When I started doing jail ministry again I did everything I could just to do simple stuff.  I said to myself, “I’ll just set up some tables, pass out books, and say hello to the guys.  During Mass, I will just sit in the back and not be noticed.”  Two weeks into it I get asked by the man who organizes it if I would run the service since there was no priest that day.  I wanted to run away but I couldn’t because I was locked up!  I imagined Jesus having a chuckle saying, “I finally got ya!”  In order to finally start doing what I have been called to do for years, Jesus had to make sure I was in a jail with nowhere run.  I found it really funny upon further reflection.  Now even when I don’t run the service I always get up for a couple of minutes and talk to everyone about the day’s readings.

Have a wonderful Holy Week my brothers and sisters!  

The tomb was empty 🙂   

 

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ELECTRIC CROSS

Jesus Christ is God and several indisputable facts exist to prove this is true. When examining this topic it is important to do so in the most objective way possible. By remaining objective and neutral when examining the facts this argument becomes stronger and more legitimate when read by believers and non-believers alike. The facts discussed that prove Jesus is God are clear and easy to understand. In the end we will have a document that testifies to the great gift that God sent us in his only begotten Son, Jesus Christ.

When looking at the many aspects of Jesus’ life and the events that surrounded him, one of the most striking and revolutionary are the statements Jesus made that cannot be written off as just a mortal man making things up. His statements were shocking, unique, and inspired by the one who sent him.

The I AM statements of Christ are stunning and must have created quite a stir amongst the people of his time. “I AM the way, the truth and the life” (John 14:6).[1] Instead of just declaring himself king and inciting a revolution to give the Jews worldly power, Jesus said he was the eternal God incarnate. “Before Abraham was, I AM” (John 8:58). With the great I AM statements Jesus lights the fuse that will eventually lead to his earthly demise. It makes little sense that a mere man just trying to stir things up or fool the people into thinking he was some kind of prophet would say this. A moderately knowledgeable person at the time would know a claim like this would lead to charges of blasphemy and a swift execution. In fact, this is probably the last thing a false prophet would say who was trying to lead the Jews to power. Let’s say for example this false prophet had some type of journal outlining his plan. “Day one, say something that will get me executed.” It makes no sense. “Roman crucifixion was a horrendous way to die. It didn’t just bring a criminal to death, but it did so with the greatest possible pain and humiliation.”[2] This was not the path to take, unless of course, you are Jesus and you are in fact the great I AM and an earthly death and eventual resurrection were all part of the plan to redeem the world.

The overall message of Christ and how it was delivered is another aspect to examine when proving Christ is God. When he spoke, Christ always gave glory to the one who sent him, the Father. Never once did Jesus give glory to himself alone. He always referred to the Father. So is this how a false prophet would behave? Instead of drawing all attention to himself and telling people how great he was, Jesus always gave all glory and honor to God the Father. “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” (Matthew 6:26).

In addition, many times when Jesus performed a miracle he immediately told those nearby not to tell anyone what he or she had seen. “See that you don’t tell anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.” (Matthew 8:4). Instead of trumpeting his accomplishments, Jesus told people to be quiet. Is this the behavior of a man who was just making things up and performing feats for his own glory? Would a bogus messenger want to keep his false message hidden?

Lastly, why would a false prophet concoct a message that was so far removed and contrary to what the people wanted? As stated earlier, the Jews wanted a leader to deliver them from bondage and slavery. They wanted to be given their right place in the earthly world. Instead, Christ offers none of this. What He offered was deliverance from the true enemy, which is sin. He preached love. He preached forgiveness: “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). Jesus brought his message for Jews and Gentiles alike. Knowing the rejection and ridicule that would follow there is no way a typical man off the street would offer up such a message unless he was truly sent by God and fully understood the true meaning of why he was sent. According to author Edward P. Sri, “Jesus was offering a new vision – new vision of what it meant to be God’s people.” [3]

Another item to examine closely is why would the apostles pick Jesus in the first place if he was not in fact, the Son of God? In order to understand this we have to place ourselves back in the time of Jesus.

At the time the Jews were waiting for a messiah that would end their oppression and give them political power, justification, and worldly riches. This is the redeemer that was sought by the Jews at the time of Christ. However, Jesus arrives and delivers a message that is the complete opposite of that which is expected. “Jesus sits on the cathedra of Moses. But he does so not after the manner of teachers who are trained for the job in a school; he sits there as the greater Moses, who broadens the Covenant to include all nations.”[4]

Now we place ourselves in the minds of the apostles. If Jesus was not whom he claimed, if he was just an impostor, why would the 12 continue to spread his false message after he died? Those in charge soundly rejected His message. In fact, he was humiliated, shunned, and executed in the most horrible way possible via crucifixion. This is the man you are going to pick to be a savior? This man who spread a message that was rejected? This man who promised no political or earthly power? This man who was ridiculed, laughed at, spat upon and killed? This man who claimed to be God but did nothing to save himself when hanging on the cross? This is the man you will choose to start a religious revolution in the world? It makes no sense. Why not fabricate a story that John the Baptist had risen from the dead? Why not pick another prophet of the time who had a message more in line of what the people expected?   Perhaps find someone who called for violent conflict against the Romans? But that’s not what happened. Instead, the disciples chose Jesus.

The only thing that can logically explain why the apostles did what they did is that Jesus is who he claims to be. A group of people would not stay together and all spread the same message that many still did not want to hear unless the origin of the message was divine.

The apotles’ behavior after Pentecost also attests to their full faith in who Jesus was. Jesus has just been executed and lies dead in a tomb, the apostles are in hiding, and Peter has denied Him three times. Only John was at the Cross with Mary. They know if found, a mass execution will most likely follow. One can only imagine their fright. A few days ago the disciples were celebrating a Passover meal with their friend, leader, and teacher. Now, the teacher has been arrested, tortured and killed and his followers are lost and fearing for their lives. Not to mention one of the twelve turned Jesus over to the authorities and subsequently hanged himself. To an outsider this whole Jesus “fad” is over. In the end he was proved to be a fraud, which was further evidenced by his followers deserting him. Now life can get back to normal. Or can it?

If Jesus was only a great teacher his followers at this time would be doing their best to lay low, stay out of sight and let things blow over until all of this had passed. The last thing a disciple would want to do following after the death of Jesus would be to run out into the streets and proclaim that Jesus is the Son of God. Instead, a more logical choice would be to leave the area for a period of time or even permanently. One could still remember the teachings of Jesus, but there was no point sticking around waiting to be arrested. However, the apostles did just the opposite.

The arrival of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost lit the fire the apostles needed in order to spread the message of Christ throughout the world. “And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were” (Acts 2:2). The small group afraid and in hiding became fearless and inflamed with the Holy Spirit. This in combination with experiencing the presence of the risen Christ is the spark that lit the lamp that would light the world:

“Peter and John were taken into custody by the Temple guards for preaching the gospel openly in public to the people. They were taken before the Jewish leaders, and were commanded by them to cease their preaching of the gospel. However, as we read, we now have a new Peter, one who is bold and unrelenting in preaching the gospel, in particular, the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Peter refuses to stop preaching the gospel, knowing that this will place him in severe jeopardy from the Jewish leaders. He is no longer scared of the Jewish leaders, and is even openly rebellious against them. In public he preaches the gospel boldly, and has no fear of being identified as a follower of Jesus Christ.” [5]

As discussed previously, there is no other logical explanation for the behavior of the apostles after the Pentecost other than inspiration from above. A group of human beings, who are intelligent in their own right, would not just come out of hiding and start spreading a message that could get them all killed, unless the message was ignited by God and the Holy Spirit. People just don’t do things like that unless a higher power is at work. It was not mass hallucination or a mass hypnosis or a mass mistake. The disciples ignited by the Holy Spirit set out to spread the message of Jesus regardless of the consequences.

The expansion of the Church once the twelve began their mission is another fact that one cannot easily dismiss when exploring the fact the Jesus is the great I AM. Ponder if you will, 12 men setting out into a hostile world long before social media, newspapers, press releases and electricity for that matter. It’s not as if Peter could have Tweeted, “OMG! Jesus has risen!” If that were the case, the message would have made it around the world in an instant. Instead, our initial brothers in Christ had to take the message on foot to each town, to each person, to each community. Again, it is worth restating, those in charge considered these men outlaws. They were seen as agitators, blasphemers, and troublemakers.   Religious leaders of the time did not welcome them with open arms for hearty discussion. On the contrary, the leaders of the time wanted these men dead in order to put this Jesus story to rest once and for all.

The way the apostles went about their business once it was time to take the message of Christ into the world defies all human reason. None of them ever recanted.   None of them ever said it was all just a made up story. They continued to preach and perform miracles while marching toward martyrdom. “St. Bartholomew is credited with many miracles related to the weight of objects. His was martyred in Armenia, being either decapitated or skinned alive.” [6] Despite the dangers, the Apostles didn’t buckle and the Church did not disappear. On the contrary, the initial twelve has now grown to over a billion followers. Not to mention, the billions who have gone before us.

The author C.S. Lewis provided a brief yet brilliant explanation as to the identity of Jesus in his book Mere Christianity. It’s a good way to help one understand why the apostles did what they did and in such a brave and authoritative manner:

“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to. … Now it seems to me obvious that He was neither a lunatic nor a fiend: and consequently, however strange or terrifying or unlikely it may seem, I have to accept the view that He was and is God.”[7]

The Lewis Trilemma presents the fact that if you acknowledge that Christ existed you are acknowledging he is the Son of God.   In short, he is a liar, a lunatic, or the Lord. By looking at how the apostles acted after Pentecost, and how others reacted to them, it is only logical to assume that Christ is the latter. “And everyone was filled with awe; the apostles worked many signs and miracles. And all who shared the faith owned everything in common; they sold their goods and possessions and distributed the proceeds among themselves according to what each one needed” (Acts 2: 43-45).

In addition, Lewis reinforces the idea that one cannot say Christ was just a great teacher or just a prophet because Jesus simply did not say that. He did not leave that option on the table. He did not say you can call him just a prophet or nice teacher if you are unsure about his claims of being the Son of God. He stated boldly that he is the great I AM.   As Lewis points out, if just a mortal man was saying these things, he would either be lying or be insane. Would a crazy person have been able to inspire the apostles to spread his message? Would a liar have caused the twelve to leave their lives behind and follow him?   Would someone who was just a great moral teacher cause these men to die as martyrs? The answer is clearly no. Jesus is who he says he is.

In order for all of these miraculous events to take place following the earthly death of Jesus, one event had to take place in order for it to all work. That event is the Resurrection. The item to examine is the Shroud of Turin.

Exploring the Shroud could take up thousands, if not millions, of more pages than it will here. However, I will examine three facts that clearly show this cloth is in fact the burial shroud of Jesus Christ and was present at the Resurrection.

First, despite modern scientific studies, no one has been able to explain how the image was created. Scientists have been able to prove what the Shroud is not, but no one has been able to explain what it is. It is not a painting, a vapor-graph, or some kind of drawing. One of the scientists who examined the Shroud in 1978 expected to take a quick look at it, discover how the brush strokes were done, and put the matter to rest. That is not what happened. “However, there are no chemical or physical methods known which can account for the totality of the image, nor can any combination of physical, chemical, biological or medical circumstances explain the image adequately.”[8] It is important to note independent scientists that did not have a religious angle to push during this study. These were men taking a look at the Shroud in an objective and logical manner, and yet they were unable to figure out how the image was formed.

Second, the attention to detail on the Shroud is far beyond what any medieval forger would have known or been capable of. From the accuracy of how the bloodstains flow, to the traces of plants indigenous to the area where Jesus lived, to the minute detail of the scourge wounds on the victim, to the fact it is actual blood on the cloth, make it nearly impossible to believe this is a forgery. “The forger would have had to acquire a body more alive than dead, then mutilate it according to quite specific details of the Gospels – even to the degree of actually hoisting the live body onto a horizontal cross.” [9]

Third, the image on the Shroud is three-dimensional.

“Designed in the 1960’s for evaluating x-rays and for other imaging purposes, the VP-8 Image Analyzer is an analog device that converts image density (lights and darks) into vertical relief (shadows and highlights). When applied to normal photographs, the result was a distorted and inaccurate image. However, when it was applied to the Shroud, the result was an accurate, topographic image showing the correct, natural relief characteristics of a human form. These results are often referred to as “three-dimensional.”[10]

The image was created when the shroud was on an actual human body. Any other kind of image would not have three-dimensional properties. This reinforces the fact the cloth is not a painting but also deepens the mystery of how the image appeared.

For the faithful, how the image appeared on the Shroud is simple. This is the burial cloth that was on Jesus Christ at the moment of his Resurrection. The intense amount of energy created by this event took a snapshot of our Lord as he rose from the dead and saved the world. The Shroud as Christ’s burial cloth is the most logical explanation of what it truly is. Every other idea has been dismissed except this one.

There are countless indisputable pieces of evidence that prove Jesus as God.  In fact, proving Christ is the Lord is much easier than trying to explain he is not. The proof presented here merely takes a few steps up the mountain of evidence. When examining these items it is always important to do so in a manner that is unclouded by faith or preconceived notions. By doing this, one’s argument is made stronger by drawing logical conclusions based on facts. As a result, those who hold opposite opinions may less easily dismiss the evidence presented. In addition, this solid evidence inspires the faithful to continue to spread the message of Christ as the first disciples did two-thousand years ago. Jesus Christ is God for now and forever.

“Go, therefore, make disciples of all nations; baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teach them to observe all the commands I gave you. And look, I am with you always; yes, to the end of time” (Matthew 28: 19-20).

BIBLIOGRAPHY

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, (New York: Harper Collins, 1952)

Pope Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth, (New York: Doubleday, 2007)

Edward P. Sri, Mystery of the Kingdom, (Steubenville, Ohio: Emmaus Road Publishing, 1999)

Robert K. Wilcox, The Truth About The Shroud of Turin, Washington, D.C., Regnery Publishing, 2010)

[1] All scripture quotes taken from The New Testament, accessed October 2-30, 2014www.catholic.org/bible/new_testament.php

[2] Edward P. Sri, Mystery of the Kingdom, (Steubenville, Ohio: Emmaus Road Publishing, 1999), 139.

[3] Ibid., 55.

[4] Pope Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth, (New York: Doubleday, 2007), 66.

[5] “Proving the Case For Jesus,” accessed October 30, 2014, http://www.foundationsforourfaith.com.

[6] “Saint Barhtolomew Biography,” accessed 10/24/14. http://www.biography.com/people/saint-bartholomew-37739

[7] C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, (New York: Harper Collins, 1952,) 54.

[8]A Summary of STURP’s Conclusions,” Accessed October 28, 2014. https://www.shroud.com/78conclu.htm

[9] Robert K. Wilcox, The Truth About The Shroud of Turin, (Washington, D.C., Regnery Publishing, 2010), 261.

[10] “The VP-8 Image Analyzer,” Accessed October 28, 2014. https://www.shroud.com/78strp10.htm

candle

I must say I always get a chuckle when someone confidently announces they do not believe in God.  I mean, the burden of proof lies with me to prove God exists, right?   I should do all the work and research to prove there IS a God , correct?  Nope.  Wrong.   The burden of proof lies with the unbeliever.  The mountain of evidence they must invalidate is insurmountable.  The unbeliever will tell you it’s cloudy when the sun is shining… they will tell you it’s cold when it’s hot… they will try to convince you left is right and on is off.   Furthermore, when challenged, they usually cannot offer a logical explanation of why they continue to profess what is obviously false.

So where do we start?  How do we begin?  My advice is to approach this question from a very neutral point of view. Do not let your own religion or beliefs come into play.   The easiest thing to do is to ask the unbeliever to take an objective look at history.

First, the unbeliever must explain away the testimony of our elder Jewish brothers and sisters.  So…. was Moses just making this stuff up?  Is it possible none of it ever happened and our Jewish brethren have been living a lie for thousands of years?  Unlikely.  Human beings are too smart.  Some type of grand fib or a lie would not cause so many to believe.  Something happened.   I encourage the unbeliever to go to a synagogue and look around. Talk to a Rabbi or even someone educated in the Jewish faith.   Keep trying to explain things away as you hear their testimony.  At some point it should hit you over the head that denying the existence of God is impossible.

It doesn’t matter if you are religious.  Go ahead and approach this question like I used to when researching stories as a news reporter.  Just look at the facts in an objective manner.  Pretend you are a detective investigating a scene looking for evidence,  Don’t let your faith… or lack of faith… enter into the question.  Just examine and take note of what you see.

For example, if you arrive on the scene of a fire and ten people come up to you and tell you the blaze was triggered by lightning and the fire chief tells you the same, you can probably decide for yourself they are telling the truth. While you were not there when the fire began, you see the evidence and hear the testimony of those on the scene.

The same holds true when examining the existence of a God.  Take a look around in an objective manner.  Walk into a Mass on Sunday.  Listen to the prayers.  Listen to the singing.  Listen to the homily.  Then remind yourself more than a billion people will do this exact same thing on this day.  Based on the evidence, it’s nearly impossible to just explain things away.   Imagine how ridiculous it sounds if you say this Mass that more than a billion people attend every week was started by 12 guys who made up a story.   Really?  They did that with no mass media and under penalty of death… and none on them ever recanted their story and said, “just kidding.”   Just an FYI… St. Bartholomew was skinned alive and never said it was all a joke.  “Just kidding, guys.  Can I have my eyelids back?”  Again, human beings are too intelligent to just follow a made up story.  Sure, we can be fooled for a few days or weeks, but not for 2000 years.

Based on the evidence alone and on testimony throughout history it there is no way a rational and intelligent human being could say God does not exist.  Most important, you do not have to be religious to believe this.  As I said before, I encourage you to approach this from a non-religious angle.   Like I said, start trying to explain away Moses and the strong faith of our Jewish brethren and you won’t get very far.   There’s too much there to dismiss.  Trust me, you won’t even get to trying to ux-explain Christianity.   How the message of Christ spread from just 12 men to what it is today defies all human reason.  Remember, there was no mass media….  just 12 guys in the middle of nowhere facing  certain death if they did not stop preaching in the name of Jesus.

A power far greater than anything we can imagine lit the fire that never went out.

 

So do you think this man in Florida helping his neighbor yesterday inquired about her her religion, sexual orientation, or political affiliation?  Nope.  He just did God’s work.  Amen, my brother!

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flatworld

It’s one of my favorite phrases…. “Truth does not change.”  I bug my friends and family members by saying it way to much.  So what do I mean by it?  Why do I keep saying it?  Let me explain…

A couple of years ago I took a basic Philosophy class at Sacred Heart Major Seminary.  It was one of the most enlightening and informative experiences of my life.  One thing the professor discussed was how certain truths will never change.  Likewise, other “truths” are open for debate.

For example, your favorite food is something that cannot be answered with an absolute truth.  You like pizza, I like sushi, some other person likes meatloaf.  Mmmmmmm… meatloaf!  Likewise, I like football, you like baseball, someone else enjoys tennis.  Opinions such as these are all correct.  There is no immutable and final answer.

Pretty good so far, yes?  We’ve talked about food and sports!

So what kind of questions can be answered with absolute truths?  How about… “Is the world round?”  The answer is yes. Or… how much is one plus two?  Three.  These two answers are absolute.  The world is round and always will be.   One plus two will always equal three.   Nothing can change these facts.  You can believe the world is flat.  You can get a billion people to agree the world is flat.  You can get the Supreme Court to declare the world is flat…. but guess what?  The world is round and always will be.

However, in the modern world we are bombarded with individual after individual and group after group making sure that everyone accepts their point of view that the world is flat or that one plus two equals nine.   We are forced to accept that all truth is relative, but it is not.  Furthermore, anyone who dares to proclaim what is actually true is branded with a series of offensive names.   It saddens me when I see those who claim to be compassionate do the most name-calling, the most finger-pointing, and the most blaming.  By doing these things, those who wave the compassion flag are merely becoming what they are rebelling against.  Once you resort to the temptation of insults, shaming, and humiliation, you have become no better than those you battle.

I love debate.  I love discussion.  It’s a great way to learn and see the world from a whole new perspective.  I’ll talk with anyone about anything as long as we follow two basic rules.  Number one, you listen to me as I listen to  you. Number two, there is no name-calling, sweeping generalizations, or accusing.  But today, civility is trumped by Facebook rants and Twitter attacks.  It’s much easier to dismiss someone with harsh words rather than listen and learn.   It’s much easier to tell the world the faults of another than it is to recognize the factThe evil one loves to divide.

As for me, I know the world is round and I know one plus two is three.  I also know these two truths cannot be changed. No way.  No how.  Never.  So where do we go from here?  Do we shame our brothers and sisters and their flat world?  No.  Do we hold up signs that say “God Hates People Who Can’t Add?”   Of course not.   Love your brothers and sisters no matter what broken state they are in.   Don’t forget that you, like me, are far from perfect.  We are all broken in some way.  Our brokenness should unify us, not drive us apart.  Share with your brother the joy of living in a world that’s round and maybe you will learn it is not the end of the world if they say it’s flat.  Hop with them in a boat and hit the ocean.  After a while any discussion of flat or round will vanish and you will just marvel at what a beautiful world God created.

Always remember, Jesus brought his message to the world for everyone…. believers and non-believers alike.  If you read the New Testament it seems like the only people who had an issue with Christ were those who thought they were religious experts and those who passed judgement on their fellow man.   Do you think Jesus asked the people he healed if they were Jew, Gentile, married, unmarried, etc?   Of course he didn’t.  And why?  Because these things do not define us.  As I have said before we are defined by how we treat others.

Love one another as He has loved us.  It’s okay.  The truth won’t change.

 

In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.” (John 14:2-4)

Image

My writings will be published with the intent to inspire and educate… nothing more.  This will not be a venue to point fingers, publicly shame, and accuse others.  It saddens me when I see this great technology used for nothing more than dragging other people’s faults and problems out into public.  Yesterday (Divine Mercy Sunday) I requested that my FB brothers and sisters refrain from pointing out the splinters in other people’s eyes while failing to recognize the wooden beam sticking out of their own.

Guess what, folks?  Jesus doesn’t care who you vote for. You are not defined by what box you check off on election day.  Likewise, you are not defined by your sexuality, your job, or how much money you earn.

We are defined only by how we treat others.  THAT is what Jesus will want to know when we meet him.  He won’t ask you if you are Republican or Democrat.  He won’t want to know if you worked at Walmart or Ford. He’ll just want to know how you treated others during your time here.  Did you truly love others as Jesus loves you?

So, what will you say?  I think about this upcoming encounter all the time and seek forgiveness for all the times I have failed by NOT treating people they way Christ treats me.

The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

14 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”