Thursday, June 2, 2011

On Divorce and Remarriage (and briefly annulments)

Inseparable Bond of Marriage:
Marriage is a wonderful blessing and sacrament instituted by God so that a man and woman may become one flesh and grow closer to God. Upon making the vows and consummating their union, the couple unites as one “until death do they part.” Nothing at all can separate this special union that God has made holy. There are times when it is acceptable to part, though, such as an abusive relationship or endangerment to the children by either spouse. Even though the cases in which divorce are acceptable is rare, even then, Jesus tells us that it is unlawful, even adulterous to attempt to re-marry (except in cases where the first marriage was unlawful itself, see annulments at the end of the article). Let’s look at these places in the Bible where Jesus and St. Paul talk about divorce and re-marriage.

Mosaic Law and Divorce, Jesus’ Restoration of Sacredness to Marriage:

There are multiple places in the Gospel where Jesus is arguing with the Pharisees on whether or not it is lawful to divorce. (I quote Mark, but see also Matt 19:6-9 and Luke 16:18):

2 The Pharisees approached [Jesus] and asked, "Is it lawful for a husband to divorce his wife?" They were testing him. 3 He said to them in reply, "What did Moses command you?" 4 They replied, "Moses permitted him to write a bill of divorce and dismiss her." 5 But Jesus told them, "Because of the hardness of your hearts he wrote you this commandment. 6 But from the beginning of creation, 'God made them male and female. 7 For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother (and be joined to his wife), 8 and the two shall become one flesh.' So they are no longer two but one flesh. 9 Therefore what God has joined together, no human being must separate." 10 In the house the disciples again questioned him about this. 11 He said to them, "Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; 12 and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery." (Mark 10:2-12 NAB)

Jesus is saying here that divorce was originally allowed because of the hardness of the peoples’ hearts. This means that people were so adamant about ignoring God’s natural laws that Moses created a law (something he was allowed to do, authority given to him by God) that allowed divorce. Though nothing from the Old Covenant shall be stricken from the Law, Jesus commands that if you do divorce, attempting to re-marry would be equivalent, in God’s eyes, to adultery.

This is permanency until death is reiterated in many passages. Paul, writing to the Romans states:

2 Thus a married woman is bound by law to her living husband; but if her husband dies, she is released from the law in respect to her husband. 3 Consequently, while her husband is alive she will be called an adulteress if she consorts with another man. But if her husband dies she is free from that law, and she is not an adulteress if she consorts with another man.” (Romans 7:2-3 NAB)

And again to the Corinthians:

10 To the married, however, I give this instruction (not I, but the Lord): a wife should not separate from her husband 11 --and if she does separate she must either remain single or become reconciled to her husband--and a husband should not divorce his wife.” (1 Corinthians 7:10-11 NAB)

A living example:

Jesus approaches a pagan woman in the Samarian town of Sychar and talks with her. During the discussion Jesus reveals a bit of His plan for salvation for the Gentiles, but during this Jesus makes it a point to reveal something about her marriage to prove another point:
16 Jesus said to her, "Go call your husband and come back." 17 The woman answered and said to him, "I do not have a husband." Jesus answered her, "You are right in saying, 'I do not have a husband.' 18 For you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true." (John 4:16-18 NAB)

This example here shows what Jesus thinks of re-marriage. In fact that re-marriage is not a marriage at all. This teaching can be hard to hear for some, but Jesus asks us to trust in Him and believe. All He asks of us is for our own eternal good.

Matthew’s “except in cases of adultery” clause:

Some Christians point to Matthew 19:9 to justify divorce at least in the case of infidelity—or unfaithfulness (first example given is from the New International Version and the second from King James Version):

I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery." (Matthew 19:9 NIV)

And I say to you, Whoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, commits adultery: and whoever marries her which is put away does commit adultery.” (Matthew 19:9 KJV)

These Christians point to the clause, “except for marital unfaithfulness/fornication,” and justify divorce on these grounds. Let’s look at the New American Bible translation though:

“’9 I say to you, whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) and marries another commits adultery.’" (Matthew 19:9 NAB)

It seems that one word here is translated differently than others. Let’s look at the original Greek and find the word used. For space I’ll only show the clause in dispute:

“…mÄ“ epi porneia…” or literally “except for unchastity/unlawfulness”. The word “porneia” is translated in many places as unchastity such as in Matt 15:19, Mark 7:21, and Acts 15:18-19. In 1 Corinthians 5:1-5 it is translated as immorality, particularly incest and unlawfulness. So using it with the understood context of all these words it would seem that it could be translated as any or a combination of the three since all these are implied by the word itself.

So does this mean the only way to divorce is to commit adultery? If so, this would seem to encourage this sin and punish those who were faithful (and want a divorce). What an odd workaround that would be suggested by Jesus. God does not contradict in cases of morality when correctly understood. So no, adultery is not a just cause for re-marriage after divorce.

Logically then it would seem to have the most likely translation of unlawfulness. For this to carry on there must be a way to determine the unlawfulness of a marriage. Only Christ and the leaders He appointed to the Church are given the authority in this matter, and they came up with the process of annulment based on Scripture and Tradition.

What can one do if faced with divorce and you wish to remarry?

The first thing that can be tried is a declaration of nullity, otherwise known as an annulment. What an annulment is not, is a church sanctioned divorce. Annulments and divorces are not synonymous in any way (although the confusion by the secular world is understandable).

An annulment is the process that determines whether or not a lawful marriage happened in the first place due to circumstances before and at the time of the wedding.

So what determines if a marriage was unlawful? Our Church Fathers determined them with Scripture and sacred Tradition using logic. Examples of things that could make a marriage unlawful include (but are not limited to): Previous marriage, incestuous relationship (bride and groom are directly related), informal ceremony (for Catholics only), un-openess to children at the time of marriage, one or both parties entering the marriage against their will, etc…

If any of these things are found, the marriage can be considered annulled, or in easier terms to understand: The marriage never existed in the first place, because something prevented it from being a marriage. In this case, the two are free to marry.

Sometimes no impediment to marriage can be found. If this is the case, the Church has no authority to break apart what God has joined (remember, an annulment means that there wasn’t a marriage in the first place, so there was nothing to break apart). A civil divorce, though it may seem to on the outside, does not actually break the marriage. The government cannot and does not have the power to break apart what God has joined. Only the death of the spouse can finalize a marriage.

If annulment isn’t granted:

Even Jesus can understand the pain that divorce can cause in the divorcees themselves. Not everyone is meant to re-marry; even some are meant to focus totally on Him through other ministries. Just as the infertile couple may be called to adoption or teaching to fulfill a spiritual parenthood, so may the recently divorced be called to a spiritual marriage and devotion to God. Some ways this can be done is a strong prayer life, caring for the poor, working with people in unfortunate circumstances and other acts of service.

Jesus Himself was betrayed by those closest to Him just like some betray their spouse, but through Jesus’ sacrifice, our suffering can have meaning through Him. If you choose to follow God’s will and are still inflicted with sadness, unite your sufferings on Jesus’ cross, following Him with your own cross. God will not give you more than you can handle if you are faithful to Him.

13 No trial has come to you but what is human. God is faithful and will not let you be tried beyond your strength; but with the trial he will also provide a way out, so that you may be able to bear it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13 NAB)


I used the NIV, AKJV, and NAB Bibles for quotations.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

On Suffering and Redemptive Suffering

Why do people suffer?

This question is asked often the context of criticizing the Christian faith such as, “Since God is so loving and merciful, why do innocent people suffer?” Pope Benedict XVI recently gave an answer to one such question this past Good Friday (2011) saying, “I also have the same questions: why is it this way? Why do you have to suffer so much while others live in ease? And we do not have the answers but we know that Jesus suffered as you do, an innocent…” He went on to say that one day we will have the answers but that this time may be far off. So what do we do until then?

This is where redemptive suffering comes into play. Redemptive suffering is suffering that is given meaning where otherwise it might not. It is suffering that is not in vain, but instead something good comes out of it no matter how bad it is. For the greatest example we turn to Jesus’ crucifixion. He was the ultimate innocent who never sinned once in His life, yet he was abandoned, spit upon, tortured, stripped of his clothing in front of a crowd, crucified, and died all for righteous deeds. Yet from that terrible suffering and terrible sin of humanity (Deicide – the killing of God Himself) good came out of it. The “redemptiveness” of this act comes from the washing away of our sins. The proof is in Jesus’ resurrection. 
Though God could have chosen another means of saving us, he used the worst thing that could ever happen and out of it came the best thing that could ever happen. Some may not accept this though, citing that Jesus chose to do this of His own free will. Other things can cause suffering to us as well so how do we reconcile that?

Suffering at the Hands of Others

Evil comes upon others due to the misguided free-willed sins of others. Terrible things such as stealing, abuse, murder, and rape all happen due to the sins of those who chose to inflict them on the victims. The innocents who are subjected to these horrendous actions are often affected deeply causing them to lose hope and dignity. But they need not lose hope, because even though they were unwillingly subjected to these things, God promises us redemption and retribution by His own hand.

Beloved, do not look for revenge but leave room for the wrath; for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord."” (Romans 12:19 NAB)

In Romans 12:19 we see particularly in the last part that God will repay our enemies with His vengeance. This does not mean that God desires our enemies to fall, nor that God wants them to perish:

“’Do I indeed derive any pleasure from the death of the wicked?’” says the Lord GOD. ‘Do I not rather rejoice when he turns from his evil way that he may live?’” (Ezekiel 18:23 NAB)

Other times it might not even be a person who causes suffering. 
Suffering at the Hands of Natural Disasters

Recent earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, and other “acts of God” seem to also be the loss of hope for many, some even attributing these to God as punishment. Truly, would the God of infinite mercy and love send these disasters to hurt His children? What good would that do? God desires the conversion of sinners, not their destruction as seen in the previous quotation.

Then what redemption can come from this suffering? Great amounts of people donate money and items and their time and strength to help people in need. What greater example of God’s love that God’s people (and even people who may not believe in God) acting according to God’s will to help those who are afflicted, displaced, and suffering? We are the hands of God; we are a part of Jesus when we help another whether we believe in Him or not. 
Where is God?

If you have ever asked, where was God when I was afflicted? Where was God when I was suffering? He was on the cross praying for you and dying for you so that your suffering would have meaning and that your pain would not be for nothing. Any suffering that you have to endure here on Earth will be paid back to you in heaven as partially referenced to in the Beatitudes (found in Matthew 5 (NAB)) among other places in the Bible.

Concerning God’s will, disasters, and the effects of sin

It is never God’s will that bad things happen, though why He allows them to happen may elude us sometimes. We do know, however, how it all first started. The moment Adam and Eve first sinned against God (thus bringing sin upon their descendants, us) sin has been with us. As such, sin’s inherited effects are also with us. The effects of sin include every kind of suffering imaginable. So why doesn’t God just take these effects away? Here is a parable Jesus told explaining this situation:

24 He proposed another parable to them. "The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25 While everyone was asleep his enemy came and sowed weeds all through the wheat, and then went off. 26 When the crop grew and bore fruit, the weeds appeared as well. 27 The slaves of the householder came to him and said, 'Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where have the weeds come from?' 28 He answered, 'An enemy has done this.' His slaves said to him, 'Do you want us to go and pull them up?' 29 He replied, 'No, if you pull up the weeds you might uproot the wheat along with them. 30 Let them grow together until harvest; then at harvest time I will say to the harvesters, ‘First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles for burning; but gather the wheat into my barn.’'"

In this parable, the seed is a metaphor for the people of the world, the enemy is the devil, master of sin and temptation. The weeds are sinful thoughts, actions, and depending how you interpret it, sinful people. The man who sowed his seed in this parable is God, not wanting to cut down the crop because there are weeds corrupting the crop. In the end (harvest time) God will tell His harvesters to individually pluck the weeds and burn them getting rid of them. He will then take the good wheat and gather them into His barn (heaven).

In this particular parable Jesus does not address why the weeds aren’t just taken (as God likely can do), but there are some logical thesis’s that make sense of this. To list them would take another article or two, so I may address them at a later date. Until then, they can be found simply enough by doing a search (particularly around Until the harvest though, we have the prospect of having our suffering be redeemed.

How can we participate in redemptive suffering when we are afflicted?

In the same way that Jesus offered His suffering for our sins, we can offer our own minor and major sufferings as a sacrifice that God can use to (for example) for the conversion of sinners, lessen someone’s time or suffering on Earth or in purgatory (whether we know the person or not), or for anything according to God’s will.
So if you are sick, have a headache, experience a loss, suffer from an impediment, are bullied, or suffer in any greater or lesser way, instead of complaining offer it up for God to do something good out of the suffering so that it may not be in vain.

16 The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if only we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him. 18 I consider that the sufferings of this present time are as nothing compared with the glory to be revealed for us. (Romans 8:16-18 NAB)

May this and indeed all Jesus promised give us hope that our sufferings and the sufferings of everyone across the globe will not be in vain, but instead be used by God for the good of us and for the good of all His people.

Miscellaneous verses and Quotes:

33 “…I have told you this so that you might have peace in me. In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world." (John 16:33, Jesus, NAB)

More may be added and more can be suggested.

All verses were taken straight from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishop's website ( and are the New American Bible translation used in the American English mass.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Transubstantiation - The Body and Blood of Jesus

Body of Christ, Blood of Christ

Key points that the Catholic Church believes:
  • At mass, the bread and wine turn into the actual body and blood of Jesus.
  • You should not receive the body and blood if you are not in full “communion” with the church.
  • You should not receive the body and blood if you have sinned “gravely” without confession.

Let’s start with some relevant scripture:
“51 ‘I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.’ 52 The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, ‘How can this man give us (his) flesh to eat?’ 53 Jesus said to them, ‘Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. 54 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. 55 For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. 56 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. ‘“ –John 6:51-56 NAB

The Catholic Church interprets verse 55 to be literal just as the Jews do in verse 52.  At verse 52 the Jews asked, “How can this man give us (his) flesh to eat?”  During Jesus' time (and still now of course) cannibalism is a great stigma, something most cultures frown upon greatly, so it’s understandable why they would seem upset over this, because they understood him to be speaking literally.  If we continue on in this passage we will see that Jesus does not attempt to correct their understanding of His words to be literal.  He in fact he lets them leave and follow him no longer:

“60 Then many of his disciples who were listening said, ‘This saying is hard; who can accept it?’ 61 Since Jesus knew that his disciples were murmuring about this, he said to them, ‘Does this shock you? 62 What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? 63 It is the spirit that gives life, while the flesh is of no avail. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life. 64 But there are some of you who do not believe.’ Jesus knew from the beginning the ones who would not believe and the one who would betray him. 65 And he said, ‘For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by my Father.’ 66 As a result of this, many (of) his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him. " John 6:60-66 NAB translation

Why would Jesus let them leave Him without explanation if it were just a symbolic representation of His body and blood?  If it does not still happen every day during mass, why would Jesus have said in verse 53, “…unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.”?  Are we simply just not able to have (eternal) life in us because we weren’t around for the Last Supper?  Jesus surely wouldn’t leave us hanging; This is why he gave us priests so that we may celebrate the Eucharist (another topic I will cover at a later date) and at the Last Supper instituted the Eucharist itself (which by the way means “thanksgiving” from the Latin translation of the original Greek)Finally, lets see how seriously St. Paul takes the Eucharist:

“27 Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will have to answer for the body and blood of the Lord. 28 A person should examine himself, and so eat the bread and drink the cup. 29 For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself.” 1 Corinthians 11:27-29 NAB

This sounds pretty harsh for something that some may consider just a symbol.  St. Paul takes the Eucharist pretty seriously when talking to the Corinthians.  At that time the Corinthians were doing some not-so-admirable things and Paul was warning them to not offend Christ's body and blood.  I will expound upon this a little later.

Common objections to this defense:

Some people may continue to stand by a figurative interpretation of this passage, but the words used in the original language suggest otherwise.  The word “eats” in the passage above is translated from the Greek word “trogon” which is not a very metaphorical word in the Greek language.  To note a difference “trogon” would mean more literally “chews” or “gnaws” as opposed to a more figuratively “beautiful” word like “consumes” or “takes into him/herself.” Furthermore, back in Jesus’ time, to say “eat my flesh” figuratively would have been similar to the more modern crude phase, “eat me.”  Surely not something Jesus would say.

Why should other faiths refrain from taking communion without this belief in their heart?  And who else should not partake?

Let’s again go to the Bible for our answer:
“27 Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will have to answer for the body and blood of the Lord. 28 A person should examine himself, and so eat the bread and drink the cup. 29 For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself.” 1 Corinthians 11:27-29 NAB

From this we can infer two things:

Firstly, one must “discern the body” or believe that this is Jesus’ body and blood or one will “drink judgment” upon themselves.  If you don’t believe that the host given to you is the Body of Christ then you should not partake, hence why when you come up you are told, “Body of Christ.”  The proper response to this is, “Amen,” meaning, “I agree,” or, “what you said is true.”  If you come up to receive the Eucharist without belief in the true presence of Jesus, saying, “Amen,” would be a lie.

Secondly, we must be “worthy” or rather, be not “in sin” when eating the body and blood.  This is not referring to those outside of our faith, but to those who have a serious sin on them.  Verse 27 makes it very clear, that if we receive His body and blood unworthily we must “answer for the body and blood of the Lord,” which means to be just as guilty as those who murdered Jesus.  How do we know if we are worthy?  Nobody truly is, but “through [Christ] all things are possible!” (Matt 19:26)  This is why He instituted confession (I will cover this in another post as well).  When Jesus has forgiven us, when we hear Jesus’ words of absolution we know that we are free of our sins.  Only if we sin again grievously (that is, sin mortally, which is:  a serious sin, that we have knowledge that it is serious, and we willing commit even knowing of its seriousness) have we again become unworthy.

Even if this is all true, why does it taste and smell like bread and wine?

What happens at the mass is that common bread and common wine become the body and blood of our Savior, but all the physical attributes still appear to be common bread and wine.  What changes is the actual being of the bread and wine.  You won’t see any physical changes under the microscope.  This is because what changes is everything pertaining to its actual being while retaining the physical properties of food and drink.  Otherwise, how would we consume flesh and blood without regurgitating?

It is through faith that we must believe; as Jesus said in John 6:63, “it is the spirit that gives life, the flesh is of no avail.”  That means that the spirit (or spiritually thinking) gives us the truth and that the flesh (humanly thinking) does not.

If Jesus wanted to, could he move a mountain or drain the ocean?  If you are a faithful Christian, you likely answered, “yes.”  Well, if Jesus wanted to, could he turn mere bread and wine, basic food and drink, into His own body and use to for our salvation?  We believe that yes, He can, and He does so at every mass.

What do the earth Church fathers have to say on this topic? (Select quotes from Catholic Answer’s faith tract – The Real Presence)

"Christ was carried in his own hands when, referring to his own body, he said, ‘This is my body’ [Matt. 26:26]. For he carried that body in his hands" (Explanations of the Psalms 33:1:10 [A.D. 405]). – St. Augustine

"We call this food Eucharist, and no one else is permitted to partake of it, except one who believes our teaching to be true and who has been washed in the washing which is for the remission of sins and for regeneration [i.e., has received baptism] and is thereby living as Christ enjoined. For not as common bread nor common drink do we receive these; but since Jesus Christ our Savior was made incarnate by the word of God and had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so too, as we have been taught, the food which has been made into the Eucharist by the Eucharistic prayer set down by him, and by the change of which our blood and flesh is nurtured, is both the flesh and the blood of that incarnated Jesus" (First Apology 66 [A.D. 151]).  –Justin Martyr

"The bread and the wine of the Eucharist before the holy invocation of the adorable Trinity were simple bread and wine, but the invocation having been made, the bread becomes the body of Christ and the wine the blood of Christ" (Catechetical Lectures 19:7 [A.D. 350]).  –Cyril of Jerusalem

Final thoughts:

For a more full context of this whole passage read from John 6:1 to the end of the chapter, this will show in another important thing I did not see need in my explanation of Jesus' repetition that He is the bread of life and the living bread.  

If there is anything in this article that is incorrect please email me at TrueYomic [at] yahoo [dot] com.  If there is anything that you still disagree with or you would like to see discussed please leave a comment on this post.  If any points are brought up that I think are worth amending to this post I will add another section and answer it more fully.  If it is worth another article I may answer it there as well.  Thanks for reading, and God bless!

Much credit goes to them as a guide and for ideas to form this article.  Bible quote credit goes to the USCCB for the New American Bible translation available for free at:

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Introductory Post

Hey all, and welcome to my Catholic apologetics blog! What is apologetics? Apologetics is an older term that means "to defend." So essentially Catholic apologetics is the defence of the Catholic faith. Why would I want to do that? There are a lot of misconceptions about Catholicism in the media and among all peoples; non-Christians, Christians, and even Catholics themselves. I hope to dispel many if not all the myths I can about my professed faith.

I will give the facts as straight as possible and try to prove my points as clearly as possible through scripture, tradition, and logic. May God bless all who read these words and may God's truth come to all those who seek it or come across it in any way.