The Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation

Church teaching on the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation, one of two Sacraments of Healing, is covered in Chapter 2,  Article 4 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. It can be read in its entirety at the Vatican website HERE.

The last section, titled “In Brief,” consists of paragraphs 1485-1498 and is copied and pasted below. To read it on the Vatican website, go HERE


1485 “On the evening of that day, the first day of the week,” Jesus showed himself to his apostles. “He breathed on them, and said to them: ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained”‘ ( Jn 20:19, ( 22-23).

1486 The forgiveness of sins committed after Baptism is conferred by a particular sacrament called the sacrament of conversion, confession, penance, or reconciliation.

1487 The sinner wounds God’s honor and love, his own human dignity as a man called to be a son of God, and the spiritual well-being of the Church, of which each Christian ought to be a living stone.

1488 To the eyes of faith no evil is graver than sin and nothing has worse consequences for sinners themselves, for the Church, and for the whole world.

1489 To return to communion with God after having lost it through sin is a process born of the grace of God who is rich in mercy and solicitous for the salvation of men. One must ask for this precious gift for oneself and for others.

1490 The movement of return to God, called conversion and repentance, entails sorrow for and abhorrence of sins committed, and the firm purpose of sinning no more in the future. Conversion touches the past and the future and is nourished by hope in God’s mercy.

1491 The sacrament of Penance is a whole consisting in three actions of the penitent and the priest’s absolution. the penitent’s acts are repentance, confession or disclosure of sins to the priest, and the intention to make reparation and do works of reparation.

1492 Repentance (also called contrition) must be inspired by motives that arise from faith. If repentance arises from love of charity for God, it is called “perfect” contrition; if it is founded on other motives, it is called “imperfect.”

1493 One who desires to obtain reconciliation with God and with the Church, must confess to a priest all the unconfessed grave sins he remembers after having carefully examined his conscience. the confession of venial faults, without being necessary in itself, is nevertheless strongly recommended by the Church.

1494 The confessor proposes the performance of certain acts of “satisfaction” or “penance” to be performed by the penitent in order to repair the harm caused by sin and to re-establish habits befitting a disciple of Christ.

1495 Only priests who have received the faculty of absolving from the authority of the Church can forgive sins in the name of Christ.

1496 The spiritual effects of the sacrament of Penance are:
– reconciliation with God by which the penitent recovers grace;
– reconciliation with the Church;
– remission of the eternal punishment incurred by mortal sins;
– remission, at least in part, of temporal punishments resulting from sin;
– peace and serenity of conscience, and spiritual consolation;
– an increase of spiritual strength for the Christian battle.

1497 Individual and integral confession of grave sins followed by absolution remains the only ordinary means of reconciliation with God and with the Church.

1498 Through indulgences the faithful can obtain the remission of temporal punishment resulting from sin for themselves and also for the souls in Purgatory.

March 7th – Fulfillment of Law and Prophets

The Law and the Prophets

Just for a bit of background, here is a short blurb from The Catholic Study Bible, Reading Guide, Page 4, about the Law and the Prophets as currently understood by Bible scholars.

Words of Jesus about Law, Prophets, and Greatness

Matthew 5:17-19 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.  Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place.  Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do so will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

Matthew 18:1-4 At that time the disciples approached Jesus and said, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a child over, placed it in their midst, and said, “Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.  Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

Matthew 22:36-40 “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?”  37 He said to him, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.  38 This is the greatest and the first commandment.  39 The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  40 The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”

Disciples Argue About Greatness Twice in Luke and Get Schooled

Luke 9:46-48 An argument arose among the disciples about which of them was the greatest.  Jesus realized the intention of their hearts and took a child and placed it by his side and said to them, “Whoever receives this child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me. For the one who is least among all of you is the one who is the greatest.”

Luke 22:24-26 Then an argument broke out among them about which of them should be regarded as the greatest.  He said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them and those in authority over them are addressed as ‘Benefactors’; but among you it shall not be so. Rather, let the greatest among you be as the youngest, and the leader as the servant.

Jesus on Deeper Meanings of Some Commandments (Law)

Matthew 5:21-48 You have heard that it was said to your ancestors, ‘You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment.’  But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment, and whoever says to his brother, ‘Raqa,’ will be answerable to the Sanhedrin, and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ will be liable to fiery Gehenna.  Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift.  Settle with your opponent quickly while on the way to court with him. Otherwise your opponent will hand you over to the judge, and the judge will hand you over to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison.  Amen, I say to you, you will not be released until you have paid the last penny.

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’  But I say to you, everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.  If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one of your members than to have your whole body thrown into Gehenna.  And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one of your members than to have your whole body go into Gehenna.

It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife must give her a bill of divorce.’  But I say to you, whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) causes her to commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

“Again you have heard that it was said to your ancestors, ‘Do not take a false oath, but make good to the Lord all that you vow.’  But I say to you, do not swear at all; not by heaven, for it is God’s throne; nor by the earth, for it is his footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King.  Do not swear by your head, for you cannot make a single hair white or black.  Let your ‘Yes’ mean ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No’ mean ‘No.’ Anything more is from the evil one.

You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’  But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil. When someone strikes you on (your) right cheek, turn the other one to him as well.  If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic, hand him your cloak as well.  Should anyone press you into service for one mile, go with him for two miles. Give to the one who asks of you, and do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow.

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you,  that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.  For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the tax collectors do the same?  And if you greet your brothers only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same?

So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.

But, No Command in OT to Hate Enemies

Proverbs 25:21-22 If your enemy be hungry, give him food to eat, if he be thirsty, give him to drink; For live coals you will heap on his head, and the LORD will vindicate you.

Exodus 23:4-5 “When you come upon your enemy’s ox or ass going astray, see to it that it is returned to him.  When you notice the ass of one who hates you lying prostrate under its burden, by no means desert him; help him, rather, to raise it up.

And Finally

If all the above is not perfectly clear, just chalk it up to Divine Mystery and take comfort in the words of G. K. Chesterton in Orthodoxy, Chapter II, The Maniac: The whole secret of mysticism is this: that man can understand everything by the help of what he does not understand.

February 28th – What Do You Want Me to Do for You?

Sons of Zebedee and What they Wanted

The Gospel reading for February 28th is from Matthew 20. Below are the key verses we talked about, 20-23, the mother of James and John helicoptering in to look out for the interests of her sons. The story is told earlier in Mark 10, the earliest of the Gospels, but without the motherly intervention. Here are both selections from the NAB.

Matthew 20:20-23 Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee approached him with her sons and did him homage, wishing to ask him for something. He said to her, “What do you wish?” She answered him, “Command that these two sons of mine sit, one at your right and the other at your left, in your kingdom.” Jesus said in reply, “You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink the cup that I am going to drink?” They said to him, “We can.” He replied, “My cup you will indeed drink, but to sit at my right and at my left (, this) is not mine to give but is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.”

Mark 10:35-40 Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” He replied, “What do you wish (me) to do for you?” They answered him, “Grant that in your glory we may sit one at your right and the other at your left.” Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink the cup that I drink or be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” They said to him, “We can.” Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink, you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized; but to sit at my right or at my left is not mine to give but is for those for whom it has been prepared.”

Many differences between Mark and Matthew are explained in terms of Matthew being the Gospel targeted at the Jews. That is given, for example, as the reason “Kingdom of God” in Mark is often “Kingdom of Heaven” in Matthew, a recognition of the Jewish reluctance to say the name of God. It is hard to see why that would have been the reason Matthew added in mom, but maybe to give James and John a bit more stature. A footnote in the Catholic Study Bible suggests the possibility that “…he intends an allusion to Bathsheba’s seeking the kingdom for Solomon” in 1 Kings 1:11-21. That allusion would be very important and familiar to Jewish people. In both versions of the story, Jesus directs his answer to James and John.

Well, at least the main point for us is clear in both versions: We are to serve rather than seek status. At least I believe that is the main point.

Blind Folks and What they Wanted

I looked for other cases in which Jesus asked, “What do you want me to do for you?” or “What do you wish me to do for you?” and found only three. All three are different versions of the same story involving healing of blindness. In the earliest version (Mark), there is one blind man with a name, Bartimaeus, calling out for “Jesus, son of David.” In Matthew, there are two unnamed blind men calling out “Lord, son of David.” And, in Luke, one unnamed man. In all three versions, the healed “follow” Jesus, but, only in Luke do the healed give glory to God, resulting in all the people praising God. It can help us understand these differences to remember that all three Gospel writers were Divinely inspired and writing theological truth at different times and to different audiences. Here are the three stories:

Matthew 20:29-34 As they left Jericho, a great crowd followed him. Two blind men were sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was passing by, they cried out, “(Lord,) Son of David, have pity on us!” The crowd warned them to be silent, but they called out all the more, “Lord, Son of David, have pity on us!” Jesus stopped and called them and said, “What do you want me to do for you?” They answered him, “Lord, let our eyes be opened.” Moved with pity, Jesus touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight, and followed him.

Mark 10:46-52 They came to Jericho. And as he was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a sizable crowd, Bartimaeus, a blind man, the son of Timaeus, sat by the roadside begging. On hearing that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, son of David, have pity on me.” And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he kept calling out all the more, “Son of David, have pity on me.” Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” So they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take courage; get up, he is calling you.” He threw aside his cloak, sprang up, and came to Jesus. Jesus said to him in reply, “What do you want me to do for you?” The blind man replied to him, “Master, I want to see.” Jesus told him, “Go your way; your faith has saved you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed him on the way.

Luke 18:35 – 19:1  Now as he approached Jericho a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging, and hearing a crowd going by, he inquired what was happening. They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.” He shouted, “Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me!” The people walking in front rebuked him, telling him to be silent, but he kept calling out all the more, “Son of David, have pity on me!” Then Jesus stopped and ordered that he be brought to him; and when he came near, Jesus asked him, “What do you want me to do for you?” He replied, “Lord, please let me see.” Jesus told him, “Have sight; your faith has saved you.” He immediately received his sight and followed him, giving glory to God. When they saw this, all the people gave praise to God.

Apparently healing of physical blindness is a metaphor for curing the spiritual blindness of the disciples and helping them (and us) understand the truth about who Jesus was and what his mission was as explained in Philippians 2:5-11. That is a lesson we can all work on learning better. Father Linsky suggested these verses from Philippians as a good explanation:

Philippians 2:5-11 Have among yourselves the same attitude that is also yours in Christ Jesus, Who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross. Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name,  that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth,  and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Retreat Reflections

There seemed to be a general feeling that the Retreat presented a challenge to increase our cooperation with The Holy Spirit, to take a step in the right direction, to turn up the heat just a bit, to do some unemcumbering. In that spirit, the John Henry Newman poem Pillar of the Cloud or Lead Kindly Light was mentioned. Some analysis is HERE and the lyrics and a photo are copied below from that site.

Lead, kindly Light, amid the encircling gloom
Lead Thou me on!
The night is dark, and I am far from home —
Lead Thou me on!
Keep Thou my feet; I do not ask to see
The distant scene — one step enough for me.
I was not ever thus, nor pray’d that Thou
Shouldst lead me on.
I loved to choose and see my path, but now
Lead Thou me on!
I loved the garish day, and spite of fears,
Pride ruled my will; remember not past years.
So long Thy power hath blest me, sure it still
Will lead me on,
O’er moor and fen, o’er crag and torrent, till
The night is gone;
And with the morn those angel faces smile
Which I have loved long since, and lost awhile.

And, for the truly curious, here is more on John Henry Newman.


February 21, 2018 – Jonah, the Unhappy Evangelist

Jonah, John, Jesus, and we the 21st century Catholics

Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. – Ezekiel 36:26

Well, lets say first of all that Jonah didn’t have much good news to proclaim. Nothing like the proclamations of Jesus, Peter, Paul, and the other early Apostles and the Church today explaining about the Love of God and the Resurrection of Jesus and the coming of the Holy Spirit with gifts. All Jonah had to say was, “Forty days more and Nineveh will be destroyed!” I guess the people realized that it was a call for repentance (changing their ways) and they did so, maybe out of fear and guilt, and the city was not destroyed. It was probably a temporary thing since they didn’t get “new hearts” and “new spirits.”

John the Baptist had pretty much the same message as Jonah, Repent!, except that he also explained that better things were on the way in the person of Jesus Christ in whom all those misunderstood promises of the OT, including “new hearts” and “new spirits,” would be fulfilled. The Messiah was coming, but not exactly as expected. Then John looked up, and there was Jesus.

The New Evangelization

Here is what the US Conference of Catholic Bishops Website has to say about The New Evangelization:

Yes, it’s complicated. It makes me wonder what would happen if the Catholic Churches the city joined in a year-long RCIA course inviting all who are interested to come under no obligation and at no cost. That would truly be a proclamation of the Gospel as understood by the Catholic Church. What if 200 or 300 people signed up? Would we be up to the task? Would we welcome all or would we deem some not really worthy or not truly interested? What if, as a result, fifty new people wanted to be received into St. Peter’s Catholic Church? Would we welcome them with open arms or with suspicion? How would we handle the Easter Vigil?

Well, I’m just thinking out loud and, as a result, wrote up a little advertisement. I doubt we would have many faithful Presbyterians or Baptists or Lutherans or Methodists showing up. I doubt we would have many community leaders or successful business people. But we might have a few of those showing up along with lots of down and out and discouraged folks looking for something. Is the Catholic Faith too complicated for such persons.

OK, I know it is out-of-the-box thinking (but maybe worthy of consideration.) What great fun and value there would be in putting together the course which could be the very best RCIA course taught in the US Catholic Church.



January 14th, 2018 – Ash Wednesday, Lent, and Penitential Psalms

After the discussion about Lent, I figured I would come home and learn all I need to know about it from the Catechism of the Catholic Church. What a surprise to find that the word only shows up three times in that 688 page book. Be careful about clicking on the underlined words in the Catechism excerpts. They are all hot links to the Vatican Catechism! Well, maybe try one just to see what happens.

  1. It appears in Paragraph 540 about the Mysteries of Christ’s Life with particular reference to His Temptation.

540 – Jesus‘ temptation reveals the way in which the Son of God is Messiahcontrary to the way Satan proposes to him and the way men wish to attribute to him.244 This is why Christ vanquished the Tempter for us: “For we have not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sinning.”245 By the solemn forty days of Lent the Church unites herself each year to the mystery of Jesus in the desert.

  1. Then it appears in Paragraph 1095 in a section about The Liturgy – Work of the Holy Trinity

1095 – For this reason the Churchespecially during Advent and Lent and above all at the Easter Vigil, re-reads and re-lives the great events of salvation history in the “today” of her liturgy. But this also demands that catechesis help the faithful to open themselves to this spiritual understanding of the economy of salvation as the Church‘s liturgy reveals it and enables us to live it.

  1. And finally in Paragraph 1438 in a section on The Many Forms of Penance in Christian Life.

1438 – The seasons and days of penance in the course of the liturgical year (Lent, and each Friday in memory of the death of the Lord) are intense moments of the Church‘s penitential practice.36 These times are particularly appropriate for spiritual exercisespenitential liturgiespilgrimages assigns of penancevoluntary self-denial such as fasting and almsgiving, and fraternal sharing (charitable and missionary works).

The first and third clearly associate Lent with periods of special penance while the second associates Lent with our remembrance of Salvation History but says nothing in particular about Lenten practices. And there was one other occasion of “lent” showing up but it was not capitalized and had to do with our treatment of goods “lent” to someone.

To learn more about the origin and evolution of Lenten practices, I turned to that giant catalog in the sky.

Here is the Catholic View from The Catholic Education Resource Center.

And here is the view from Wikipedia  I don’t see any serious conflict between the two and found both interesting places to look and see what I have forgotten.

Research on the Biblical use of 40 to describe length of time, years, months, or days, indicates that some scholars see that not as literal but as meaning either a long time or long enough.

Here is a Link to a separate post I did on the Seven Penitential Psalms.

The Seven Penitential Psalms

Of the 150 Psalms, seven have been identified traditionally as Penitential in tone and vocabulary. None of the seven is routinely used in our Wednesday Morning Prayer Liturgy.

Here is a helpful link to a page in the US Conference of Catholic Bishops Website about the seven penitential psalms. Below is a screen shot (without hot links) of the table you will find at the USCCB site. The table at the website is complete with hot links to the seven Psalms, both written and spoken, and a short Reflection on each. Just for convenience and quick reading I have included the text of the Psalms below, but I plan on using the USCCB site at some point(s) during Lent. Some of these, attributed to David, may make us think of his sin with Bathsheba and Uriah.

Psalm 6 For the leader; with stringed instruments, “upon the eighth.” A psalm of David.

2 Do not reprove me in your anger, LORD, nor punish me in your wrath.

3 Have pity on me, LORD, for I am weak; heal me, LORD, for my bones are trembling.

4 In utter terror is my soul– and you, LORD, how long…?

5 Turn, LORD, save my life; in your mercy rescue me.

6 For who among the dead remembers you? Who praises you in Sheol?

7 I am wearied with sighing; all night long tears drench my bed; my couch is soaked with weeping.

8 My eyes are dimmed with sorrow, worn out because of all my foes.

9 Away from me, all who do evil! The LORD has heard my weeping.

10 The LORD has heard my prayer; the LORD takes up my plea.

11 My foes will be terrified and disgraced; all will fall back in sudden shame.


Psalm 32  Of David. A maskil.

1 Happy the sinner whose fault is removed, whose sin is forgiven.

2 Happy those to whom the LORD imputes no guilt, in whose spirit is no deceit.

3 As long as I kept silent, my bones wasted away; I groaned all the day.

4 For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength withered as in dry summer heat. Selah

5 Then I declared my sin to you; my guilt I did not hide. I said, “I confess my faults to the LORD,” and you took away the guilt of my sin. Selah

6 Thus should all your faithful pray in time of distress. Though flood waters threaten, they will never reach them.

7 You are my shelter; from distress you keep me; with safety you ring me round. Selah

8 I will instruct you and show you the way you should walk, give you counsel and watch over you.

9 Do not be senseless like horses or mules; with bit and bridle their temper is curbed, else they will not come to you.

10 Many are the sorrows of the wicked, but love surrounds those who trust in the LORD.

11 Be glad in the LORD and rejoice, you just; exult, all you upright of heart.


Psalm 38 A psalm of David. For remembrance.

2 LORD, punish me no more in your anger; in your wrath do not chastise me!

3 Your arrows have sunk deep in me; your hand has come down upon me.

4 My flesh is afflicted because of your anger; my frame aches because of my sin.

5 My iniquities overwhelm me, a burden beyond my strength.

6 Foul and festering are my sores because of my folly.

7 I am stooped and deeply bowed; all day I go about mourning.

8 My loins burn with fever; my flesh is afflicted.

9 I am numb and utterly crushed; I wail with anguish of heart.

10 My Lord, my deepest yearning is before you; my groaning is not hidden from you.

11 My heart shudders, my strength forsakes me; the very light of my eyes has failed.

12 Friends and companions shun my pain; my neighbors stand far off.

13 Those who seek my life lay snares for me; they seek my misfortune, they speak of ruin; they plot treachery all  the day.

14 But I am like the deaf, hearing nothing, like the dumb, saying nothing,

15 Like someone who does not hear, who has no answer ready.

16 LORD, I wait for you; O Lord, my God, answer me.

17 For I fear they will gloat, exult over me if I stumble.

18 I am very near to falling; my pain is with me always.

19 I acknowledge my guilt and grieve over my sin.

20 But many are my foes without cause, a multitude of enemies without reason,

21 Repaying me evil for good, harassing me for pursuing good.

22 Forsake me not, O LORD; my God, be not far from me!

23 Come quickly to help me, my Lord and my salvation!


Psalm 51 For the leader. A psalm of David,

2 when Nathan the prophet came to him after his affair with Bathsheba.

3 Have mercy on me, God, in your goodness; in your abundant compassion blot out my offense.

4 Wash away all my guilt; from my sin cleanse me.

5 For I know my offense; my sin is always before me.

6 Against you alone have I sinned; I have done such evil in your sight That you are just in your sentence, blameless when you condemn.

7 True, I was born guilty, a sinner, even as my mother conceived me.

8 Still, you insist on sincerity of heart; in my inmost being teach me wisdom.

9 Cleanse me with hyssop, that I may be pure; wash me, make me whiter than snow.

10 Let me hear sounds of joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice.

11 Turn away your face from my sins; blot out all my guilt.

12 A clean heart create for me, God; renew in me a steadfast spirit.

13 Do not drive me from your presence, nor take from me your holy spirit.

14 Restore my joy in your salvation; sustain in me a willing spirit.

15 I will teach the wicked your ways, that sinners may return to you.

16 Rescue me from death, God, my saving God, that my tongue may praise your healing power.

17 Lord, open my lips; my mouth will proclaim your praise.

18 For you do not desire sacrifice; a burnt offering you would not accept.

19 My sacrifice, God, is a broken spirit; God, do not spurn a broken, humbled heart. III

20 Make Zion prosper in your good pleasure; rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.

21 Then you will be pleased with proper sacrifice, burnt offerings and holocausts; then bullocks will be offered on your altar.


Psalm 102 The prayer of one afflicted and wasting away whose anguish is poured out before the LORD.

2 LORD, hear my prayer; let my cry come to you.

3 Do not hide your face from me now that I am in distress. Turn your ear to me; when I call, answer me quickly.

4 For my days vanish like smoke; my bones burn away as in a furnace.

5 I am withered, dried up like grass, too wasted to eat my food.

6 From my loud groaning I become just skin and bones.

7 I am like a desert owl, like an owl among the ruins.

8 I lie awake and moan, like a lone sparrow on the roof.

9 All day long my enemies taunt me; in their rage, they make my name a curse.

10 I eat ashes like bread, mingle my drink with tears.

11 Because of your furious wrath, you lifted me up just to cast me down.

12 My days are like a lengthening shadow; I wither like the grass.

13 But you, LORD, are enthroned forever; your renown is for all generations.

14 You will again show mercy to Zion; now is the time for pity; the appointed time has come.

15 Its stones are dear to your servants; its dust moves them to pity.

16 The nations shall revere your name, LORD, all the kings of the earth, your glory,

17 Once the LORD has rebuilt Zion and appeared in glory,

18 Heeding the plea of the lowly, not scorning their prayer.

19 Let this be written for the next generation, for a people not yet born, that they may praise the LORD:

20 “The LORD looked down from the holy heights, viewed the earth from heaven,

21 To attend to the groaning of the prisoners, to release those doomed to die.”

22 Then the LORD’S name will be declared on Zion, the praise of God in Jerusalem,

23 When all peoples and kingdoms gather to worship the LORD.

24 God has shattered my strength in mid-course, has cut short my days.

25 I plead, O my God, do not take me in the midst of my days. Your years last through all generations.

26 Of old you laid the earth’s foundations; the heavens are the work of your hands.

27 They perish, but you remain; they all wear out like a garment; Like clothing you change them and they are changed,

28 but you are the same, your years have no end.

29 May the children of your servants live on; may their descendants live in your presence.


Psalm 130 A song of ascents.

1 Out of the depths I call to you, LORD;

2 Lord, hear my cry! May your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy.

3 If you, LORD, mark our sins, Lord, who can stand?

4 But with you is forgiveness and so you are revered.

5 I wait with longing for the LORD, my soul waits for his word.

6 My soul looks for the Lord more than sentinels for daybreak. More than sentinels for daybreak,

7 let Israel look for the LORD, For with the LORD is kindness, with him is full redemption,

8 And God will redeem Israel from all their sins.


Psalm 143 A psalm of David.

1 LORD, hear my prayer; in your faithfulness listen to my pleading; answer me in your justice.

2 Do not enter into judgment with your servant; before you no living being can be just.

3 The enemy has pursued me; they have crushed my life to the ground. They have left me in darkness like those long dead.

4 My spirit is faint within me; my heart is dismayed.

5 I remember the days of old; I ponder all your deeds; the works of your hands I recall.

6 I stretch out my hands to you; I thirst for you like a parched land. Selah

7 Hasten to answer me, LORD; for my spirit fails me. Do not hide your face from me, lest I become like those descending to the pit.

8 At dawn let me hear of your kindness, for in you I trust. Show me the path I should walk, for to you I entrust my life.

9 Rescue me, LORD, from my foes, for in you I hope.

10 Teach me to do your will, for you are my God. May your kind spirit guide me on ground that is level.

11 For your name’s sake, LORD, give me life; in your justice lead me out of distress.

12 In your kindness put an end to my foes; destroy all who attack me, for I am your servant. Psalm

February 7, 2018 – Chinese Bishops and Israeli Kings

The Catholic Church in China

With respect to the recent China decision by Pope Francis, there are two primary issues raised in the context of Christian history:

  1. On what does the efficacy of the Sacraments depend? (A key part of the Donatist controversy of the 4th century)

The Donatist controversy, which arose after Emperor Constantine had put an end to official persecution of the Church, had to do with the less faithful, Priests, Bishops, and lay persons who, during persecution, had in some way denied or been unfaithful to the Church. Some of the more faithful welcomed them with forgiveness and open arms, and some refused to welcome them into the church.

But the bigger issue and one that had to be resolved by the Church was whether the sacraments administered by priests and bishops who had been among the less faithful were valid. St. Augustine helped resolve this issue by advocating the position that, “The validity of any rite of the Church does not depend on the moral virtue of the person administering it. If it were so, Christians would live in constant doubt as to the validity of their baptism. No matter how unworthy the celebrant, the rite is still valid.” (Justo Gonzalez, The Story of Christianity: Vol 1, Page 213.)

So, the recent decision by Pope Francis perhaps assures lay Catholics in China that the sacraments administered by state-approved Priests and Bishops of the Catholic Church in China are considered valid for the recipients of those sacraments. That must be a big positive for them.

Validity of sacraments is not an issue at all for Protestant churches in China (or for Chinese leaders of course) since they don’t generally recognize the Sacraments as the Catholic Church does.

  1. Who has the authority to choose bishops and priests and to whom do they owe obedience? (The Investiture Controversy of the 11th century)
pope and king

King Henry Bows Before Pope Gregory

In early church history, during so-called Christendom (union of church and state), it was common for emperors and other rulers to choose and appoint not only Bishops but Popes as well. Can we imagine the POTUS calling Pope Francis and announcing, or perhaps just tweeting, that he has a guy picked out to replace Cardinal Dolan in New York City when he retires? We maybe we can imagine that, but I don’t believe it would fly.

The 11th century issue came to a head when St. Pope Gregory VII found himself in direct conflict with Emperor Henry IV who had deposed a bishop and appointed another one. Pope Gregory ordered him to appear in Rome under threat of being deposed and condemned to hell if he did not obey. Henry  refused to go and declared Gregory deposed and a “false monk.” Gregory issued this sentence:

“In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, by the power and authority of St. Peter, and for the defense and honor of the church, I place king Henry…under interdict, forbidding him to rule in any of the kingdoms of Germany or Italy. I also free from their oaths any who have sworn or would swear loyalty to him. And I forbid that he be obeyed as king.”  – Gonzalez Volume 1 Page 287

Henry showed up finally at Gregory’s residence and was humiliated by having to wait outside three days in cold snowy weather for admission. Gregory finally pardoned him and withdrew the sentence. That was just one interesting chapter in a long controversy, but it causes us to wonder who will be choosing and appointing Bishops in China in the future. At least King Henry, whether a follower of Jesus or not, was a man who feared God and the threat of excommunication and condemnation. Art above is at this LINK.

King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba

I am at a loss for words on this issue. I think we know for sure that Solomon was Israel’s king, had a reputation for wisdom, built a temple, failed in the end to be faithful to God and the people, and left a kingdom soon to be divided and fighting civil wars. From that, a thousand tales have been spun. Essentially all that was mentioned in the discussion is covered in the Wikipedia article on King Solomon.

If you would like to read his whole story in the Bible, the chart below gives the key passages along with key passages about Saul and David and Samuel who was perhaps the wisest of all in warning the people about all the problems that would go along with having a king (because everybody else has one). It is in the text on the lower left side (1 Samuel 8:4-20).