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Jun 232017
 

Saint Peter's Square from the dome“If there is any encouragement in Christ, any solace in love, any participation in the Spirit, any compassion and mercy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, with the same love, united in heart, thinking one thing. Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory; rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves, each looking out not for his own interests, but (also) everyone for those of others” (The Letter to the Philippians 2, 1-4).

Saint Paul’s words in his Letter to the Philippians show very clearly the practices that wound unity: competition and vainglory. He also prescribes the medicine: humility.

The Apostle exhorts the Corinthians:

“I urge you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree in what you say, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and in the same purpose” (The First Letter to the Corinthians 1, 10).

He also insists with the Romans:

“May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to think in harmony with one another, in keeping with Christ Jesus, that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (The Letter to the Romans 15, 5).

How can we possibly glorify God as one heart and with one voice if there is strife among us?

Wounds in the Unity of the Church have always been and shall always be the most painful and harmful wounds in the life of the Church. Separatist groups and new denominations have happened because of human sinful nature. In the words of Origen (184-254):

“Where there are sins, there are also divisions, schisms, heresies, and disputes. Where there is virtue, however, there also are harmony and unity, from which arise the one heart and one soul of all believers” (Origen, Hom. in Ezech. 9,1:PG 13,732 – see CCC# 817).

Saint Ciprian (died 258 AD), Bishop of Cartage wrote one of the best texts about the unity in the Church. He shows how the evil one strives to divide the Church in these words:

 “The enemy was unveiled and defeated by the Coming of the Christ, (and) he schemes new ambushes to deceive naïve people, (hiding) under the Christian name itself. He creates heresies and schisms to subvert faith, corrupt truth and break unity… He steals men from the Church and plunge them into  unconscious darkness, enticing them into misleading thought that they are walking towards the light and getting distance from the secular night. They go on affirming they are Christians but they do not keep Christ’s Good News, His precepts and His laws! They think they have light though they walk in darkness! The seductive and lying enemy, in the words of the Apostle, transforms himself into an angel of light and introduce his ministers as ministers of justice; he announces night as day, eternal loss as salvation, …(and announces) the Antichrist under the Name of Christ; (the evil one) darkens and frustrates truth with subtlety and affirms that true things are illusions. That happens, dearest brothers, because nobody goes back to the origin of truth, nobody goes to its source nor guards the doctrine of heavenly teaching” (excerpt from the text “On the Unity of the Church”).

 

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

Jun 162017
 

Saint Paul asks the Romans: “love one another with mutual affection; anticipate one another in showing honour” (The Letter to the Romans 12, 10).“I tell everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than one ought to think, but to think soberly, each according to the measure of faith that God has apportioned” (The Letter to the Romans 12, 3). “Let love be sincere; hate what is evil, hold on to what is good”(The Letter to the Romans, 12, 9). Nothing can be worse for a member of the Body of Christ than haughtiness, in other words, people who consider themselves superior to the other members. It is even worse if you consider yourself “indispensable” to your community and to the service of the Church. There is nothing more important to the Church than its unity. Before suffering His Passion, the Lord asked His Father in His Prayer: “And now I will no longer be in the world, but they are in the world, while I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one just as we are”(John 17, 11). “I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me” (John 17, 20-21).

It is central to understand the meaning of this prayer. If there is no unity among those who announce His Name, the world will not be able to trust that He was sent by His Father to save mankind. Jesus intimately bonds unity to the conversion of mankind. That is the reason why Pope John Paul II tells us that broken unity is the greatest scandal of Christianity in modern times. “And I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may be brought to perfection as one, that the world may know that you sent me, and that you loved them even as you loved me” (John 17, 22-23). We should never forget these words: “that they may be brought to perfection as one”.

The cause of the Church will be lost if this unity does not remain protected with extreme zeal. Unity is the sweet fruit of a humble, simple and mutually helping community in which every member has died for himself or herself and nobody wants to outshine the others and nobody wants to show off; a community in which everybody knows how to forgive and understand the weaker. Saint Paul exhorts the Ephesians to strive “ to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace” (The Letter to the Ephesians 4, 3). This “bond of peace” is equivalent to charity and to the “bond of perfection” mentioned in The Letter to the Colossians 3, 14.That has always been the greatest concern of the Apostle. He asks the Ephesians: “I, then, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love, striving to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace” (The Letter to the Ephesians 4, 1-3).
The Apostle is realistic: he knows that life in community is not easy, because the weaknesses of each member create strife and division. So he beseeches the faithful to “bear with one another” in the name of the “Unity in the Holy Spirit”.

 

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
Jun 092017
 

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

We are united to the Christ in a very special way through Baptism and Eucharist. We actually participate in His Death and Resurrection through Baptism, in a mysterious but real concrete way.

“Or are you unaware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were indeed buried with him through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life. For if we have grown into union with him through a death like his, we shall also be united with him in the resurrection. We know that our old self was crucified with him, so that our sinful body might be done away with, that we might no longer be in slavery to sin” (The Letter to the Corinthians 6, 3-6).

The Lord allows us to be part of His Body through Eucharist. When you celebrate the Holy Communion, you become consanguineous and co-corporeal with Jesus. The Holy Spirit then comes and guides you towards an intimate communion with the Christ and with your brothers, so that all together become One Only Body with Jesus.
The diversity among the members of this Mystical Body does not destroy Its Unity. It is a real “unity in the diversity” as Saint Paul teaches us:

“There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit; there are different forms of service but the same Lord; there are different workings but the same God who produces all of them in everyone. To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit. To one is given through the Spirit the expression of wisdom; to another the expression of knowledge according to the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit; to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit; to another mighty deeds; to another prophecy; to another discernment of spirits; to another varieties of tongues; to another interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit produces all of these, distributing them individually to each person as he wishes. As a body is one though it has many parts, and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body, so also Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons, and we were all given to drink of one Spirit” (The First Letter to the Corinthians 12, 4-13).

Saint Paul also insists in this point with the Romans:

“For as in one body we have many parts, and all the parts do not have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ and individually parts of one another” (The Letter to the Romans 12, 4-5).

“Unity in the diversity” is one of the wonders God granted to His Church. Among other advantages, it encourages and nourishes mutual charity among the members of this one Body. God grants a different gift to each member of the Church. This gift enables the member to help and be at the service of his brothers and the Church, so that no one can become self-sufficient and think that one is able to do everything by oneself, without the help of one’s fellowman. God constituted the Church as a Community, a Family, in which each and every member serves and is served by the other members. That is what Saint Paul means when he affirms that we are “individually parts of one another” (The Letter to the Romans 12, 5).

No community is strong, active and lively without mutual collaboration that encourages community members to increasingly practice charity. The Church becomes the Treasure of Salvation to the world by gathering the small individual gifts and talents God gave to each Baptized Christian.

In this sense, the Apostle affirms to the Corinthians that:

“Now the body is not a single part, but many. If a foot should say, “Because I am not a hand I do not belong to the body,” it does not for this reason belong any less to the body. Or if an ear should say, “Because I am not an eye I do not belong to the body,” it does not for this reason belong any less to the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But as it is, God placed the parts, each one of them, in the body as he intended. If they were all one part, where would the body be? But as it is, there are many parts, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I do not need you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I do not need you.” Indeed, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are all the more necessary, and those parts of the body that we consider less honorable we surround with greater honor, and our less presentable parts are treated with greater propriety, whereas our more presentable parts do not need this. But God has so constructed the body as to give greater honor to a part that is without it, so that there may be no division in the body, but that the parts may have the same concern for one another. If (one) part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part is honored, all the parts share its joy (The First Letter to the Corinthians, 12, 14-26).

It is worth noticing that the Apostle affirms that: “the parts may have the same concern for one another” (I Cor 12, 25).

No member of the Church should try doing things all by himself in a haughty self-sufficient way; that is the very contrary of God’s Will for His Church. We are Church indeed when depend on one another to make evangelization happen. This co-dependence is sometimes very difficult to be lived because of the limitations and faults of each member, though this also contributes to the development of real humbleness in the heart of each member of Jesus Christ’s Body.

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
Jun 022017
 

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

Vatican Council II affirms that: “This is the one Church of Christ which in the Creed is professed as one, holy, catholic and apostolic” (Lumen Gentium # 8).

These are the essential and characteristic features of the Church and Her Mission: the Christ Himself wanted Her to be so. There is no Church of Christ without these four attributes, for Jesus Himself bestowed them on His Church. These four fundamental features have guaranteed the credibility and the certainty of the Divine Mission of the Church all along the last two thousand years.

The intrinsic unity of the Church is an echo of the intrinsic unity of the Holy Trinity. The one and only people of God in the Old Testament (Israel) find their extension in the one and only people of God in the New Testament (the Church). Christ has one and only Body and one and only Wife. That is also the origin of the Christian monogamist matrimony as an outcome of the union between the Christ and His one and only Wife.

“In this mystery, the Supreme Model and Principle is the unity of One Only God inside the Trinity of People, God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit” (Unitatis Redintegratio # 2).

Jesus reconciled mankind to God through the Cross and re-established the union between mankind and God in one single “family of God” (The Letter to the Ephesians 2, 20). The Holy Spirit creates this unity because It dwells in each person who has been baptized: the Holy Spirit intimately bonds baptized people to the Christ in one only Body, thus creating one only People of God.

Saint Clemens of Alexandria (deceased 215 A.D.) expressed that mystery in these words: “What an astonishing mystery! There is one Father of the universe, one Logos of the universe, and also one Holy Spirit, everywhere one and the same; there is also one virgin become mother, and I should like to call her “Church” (CCC # 813).

Saint Paul also refers to the unity of the Church in many passages of his Letters. He affirms to the Corinthians: “If (one) part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part is honored, all the parts share its joy”(The First Letter to the Corinthians 12, 26).

Therefore there is no place inside the Church for jealousy, envy, competition and rivalry, because we are one single Body in the Christ.

“Now you are Christ’s body, and individually parts of it” (The First Letter to the Corinthians 12, 27).

The Apostle also affirms this unity to the Galatians; he tells them that this unit must overcome all human divisions, for human misunderstandings represent the worst wounds of the Church:

“For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (The Letter to the Galatians 3, 27-28).

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 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
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