Catholics & Protestants

A talk at Life Night, July 19, 2009

I’m a convert.

I was raised in Southern California by an apathetic father and a Southern Baptist mother. So we went to the Presbyterian Church. I don’t know what that means…

I earned the coveted “White Bible” by reciting 100 bible verses to the director of Sunday school. Don’t ask me to recite any of them now, that was fifty years ago and I’ve slept since then.

We learned that the earth was created in six days and that 40 days of rain is enough to flood the entire earth. One man can kill 100 trained soldiers with just a jawbone of a donkey and that Joshua had a ram’s horn that was capable of just the right acoustic resonance to tumble the rock walls of a fortress city.

We also somehow came to believe that Catholics are not Christians, they are Papists governed by the devil in Rome, they worship idols and the Virgin Mary and they practice secret cannibalistic rituals in church.

Now, in all deference to our Protestant neighbors, I wasn’t really taught those things, and not all Protestants believe them, but you will probably run into some who either believe it, or spout it out as reasons for their own argument. They believe these things either because they were taught them directly, or by a natural revulsion of things they do not understand, or perhaps just simple ignorance.

Since perception is each individuals truth, which is the truth? Catholicism is the true original church? Or Catholicism is a corrupt ancient evil cult?

How many of you have been approached at some time by a non Catholic and challenged about your faith?

Let’s take a look at some of those challenges…

Why do Catholics follow an old man in a dress in Rome who was elected by a bunch of other old men in dresses? Who gave him the authority to claim he is the leader of a church?

Who gives him this authority? Jesus Christ himself. The Pope in Rome is the latest Pope in a continuous unbroken documented line of Popes beginning with Peter whom Christ personally ordained as the first leader of his personal church.

Peter was admonished to go and preach the word of God and Christ and also to appoint others in the Name of Jesus to do the same for all eternity. Jesus told Peter, “What you say, I say, and what you do, I do.” That’s a pretty strong indication that Jesus knew he appointed the right guy and knew that he could trust him and his successors through the ages. It also says that Jesus knew that each succeeding Pope would be ordained by him through the trusted priests of his church. According to the scriptures, every Pope from Peter to Francis has been directly ordained by the word of Christ himself.

Don’t think the succession of a Pope happens without a lot of prayer and discussion and contemplation about who the next direct successor of Peter and Christ himself will be. I’m pretty sure God gets himself involved in those discussions.

The Catholic Church was started in 33AD by Christ himself and it’s been around now for 1,985 years. The beginning of the Protestant church by Martin Luther is recorded as about 1517 so for 1,484 years, EVERY Christian in the world was Catholic.

The Holy Bible is the true, infallible word of God. Why don’t Catholics bring their bibles to church and read them every Sunday and follow its teachings exactly as it is written?

Catholics read the bible in church every single day. We start the service with an old testament reading, and if you all have been paying attention, when the cantor gets up and sings the responsive psalm, these are all based on psalms from the bible… So pay attention to the words. They are words from scripture.

Then we continue with a new testament reading and finally a gospel reading, or scripture from the mouth of Jesus. If you go to mass every day for three years, you will hear pretty much the entire bible and then we start over again.

When Jesus told Peter “Upon this rock I will build my church” they didn’t even have a bible. There were the Jewish scriptures, but there was no new testament. The disciples didn’t follow Jesus around with their laptops, writing their memoirs and blogging the gospels out to virtual publishers. Jesus created a CHURCH, his followers only LATER wrote down what Jesus had taught them and what they had seen Jesus do. The church followed the teachings of Christ and created the New Testament bible as a record of Gods word. So the Catholic Church follows the traditions of Christ’s teachings and the traditions of his CHURCH, using the bible as a guide.

This is kind of like a group of people getting together to start a charitable organization. First they get together and decide what it is they want to accomplish. They may even run the charity for awhile using their collected knowledge. After awhile, the charity starts to grow and new people join the cause. It branches out to other cities and the people in those cities start asking about what to do and how to do it. So the leaders get together and start writing a book of rules and guidelines for how to run the charity in far away cities so that everyone is doing the same thing all of the time.

Some Protestants argue that the Bible is the true literal word of God, not the Catholic Church. When you hear this, don’t get into an argument about it, just be content in your knowledge that it was the Catholics who wrote the Bible!

Actually, it was many of Christ’s followers who wrote the Bible. Not with the intention of creating the greatest book in the world, but simply with their intention of writing down what they knew and believed about God, Jesus and all things holy in their lives. There were many writings by many people and the church leaders got together and agreed on which of these writings were holy and inspired enough to be compiled along with the Old Testament scriptures to create a book of the teachings of Christ and his Church.

Why do Catholics worship Mary? Sure, she was Jesus’ mother, but she isn’t a God.

Well, we don’t worship Mary in the same way as we worship God. But we venerate and respect her because she is a very important person in the life of Jesus. Imagine you had a boyfriend or Girlfriend that you loved very much and you said to them, “I love you so much that I always want to be with you and talk to you and be everything I can for you.” But when they say “That’s great, I want you to meet my mother.” And you say, “No, I want to be with you, but I don’t care about your mother.” They would probably be pretty upset and your relationship would have a major stumbling block to work out.

So imagine saying to Jesus, “I love you so much that I always want to be with you and talk to you and be everything I can for you., But I don’t care about your mother.” Hmmm… could be a problem I think.

God chose Mary before she was born to be the mother of Jesus. He gave her absolution of all sin including original sin and made her perfect in every way from the moment of her conception. She was to become the original Ark of the Covenant, the first vessel to contain the ACTUAL, not allegorical body of Christ the savior. Mary was the first human on earth to receive the Holy Eucharist physically inside her body. The REAL body and blood of Jesus Christ lived for his first nine months inside of her. It is only fitting and right that she should be born immaculate in every way.

God wrote in the Ten Commandments that we should honor our fathers and mothers. Being perfect, Jesus honored his mother all of his life, from the moment of birth until his death. At the time of his death, some of his last words where to his mother when he said “Woman, behold your son!” and he said to his disciple “Behold your mother!” He then took the soured wine to quench his thirst and declared “It is finished” and shortly after, he died. So his last act before he died was to assure the well being of his mother.

There’s not enough room here to say what has to be said about Mary, but I’m thinking that it’s a real good idea for us to look after his mother as well.

When Moses came down from the mountain with the stone tablets of Gods word he lashed out at the Israelites for worshiping the golden calf in violation of Gods commandments. So why do Catholics worship the saints and have craven image statues of them in their church?

Well, we don’t worship the saints, and the statues in our churches are no more a craven image than the photograph of your great grandfather on the mantle at home.

Have you or any of your family ever passed a photograph of a deceased loved one and paused to say, “Oh, grandpa, pray for me that I get this new job” or “Grandma, help me get a good grade on my history test.”

We have statues of saints because when they were around they didn’t have cameras, so we made statues or tapestries or paintings to remember them by. And now and then we say to one of them, “Pray for me.” It’s not really a difficult concept.

Why do Catholics have a gruesome bloody statue if Jesus hanging on a cross in their church? If they had had electric chairs in those days would you have Jesus fried to a crisp in a wooden chair instead? Protestants display the EMPTY cross, the symbol of Christ’s resurrection. After all isn’t that the most important part of his life? That he rose in glory from the dead?

Is the resurrection of Christ the most important aspect of his life? Very important yes, but more important than that is the suffering and sacrifice he made for us. We as Catholics choose to remember that during his suffering, Christ saw and knew each one of us intimately, loved us each individually and completely, and accepted his extreme sacrifice to forgive us eternally for our shortcomings and to give us a path to his eternal presence upon our bodily death.

If that was that, it would have been enough, but his resurrection was then the proof that he gave us that he wasn’t kidding, and he really is God and we should stand up and pay attention.

They are both important but his sacrifice is what saves us not his resurrection. If that was so, maybe we should be worshiping Lazarus instead. After all, he was resurrected before Jesus was.

The Bible says Jesus broke the bread and said “Do this in remembrance of me.” Clearly he was saying, this is a symbol of my body so you will remember me when you eat it. How can you possibly believe that this is magically transformed into the flesh and blood of a real human being?

Yes, Jesus said “Do this in remembrance of me.” But just before that he also said “This IS my body…” and “this IS my blood.” There is no translation of the scriptures that says “This is a symbol of my body.” I also don’t have enough space to really get into this topic, but we believe that although the host and the wine cannot be seen to actually turn into human tissue or hemoglobin, the host and the wine are transformed into the complete essence of Christ. Every crumb and every drop.

And just a side thought on this… since we believe in the holy trinity, when you accept the Eucharist at mass, you not only accept Jesus, but you are also in the presence of and accept the complete essence of God the Father himself and of the Holy Spirit.

Adoration is not just about Jesus.

The bible teaches us that all you have to do to be saved is to accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior and you will be guaranteed a place with him in heaven. So what’s the deal with doing good works and going to confession?

Yes, you must accept Jesus as your Lord and savior. That’s step one. But is that really enough? My wife likes to point out the TV/Movie version of the Italian Mafia. They run drugs, liquor and prostitution, they send out hit men to rub out their enemies and then they pack up the family and make sure they all go to confession and have communion before they do it all over again the next week.

It probably doesn’t work quite that way. After you accept the Lord, you also have to accept his teaching. You have to walk the walk.

Being a Catholic isn’t easy! You have to work at it. You have to remember that when you hate on somebody at school, you need to ask forgiveness and be truly ashamed and sorry that you did that. As well as confessing to the priest, you also need to apologize to the person you disrespected and get clear with them before you are free enough from sin to accept the body of Christ again. Yes, that is in the scriptures…

The bible is very clear about this. You must accept Jesus as your savior and you must continue to do good works in your life and remain free from sin or repentant for the sins you WILL commit in order to have a LIKELY chance of entering the Kingdome of Heaven.

Good luck with that. I’m a little nervous about it myself.

In the Protestant church we have altar calls after the sermons and if the preacher was really good that day, two or three people will come down to the front of the church and receive Christ into their lives. How do you expect people to be saved when you never ask them to do that?

Hello…. We have an altar call EVERY day, at EVERY mass where EVERYONE come to the altar and accepts Christ anew. We all come forward and personally accept the presence and the physicality of God, the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit into our bodies and into our heart. It is the most important part of our church. It is what we come to the mass for. It is what we as Catholics live for.

How glorious is that?