The Catholic Defender: The Apostle John, the Narrow Way To Heaven

Posted by John Benko - December 27th, 2013

December 27 this year is the feast of St. John the Apostle.

St. John was one of the original followers Christ called as he was fishing with his Brother James.

They were the sons of Zebedee. After the first miracle of the catch of fish, “they left everything and followed him”.

Jesus chose 12 Apostles, but Peter, James and John were the Lord’s leaders.

They were present at the transfiguration (Matthew 17:1) and in the garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:37).

St. John was the youngest and probably the fastest among the Apostles (John 20:4).

It is interesting that he beat St. Peter to the tomb, yet he waited for St. Peter to inspect the tomb first. St. John was refereed to as the one “whom Jesus loved”.

Of the Apostles, only St. John is mentioned to be present at the crucifixion scene.

The Lord from the cross gave his Mother to St. John to stay and care for her in his house.

Like St. John, we too have been given our Lady as a gift, as our Mother.

St. Peter asked our Lord about St. John, how he would die.

Jesus had told St. Peter how he would glorify God with his death, so Jesus responds to him saying, “What if I want him to remain until I come? What concern is it of yours? You follow me. So the word spread among the brothers that that disciple would not die”.

St. John witnessed all the miracles and teachings of Jesus personally.

He would be significant in spreading the gospel, ordaining men to the priesthood such as St. Polycarp and Ignatius of Antioch.

He would take Mary with him to Ephesus where he cared for her and the Church.

St. John would write the fourth Gospel, three Epistles, and the book of Revelation (The Apocalypse).

He had been imprisoned on the Greek Island of Patmos in the Aegean Sea.

Many Scholars place the writing of the book of Revelation near the end of the first century. Others think it could be somewhat earlier (A.D. 81-96).

The Gospel of John is filled with signs (seven), the wonders of Jesus: The changing of water into wine, the cure of the royal officials son, the cure of the paralytic at the pool, the woman at the well in Samaria, the multiplication of loaves, the walking on the water, the Eucharist.

All these signs signify the changing of life through water offering new life, Jesus life giving word.

Scholars believe St. John wrote this book while in Ephesus but that is not universally held.

What is important is that the Catholic Church at the Council of Hippo recognized the Gospel of John through Sacred Tradition was inspired of God. St.John’s Gospel is different from the three “synoptic” gospels; Matthew, Mark, and Luke.

Something very interesting to me about St.John is the fact that after witnessing the events of Jesus, his teaching, his death and resurrection.

After his own ministry of the Apostolic witness being the last of the Apostles who knew Jesus personally, he writes in Revelation 22:8: It is I John, who heard and saw these things, and when I heard and saw them I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who showed them to me. But he said to me, ‘Don’t! I am a fellow servant of yours and your brothers the prophets and of those who keep the message of this book, Worship God”.

First, the angel said he was a servant of St. John and the brothers of St. John, the prophets, and the Church. The angel is recognizing the authority of the successors of the Apostles. By this time, St. John was the last of the Apostles. Who are the brothers, the prophets, and “those keeping the message of this book” that the angel was referring to?

The Pope at this time was probably St. Clement (A.D. 88-97), St. Ignatius of Antioch and St. Polycarp most certainly.

I believe this is significant. The Catholic Church maintains the authority that the angel recognized way back then.

The other point I wanted to make about this passage is that St. John was about to worship this angel? With his scope, that is incredible.

That is a lesson that all of us are capable of sin and falling short. Like St. John, we too need to be reminded from time to time to “Worship God”!

By contrast, consider the Archangel Gabriel appearing to a lowly virgin. We are celebrating the events that the angel foretold to Mary because this affects all of mankind.

There is much that St. John presents in his witness that is important to the Church.

The Trinity, the Eucharist, Mary as Mother, the Sacraments and signs of Jesus, the unity of the Church, the Holy Spirit. Let us “Worship God” who is the “Narrow way to Heaven”.

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*BEST OF DTB #211* The Catholic Defender: Ministers Of Grace

Posted by John Benko - August 23rd, 2012

According to the Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary, grace has several meanings and interpretations.

I love the first example: “1. an unmerited divine assistance given man for his regeneration or sanctification.”

 Of this grace, St. Paul writes, “Of this I became a minister by the gift of God’s grace that was granted me in accord with the excercise of his power” (Ehpesians 3:7).

St. Paul is clearly indicating his role being called to preach to the Gentiles. This is a grace given him to fulfill the Lord’s will in St. Paul’s Ministry.

Grace is understood to be a “state of sanctification enjoyed through divine grace“.

I like what St. Paul writes to the Corinthians, “I give thanks to my God always on your account for the grace of God bestowed on you in Christ Jesus, that in him you were enriched in every way, with all discource and all knowledge, as the testimony to Christ was confirmed among you, so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 1:4).

This is important because we see the believer is “bestowed” grace which was “confirmed” through the Church. Through the Ministry of the Church, which was established by Jesus Christ.

Grace is a “virtue coming from God” that can be seen on just about every page of the bible.

St. Paul writes, “Yet I consider life of no importance to me, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received that I received from the Lord Jesus, to bear witness to the gospel of God’s grace” (Acts 20:24).

The idea of grace has been used for many different things.

Have you ever heard someone speak of how graceful a professional skater might be as they perform on ice before a large crowd?

Or you might compliment someone on how graceful they might look at a particular function.

Christians routinely offer grace before meals for thanksgiving for their benefits, for the gift of plenty.

For family get togethers, we can see the grace of God extended to just about every facit of life.

What makes the Catholic Priesthood so important is that God uses the ordinary to offer the extraordinary.

 St. Paul writes, “For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus, on the night he was handed over, took bread, and after he had given thanks, broke it and said, ‘This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also the cup, after supper saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’ For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes. (1 Corinthians 11:23-26).

This is a very important scripture indicating grace received through the participation of both the bread and the cup. Through this grace, the Lord is clear with their reception of the Eucharist, “I will raise him on the last day“!

Jesus commands his Ministers of Grace a very important instruction saying, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” ‘And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained” (John 20:21-23).

When you go to Confession, the Lord takes those sins you confess and throws them into the sea of forgetfulness and he remembers them no more. This is another grace from God that is administered by his Church.

St. Paul would refer to this grace as the “Ministry of Reconcilation” entrusting to the Church the message of reconcilation.

The grace a believer receives through the Confessional is the forgiveness of sins. St. James writes, “My brothers, if anyone among you should stray from the truth and someone bring him back, he should know that whoever brings back a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins” (James 5:19-20).

I was raised with baseball striving to play Professional ball, I have adopted some of my thoughts of baseball and applied them to faith. I like to see the Priest as like a third base coach, I have seen myself as like a first base coach. We strive to coach people to get them on base, to help them maneuver around the bases until they get to home plate. The challenge many times is to get them into the batters box!

Jesus gives his Ministers of Grace another important instruction: “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20).

St. Peter said, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is made to you and to your children and to all those far off, whomever the Lord our God will call” (Acts 2:38-39).

This is important for the believer to understand, we definitely receive grace through baptism. St. Peter understands that Noah’s Ark was a prefiguring of the Church, that the flood waters was a prefiguing of Baptism which saves us now. God imputes Sanctifying grace into the soul cleansing it from Original sin as well as all actual sin.

We see the Apostles going out as Ministers of Grace laying hands on those who received the Holy Spirit through their authority.

The Lord works through the Ministry of His Church. St. Luke writes, “Many signs and wonders were done among the people at the hands of the Apostles… Thus they even carried the sick out into the streets and laid them on cots and mats so that when Peter came by, at least his shadow might fall on one or another of them. A large number of people from the towns in the vicinity of Jerusalem also gathered, bringing the sick and those disturbed by unclean spirits, and they were all cured” (Acts 5:12-16).

St. James writes, “Is anyone among you suffering? He should pray. Is anyone in good spirits? He should sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? He should summon the presbyters of the church, and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord, and the prayer of faith will save the sick person, and the Lord will raise him up. If he has committed any sins, he will be forgiven” (James 5:13-15).

 It is clear that the Lord is working his grace through his Church.

Jesus instructs his Apostles, “I say to you, whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) and marries another commits adultry. His disciples said to him, ‘if that is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.’ He answered, ‘Not all can accept this word, but only those to whom that is granted. Some are incapable of marriage because they were born so; some, because they were made so by others; some, because they have renounced marriage for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Whoever can accept this ought to accept it” (Matthew 19:9-12).

 There are a couple of points to make from this text:

1. Notice what Jesus says, “Not all can accept this word, but ONLY those to whom it is granted“. The priesthood is a special calling. What it takes to be a true Minister of Grace is to be a true child of God who can accept the grace of the Lord. It is true that a Priest is a human being like all of us who can sin and fall, but there is a difference from someone who sins and falls from one who is a counterfiet. Someone who is a wolf in sheeps clothing. An imposter who has infiltrated the Church with the intent of hurting the Church from within. We know that the enemy is at work who has planted weeds inside the kingdom to cause dissension and scandal. To scatter the flock. We need to pray for all our priests that they remain loyal to their calling and to be true leaders of the Church (1 Peter 5:1-5).

2. Notice Jesus said “unless the marriage is unlawful” a divorced man or woman commits adultry. How is a marriage annulled? Can a husband simply annull his marriage by simply willing it? Who decides? The Ministers of Grace decides this question, not the individual party. Jesus said, “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have won over your brother. If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, so that evey fact may be established on the testimony of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell the church. If he refuses to listen even to the church, then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector. Amen, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 18:15-18).

This is the basis for the tribunal system where cases are viewed and decided upon. It is Christ speaking through his Church.

St. Paul writes, “Consider this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each must do as already determined, without sadness or compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. Moreover, God is able to make every grace abundant for you, so that in all things, always having all you need, you may have abundance for every good work. As it is written: He scatters abroad, he gives to the poor; his righteousness endures forever“.

God’s grace cannot be contained in the walls of men, but he works though His Ministers of Grace, the offices of His Church. Deepertruth wants to encourage you to frequent the Sacraments to obtain the great graces God provides through his Church.

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