The Catholic Defender: Being Heralded Throughout the World

Posted by John Benko - November 28th, 2013

There is much confusion about the Roman Church today because of the division that plagues Christianity.

I see the Catholic Church being very essential for preserving the established Faith of the New Testament.

There is no question that St. Paul thought so when reading his letters.

Consider his conversion experience.  St. Luke tells the story that reshaped the world:

Acts 9:3-6 says, “On his journey, as he was nearing Damascus, a light from the sky suddenly flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me’? He said, ‘Who are you, sir’? the reply came, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. Now get up and go into the city and you will be told what you must do”.

What was Saul told to do? Acts 9:10-19 tells the story: “There was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias, and the Lord said to him in a vision, ‘Ananias’. He answered, ‘Here I am, Lord’. The Lord said to him, ‘Get up and go to the street called Straight and ask at the house of Judas for a man from Tarsus named Saul. He is there praying, and in a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him, that he may regain his sight’. But Ananias replied, ‘Lord, I have heard from many sources about this man, what evil things he has done to your holy ones in Jerusalem. And here he has authority from the chief priests to imprison all who call upon your name’. But the Lord said to him, ‘Go, for this man is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles, kings, and Israelites, and I will show him what he will have to suffer for my name’. So Ananias went and entered the house; laying his hands on him, he said, ‘Saul, my brother, the Lord has sent me, Jesus who appeared to you on the way by which you came, that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit’. Immediately things like scales fell from his eyes and he regained his sight.  He got up and was baptized, and when he had eaten, he recovered his strength”.

St. Paul would ultimate go to Rome.  In his letter to the Romans, St. Paul writes, “First, I give thanks to you my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is heralded throughout the world. God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in proclaiming the gospel of his Son, that I remember you constantly, always asking in my prayers that somehow by God’s will I may at last find my way clear to come to you”.

A great question might be asked how does Christ voice through his Church remain perfect despite the fact that we many times do not fully live up to our teachings? The Prophet Zephaniah says that The Church would do no wrong, speak no lies, no deceit is to be found, the flocks would be protected (Zephaniah 2:3, 3:12-13).

It is the offices Christ established in the Church that gives it the foundation. Jesus commissioned the Church to go to all the nations teaching them his commands.

He administers his grace through his Church. It is the Holy Spirit that keeps the voice straight and free from falsehoods.  Being faithful to the Church, we are taking “refuge in the name of the Lord”.
By listening to the Church, we are listening to the voice of the Lord, “Thus saith the Lord”!
Consider Malachi 1:11, “For from the rising of the sun, even to it’s setting, my name is great among the nations”. 

The Catholic Church is sent by Christ to go to all the nations administering God’s grace through the Sacraments “everywhere they bring sacrifice to my name, and a pure offering”!

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The Catholic Defender: To Whom Shall We Go

Posted by John Benko - July 23rd, 2013

Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?” The Lord was reacting to the many who were formerly following him. When Jesus is speaking to “the Twelve”, he is speaking to the whole Church. St. Peter’s response is the million dollar question! “To whom shall we go”? With all the voices out in the public square competing for position in the heart and mind of people, St. Peter clearly defines Jesus: “You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.”

It’s interesting that it was also St. Peter speaking for the “Twelve“, the whole Church, identifying who Jesus is. Jesus asked his disiples “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” The response was varied, “some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” It was St. Peter who came out saying, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

It is important to understand who Jesus is because he is the Messiah, the Son of the living God. Jesus has the words of eternal life!

St. John put it this way, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” He was in the beginning with God… And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth.”

Jesus Said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” This is what St. Peter and the Apostles came to believe through following the Lord and witnessing his public miracles. Jesus changed the water into wine at the wedding feast of Cana in Galilee and revealed his glory, “and his disciples began to believe in him”.

Of the works of Jesus, St. John writes, “It is this disciple who testifies to these things and has written them, and we know that his testimony is true. There are many other things that Jesus did, but if these were to be described individually, I do not think the whole world contain the books that would be written.”

I want to come back to St. Peter’s question, “To whom shall we go”? What does this mean? Can we know where to find this truth?

At the Trial of Sir THOMAS MORE Knight, Lord Chancellor of England, for High- Treason in denying; King Henry VIII’s act of Supremecy, May 7, 1535. St. Thomas said:

” Who presently made Answer in these words: For as much as, my Lords, this Indictment is grounded upon an Act of Parliament, directly repugnant ,to the Laws of God and his Holy Church, the Supreme Government of which, or of any part thereof, no Temporal Person may by any Law presume to take upon him, being what right belongs to the See of Rome, which by special Prerogative was granted by the Mouth of our Savior Christ himself to St. Peter, and the Bishops of Rome his Successors only, whilst he lived, and was personally present here on Earth: it is therefore, amongst Catholic Christians, insufficient in Law, to charge any Christian to obey it. And in order to the proof of his Assertion, he declared among other things, that whereas this Kingdom alone being but one Member, and a small part of the Church, was not to make a particular Law disagreeing with the general Law of Christ’s universal Catholic Church, no more than the City of London, being but one Member in respect to the whole Kingdom, might enact a Law against an Act of Parliament, to be binding to the whole Realm: so he shewed farther, That Law was ,even contrary to the Laws and Statutes of the Kingdom yet unrepealed, as might evidently be seen by Magna Charta, wherein are these Words; Ecclesia Anglicana libera sit, & habet omnia jura integra, & libertates suas illcesas: And it is contrary also to that sacred Oath which the King’s Majesty himself, and every other Christian Prince, always take with great Solemnity, at their Coronations.”

So great was Sir Thomas’s Zeal, that he further alleged, that it was worse in the Kingdom of England becasue of their rebellion. St. Thomas More believed Obedience to the See of Rome was likened to any Child to do to his natural Parent: for, as St. Paul said to the Corinthians, I have regenerated you, my Children, in Christ; so might that worthy Pope of Rome, St. Gregory the Great, say of us Englishmen, Ye are my Children, because I have given you everlasting Salvation: for by St. Augustine and his followers, his immediate Messengers, England first received the Christian faith, which is a far higher and better Inheritance than any carnal Sather can leave to his Children; for a. Son is only by generation, we are by Regeneration made the spiritual Children of Christ and the Pope.”

St. Thomas More was put to death because he would not renounce Jesus Christ before any court of man. Of the Church that Christ founded, Isaiah wrote, “No weapon fashioned against you shall prevail; every tongue you shall prove false that launches an accusation against you. This is the lot of the sevants of the Lord, their vindication from me, says the Lord.”

Because of King Henry’s persecution of the Catholic Faith, bringing Protestantism into England, a massive persecution of the Church took place between 1534 until 1829. Also, other denominations grew out of the Protestant movement such as the various Baptist groups, the Methodist and through the King James Bible, they influenced much of the Protestant world.

St. Paul writes, “So then you are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the holy ones and members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the capstone. Through him the whole structure is held together and grows into a temple sacred in the Lord; in him you also are being built together into a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.”

This is the answer to St. Peter’s question, “To Whom shall we go!” We are to go to His Church, the Catholic Church. The Church St. Paul referred to as the “pillar and foundation of truth.”

God’s grace is imparted upon the world through the Lord Jesus Christ’s Church. St. Paul writes, “Because of this, I, Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus for you Gentiles–if, as I suppose, you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was GIVEN TO ME for your benefit, namely, that the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly earlier.” The Apostles became the arbitors of Grace, transmitting this grace through the Sacraments.

This is why the Lord chose the Apostles and commissioned them to go to all the nations. St. Paul himself received this grace states, “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. To me, the very least of all the holy ones, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the inscrutable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for all what the plan of the mystery hidden from ages past in God who created all things, so that manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the principalities and authorities in the heavens.”

What are the “riches of Christ?” What is the “mystery hidden from ages past?” It is the fulfillment of the new Covenant promised through the Prophet Jeremiah (Jeremiah 31:31-34), it is the sign the people who first abandoned Christ asked for (John 6:30).

Jesus Christ is the sign come down from heaven, he is the “Bread of Life” who comes to us at every Eucharist. Jesus is present to you each and every Communion. When the Priest elevates the host proclaiming “the Body of Christ“, by saying “Amen”, we answer St. Peter’s question, “To whom shall we go”! To go to Him who has called us, “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed”. Amen!

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The Catholic Defender: Thorn In The Flesh

Posted by John Benko - July 9th, 2012

“But I refrain, so that no one may think more of me than what he sees in me or hears from me because of the abundance of the revelations. Therefore, that I might not become too elated, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I begged the Lord about this, that it might leave me, but he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.’ I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me”.

There has been a lot of thought regarding what this “thorn in the flesh” might have been for St. Paul.

Could it have been something physical, spiritual, maybe psychological? Could it have been something of all three? Whatever the “thorn” was, Jesus said that his grace was sufficient.

I’ve heard some suggest it could have been the stigmata, but nobody knows for sure.

The important thing was that what ever the thorn might have been, it did not define who St. Paul was.

St. Paul, formerly known as “Saul” was a major figure within the Jewish Sanhedrin at the time of Christ, but there is no mention of him until the 7th Chapter of Acts and the martyrdom of St. Stephen.

From that point on a fierce persecution of the Church began in Jerusalem and the Church was scattered into the countryside of Judea and Samaria.

Only the Apostles hung tight in Jerusalem. The persecution was so severe that St. John would understand Jerusalem to be the “Whore of Babylon” (Revelation 17:3-6) referring to the persecution of the Church.

The story of Saul’s conversion to the Catholic Faith is probably and certainly one of the greatest conversions stories in the history of the world.

The impact of Saul, now St. Paul, would change the world. St. Paul’s missionary journey continues to have a huge impact on the contemporary world.

Saul would encounter Christ as he was heading towards Damascus to arrest Christians.

The Lord supernaturally appeared to St. Paul, “a light from the sky suddenly flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ He said, ‘Who are you, sir?’ The reply came, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. Now get up and go into the city and you will be told what you must do.’ The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, for they heard the voice but could see no one.”

St. Paul is certainly one of the most important figures in the history of the Church. Despite the many successes of St. Paul, he bore many hardships, he was jailed, he was beaten, shipwrecked, snake bitten, and he had his “thorn in the flesh”. He traveled far preaching the gospel, he became known as the Apostle to the Gentiles.

What a great story and one that many of us can identify with. We all have had our “thorn in the flesh”, our crosses to bear. Like St. Paul, many of us may feel the pain and anguish that might be physical, spiritual, or psychological. Maybe a combination of all three. What is important is to not allow these things to define who we are. That our faith is what defines who we are.

St. Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” reminds us of the human spirit that is capable of reaching out to God in faith and overcoming the obstacles for the prize.

13 books of the New Testament are attributed to St. Paul, it is also believed that he wrote the book of Hebrews which would make 14 letters the Catholic Church maintains in the bible.

The Catholic Faith has a multitude of examples who followed the example of St. Paul. Our Priest, Father Downey gave a terrific talk on this subject today. Another great example!

Like St. Paul, let us too, find courage to “persevere in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the leader and perfecter of faith” (Hebrews 12:1-2).

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