this past week have you said something you regretted? Emotions get high in stressful situations. This year (it still feels like 2020 right?) has tossed enough curveballs at us to last ten lifetimes. Pandemic. Social unrest. Inflation. And other unimaginable situations hit you. Even something simple as workplace conflict with a coworker can set your tongue shooting verbal fireworks.

Kindness in words

Saint James writes, “If anyone does not fall short in speech, he is a perfect man, able to bridle his whole body also (James 3:2). The word bridle refers to headgear placed on a horse (including reins and a mouth-bit) to help restrain the animal from running too fast—knocking a rider off. It helps allow the rider to communicate with the horse. Synonyms include check, curb, tame, rule, or govern. The saint tells his readers the perfect man can govern his whole body when he keeps his words in check.

Words are manifestations of thoughts. In my life, I tend to lash out verbally at my family or at work when I internalize negative thoughts. Short-staffing issues at work has drained everyone in my workplace. Add increased demands and it is a potential emotional powder keg. How am I going to control my negative feelings amid a stressful situation? How can you prevent your tongue from steering you off the path of holiness?

Tongue is a rudder of the body

Rudder of the Mouth

Saint James calls the tongue rudder of the mouth. Boats were a common mode of travel in ancient times. The rudder is the part of a ship that steers—gives direction for the boat’s journey. So too, your words can guide how your daily travels with go. During the stressful storms (of a Monday or frantic weekend shift) how do you react? How do you show your frustrations?

While words (thoughts externalized) steer your attitude and have a big impact on your day don’t lose hope if you begin the day “sailing” away from your destination. The Holy Spirit is always present to help redirect you on the holy path. If you’ve ever sailed on a boat, you know how the impact airstreams are and how you need to adjust your sails. God sometimes allows you to suffer setbacks for you to realize you aren’t always in control. You need help. Asking for help doesn’t mean you’re weak—it’s a strength and sign of humility.

Tongue is a fire James 3:6

Words are Fire (of Love or Hate)

The third image Saint James compares the tongue to is fire. Fire is often associated with being a destructive force. I remember teachers and my parents cautioning me against playing with flames. Stop. Drop. And roll. “Only you can prevent forest fires.” These words are imprinted into my memory forever. I stayed away from fire out of love and obedience to my teachers and parents. Saint James writes, “The tongue is also a fire. It exists among our members as world of malice, defiling the whole body and setting the entire course of our lives on fire, itself set on fire by Gehenna (James 3:6). Words have the power to set tempers ablaze. You don’t have to search far on the Internet to know how true this is.

Fire heals

But there’s another aspect of fire you might not immediately realize—healing. The Catholic Church’s doctrine of purgatory compares the process of being purged from impurities as painful. Saint John Vianney wrote, “The fire of Purgatory is the same fire as the fire of Hell; the difference between them is that the fire of Purgatory is not everlasting.” What a thought-provoking quote! To tie-up this point (before I fall into a theological rabbit-hole), fire is in one sense destructive, but in another a means to purify. God’s love is all-encompassing and fervent it sometimes it feels painful.

Saint Catherine of Siena fire quote

From Apostle to Doctor of the Church (A Brief Aside)

Saint Catherine of Siena often referred to the Holy Trinity’s love as a fire. Writing to Brother Matteo di Francesco Tolomei of the Order of the Preachers, Catherine offers words of encouragement that hope is founded in the love of God, “kindled by the fire of divine charity.” In another letter, to religious sisters, she longed for the passing of their suffering in saying,

Dearest mother and daughter in Christ sweet Jesus: I Catherine, servant and slave of the servants of Jesus Christ, write to you in His precious Blood: with desire to see you so clothed in the flames of divine charity that you may bear all pain and torment, hunger and thirst, persecution and injury, derision, outrage and insult, and everything else, with true patience; learning from the Lamb suffering and slain, who ran with such burning love to the shameful death of the Cross (emphasis mine).

Conclusion

Going back to Saint James’ letter, the apostle wanted to remind his fellow Christians how important words can harm or help in the spiritual life. Amid stressful situations you may have to bridle your tongue against harsh language. The mouth is a rudder of the body and sins like gossip, anger, calumny, and lying can steer you off course. Finally, his imagery of the tongue being akin to a fire ablaze in a forest teaches how words can build up (or tear down) your relationship with God and others.

Related Links

3 Ways the Epistle of James Will Help You Succeed in Daily Life

What Can St. James Teach Us About Redemptive Suffering?

James 3

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Why Sacred Art is Needed More than Ever


Editor’s note: Article originally published on August 22, 2019. This article is sponsored by Holyart.com.


Our world is an ugly place. Disease, cancer, war, hunger, greed, murder, abuse, and countless other appalling things have existed throughout human history. Because of the original sin of Adam and Eve, humanity fell out of communion with God. Thankfully, God had a plan. A redemptive plan of salvation. Through the Suffering, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, God provided a pathway for us to return to Him. Two thousand years later, not much has changed with humanity. Human nature is always the same. Self-centered. Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to guide the Catholic Church as a harbor and teacher of truth.

Catholic Church

Baptized Christians are called to a life of grace. This is best lived out by participation in the Sacraments. Life on earth is temporary. Our true home is Heaven. St. Therese of Liseux said it best, “The world’s thy ship and not thy home.” Nothing is wrong with admiring the beauty this world has to offer. It only becomes an issue when the good of the created world is preferred to the good of God.

Beauty and Goodness

According to Bishop Robert Barron, “Begin with the beautiful, which leads you to the good, which leads you to the truth.” His quote always intrigues me. Think of the things you consider to be beautiful. Things that immediately come to mind are the beauty of a sunset, a smile, or the kindness of a stranger. Those are truly beautiful things or actions. Beauty always points us to the good.

beauty truth goodness quote

Saint Pope John Paul II described the relationship between goodness and beauty in this way, “beauty is the visible form of the good” (Letter of His Holiness Pope John Paul II to Artists, 1999, no. 3). Throughout Church history, holy art in the form of icons, sculptures, and architecture has reminded Christians (and the world) of the Good News of Jesus Christ. In this article, I will provide three reasons why sacred art is desperately needed to help us recover a sense of beauty in an ugly world.

Inspiration Not Mere Entertainment

A major difference between modern art and sacred art is their purpose. The former seeks to entertain whereas the latter aims at a higher purpose—inspiration of the heart, mind, and soul. In his 1999 Letter to Artists, John Paul II describes the motivation of artists as, “they must labor without allowing themselves to be driven by the search for empty glory or the craving for cheap popularity, and still less by the calculation of some possible profit for themselves. There is therefore an ethic, even a ‘spirituality’ of artistic service, which contributes in its way to the life and renewal of a people” (no. 4). Holy art seeks to serve others and the Other—(God). Gazing at those holy individuals will help inspire you to lead a holier and virtuous life.

Drawing us into the Paschal Mystery

Sacred art draws us into the life of Jesus. “Thanks also to the help of artists ‘the knowledge of God can be better revealed, and the preaching of the Gospel can become clearer to the human mind’”, declared St. John Paul II (Letter of His Holiness Pope John Paul II to Artists, 1999, no. 11). Sacred art largely consists of scenes from the Gospels. Entering any Catholic cathedral or basilica causes an immediate reaction of wonder and awe. We gaze at the glorious murals, statues, and music that exist.

trinity icon sacred art

In college, I went on a trip to Europe. My favorite part was visiting the glorious cathedrals in Rome and France. I experienced the tangibility of the Gospels during those church tours. The marble statues of Christ and the Apostles transported me into the New Testament. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the primary subject matter of sacred art is Jesus, Mary, the saints, and scenes from the Gospel (CCC 2502). Sacred art helps draw our minds deeper into the Mysteries of our Faith.

Sacred Art Navigates the Soul Toward Heaven

Along with inspiring and drawing us closer to the Good News of the Gospel, sacred art helps to remind us that our ultimate destination is not here on earth, but in Heaven with God. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI wrote in his August 31st, 2011 General Audience, “Art is able to manifest and make visible the human need to surpass the visible, it expresses the thirst and the quest for the infinite.” Holy art acts as a doorway to the supernatural.

doorway to the divine

Sacred art is not the end, but rather a vehicle to help us pray. The Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 1192 teaches, “Sacred images in our churches and homes are intended to awaken and nourish our faith in the mystery of Christ. Through the icon of Christ and his works of salvation, it is he whom we adore. Through sacred images of the holy Mother of God, of the angels and of the saints, we venerate the persons represented.”

The statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary in my dining room reminds me of her closeness to her Son Jesus. Gazing at images of saints also help guide me closer to Christ and ponder the reality of Heaven—full love and communion with God!

Sacred art is vital to a renewal of the increasing de-Christianization of nations and cultures around the world. Bring back beauty into an ugly world by owning holy art in your home and workplace. Be an advocate for change and promote the Gospel while adding beauty to your surroundings.


Visit Holyart.com for high quality and original Catholic artwork for your home, parish, or business.


Related Links

Sacred Art is the Triumph of Beauty and Truth

The Importance of Sacred Art

3 Reasons Catholics Should Have a Saint Statue at Home

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How Saint Rita of Cascia’s Story is Impossibly Beautiful

The process pearls are created is a wonder of wonder. A speck of sand or small piece of a shell finds it’s way inside an oyster. Due to the irritant, the oyster secretes a substance called nacre. It covers the irritant and over time (on average seven years) the nacre builds up to form a beautiful pearl.

Rita of Cascia— Beautifully Holy Saint

God often works in a person’s spiritual life like a grain of sand provokes the oyster. Over the course of time, God allows individuals to suffer, participate in the Passion of His Son Jesus Christ, as a means to grow in holiness. One of the greatest saints whose life mirrored the beauty of a pearl is Saint Rita of Cascia.

Rita of Cascia

Rita was born in 1381 in the republic of Cascia. In the local dialect her name meant “pearl” (what a coincidence!). Growing up, Rita became acquainted with the Augustinian nuns of St. Mary Magdalene Monastery. Their lifestyle attracted Rita but her parents wanted her to marry. Rita had an arranged marriage to Paolo Mancini and had two sons.

The political climate of her time was volatile (not unlike today). Fighting between families broke out often.  Rita’s husband was murdered as a result of this violence. She already was following the will of God when she gave forgiveness to her husband’s murderers. Shortly after, both of her sons fell seriously ill and died. Instead of allowing the loss of her entire family cripple her spiritually, Rita plunged further into trusting God’s Providence.

Rita sought to join the religious life after 18 years of marriage. Initially, the Augustinian nuns rejected her requests because Rita’s extended family still refused to forgive her husband’s killers. Her peacekeeping and persistence finally helped her family (and others in the region) reconcile and give up hatred.

At the age of 36, Rita was accepted into the religious life under the Rule of Saint Augustine. She lived out this vocation for forty years. Shortly before dying, Rita received one of the wounds of Christ— the crown of thorns.

Patron Saint of Impossible Causes

One of the things Rita of Cascia is most known for is her patronage of impossible causes. God works in mysterious and wonderful ways. He allowed Rita to experience the full gamut of life: daughter, wife, mother, widow, and religious nun. Seemingly ordinary vocations, the process by which God allowed Rita to follow those paths was anything but ordinary.

Rita of Cascia crown of thorns

Forgiving those who have hurt you may seem like an impossible task sometimes. How can you find it in your heart to show mercy to those who bitterly rejected or hated you? Rejection is a natural part of life. But continual rejection? It can make even the most ardent wills downcast and doubt God’s plan.

Three years ago, my wife and I thought she was going to miscarry our youngest daughter. She had some bleeding and other same signs as our previous miscarriages. We implored the intercession of many saints—Rita of Cascia was one of them. Since Mother’s Day 2017, my wife and I had never forgotten to include Saint Rita in our nightly litany.

Rita is an excellent saint to petition for help. We all experienced chaos, tumult, and confusion the past year. No matter your circumstance please take refuge in the fact God uses all things for good (Romans 8:28).


Dear St. Rita,
during your entire life on earth
you found your happiness by following the will of our heavenly Father.

Help me to be as trusting of God in all His plans for me.
Help me this day to give myself to Him as you did,
without limit, without fear, without counting the cost.

Help me to be generous in serving the needs of others,
patient in all difficulties,
forgiving toward all who injure me.

Help me to learn more deeply the great mystery of the Cross of Jesus,
so that by embracing it as you did,
I may come to experience its power to heal and to save. Amen.

Related Links

St. Rita of Cascia: Hope for the Impossible!

Rita of Cascia: Catholic Answers

Prayers to St. Rita

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What is the Rosary?

If this year has been anything like mine you strongly desire a sense of normalcy, routine, and stability. Up. Down. Sideways. Left. Right. Cattywampus. Upside down. There’s really no predictability in life anymore. At least that’s what our great Enemy desires us to think.

The Rosary

A spiritual weapon to fight chaos in your life.

The Enemy Loves Disrupting Your Prayer Life

Chaos is a normal part of life since the Fall as told in Genesis 3. Originally, Adam and Eve were created in an original state of justice and union with God. Disobedience to God’s will led to original sin and the consequences of death. But God is love and He didn’t want to give up on humanity so easily.

According to John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.” God became man in the person of Jesus Christ. Saint Paul refers to Jesus as the New Adam (Man).

Since Jesus is the New Adam who then is considered the New Eve (Woman)? The answer is: Mary, the Mother of God.

Saint Jerome wrote in his Epistle 22, “Death came through Eve, but life has come through Mary.” Put another way, Mary gave birth to salvation (Jesus). The angel Gabriel visited Mary by greeting her and calling her the favored one of God. The Hail Mary prayer comes from the first chapter of Luke.

This leads me to the question a lot people have about the Blessed Virgin Mary: what is the Rosary?

What is the Rosary

In short, it is a prayer about the life of Jesus and Mary. Composed of the Our Father and Hail Mary prayers (there are other prayers included which I will go over in future posts), the Rosary helps Christians keep alive the memories of the events in salvation history.

To Jesus through Mary and the Rosary

The word Rosary originates from Latin and means a garland of roses, the rose being one of the flowers used to symbolize the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Praying the Rosary provides a foundation in your life. The repetition helps to form a habit of pondering the Mysteries of faith. Recently, I have struggled mightily with anxiety and depression. I’ve resolved to pray the Most Holy Rosary more frequently. The goal is not to rattle off prayers but to ponder the life of Jesus and Mary throughout your day.

Stay tuned for more in The Importance of the Rosary series. Subscribe to The Simple Catholic to receive email updates about the Rosary and other Catholic content.


“The Rosary is the most powerful weapon to touch the Heart of Jesus, Our Redeemer, who loves His Mother.” — Saint Louis de Montfort

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A Good Friday Reflection: Fixing Our Gaze on Golgotha

Jesus at Golgatha

 

 

 

 

 

 


Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on April 19, 2019.


A Prayer Before the Cross

Lord Jesus Christ, I petition you as your most unworthy servant and adopted child through the waters of Baptism to hear my petitions. Please soothe the anxiety in my heart, mind, and soul over the pressures, toils, and attacks of despair the Enemy sends my way. Self-doubt and self-loathing pervades me mind throughout today.

Saint  Catherine of Sienna wrote, “Every great burden becomes light beneath this most holy yoke of the sweet will of God.” May I receive the graces from the Holy Spirit to love myself and confidently seek your Will, not for my sake but as in loving myself I make a worthy offering to you Most Holy God.

My sins wound me. Damage my relationship with myself, my neighbors, and ultimately You Most Holy Trinity. I ask the Blessed Virgin Mary and the saints in Heaven to help re-orient my gaze to the Cross of Jesus—crucified on Golgotha.

Focus on God

May Mary Intercede for Us

I recall the words from a homily by my parish priest who declared, “It is through the atmosphere of Mary that we truly are able to receive the light of the Son.” According to John 19:26-27, “When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, behold, your son.’ 27 Then he said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother.’ And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.”

At the foot of the Cross, Jesus entrusted his beloved disciple [and all humanity] to his mother. More important, Jesus gifts us the blessing of the Blessed Virgin Mary as well.

Mary at Foot of Cross

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Failures, trials, and doubts will surround us throughout life. Uniting ourselves to Christ’s suffering in Calvary brings joys and peace in the struggle. Remembering that we are all in this pilgrim journey, towards holiness, together helps sustain me in my downtrodden times.

Related Links

Where is Golgotha? Where did Jesus die? Church of Holy Sepulchre vs. the Garden Tomb

Why Catholics Must Have Bible A.D.D. Part 4- Jesus as the New Passover Lamb

Why Maundy Thursday is an Important Part of Holy Week

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