capa-blog copy
May 192017
 

Saint Peter's Square from the dome

By valyag (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons

The Twelve Apostles represent God’s new Israel: that is the reason why they are twelve, the successors of the Twelve Tribes of Israel.

Saint John tells us about this reality in his Revelation: the Angel shows him “the New Jerusalem” coming down out of Heaven, which is an image that represents the Glory of the Church.

“Come here. I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb. He took me in spirit to a great, high mountain and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God. It gleamed with the splendor of God” (Revelation 21, 9-11).

It is important to notice the details in Saint John’s description of the Church:

“And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God: her light was like unto a stone most precious, as it were a jasper stone, clear as crystal: having a wall great and high; having twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels; and names written thereon, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel: on the east were three gates; and on the north three gates; and on the south three gates; and on the west three gates. And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb” (Revelation 21, 10-14).

The “great and high wall” represents the majesty and fortification of the Church, in conformity with the way important cities of the past were surrounded and fortified by great walls. The “twelve gates” bearing the names of the twelve tribes of Israel, open to the four cardinal points, represent the universal catholic character of the Church: She embraces the whole of mankind. The “twelve foundations” bearing the name of the twelve Apostles represent the successors of the twelve tribes of Israel: they spread the Church up to all nations of the earth.

It is worth noticing that the Apostles elected one more Apostle to replace Judas Iscariots (Acts 1, 15-26), which completes the number of the Twelve Apostles. These Twelve went to many countries and spread the Good News all around: they chose successors and imposed their hands on their heads to transmit them the power Jesus Christ had bestowed on the Church. At present, they are our Bishops, more than 4,200 all around the world. God’s People spread all over the world among the whole of mankind. Through the Church, the Father accomplishes His plan: “to sum up all things in Christ” (The Letter to the Ephesians 1, 10).

The Catechism of the Church clearly defines this reality: “The Church, in Christ, is like a sacrament – a sign and instrument, that is, of communion with God and of unity among all men.” The Church’s first purpose is to be the sacrament of the inner union of men with God. Because men’s communion with one another is rooted in that union with God, the Church is also the sacrament of the unity of the human race. In her, this unity is already begun, since she gathers men “from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and tongues”; at the same time, the Church is the “sign and instrument” of the full realization of the unity yet to come (CCC # 775).

“As sacrament, the Church is Christ’s instrument. “She is taken up by him also as the instrument for the salvation of all,” “the universal sacrament of salvation,” by which Christ is “at once manifesting and actualizing the mystery of God’s love for men.” The Church “is the visible plan of God’s love for humanity,” because God desires “that the whole human race may become one People of God, form one Body of Christ, and be built up into one temple of the Holy Spirit” (CCC # 776).

Prof Felipe Aquino

Professor Felipe Aquino is a widower, father of five children. On TV Canção Nova he presents the program “Escola da Fé” [School of faith] and “Pergunte e Responderemos” [Ask and respond], on Radio he presents the program “in the heart of the Church”. On weekends he preaches deepening meetings throughout Brazil and abroad. He wrote 73 books of Catholic background by publishers, Loyola and Cleopas and Canção Nova. His teacher’s page:www.cleofas.com.br Twitter: @pfelipeaquino

 Posted by at 01:01
May 122017
 

Saint Peter's Square from the dome

By valyag (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons

God made the calling for the First Covenant to Noah, just after the Great Flood: that was the moment when “a new mankind” emerged.

“God said to Noah and to his sons with him: ‘See, I am establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you and with every living creature that was with you’” (Genesis 9,8-10). God chose the rainbow as the sign of this Covenant (Genesis 9, 12-17).

Afterwards God called Abraham to be the Father of His People, and that fact would have repercussions over the whole of mankind in the future reality of the Church.

“I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, so that you will be a blessing” (Genesis 12, 2). “Look up at the sky and count the stars, if you can. Just so, he added, shall your descendants be. Abraham put his faith in the Lord, who credited it to him as an act of righteousness” (Genesis 15, 5-6).

“I am God the Almighty. Walk in my presence and be blameless. Between you and me I will establish my covenant, and I will multiply you exceedingly” (Genesis 17, 1-2).

Abraham celebrated the Covenant through the visible sign of circumcision: “Thus my covenant will be in your flesh as an everlasting pact” (Genesis 17, 10-13).

When the “fullness of time” had come, that Covenant would be celebrated in a definite eternal way: the Immolated Lamb.
The Lord will re-affirm that same Covenant in Isaac, Sarah’s son:
“Nevertheless, your wife Sarah is to bear you a son, and you shall call him Isaac. I will maintain my covenant with him as an everlasting pact, to be his God and the God of his descendants after him. As for Ishmael, I am heeding you: I hereby bless him, I will make him fertile and I will multiply him exceedingly. He shall become the father of twelve chieftains, and I will make of him a great nation. But my covenant I will maintain with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear to you by this time next year” (Genesis 17, 19-21).
God also renews His Covenant with Jacob, renamed as Israel and from whom the Twelve Tribes of Israel will be born and settle in the “Promised Land” (Genesis 12, 1-7; 15, 18).

“I, the Lord, am the God of your forefather Abraham and the God of Isaac; the land on which you are lying I will give to you and your descendants. These shall be as plentiful as the dust of the earth, and through them you shall spread out east and west, north and south. In you and your descendants all the nations of the earth shall find blessing” (Genesis 28, 13-14).
The historical preparation of the Church goes on when God chooses Israel to be His People. This Covenant is made on Mount Sinai:
“Therefore, if you hearken to my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my special possession, dearer to me than all other people, though all earth is mine. You shall be to me a kingdom of priests, a holy nation” (Exodus 19, 5-6).

The Twelve Tribes of Israel represent God’s People during the Old Covenant.

During their pilgrimage in the desert, Israel is already called “God’s Church”. Nehemiah mentions the “assembly of God” in his Book in the Gospel (Nehemiah 13,1).

 Posted by at 01:01
May 052017
 

Saint Peter's Square from the domeThe Church is “God’s Family”, redeemed and reunited in Jesus Christ: the Church is God’s People. She is “a plan born in the Father’s Heart”, says the Catechism of the Church (CCC # 759).

Saint Augustine says that: “Everything we read in the Holy Gospel was written before the Lord’s Advent: there is no other reason for that than to prepare for His Coming and to mark beforehand the future Church: God’s people among all peoples.”

Vatican Council II teaches us that: “Already from the beginning of the world the foreshadowing of the Church took place. It was prepared in a remarkable way throughout the history of the people of Israel and by means of the Old Covenant. In the present era of time the Church was constituted and, by the outpouring of the Spirit, was made manifest. At the end of time it will gloriously achieve completion, when, as is read in the Fathers, all the just, from Adam and ‘from Abel, the just one, to the last of the elect,’ will be gathered together with the Father in the universal Church” (Lumen Gentium # 2).

Saint Justine, the Pastor of Hermas, the first Christians and many other outstanding people affirmed that: “the Church was foreshadowed before the foundation of the world” (Hermas, Visions 2,4,1; Justine, Apol. 2.7; Aristides. Apol. 16,6).

These words mean that the Church “convokes the whole of mankind, through the Christ, to be in communion with God.”

Saint Epiphany follows the same trend of thoughts and affirms that the Church “is the final goal of all things” (Epiphany, haer 1,1,5).

Saint Clement of Alexandria affirmed that:

“God’s Will is an action that we call ‘the world’ and His intention is mankind’s salvation that we call ‘the Church’” (Paed. 1, 6).

The Church is God’s people redeemed and reconciled to Him: She was prepared since the moment when original sin broke the union between mankind and God and dispersed His children far away from Him. God immediately started preparing a Covenant with mankind: it started with Noah, went on with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, the Prophets and so on, until the establishment of the New and Eternal Covenant in Jesus Christ.

That was the pathway God prepared in human history so that the Church could emerge like “God’s Family”, the place of the new communion between mankind and God.

One can say that Israel is the Church of the Old Testament, the people God prepared so that His Son could be born as one of them: Jesus, the Incarnate Word of God, Head of the Church.

Next lesson we will see something about the pathway God prepared in Israel’s history to create His Church.

Prof Felipe Aquino

Professor Felipe Aquino is a widower, father of five children. On TV Canção Nova he presents the program “Escola da Fé” [School of faith] and “Pergunte e Responderemos” [Ask and respond], on Radio he presents the program “in the heart of the Church”. On weekends he preaches deepening meetings throughout Brazil and abroad. He wrote 73 books of Catholic background by publishers, Loyola and Cleopas and Canção Nova. His teacher’s page:www.cleofas.com.br Twitter: @pfelipeaquino

 

 Posted by at 01:01
Apr 282017
 

By valyag (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons

“I am the true vine and my Father is the vine grower. He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and everyone that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit. You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you. Remain in me, as I remain in you. Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me. I am the vine, you are the branches” (John 15, 1-5).

Jesus is the Vine, the trunk and the Head of the Church; we are the branches and the members of His Body. That is the reality founded on Him and through Him to bring mankind back to God.

Besides being a community of faith, hope and love, Christ instituted the Church to be His “visible Body” on Earth and to guide the whole of mankind to God. It is a visible Assembly and a spiritual Community at the same time; one single reality, human and Divine at the same time. This mystery is comparable to the mystery of the Incarnate Word, as Vatican Council II states:

“As the assumed nature inseparably united to Him, serves the divine Word as a living organ of salvation, so, in a similar way, does the visible social structure of the Church serve the Spirit of Christ, who vivifies it, in the building up of the body” (Lumen Gentium 8).

Saint Paul teaches the same to the Ephesians:

“Rather, living the truth in love, we should grow in every way into him who is the head, Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, with the proper functioning of each part, brings about the body’s growth and builds itself up in love” (Ephesians 4, 15-16).

Jesus gave His community a structure that will endure until the Come of the Kingdom. Christ knew that, as in every human society, the Church could never survive without hierarchy. Families need a head, the husband; cities need a Mayor; states need a Governor and countries need a President. There is a famous saying: “two captains will sink the ship.” That also applies to the Church because of our human nature.

The Lord chose Twelve Disciples and assigned Peter as their leader: their visible Head.

“He appointed twelve [whom he also named apostles] that they might be with him and he might send them forth to preach and to have authority do drive out demons; [he appointed the twelve:] Simon, whom he named Peter…”(Mark 3, 14-16).

Jesus entrusted the Kingdom of God in first place to the Apostles:

“…and I confer a kingdom on you, just as my Father has conferred one on me, that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom; and you will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Luke 22, 29-30).

Prof Felipe Aquino

Professor Felipe Aquino is a widower, father of five children. On TV Canção Nova he presents the program “Escola da Fé” [School of faith] and “Pergunte e Responderemos” [Ask and respond], on Radio he presents the program “in the heart of the Church”. On weekends he preaches deepening meetings throughout Brazil and abroad. He wrote 73 books of Catholic background by publishers, Loyola and Cleopas and Canção Nova. His teacher’s page:www.cleofas.com.br Twitter: @pfelipeaquino

 Posted by at 01:01
Apr 212017
 

Saint Peter's Square from the dome

Prophets of all times since the Old Testament have mentioned the Shepherd Who would gather His flock.

“Here comes with power the Lord God, who rules by his strong arm; here is his reward with him, his recompense before him. Like a shepherd he feeds his flock; in his arms he gathers the lambs, carrying them in his bosom, and leading the ewes with care” (Isaiah 40, 10-11).

Ezekiel clearly tells us about the Shepherd and His Flock:

“For thus says the Lord God: I myself will look after and tend my sheep. As a shepherd tends his flock when he finds himself among his scattered sheep, so I will tend my sheep. I will rescue them from every place where they were scattered when it was cloudy and dark. I will lead them from among the peoples and gather them from foreign lands; I will bring them back to their own country and pasture them upon the mountains of Israel … In good pastures will I pasture them, and on the mountain heights of Israel shall be their grazing ground. There they shall lie down on good grazing ground, and in rich pastures shall they be pastured on the mountains of Israel. I myself will pasture my sheep; I myself will give them rest, says the Lord God” (Ezekiel 34, 11-15).

Ezekiel devotes the whole Chapter 34 to show that the Lord Himself will guide His people, the Church.

“You, my sheep, you are the sheep of my pasture, and I am your God, says the Lord God” (Ezekiel 34, 31).

The Lord has such a great zeal for His Flock that He Himself will replace the bad shepherds.

“Woe to the shepherds of Israel who have been pasturing themselves! Should not shepherds, rather, pasture sheep? You have fed off their milk, worn their wool, and slaughtered the fatlings, but the sheep you have not pastured. You did not strengthen the weak not heal the sick nor bind up the injured. You did not bring back the strayed nor seek the lost, but you lorded it over them harshly and brutally. So they were scattered for lack of a shepherd, and became food for all the wild beasts. My sheep were scattered and wandered over all the mountains and high hills; my sheep were scattered over the whole earth, with no one to look after them or to search for them… my shepherds did not look after my sheep, but pastured themselves and did not pasture my sheep…I swear I am coming against these shepherds, I will claim my sheep from them and put a stop to their shepherding my sheep so that they may no longer pasture themselves. I will save my sheep, that they may no longer be food for their mouths. …I myself will look after and tend my sheep” (Ezekiel 34, 1-11).

This long prophecy by Ezekiel shows God’s Love and great care for His people, nowadays gathered in the Church. This great Love makes the Shepherd lay down His life for His sheep.

“I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10, 11).

The Church is also represented in the Gospel as “God’s field”, or “God’s building”, as Saint Paul says:

“For, we are God’s co-workers; you are God’s field, God’s building” (The First Letter to the Corinthians 3, 9).

Professor Felipe Aquino

Professor Felipe Aquino is a widower, father of five children. On TV Canção Nova he presents the program “Escola da Fé” [School of faith] and “Pergunte e Responderemos” [Ask and respond], on Radio he presents the program “in the heart of the Church”. On weekends he preaches deepening meetings throughout Brazil and abroad. He wrote 73 books of Catholic background by publishers, Loyola and Cleopas and Canção Nova. His teacher’s page:www.cleofas.com.br Twitter: @pfelipeaquino

 Posted by at 01:01
Apr 072017
 

Saint Peter's Square from the dome

By valyag (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons

Saint Joan of Arc, before her judges, summed up the Faith of the Doctors of the Church in these few words: “About Jesus Christ and the Church, I simply know they’re just one thing, and we shouldn’t complicate the matter” (CCC # 795).

We receive the Body and the Blood of Jesus Christ in a sacramental way in the Eucharist, so that we can form Christ’s social body in the unity of all members.

Saint Paul asks: “The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?” (The First Letter to the Corinthians 10, 16).

The Apostle himself answers: “Because the loaf of bread is one, we though many, are one body for we all partake of the one loaf”(The First Letter to the Corinthians 10, 17).

Eucharist forms the Church and the Church celebrates Eucharist. When we celebrate the communion with the Body and the Blood of Jesus Christ we become “consanguineous” (N.T. Latin consanguineus, fr. Com- + sanguine-, sanguis blood: of the same blood or origin) and “co-corporal” with the Christ and a living part of His own Body. Saint Cyril of Jerusalem (dead in 386 A.D.) said that Eucharist makes us “Christophorus”, which means “carriers of the Christ”; in the words of Saint Peter: “He has bestowed on us the precious and very great promises, so that through them you may come to share in the divine nature” (The Second Letter of Peter 1, 4).

The Head feeds the whole Body especially during Eucharist so that the members can receive the grace and the strength to live as real Christians, so that Christ can be “formed in” them (The Letter to the Galatians 4, 19) and so that they have strength to “follow in his footsteps” (The First Letter of Peter 2, 21).

We ask the Father during the Eucharistic Prayer: “…grant us that, being nourished by the Body and the Blood of Your Son, we can be filled with the Holy Spirit and become one Body and one spirit with the Christ”.

Therefore we cannot separate Christ from His Church. That would be equivalent to behead a person in the hope he or she could stay alive: this is absurd. We cannot behead Christ’s Body, in other words, we cannot separate Him from the Church. That was Martin Luther’s big unfortunate mistake in 1517, when he said Yes to Christ and No to the Church; he did not realize that he was mutilating Christ’s Body, trying to behead this Body. Departing from that, many subdivisions took place in an irreversible unstoppable way all over the world. That is the greatest scandal Christianity gave to the world.

Prof Felipe Aquino

Professor Felipe Aquino is a widower, father of five children. On TV Canção Nova he presents the program “Escola da Fé” [School of faith] and “Pergunte e Responderemos” [Ask and respond], on Radio he presents the program “in the heart of the Church”. On weekends he preaches deepening meetings throughout Brazil and abroad. He wrote 73 books of Catholic background by publishers, Loyola and Cleopas and Canção Nova. His teacher’s page:www.cleofas.com.br Twitter: @pfelipeaquino

 Posted by at 01:01
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