The Great Adventure Catholic Bible Study 73 Books. One Story. Your Story. Thu, 27 Apr 2017 14:43:49 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Is Jesus the Only Mediator? Thu, 27 Apr 2017 14:43:49 +0000 As a Southern convert, I hear versions of this refute against Catholicism all the time; I see them in comment boxes on blog posts that involve the Catholic priesthood, especially.


They go something like: I’m a born again Christian. I don’t need (a pope, prayers of saints, forgiveness from priests … ) any other mediator than Jesus. Don’t you know the Bible says, “For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5). As though never a Catholic has seen that verse.

I get it. I was Southern Baptist. I was raised to view Catholicism with suspicion at best and contempt for its “hell-bound” and “legalistic” doctrines at worst. But I know better now.

History as Mediator

I once knew in part and prophesied in part; but when exposed to the fullness of the faith in 2000 years of history I gorged on the feast whole, and my theological scraps were swallowed up in plenitude. Like St. Paul, “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became a man, I gave up childish ways” (1 Corinthians 13:11).

So I have a few questions for those who vociferously maintain that Jesus is their only mediator. In what matter, exactly, is he your only mediator? Your creation? Did not your parents assist with that? And if your very creation was not accomplished solely through him, what is?

In the words of Catholic philosopher, Josef Piper, “Being created by God does not suffice, it would seem; the fact of creation needs continuation and perfection by the creative power of human love.”

Person as Mediator

Indeed. Did Jesus carry you in his womb? And after your conception, gestation, and birth, what then? Have you not been fed, clothed, educated, loved, provided for, and protected by someone who is not Jesus unto this day?

As St. Catherine of Sienna says: “All virtue and all vice come by way of your neighbor.” Did not everything you received from him, even grace and all that is eternal, come to you in some part through another person? “What have you got that was not given to you? And if it was given to you, why are you boasting as though it were your own?” (1 Corinthians 4:7).

To the one who thinks Jesus is the only mediator, I would like to ask:

Does everything you know about Christ come from Christ himself? Did Jesus baptize you? Did Jesus teach you to read or read the Scriptures to you? Did Jesus hand-write your Bible, gather its writings, or physically protect the Deposit of Faith for 2000 plus years until you could receive it from his literal mouth?

Everything that happens in the spiritual life (and otherwise) comes to us from God through our neighbor. God does not appear in order to physically baptize me himself, and you don’t baptize yourself. You are baptized by a person.

You don’t need saints to pray for you? Then why ask me to? I’m no saint, and if you don’t need a real saint—like an actual, in-heaven-before-Jesus-saint—praying for you, you definitely don’t need me or anyone else this side of heaven to.

But if you pray to ask Jesus into your heart, you know that prayer or are led in it through another person. You are led in worship by a person. You are prayed for by other people. You are taught the Word of God by a person. And people even forgive one another! All the time if they’re obedient to Jesus, “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

Yet we don’t say the person himself did the preaching or teaching or baptizing or saving or even forgiving (because it’s often too hard); we know that God does those things through the person for us.

Priest as Mediator

Catholic confession and forgiveness through a priest follows the same pattern. The Pharisees also made the “God is the only mediator” claim against Jesus in this very matter: “No man can forgive sins, but God only” (Luke 5:21).

And yet Jesus told the apostles, “If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven. If you retain anyone’s sins they are retained” (John 20:22-23).

Jesus gave them a special power and authority through the Holy Spirit to carry out that command, and they passed on that power and authority to others through the laying on of hands. The writings of the early Church indicate they understood confession the way the Catholic Church has understood it since then.

Can you see how ridiculous it is to force 1 Timothy 2:5 to say, then, that Jesus is the only mediator? What does St. Paul mean, then?

Love Is Mediator

When we read the Bible with the whole Church throughout her history we know he means that Jesus is the absolutely unique Mediator whose sole sacrifice is able to make eternal atonement for sin and therefore reconcile men eternally with God. All other mediators draw their efficacy from his office, insofar as they cooperate with and unite their efforts to his.

To the degree we take seriously the responsibility to mediate and reconcile with others, we ourselves will be saved: “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father also will forgive you; but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:14-15). “As you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me” (Matthew 25:40).

The same is true of our neighbor, so that Jesus could have also said, “As you received it from one of the least of these my brethren, you received it from me.”

Jesus told St. Catherine of Sienna, “I could easily have created men possessed of all that they should need both for body and soul, but I wish that one should have need of the other, and that they should be My ministers to administer the graces and the gifts that they have received from Me …

“It is true, however, that the acts, unless made through love of Me, profit them nothing so far as grace is concerned. See then, that I have made men My ministers, and placed them in diverse stations and various ranks, in order that they may make use of the virtue of love” (Treatise on Divine Providence).

St. Paul said it first. After speaking on spiritual gifts and the duty and privilege of offering them to Christ in service to his body for the common good, St. Paul maintains it must all be done in, with, and through a love that is itself divine ( see 1 Corinthians 12-13).

It Is the Lord

The activity of God, then, is somehow in every person and always present, but it is visible only to the eye of faith. Because our senses can see only the creature, we are often taken by surprise and do not recognize it is him until he has passed us by. If we watched with vigilant attention God would endlessly reveal himself to us in our neighbor.

This is why Jesus marveled at the faith of the Roman centurion (Matthew 8:10) who saw what the Pharisees couldn’t, and what many of us won’t: there is never a moment when God does not approach us in the mediation of another person, so that at every encounter we might exclaim, “It is the Lord!” (John 21:7).

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Encountering the Word: Third Sunday of Easter Wed, 26 Apr 2017 20:21:44 +0000

In this week’s Encountering the Word video, Jeff Cavins reflects on the readings for the Third Sunday of Easter:

First Reading: Acts 2:14, 22-33
Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 16:1-2, 5, 7-8, 9-10, 11
Second Reading: 1 Peter 1:17-21
Alleluia: Luke 24:32
Gospel: Luke 24:13-35

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Suffering & the Mass 5: The Redemption Has Come

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Suffering & the Mass 5: The Redemption Has Come Thu, 20 Apr 2017 04:12:54 +0000 It was in the passion of Jesus that his sweat became like great drops of blood (Luke 22:44) and he bore the crown of thorns (John 19:5), reminders of the result of Adam’s ordeal (Genesis 3:18-19). Jesus did what Adam should have done.

“In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard for his godly fear. Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; being made perfect he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him” (Hebrews 5:7-9).


Though Jesus was in the form of God, he “did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:5-8).

Jesus completely emptied himself and demonstrated the love of God in all its fullness. The good news is that he rose from the dead, defeating death, hell, and the grave. Indeed, Jesus answered the question raised in the Garden of Eden: we can trust God. Unlike Adam, Jesus obeyed the Father and poured out his life for his bride. When we realize that the bride of Christ is the Church, and Jesus loved us so much, it’s almost too much to take in. Oh, how we are loved!

Jesus suffered and died that we might become a part of the family of God, become spiritually healed and share in his nature, but he didn’t eliminate suffering. The work of Christ doesn’t guarantee the lack of suffering. No, he changed the meaning of suffering. We are now joined through baptism with Christ in his death and resurrection and have become intimately joined to him, so much so that we are his body. Because of our union with Christ, even our suffering is changed; it becomes redemptive by virtue of “being in Christ.” Pope St. John Paul II said in his Apostolic Letter Salvifici Doloris ( On the Christian Meaning of Human Suffering) that “in the cross of Christ not only is the redemption accomplished through suffering, but also human suffering itself has been redeemed” (Salvifici Doloris, 19). In other words, suffering is worth something if it is in union with Christ.

At the point where Jesus seems to be the weakest, the complete self donation of the Cross, the most powerful act of the passion, the resurrection, took place. So too, our weakness is capable of being filled with the same power manifested on the Cross. St. Paul experienced much weakness and suffering, however his answer from Christ in regards to his own infirmity was “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

Then St. Paul could proclaim, “I will all the more gladly boast of my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Corinthians 12:9). John Paul II, a man acquainted with suffering said, “It is suffering, more than anything else, which clears the way for the grace which transforms human souls” (Salvifici Doloris, 26).

Rejoicing in Suffering?

St. Paul understood that our life is a cooperation with the work of Christ when he said to the Colossians, “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church” (Colossians 1:24).

Think about that … Paul said that something is lacking in Christ’s afflictions. What could possibly be lacking in Christ’s afflictions? Your part! Again, John Paul II said, “the springs of divine power gush forth precisely in the midst of human weakness. Those who share in the sufferings of Christ preserve in their own sufferings a very special particle of the infinite treasure of the world’s redemption, and can share this treasure with others” (Salvifici Doloris, 27).

Paul knew completing what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ does not mean that the suffering of Christ is not complete. It means that the redemption, accomplished through satisfactory love, remains always open to all love expressed in human suffering. While Jesus achieved the redemption completely, he did not bring it to a close. The door is still wide open to participate with him in the redemption of the world.

We will see that our best opportunity is during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass where the meaning of suffering is most clearly understood. Jesus tells us that if we are to follow him we must deny ourselves and take up our cross daily (Luke 9:23).

Our lives become an imitation and participation in the love of the Trinity by offering up our complete lives in union with Christ. “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For while we live we are always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh. Knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence” (2 Corinthians 4:8-11,14).

The Resurrection is our guarantee that we can trust our heavenly Father; we can participate in the life-giving love of the Trinity by laying our lives down for the sake of his kingdom. The fruit of our suffering is raised to a supernatural level; it becomes eternal in nature. As Eve’s love for Adam resulted in suffering during childbirth, it ultimately resulted in fruit, a son. So too Jesus “brought many sons to glory … through suffering” (Hebrews 2:10).

It is in the midst of suffering that we experience the love of God. We enter the very heart of the Trinity, and it is there that we come to know God. Christ allows us to participate in his cross because that is his means of allowing us to participate in the exchanges of the Trinity, to share in the very inner life of God. Mary, the mother of Jesus said “yes” to God prior to the Incarnation. This “yes,” her fiat would result in pain. Simeon told her “a sword will pierce through your own soul also” (Luke 2:35).

But what was the fruit of Mary’s suffering? Life for the entire world.

Redemptive Suffering

The suffering and death of Jesus does not mean that we won’t suffer. In fact, we are told that we can expect some suffering if we follow him. Jesus doesn’t remove all suffering from us; he changes our suffering and makes it redemptive. Jesus empowers us with his life and enables us to love as he loves by offering our lives in union with him.

The most perfect place to offer our suffering in union with Christ is during the Mass. It is in the Mass that we fully participate in the mystery of Calvary. The Mass is divided up into two main movements, the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist. After the readings from Scripture and the homily, the focus moves from the pulpit or lectern to the altar. The altar is the place where the sacrifice of Jesus is offered. It’s important to remember that the Paschal mystery of Christ cannot remain only in the past, as he suffered and died for all men. This redemptive event is eternal and transcends time making it a historically unique moment.

We participate in this unique moment by way of a sacrament. Time is mysteriously suspended, as the past, present, and future converge into the most important event in history. When we participate in the Mass, the liturgy not only recalls the events that saved us, but actualized them in the present.

The Great Exchange

Bishop Emeritus Fabian Bruskewitz of Lincoln, Nebraska, in his book A Shepherd Speaks, recalls a very old prayer that speaks of Mass as an admirabile commercium, or a “marvelous exchange” (pg. 290-291). Each of the two parts of Mass is an intimate exchange with God. In the first part, the Liturgy of the Word, we exchange words with God. We speak to him in prayer and he speaks to us in his word. In the second part, the Liturgy of the Eucharist, we bring to God our bread, wine, and offerings. These represent our work, our tears, our joys, and yes … our suffering. The bread used during Mass is referred to as “the host,” derived from the Latin hostia, which means “victim.”

When the host is placed on the paten, usually a plate made of precious metal; it is elevated and offered to the Father by the Son. The deacon or priest pours wine into a chalice and adds a drop of water. The wine stands for Christ and the water humanity. The image here is that our humanity is lost and totally immersed in his divinity. We truly are “in Christ.”

It is at this point in the Mass where our attention should be completely focused on offering ourselves in union with Christ. This is the moment where our minds and hearts dare not wander. It is at this precious moment when our cares and suffering are consciously united with Christ and we choose to love as he loved in self-donating love. The priest invites the assembly to join him in one accord in praying, “that our sacrifice may be acceptable to God, the almighty Father.” While Christ is the one sacrifice on the altar, offering up their lives in union unites the laity to him with his.

“Then at the climax of the Mass, Christ takes our worthless gifts and changes them, through the invocation and blessing of the Holy Spirit and the words of institution, spoken by the ordained priest, into his gift of himself to God. Thus, our gifts, joined to his, become of infinite worth and value. This is what makes each Mass, even when imperfect with defective music, ceremonies, rubrics or homily, infinitely meritorious before God” (A Shepherd Speaks, pg. 291).

The great exchange has taken place and all things have become new and “all things work together for the good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). Indeed, when we participate with Christ by offering our lives in sacrificial union with him we enter the heart of the Trinity and can truly say, “I have come to know his love.”

Are you suffering now? Do not despair, this is your opportunity to draw close to Christ and entrust yourself to God (1 Peter 2:23; 4:19). It is by picking up your cross and following Christ that we come to know him more deeply. We should leave each celebration of the Mass knowing that we have found and participated in the meaning of suffering. Armed with this knowledge of the nature of suffering, we can go through anything and need not despair.

What is the worst thing that has ever happened on earth? Deicide, the crucifixion of God. What was the result? The salvation of the world. If the apparent worst thing resulted in the best thing, then what can God bring out of your situation?

The Suffering & Mass series was originally published in Scripture and the Mystery of the Mass, published by Emmaus Road Publishing. It is republished on The Great Adventure Blog with permission from Emmaus Road Publishing.

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Suffering & Mass: The Great Exchange - Part 1
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Divine Mercy Sunday Wed, 19 Apr 2017 13:02:15 +0000

In this week’s Encountering the Word video, Jeff Cavins offers a reflection for the Second Sunday of Easter, or Divine Mercy Sunday. The readings are:

First Reading: Acts 2:42-47
Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 118:2-4, 13-15, 22-24
Second Reading: 1 Peter 1:3-9
Alleluia: John 20:29
Gospel: John 20:19-31

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The Resurrection of the Lord – The Mass of Easter Sunday Sun, 16 Apr 2017 21:06:46 +0000

In this week’s Encountering the Word video, Jeff Cavins reflects on the readings for The Resurrection of the Lord - The Mass of Easter Sunday:

First Reading: Acts 10:34A, 37-43
Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 118:1-2, 16-17, 22-23
Second Reading: Colossians 3:1-4 or 1 Corinthians 5:6B-8
Alleluia: 1 Corinthians 5:7B-8A
Gospel: John 20:1-9

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