Posts Tagged ‘Christian’

Introduction to the Catholic Faith- Lesson 1

The Great Divorce(s)

Catholics believe that mankind was established in a state of holiness and original justice in the beginning.  The first chapters in Genesis describe this state as being without any shame.  It appears as though God spoke directly with the first man and woman as a parent would with a child.  The relationship was full of trust.  (See Genesis Chapter 1 and 2.)

However, in Genesis chapter 3, we read of the disobedience of Adam and Eve against God’s command not to eat of the Tree in the middle of the Garden.  The result of this disobedience is known as the fall of mankind from this original state of holiness and justice.  Notice also that this disobedience was instigated by the serpent, the devil who wished to bring mankind into a state of opposition against God just like him.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church says in paragraph 391:

“Behind the disobedient choice of our first parents lurks a seductive voice, opposed to God, which makes them fall into death out of envy. Scripture and the Church’s Tradition see in this being a fallen angel, called “Satan” or the “devil”. The Church teaches that Satan was at first a good angel, made by God: “The devil and the other demons were indeed created naturally good by God, but they became evil by their own doing.”

The Fall of the first human couple is described as follows in the Book of Genesis in Chapter 3:

“Now the serpent was the most cunning of all the animals that the LORD God had made. The serpent asked the woman, “Did God really tell you not to eat from any of the trees in the garden?”  The woman answered the serpent: “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; it is only about the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden that God said, ‘You shall not eat it or even touch it, lest you die.'”But the serpent said to the woman: “You certainly will not die! No, God knows well that the moment you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods who know what is good and what is bad.” The woman saw that the tree was good for food, pleasing to the eyes, and desirable for gaining wisdom. So she took some of its fruit and ate it; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.”-Genesis 3:1-6

The reaction of the man and the woman after the fall is very interesting.  Notice the following in Genesis chapter 3:

“Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized that they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves. When they heard the sound of the LORD God moving about in the garden at the breezy time of the day, the man and his wife hid themselves from the LORD God among the trees of the garden.  The LORD God then called to the man and asked him, “Where are you?”  He answered, “I heard you in the garden; but I was afraid, because I was naked, so I hid myself.”  Then he asked, “Who told you that you were naked? You have eaten, then, from the tree of which I had forbidden you to eat!” The man replied, “The woman whom you put here with me – she gave me fruit from the tree, so I ate it.”  The LORD God then asked the woman, “Why did you do such a thing?” The woman answered, “The serpent tricked me into it, so I ate it.” –Genesis 3:7-13

Notice that the man and woman recognized their nakedness after eating of the forbidden fruit.  In addition, the man and the woman hid from God which appears to be something that they had never done prior to this event.  The trustful relationship that they had with each other and with God was now over.  They now had to cover themselves from each other and hide from God.  Why?

The consequences of their act of disobedience are explained to them by God Himself in the following verses:

“To the woman he said: “I will intensify the pangs of your childbearing; in pain shall you bring forth children. Yet your urge shall be for your husband, and he shall be your master.” To the man he said: “Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree of which I had forbidden you to eat, “Cursed be the ground because of you! In toil shall you eat its yield all the days of your life. Thorns and thistles shall it bring forth to you, as you eat of the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face shall you get bread to eat, Until you return to the ground, from which you were taken; For you are dirt, and to dirt you shall return.”-Genesis 3: 16-19

If you notice, there are a number of formerly harmonious relationships that have been destroyed by this act of disobedience of the first human couple.  I like to call them the Great Divorce(s).  Let’s list them:

1)      The relationship between God and mankind had been separated from one of trust to one of distrust.  (Notice how they cover themselves and even hide from God.)

2)      The relationship between man and woman has been separated from one of trust to distrust.  (Notice how they must cover themselves from each other and even God says that the husband will be the master, and not in a good way, over the woman.)

3)      The relationship between mankind and nature is now one of discord where mankind will have to fight with nature to survive.  This is very different from the way in which the Garden of Eden was mankind’s home that provided for everything that they needed.

4)      The union between mankind’s spiritual nature and our desire to do good now turns into a war within due to our attraction to being disobedient to God.

5)      And, the ultimate divorce is the coming separation of the soul with the body resulting in death where mankind returns to the dust from which he was taken.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church describes the first sin of man as follows in paragraphs 397 to 400:

Man, tempted by the devil, let his trust in his Creator die in his heart and, abusing his freedom, disobeyed God’s command. This is what man’s first sin consisted of. All subsequent sin would be disobedience toward God and lack of trust in his goodness. In that sin man preferred himself to God and by that very act scorned him. He chose himself over and against God, against the requirements of his creaturely status and therefore against his own good. Created in a state of holiness, man was destined to be fully “divinized” by God in glory. Seduced by the devil, he wanted to “be like God”, but “without God, before God, and not in accordance with God”. Scripture portrays the tragic consequences of this first disobedience. Adam and Eve immediately lose the grace of original holiness. They become afraid of the God of whom they have conceived a distorted image – that of a God jealous of his prerogatives. The harmony in which they had found themselves, thanks to original justice, is now destroyed: the control of the soul’s spiritual faculties over the body is shattered; the union of man and woman becomes subject to tensions, their relations henceforth marked by lust and domination. Harmony with creation is broken: visible creation has become alien and hostile to man. Because of man, creation is now subject “to its bondage to decay”. Finally, the consequence explicitly foretold for this disobedience will come true: man will “return to the ground”, for out of it he was taken. Death makes its entrance into human history.”

The Catholic Church understands the consequences of this original sin of the first human couple to have been transmitted to all of Adam and Eve’s descendants in the sense that now all humans are in this state of original sin where we, the descendants of Adam and Eve, are deprived of the original justice and holiness that Adam and Eve received from God prior to their fall.  The results of this are that we, the descendants of Adam and Eve, must live in a world that is separated from God and must deal with all of the consequences of the great divorces listed above.  While we are still basically good due to being created by the all good God, we are wounded and have this inclination to do evil known as concupiscence.  Our giving into our concupiscence results in us committing personal sins, which, of course, separates us from God on a personal level.

While it may seem that we are without hope due to the situation we were placed in by our first parents, God gives us the first prophecy and promise of salvation in the same chapter of Genesis where the fall of mankind is described.  Here is the scripture:

“Then the LORD God said to the serpent: “Because you have done this, you shall be banned from all the animals and from all the wild creatures; On your belly shall you crawl, and dirt shall you eat all the days of your life. I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; He will strike at your head, while you strike at his heel.”-Genesis 3:14, 15

Here God speaks of a war between this woman and her offspring and the serpent (who represents the Devil) and his offspring.  Notice the offspring of the woman will wound the serpent in the head—a death blow and the offspring of the serpent will merely strike the offspring of the woman in the heal—a blow that is not fatal.  This scripture is known in Christian tradition as the protoevangelium (The First Gospel or Goodnews).  The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains how Christians have understood this prophecy in paragraphs 410-412:

“After his fall, man was not abandoned by God. On the contrary, God calls him and in a mysterious way heralds the coming victory over evil and his restoration from his fall. This passage in Genesis is called the Protoevangelium (“first gospel”): the first announcement of the Messiah and Redeemer, of a battle between the serpent and the Woman, and of the final victory of a descendant of hers. The Christian tradition sees in this passage an announcement of the “New Adam” who, because he “became obedient unto death, even death on a cross”, makes amends superabundantly for the disobedience, of Adam. Furthermore many Fathers and Doctors of the Church have seen the woman announced in the “Proto-evangelium” as Mary, the mother of Christ, the “new Eve”. Mary benefited first of all and uniquely from Christ’s victory over sin: she was preserved from all stain of original sin and by a special grace of God committed no sin of any kind during her whole earthly life. But why did God not prevent the first man from sinning? St. Leo the Great responds, “Christ’s inexpressible grace gave us blessings better than those the demon’s envy had taken away.” and St. Thomas Aquinas wrote, “There is nothing to prevent human nature’s being raised up to something greater, even after sin; God permits evil in order to draw forth some greater good. Thus St. Paul says, ‘Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more’; and the Exsultet sings, ‘O happy fault,. . . which gained for us so great a Redeemer!’”

In our next lesson we will look at how God continuously reaches out to mankind to reconcile with us throughout history and how this leads to the coming of the Messiah.

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Are the JWs Really the Re-establishment of 1st Century Christianity?

The JWs taught me that their organization is the re-establishment of authentic 1st Century Christianity without the “pagan” influences found in the Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant Churches.  So, I reasoned that if the JWs are correct, then I should be able to find their doctrines in the writings of those Christians who were alive when the Apostles were still alive.  What I found was quite shocking to me.

I started with the writings of St. Ignatius who was the Bishop of Antioch.  He was taken to Rome where he was martyred for the faith.  During his trip to Rome, he wrote a series of letters to the Christian communities along the way.  These letters are believed to have been written as early as 98 A.D. which means that St. Ignatius was a contemporary of St. John the Apostle.

In the his writings, St. Ignatius confesses Jesus as God and, furthermore, is willing to die for this belief.  He also refers to the Eucharist as the flesh of Jesus Christ which is a very Catholic understanding of the Eucharist.  Here are some examples:

“being united and elected through the true passion by the will of the Father, and Jesus Christ, our God.”-The Epistle to the Ephesians

“There is one Physician who is possessed both of flesh and spirit; both made and not made; God existing in flesh; true life in death; both of Mary and of God; first passible and then impassible— even Jesus Christ our Lord.”-The Epistle to the Ephesians

“For our GodJesus Christ, was, according to the appointment of God, conceived in the womb by Mary, of the seed of David, but by the Holy Ghost. He was born and baptized, that by His passion He might purify the water.”-The Epistle to the Ephesians

“Be on your guard, therefore, against such persons. And this will be the case with you if you are not puffed up, and continue in intimate union with Jesus Christ our God, and the bishop, and the enactments of the apostles”.-The Epistle to the Trallians

For our GodJesus Christ, now that He is with the Father, is all the more revealed[in His glory]. Christianity is not a thing of silence only, but also of [manifest] greatness.-The Epistle to the Romans

“I desire the bread of God, the heavenly bread, the bread of life, which is the flesh of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who became afterwards of the seed of David and Abraham; and I desire the drink of God, namely His blood, which is incorruptible love and eternal life.”-The Epistle to the Romans

“Permit me to be an imitator of the passion of my God.”-The Epistle to the Romans

The writings of Ignatius really affected me because as a JW I was taught that after the Apostles died all of the “Catholic type of false doctrines” began to arise among the early Christians.  However, here was a leader of the Christian community in Antioch willing to die for these “Catholic” beliefs and he was alive during the time of the Apostle John.  Furthermore, no matter what Early Church Father I read, I discovered that their beliefs were in no way, shape or form similar to anything that the JWs taught or continue to teach at this time.  Therefore, I had to wonder if the claims that the JWs make of being the re-establishment of organized first century Christianity on earth was really something that I could believe in.


If you would like more information on the Early Church Fathers and what they believed compared to what the JWs claim you may wish to read the following:

THE WATCHTOWER AND THE ANTE-NICENE CHURCH FATHERS  by Michael J. Partyka

Jehovah’s Witnesses on Trial:  The Testimony of the Early Church Fathers by Robert U. Finnerty

After I read about the beliefs of the Early Church Fathers, I began wondering how it is that Christians decided what books to place in the New Testament or, as the JWs call it, the Christian Greek Scriptures.  The information I discovered here went a long way to attracting me to the Catholic Church.  I will talk about this in my next blog post.

Book Review: Attic Alone-An Ex-Jehovah’s Witness Finds the Church by A. McGinley

This book starts off with a terrible scene.

A. McGinley tells the story of her large, imposing and abusive Jehovah’s Witness father placing drops of acid on her arm.  This was a common practice among the Jehovah’s Witnesses in the 1940’s as it was against their religion to receive smallpox vaccinations.  The scar left behind from the acid burns on her arm would look like a scar from a smallpox vaccination.  This imitation vaccination scar along with a falsified medical record was all that her father needed to get McGinley into grammar school since children who were not vaccinated against smallpox back in the 1940’s were not allowed to attend school.

The physical pain that McGinley describes from this imitation smallpox vaccine is a fitting metaphor for the emotional and spiritual pain that she received from the imitation Gospel of the Jehovah’s Witnesses.  Just as I could imagine hearing her screaming in pain due to the acid burns while her Mother comforts her, I could also feel her emotional and spiritual pain that she recounts for us throughout the book as the imitation Gospel of the Jehovah’s Witnesses is foisted upon her by her JW father and JW grandmother while her Mother comforts her as best she can.  Throughout the book, the only other place she can go for comfort besides her Mother’s embrace is the Attic of her home all alone which soon becomes the Attic of her soul.

However, while suffering due to the effects of the mind controlling and abusive nature of the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the destruction they caused on her family, A. McGinley recounts the many rays of light that she experienced in her life.  She walks us through the grace that God gives her as she makes her way home to the fullness of the Christian faith in the Catholic Church.  From learning how to say the Lord’s Prayer while in grammar school, which turns out to be the only prayer she can say for many years, to the altar call at the same Church which she saw through the hospital window during her son’s illness, she recounts the amazing ways in which Our Lord called to her in her moments of need.

A. McGinley’s book is truly a journey of grace and reminds us that while problems in this world may make us want to retreat into our “Attic Alone”, that we really do have a friend in Christ who is with us at all times and at all places along our journey to heaven.

Pray Without Ceasing

In the Mass Readings for the Ordinary Form of the Mass we hear about the Israelites’ battle against Amalek as recorded in Exodus 17:8-13.  Joshua leads the Israelites in battle against the Amalekites while Moses stands on top of the hill with the Staff of God in his hand.  It turns out that as long as Moses has his hands raised, the Israelites are successful in battle but when he would rest his hands, the Amalekites would be successful.  This resulted in those who were with Moses upon the hill, propping his hands up so that the Israelites would be successful and win the day in the battle.

This reading is matched with the readings from the New Testament, namely, 2 Timothy 3:14-4:2 where St. Paul reminds us that we, as Christians are to be persistent in proclaiming the Gospel to others whether it be convenient or inconvenient to do so.  In addition, we read in today’s Gospel reading from Luke 18:1-8 about the parable of the persistent widow who badgered the unjust judge until he gave her a just verdict.  Our Lord reminds us that God is even more in tune with what is just than we are and that if we persevere in prayer to God for justice as this widow did with the unjust judge, that we should be confident that God will answer our prayers.

Since becoming Catholic, I have become amazed at the variety of ways in which the Church teaches us to pray.  There are tons of devotions ranging from the Liturgy of the Hours to the Rosary and others.  It makes sense that the Church would develop such a variety of forms of spirituality since she has been praying to Our Lord and for the salvation of all humanity for the past 2000 years.

Like the leader of the Israelites, Our Lord Jesus raises the Staff of God, His Cross, to heaven as we attempt to fight our sinful ways.  Without the prayers of the Saints who join with Our Lord on heaven’s hilltop and the Sacraments which we receive through Our Lord’s Passion on the Cross, we would never be successful.

In addition, it is tempting at times for us to give up particularly during those times in our lives when we are having difficulties.  St. Paul reminds us that, as Christians, it is our family duty to continue to pray and live out the life of Christ.  We must be determined to make our entire lives and every action that we do in life a prayer to Our Lord.  Imagine what great witnesses we would become for Our Lord if we actually did this and did it well.

And, finally, we must persevere in our prayers knowing that Our Lord is not at all like the unjust judge in the parable.  He hears our prayers and knows what is best for us in all things.  With the help of God’s grace through the Sacraments that we receive through Our Lord’s passion we can, if we are open to it, answer Our Lord’s question at the end of the parable, (“But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”) in the affirmative each and every day and ultimately at the end of time as we enter into the new heavens and new earth at His second coming.

The JWs’ Modalism Mistake.

Trinitarians reject Modalism

As I read more and more documents, Protestant, Orthodox, and Catholic, about what these Christians believed about the nature of God, the more I realized how mistaken JWs are when they try to characterize what it is Protestant, Orthodox and Catholic Christians believe about the nature of God.  For example in the Watchtower publication known as Reasoning from the Scriptures on page 405 it says the following about how Christians explain the Trinity doctrine:

“According to the Athanasian Creed, there are three divine Persons (the Father, the Son, the Holy Ghost), each said to be eternal, each said to be almighty, none greater or less than another, each said to be God, and yet together being but one God. Other statements of the dogma emphasize that these three “Persons” are not separate and distinct individuals but are three modes in which the divine essence exists.”

The latter part of the quote above which says that some Trinitarians believe that the “Persons” of the Blessed Trinity are not ‘separate and distinct individuals but are three modes in which the divine essence exists’, is not an accurate representation of the Trinity doctrine but it is an accurate description of another doctrine regarding the nature of God known as Modalism.

Modalism is described as a heresy by the Protestant Theologian Dr. Robert Morey in his book The Trinity-Evidence and Issues.  He describes what Modalism is on page 507:

“From the beginning, Modalism was based on the Platonic doctrine that God was an indivisible Monad and could not be divided into three separate Persons.  Thus, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are not to be viewed as three distinct Persons, but as three different manifestations, modes, administrations, disguises, roles, or offices of one and the same Person.”

Also, the Catechism of the Catholic Church says the following in paragraph 254:

“The divine persons are really distinct from one another.  God is one but not solitary. “Father”, “Son”, “Holy Spirit” are not simply names designating modalities of the divine being, for they are really distinct from one another: “He is not the Father who is the Son, nor is the Son he who is the Father, nor is the Holy Spirit he who is the Father or the Son.” They are distinct from one another in their relations of origin: “It is the Father who generates, the Son who is begotten, and the Holy Spirit who proceeds.” The divine Unity is Triune.”

So, in reality then, neither mainstream Protestant, Orthodox, nor Catholic scholars believe that the Father, the Son, and the Spirit are the same person.  This means that much of the arguments that the JWs believe they are making against the Trinity doctrine are really arguments being made against the heresy of Modalism.  For example, in the book You Can Live Forever In Paradise On Earth on page 39 under the subheading IS GOD JESUS OR A TRINITY? it says:

“Further, on one occasion Jesus prayed to God, saying: “Let, not my will, but yours take place.” (Luke 22:42) If Jesus were the Almighty God, he would not have prayed to himself, would he?”

This question may cause a problem for a person who believes in Modalism and but it does not for a Trinitarian.  For the Trinitarian, Jesus is praying to God the Father who is a separate person from the Son.  However, Trinitarians do believe that Jesus, as God’s Son, has all of the qualities and attributes of God the Father and is, Almighty God by nature in a similar manner as a human child has all of the qualities of his human parents and is human by nature.

One of the many problems that I began to discover when accepting the JWs’ view of the nature of God is that I started seeing some serious contradictions between the Old and New Testaments when it came to dealing with the revelation about God’s nature.  I will explore this next.

The Holy Spirit is a Person and The Holy Spirit is God

The Holy Spirit is a Person

The JWs, deny the personhood of the Holy Spirit.  The scriptural evidence they give to say that the Holy Spirit is not a person is as follows:

“As for the “Holy Spirit,” the so-called third Person of the Trinity, we have already seen that this is not a person but God’s active force.  John the Baptizer said that Jesus would baptize with holy spirit, even as John had been baptizing with water.  Hence, in the same way that water is not a person, holy spirit is not a person. (Matthew 3:11)  What John foretold was fulfilled when, following the death and resurrection of Jesus, holy spirit was poured out on his followers gathered in Jerusalem.  The Bible says: “They all became filled with holy spirit.” (Acts 2:4)  Were they “filled” with a person?  No, but they were filled with God’s active force.”- You Can Live Forever In Paradise On Earth page 40

However, the JWs will admit that anyone in the Bible who is depicted has having an intellect and will is a person.  They say this in their discussion about the person of God when they say on page 36 of the book You Can Live Forever In Paradise On Earth, that God exhibits intelligence and, therefore, this along with him having a body makes God a person.

If the Holy Spirit is a person, we would expect for the Bible to describe and attribute to the Holy Spirit those qualities and abilities that we would expect a person to have such as intellect (the ability to know), emotion (the ability to feel) and will (the ability to choose).   An impersonal active force, however, would not have these capabilities.  Notice how the actions of the Holy Spirit are described even in the New World Translation:

“But when they are leading you along to deliver you up, do not be anxious before-hand about what to speak; but whatever is given you in that hour, speak this, for you are not the ones speaking, but the holy spirit is.”-Mark 13:11

“Thus says the holy spirit, ‘The man to whom this girdle belongs the Jews will bind in this manner in Jerusalem and deliver into the hands of people of the nations.”- Acts 21:11

“Moreover, the holy spirit also bears witness to us,”-Hebrews 10:15

After I read these scriptures, I wondered how an impersonal force can speak or bear witness as in a courtroom.  Notice the next examples from the New World Translation:

“As they were publically ministering to Jehovah and fasting, the holy spirit said: “Of all persons set Barnabas and Saul apart for me for the work to which I have called them.”-Acts 13:2

“For the holy spirit and we ourselves have favored adding no further burden to you, except these necessary things.” Acts 15:28

“Moreover, they went through Phrygia and the country of Galatia, because they were forbidden by the holy spirit to speak the word in the [district of] Asia.-Acts 16:6

“Pay attention to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the holy spirit has appointed you overseers, to shepherd the congregation of God, which he purchased with the blood of his own [Son].-Acts 20:28

After I read these scriptures, I wondered how an impersonal force can choose individuals, choose not to add further burdens to others, forbid the apostles from going to Asia, and even choose overseers in the local congregations in Ephesus.  These are all examples of what a person would do who has intellect (the ability to know) and will (the ability to choose).  Notice the next scripture from the New World Translation:

“Also, do not be grieving God’s holy spirit, with which you have been sealed for a day of releasing by ransom.”-Hebrews 10:29

After reading this scripture, I wondered how an impersonal force could feel grieved.  Here was another example of the Holy Spirit having the emotional attribute (the ability to feel) of a person.

In short, there are many references to the Holy Spirit as a person, even in the JWs own New World Translation of the Bible.  The JWs response to this would be to say that the inspired writers are merely using the literary technique of personification which is that they are giving the attributes of personhood to a thing whereas a more correct understanding of scripture would be to realize that the holy spirit is merely a force belonging to God that is no more a person than the natural forces of fire and water.

At this point, I was rather confused as to which perspective was most correct.  It seemed that I was at an impasse as both the JWs and the Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant Christians could both point to scriptures which appeared to support their very different points of view.  However, I was impressed by the number of scriptures that the Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant Christians could cite in support of the Holy Spirit being a person.

What I wanted to know now, was how Catholics, Orthodox, and Protestants came to the conclusion that the Holy Spirit is God, the third person of the Blessed Trinity, using the Bible.

The Holy Spirit is God!

During our discussion on the Divinity of Christ, I gave examples of how the New Testament writers applied Old Testament scriptures that the Jews applied to Jehovah (or Yahweh) and now applied these to Christ.  These examples went a long way in helping me to see how Christians, Orthodox, Protestant, and Catholic could come to the conclusion using the Bible that Jesus is God by nature because according to the writers of the New Testament, Jesus has all of the qualities of God the Father while being a separate person from God the Father.  I wondered, if there were any examples of this relating to the Holy Spirit.  With the help of the JWs own New World Translation of the Bible and the book The Trinity: Evidence and Issues by Dr. Robert Morey, I found some examples that proved to be very troubling for me.

In Acts 28:25-27, St. Paul is speaking to the Jewish people of the city of Rome about the Gospel of Jesus.  In his last words to them, the following is said according to the New World Translation:

“The holy spirit aptly spoke through Isaiah the prophet to your forefathers, saying, ‘Go to this people and say: “By hearing, you will hear but by no means understand; and, looking you will look but by no means see.” For the heart of this people has grown unreceptive, and with their ears they have heard without response, and they have shut their eyes; that they should never see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn back, and I should heal them.”

In the 1984 Reference Edition of the New World Translation, it has a cross-reference to the book of Isaiah chapter 6.  Notice who Isaiah says is speaking these words:

“And I began to hear the voice of Jehovah saying: “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” And proceeded to say: “Here I am! Send me.” And he went on to say: “Go, and you must say to this people, ‘Hear again and again, O men, but do not understand; and see again and again, but do not get any knowledge.’ Make the heart of this people unreceptive, and make their very ears unresponsive, and past their very eyes together, that they may not see with their eyes and with their ears they many not hear, and that their own heart may not understand and that they may not actually turn back and get healing for themselves.”-Isaiah 6:8-10 New World Translation

So, in addition to St. Paul saying that the Holy Spirit speaks which in and of itself seems to indicate that the Holy Spirit is a person, St. Paul attributes the words of Jehovah from the book of Isaiah as coming from the Holy Spirit.  I found this troubling because how can an impersonal force speak and, furthermore, how can an impersonal force speak as if it is Almighty God, Jehovah, Himself?

In another example of this, the writer of the book of Hebrews says that the Holy Spirit bears witness to us as in a courtroom about the New Covenant that Jehovah wishes to make with his faithful people.   Here is what it says in the New World Translation:

Moreover, the holy spirit also bears witness to us, for after it has said: “ ‘This is the covenant that I shall covenant toward them after those days,’ says Jehovah.  ‘I will put my laws in their hearts, and in their minds I shall write them.’ ” [it says afterward] “And I shall by no means call their sins and their lawless deeds to mind anymore.”-Hebrews 10: 15-17

Notice the writer of the book of Hebrews tells us that the holy spirit bears witness to us.  How can an impersonal force bear witness to someone?  In addition, the writer of the book of Hebrews tells us in verse 17 that the holy spirit (which the JWs’ Bible refers to with the impersonal pronoun “it”) will no longer hold the sins of the people to account anymore.  The questions now are how can an impersonal force do that and is the writer of the book of Hebrews giving some power to the Holy Spirit that would in the minds of the JWs belong only to Jehovah, whom they consider Almighty God?

Well, when I looked at the cross-reference to Hebrews 10:17 in the 1984 Reference Edition of the JWs’ New World Translation, it references the book of Jeremiah chapter 31: 34 which says:

“And they will no more teach each one his companion and each one his brother,’ saying, ‘Know Jehovah!’ for they will all know me, from the least one of them even to the greatest one of them,’ is the utterance of Jehovah.  “For I shall forgive their error, and their sin I shall remember no more.”-Jeremiah 31:34 New World Translation

So, the writer of the book of Hebrews appears to be saying that it is the Holy Spirit who will forgive the sins of the people and it appears as though He is quoting from a passage in Jeremiah which says that it is Jehovah, Almighty God, who will forgive the sins of the people.  Thus, I believed that an argument could be made that the writer of the book of Hebrews is equating the Holy Spirit as a person with the same qualities as God the Father!

It was at this point that I was beginning to see the way in which someone could accept the doctrine of the Trinity as a dogma that could be derived from Sacred Scripture.  And, I also began to realize that in many respects, the JWs did not really understand what the Trinity doctrine actually confessed about the nature of God.

God’s Extraordinarily Ordinary Means of Salvation

My wife and I attended the Mass at Holy Hill again this Sunday (www.holyhill.com).  The Old Testament Mass reading for the day was taken from 2 Kings 5:14-17.  It recounts the story of Naaman, a great military commander, who was a leper.  He had captured a little girl in a raid on Israel and this little girl became a servant to Naaman’s wife.

The little girl told Naaman’s wife that the prophet in Samaria, Elisha, could cure Naaman of his leprosy.  Naaman with his King’s permission sought out Elisha and Elisha told Naaman to bathe seven times in the Jordan River and he would be healed.

Naaman was furious.  It was well known that the waters of the Jordan River were not as pristine and healing as the rivers of Damascus and, besides, why would Elisha not come out and just call down the power of God over his skin and heal him?  Naaman wanted lots of flash and fanfare.  He wanted something extraordinary to happen to him.

Naaman’s servants reasoned with him and said that if Elisha had asked him to perform some extraordinary feat, that he would have done it without question and that it did not makes sense for Naaman to refuse to do something quite ordinary such as bathe in the Jordan just because it seemed to be beneath him.  After all, there was a chance that he would be healed of his leprosy.

Naaman bathed in the Jordan seven times and was healed.  He was quite thankful and begged Elisha to take his gifts of great wealth and when Elisha refused, Naaman promised to worship the True God.

I love this story in that it always reminds me of how God can make us Great Saints through ordinary means.  Like Naaman we expect God to ask us to do extraordinary things and sometimes the Lord does ask us to do those things.  However, for the vast majority of us we work out our salvation and grow in holiness by doing those ordinary things that God has called us to do depending on our vocation.

For parents, it is providing for their families not only materially but spiritually as well.  It is through wiping the noses of sick children, saying the family rosary, attending Mass regularly, and teaching the faith to those young ones.  For some this may seem all rather ordinary and somewhat tedious.  We may even ask, “How can I become a Great Saint if all I do all day is clean the house, cook the meals, and answer the same questions over and over again?”

This is not unlike Naaman’s reaction to Elisha’s request to bathe seven times in the muddy Jordan River of all places.  And yet, through this extraordinarily ordinary action of bathing, the Lord made Naaman clean.  Likewise, the Lord can remove the leprosy of sin from our souls through our faithfully performing the extraordinarily ordinary daily tasks as determined by the vocation to which Our Lord has called us.