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Remain in My Love, Keep My Commandments
Gospel Reflection for May 11, 2023
Jesus said to his disciples:
"As the Father loves me, so I also love you.
Remain in my love.
If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love,
just as I have kept my Father's commandments
and remain in his love.
"I have told you this so that
my joy might be in you and
your joy might be complete."
Now, there is a message we don’t hear preached very often these days, “keep my commandments.” In this anything goes era of non-judgmental acceptance, that seems a bit stern. What else did Jesus say on the subject? Here are a few passages:
'Why do you call me, "Lord, Lord" and not do what I say? 'Everyone who comes to me and listens to my words and acts on them -- I will show you what such a person is like. Such a person is like the man who, when he built a house, dug, and dug deep, and laid the foundations on rock; when the river was in flood it bore down on that house but could not shake it, it was so well built. But someone who listens and does nothing is like the man who built a house on soil, with no foundations; as soon as the river bore down on it, it collapsed; and what a ruin that house became!' Luke 6:46-49
If anyone hears my words and does not keep them faithfully, it is not I who shall judge such a person, since I have come not to judge the world, but to save the world: anyone who rejects me and refuses my words has his judge already: the word itself that I have spoken will be his judge on the last day. For I have not spoken of my own accord; but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and what to speak, and I know that his commands mean eternal life. And therefore what the Father has told me is what I speak. John 12:47-50
If you love me you will keep my commandments. Whoever holds to my commandments and keeps them is the one who loves me; and whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I shall love him and reveal myself to him.' Judas -- not Judas Iscariot -- said to him, 'Lord, what has happened, that you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?' Jesus replied: Anyone who loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we shall come to him and make a home in him. Anyone who does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not my own: it is the word of the Father who sent me. John 14:15-24
I firmly believe that nothing happens by coincidence. When I was asked to write the Gospel Reflection for today, I had no idea what the Mass Readings would be. Certainly not by coincidence I was finishing the final edits for my new book which is the story of my conversion to Catholicism. The book was just published this Monday… and here I am today, facing the very reason that decision came about!
When I was in college, at a major Southern Baptist university, I was forced to confront the reality that Protestant beliefs are not in accord with the words of Jesus. This was hard to accept as I was raised Protestant into a family that founded at least two Protestant churches. Even discussing with friends and professors that Protestant doctrine may be wrong and that Catholic doctrine was more in agreement with the words of the Bible meant ostracization and being asked to leave the school.
Jesus said we must eat His body and drink His blood or else we have no life in us. He emphasized it again and again, making it so clear that most of His followers abandoned Him. Yet, we were taught this was mere symbolism, even though He said, “Truly, truly I say to you…” We were taught that divorce was acceptable, even though Jesus expressly condemned it in all four gospels. We were taught that the priest has no role in forgiving sins even though Jesus specifically ordered His Apostles to forgive sins, stating, “'As the Father sent me, so am I sending you.' After saying this he breathed on them and said: Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone's sins, they are forgiven; if you retain anyone's sins, they are retained.” We were even being taught in a Baptist school that Baptism was merely symbolic, even though Jesus said, “Whoever believes and is baptised will be saved; whoever does not believe will be condemned.”
We were taught that the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church was wrong, but that the thousands of Protestant denominations (who all disagree with each other on matters of doctrine and theology) were equally right. But, Jesus said:
Consecrate them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world, and for their sake I consecrate myself so that they too may be consecrated in truth. I pray not only for these but also for those who through their teaching will come to believe in me. May they all be one, just as, Father, you are in me and I am in you, so that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe it was you who sent me. I have given them the glory you gave to me, that they may be one as we are one. With me in them and you in me, may they be so perfected in unity that the world will recognise that it was you who sent me and that you have loved them as you have loved me. John 17:17-23, 26
There is only one truth, and that is unchanging. There is only one Church that teaches the fullness of the truth. There is only one Church that was founded by Jesus and only one Church to which He gave His authority to “bind and loose.” There is only one Church that has valid ordination of priests tracing back to the very Apostles, under the authority of the Pope who holds the office of Saint Peter. There is only one Church that wrote the New Testament and compiled the Bible - the Protestants who changed the words of Jesus in the Bible and who cut out entire books from the Bible that did not agree with their new doctrines had no right or authority so to do.
…. and that is really just scratching the surface.
There is no Church other than the Catholic Church that has any legitimate claim to be the early Church of the Apostles, and no Church whose doctrine and practice other than the Catholic Church that agrees with the voluminous writings of the early Church. The Didache, alone should be enough to convince anyone that the early Church was Catholic and that the Catholic Church today is still the same Church. The Didache was written even before the New Testament was completed and is the first manual of Christian belief and worship - at least one of the Apostles were still alive and it is representative of the very teaching given to them by the Christ. Consider:
At the Eucharist, offer the eucharistic prayer in this way. Begin with the chalice: "We give thanks to thee, our Father, for the holy Vine of thy servant David, which thou hast made known to us through thy servant Jesus.
"Glory be to thee, world without end ."
Then over the broken bread: "We give thanks to thee, our Father, for the life and knowledge thou hast made known to us through thy servant Jesus."
"Glory be to thee, world without end ."
"As this broken bread, once dispersed over the hills, was brought together and became one loaf, so may thy Church be brought together from the ends of the earth into thy kingdom."
"Thine is the glory and the power, through Jesus Christ, for ever and ever."
No one is to eat or drink of your Eucharist but those who have been baptized in the Name of the Lord; for the Lord's own saying applies here, "Give not that which is holy unto dogs."
Assemble on the Lord's Day, and break bread and offer the Eucharist; but first make confession of your faults, so that your sacrifice may be a pure one. Anyone who has a difference with his fellow is not to take part with you until they have been reconciled, so as to avoid any profanation of your sacrifice. For this is the offering of which the Lord has said, "Everywhere and always bring me a sacrifice that is undefiled, for I am a great king, says the Lord, and my name is the wonder of nations."
Given the above and the many writings of the early Church, I was left with no choice but to convert to Catholicism, no matter the consequences. I could not in good conscience remain Protestant or even join a denomination that went through the motions of traditional liturgy and sacraments. Jesus prayed that all Christians be one - one body, united, of one mind and belief. Saint Paul said that division within the Church was crucifying Jeus again. The Bible states that the Church is the pillar and foundation, not an individual’s interpretation of the Bible.
Just as each person must examine the evidence and consider the arguments for and against Christianity to have an informed faith, each person should consider the historical evidence of Catholicism against the claims of Protestant denominations. All too often the “protests” of Protestants are scurrilous lies and myths that are easily disproved with only a brief look at secular historical documents. When it comes to doctrine and theology, the only way to know what is true is to compare it to the words of the Bible and the writings of the early Church. It is not enough just to adopt the denomination of your parents. Many make the claim that all that is necessary is to believe that Jeus is Lord, but Jesus also said:
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven,* but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name? Did we not drive out demons in your name? Did we not do mighty deeds in your name?’ Then I will declare to them solemnly, ‘I never knew you.* Depart from me, you evildoers.’ Matthew 7, 21-23
If you would like to read more about my conversion, please click the links below.
Confirmation, an Autobiography of Faith
Available in paperback on Amazon: