Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Tree of Knowledge

Mankind has gorged upon the Tree of Knowledge.

Yet even through the ages of this greedy banquet, he has failed to perceive which fruit is poisoned, so his tongue has grows numb and tasteless. New generations glut themselves on haute-cuisine enlightenment, yet endlessly remain famished and parched.

Instead of enlightenment, the search for truth has blinded mankind senseless. Desperately groping for keys to let him out of his prison of angst, man discovers Higgs particles and new universes, but does he find anything to quench his thirst and hunger for understanding?


As technology shoots him out amongst the vast and infinite, he has become visionless, starving--- only to indoctrinate his children that it is all vacuous and void.

The university gods’ answer to this cosmic desertion?


WE offer you our paradise, our bread and wine of wisdom.

WE as tribe,

WE as monarchy,

WE as oligarchy,

WE as socialism and communism and totalitarianism and naziism and fascism.

Even when WE as a republic and democracy have been studied and experimented with and lived and died for--in the end, we are thrown prostrate, shocked and suffering to watch our best and most noble ideals deteriorate.

The masses have followed philosophers, scientists and politicians as they have led us from this banquet table of education to a grotesque communal retch.

Daniel’s vision, our idol is smashed.

After the wars created from the kingdoms of WE, the cynical barbaric question becomes “I?”

My conscience, my choice, my ideal, my understanding. I am the rock from which flows the water, the wine, the bread. I hold the keys.

Nietzsche’s Superman and Freud’s id-- God is not, but I am?

Satre suicidally laughs that there is no such thing as bread and wine, the kingdom has only locks with no keys.

Mankind is exhausted with lies and failure, innocence and idealism. We are even tired of the absurdity of randomness. All the questions of truth have been spent and gone unanswered. Striving to be god has left us cynical, empty, lonely and twisted.

Gasping, Mankind reaches up in one final attempt at truth. Creation’s fingertip stretches down from heaven to us in our hellish dust.

He utters the gentle, unimaginable question, “who?”

The Word is not how or even why, but “who?” It is no longer WE or I asking the question, but the answer asking the question. And WE must not find in the question ourselves. WE or I must not rise again to create a new totalitarianism.

Who is left to when Mankind abdicates his reign? Whose vision survives? Who has the keys to the Kingdom, who has the bread and the wine of wisdom?

When our sovereignty is released to His Kingdom, we will be reminded of One who knelt under the ancient Olive trees in chaos and agonizing confusion. Even the ultimate Answer could see no answers. With immortal suffering, The Answer flung His id, his Superman into eternity, with “Not my will but thine.”

Blood flowed from His agonizing brow uniting with His tears. The blood turned to water and the water into wine. From His lips came the prayers that turned into bread. We join Him in that watery death, that we may eat and drink of His life and His kingdom.

Now we courageously lay down the quest for a perfect Utopia where we are masters of the answers and Truth falls from Trees.

Now Faith looks through His perfection and we kneel before His Kingdom and say, “though I do not understand, I will obey.”

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

My Strange, Uncomfortable Church

My daughter, now on the East Coast with a new job, called this morning as we drove into Seattle. She had just gotten back from her new local church and she was missing the beauty and spirit of St. James Cathedral where we attend.

“Mother, enjoy it for me. There is just nothing like it in America,” she lamented. “Because no other church can live up to it, attending St. James is both a blessing and a curse.”

I thought about what she said--a blessing and a curse. Yes, St. James is a place of contrast, even contradiction. St. James is not an easy, comfortable church, it is wonderful because it is strange and uncomfortable.

It is located in Seattle’s downtown where the cool shadows of sky scrapers fall across a throng of avant-garde urbanites talking to their bluetooth headsets. They mindlessly stare like Night of the Living Dead zombies, gone vegetarian.

In contrast, St. James Cathedral’s two tall cream towers emerge to boldly protest the monotonous urban clamor that tries to convince us life is a sad, meaningless existence. The cathedral calls Seattle to gaze upward in hope to a great and gloriously unfathomable God yet who is working through the hands of unexceptional, humble men and women.

After parking, I pondered how the church not only clashes with our godless modernity, it contains opposing forces that would implode any human organization. Every sight and sound and smell reinforces my impression.

Walking towards the cathedral’s entrance, the church’s soup kitchen is bordered with dark, weathered faces, their bodies draped in layer upon layer of soiled clothing. In Spring and summer, the cathedral’s homeless shelter is empty and the residents are lying in the green grass lazily drinking their coffee. Their deep, mournful eyes fix on you with a stare that makes walking to church very uncomfortable.

As you pass between the church’s annex buildings towards the entrance, the stone walkway becomes a porthole in time fusing our culture with ancient Christianity’s. You can hear the choir’s haunting chants wafting out of their practice room into the white-gray corridor. In the courtyard a medieval looking statue of Mary calmly holding the baby Jesus sits in front of a fountain where bronze and silver coins glitter.

The immense entrance does not draw you in to take a comfortable seat. Its sculpted, bronze doors powerfully summon you to an epic adventure, to come in and worship the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

The gray Seattle skies vanish as the door to the foyer shuts behind you and soft candlelight guides your way inside to the sanctuary. What is that smell? In the dark corner, there they are again as always, every day of the week, with their reeking, tattered backpacks sitting staring at you. St. James does not let you close your eyes to the desperate needs of humanity. Some are mentally ill, others are drug addicts. They are in the bathrooms and sitting in the back pews. You feel like you have invaded their home.

In the sanctuary sitting on the ridged hardwood chairs the smells turn delightful. In front of me, near the altar, are huge bouquets of White Oriental Lilies. The fragrance makes me close my eyes and breath in the dreamy perfume. Then an elderly gentleman with a walker shuffles in next to me and regularly propels a gurgling cigarette-cough into the congregation. That odor will be masked with the exotic fragrance swung across the worshippers in an incense burner to bless them.

There is a muffled tap-dance upon the marble floors as people quietly fill up the seats. Some Asian women with lace scarves draped on their heads kneel in prayer. A tall caucasian family in shorts and t-shirts are reverently lighting the candles in the side chapel. Near us is a Mexican family, and some people speaking Russian are directly behind us. For a moment all is silent except a distant echo of a baby crying in the back.

I gaze up to the ceiling as the organ in the East Apse begins its fiery prelude calling us to worship. The morning sun hits the blue and yellow stained-glassed windows and blazes across the gold Corinthian capitals atop the pillars. The organ’s sound soars through the high arches and is joined by a captivating medieval chant by St. James renown choir.

The bible is read, the cantor intones some verses from Psalms and we sing a response. Then the cycle is repeated again, just as the early church did. I feel two millennia of Christians on earth and in heaven all singing in rapturous unity to the King and Creator.

Suddenly my transcendent vision is broken by a mentally ill woman in an old dirty shawl loudly wandering towards the altar, apparently unaware of the service going on, hugging random people. She is stealthily surrounded and escorted to a seat by a group of nuns. The lady smiles broadly, utterly pleased at the attention. I notice that behind her stands a great statue of Christ with His outstretched arms tenderly framing the scene.

The sermon by Father Ryan is short and poignant. You must pay very close attention to hear because of the Cathedral’s reverberations. His kind and gentle manner does not water down the gospel to fit our modern lifestyles. He preaches what St. James himself would have preached. It is our ancient heritage and our responsibility as the church to preserve the authenticity of the spoken and written Word of God.

Catholic worship is active--no sitting comfortably for long. You stand to respond, then kneel to pray, only to stand again to sing and exchange the sign of peace and then kneel once again. There are prayers and prayers and prayers.
Last week a prayed was invoked that seemed to some to be calling us to vote for President O’bama’s Health Care Reform Bill. A congregant near me huffed with disgust, obviously not at all happy the prayer had political overtones. Later, he murmured all the way out about the liberals taking over. All this made me very uncomfortable.

This week that congregant is in the same place. He hands me a little book about the rosary with an insert about being happy in the midst of an unhappy world.

The priests then holds high the Bread of Heaven and as the bells ring out, he breaks the wafer in two as a reminder of Christ breaking His body for us. And yet, as we all stand up to go to the altar to take communion I feel a weirdness pour over me as I look at the people in line.

Liberals, homosexuals, kids with tattoos and lip rings, old people on walkers, Mexicans, Chinese, Russians, Scottish men in a kilts, blacks and whites each with their weaknesses and in different stages of sanctification, this diverse Kingdom of God, all moving towards Christ and drinking from the same communion cup. This can be the moment where a Christian is tested to the breaking point. It is difficult, strange, uncomfortable. I am realizing that church is not a place of refuge from the people of the world, a place one can disappear into a like-minded, well-dressed, sterile spirituality.

Each week I love St. James more, with its burgeoning contrasts of sights, smells, sounds. Medieval meets metropolitan, liberal meets conservative, pauper meet prince and sinner meets saint. Dichotomies which would only break us into comfortable divisions without the gift of Christ’s uncomfortable, strange grace.
Be sure to watch the music video

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

You're Catholic? Do you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ?

You’re Catholic? Do you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ?”

Written by Dave Brokke.

Many people acknowledge that Catholics are Christians and many people know that Catholics believe that Jesus is true God and true man, but still many will question whether or not Catholics have a living and personal relationship with Christ. It is sadly and unfortunately true that a large amount of Catholics have completely missed the mark on this issue, but we were told that there will always be tares among the wheat. They have made Christianity into a program, a system of doctrines, a moral standard of rules and beliefs. But as Pope John Paul II said, Christianity “is not a concept, a doctrine, or a program subject to free interpretation, but it is before all else a person with the face and name of Jesus of Nazareth, the image of the invisible God” (Redemptoris Missio, 18). It is all about Jesus Christ, it is not about this or that and the other, it is not about a belief, it is about a PERSON, the PERSON of Jesus Christ, who has come to seek and save the lost! So many people who look at Catholicism from the outside see saints, rosaries, Mary, smells, bells, the authority of the Pope, sacraments, etc… which is true those are in Catholicism, but many see these things as a hindrance to Christ as something that gets in the way and that Catholicism is about all those things and not about a relationship with Christ. The truth is that those “extras” are not something that hinder us from Christ but are ways to experience MORE of Christ. They bring us to Christ , they bring us Christ. We believe that Christ truly became Incarnate and thus has made His presence in and through the world, especially through the Church. It’s not an either/or “you have to choose Jesus or the saints or the sacraments or the Church” it’s a both/and “you can choose Jesus in Himself as well as in those people and things around you.” Even St. Louis de Montfort, the saint with the highest Mariology in Catholicism admits,

“Jesus, our Savior, true God and true man must be the ultimate end of all our other devotions; otherwise they would be false and misleading. He is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning, and end of everything. "We labor," says St. Paul, "only to make all men perfect in Jesus Christ.” For in Him alone dwells the entire fullness of the divinity and the complete fullness of grace, virtue, and perfection. In Him alone we have been blessed with every spiritual blessing; He is the only Teacher from Whom we must learn; the only Lord on whom we should depend; the only Head to whom we should be united and the only model that we should imitate. He is the only Physician that can heal us; the only Shepherd that can feed us; the only Way that can lead us; the only Truth that we can believe; the only Life that can animate us. He alone is everything to us and
He alone can satisfy all our desires. We are given no other name under heaven by which we can be saved. God has laid no other foundation for our salvation, perfection, and glory than Jesus. Every one of the faithful who is not united to him is like a branch broken from the stem of the vine. It falls and withers and is fit only to be burnt. If we live in Jesus and Jesus lives in us, we need not fear damnation. Neither angels in heaven nor
men on earth, nor devils in hell, no creature whatever can harm us, for no creature can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus. Through him, with him, and in Him, we can do all things and render all honor and glory to the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit; we can make ourselves perfect and be for our neighbor a fragrance of eternal life. If then we are establishing sound devotion to our Blessed Lady, it is only in
order to establish devotion to our Lord more perfectly, by providing a smooth but certain way of reaching Jesus Christ. If devotion to our Lady distracted us from our Lord, we would have to reject it as an illusion of the devil. But this is far from
being the case. As I have already shown and will show again later on, this devotion is necessary, simply, and solely because it is a way of reaching Jesus perfectly, loving Him tenderly, and serving Him faithfully.” ("True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin" ~ St. Louis de Montfort, paragraph 14, 61-62)

The core, the heart of Catholicism is the Kergyma, which proclaims that:
1) God loves us and has a plan for us (Jer 29:11)
2) Sin destroyed this plan (Rom 6:23)
3) God sent His only Son, Jesus, to save us, He is the only Way (John 3:16, John 14:6)
4) Turn to Jesus by joining the Church, the Body of Christ (Acts 2:37-38)

Catholicism is all about having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life – the Lover of our souls!

(If you are Catholic and are asked if you have a personal relationship with God, I hope and pray that you can emphatically answer, “Yes!” if you cannot, you have missed the mark and I challenge you to re-examine your faith, because if you have missed the heart of it, the very core of it, you have missed it completely!)

"What matters most is that you develop your personal relationship with God." ~ Pope Benedict XVI, April 2008 in New York Address to the Youth

“Our religion effectively establishes with God an authentic and living relationship” ~ (Evangelii Nuntiandi, 53) Pope Paul VI in his Apostolic Exhortation published in 1975

“This conversion must be taken as an initial one, yet sufficient to make a man realize that he has been snatched away from sin and led into the mystery of God's love, who called him to enter into a personal relationship with Him in Christ.” (Ad Gentes, 13) Second Vatican Council's Decree on the Missionary Activity of the Church published in 1965

“The Church as a whole and all her Pastors, like Christ, must set out to lead people out of the desert, towards the place of life, towards friendship with the Son of God, towards the One who gives us life, and life in abundance… There is nothing more beautiful than to be surprised by the Gospel, by the encounter with Christ. There is nothing more beautiful than to know Him and to speak to others of our friendship with Him… If we let Christ into our lives, we lose nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing of what makes life free, beautiful and great. No! Only in this friendship are the doors of life opened wide. Only in this friendship is the great potential of human existence truly revealed. Only in this friendship do we experience beauty and liberation” (Pope Benedict XVI, 24 April 2005).

“Man [has a] right to a more personal encounter with the crucified forgiving Christ” (Redemptoris Hominis, 20) Pope John Paul II in an Encyclical published 1979

“Rather, he [who prays] seeks an encounter with the Father of Jesus Christ, asking God to be present with the consolation of the Spirit to him and his work. A personal relationship with God and an abandonment to his will can prevent man from being demeaned and save him...” (Deus Caritas Est, 37) Pope Benedict XVI in an Encyclical published 2005

“At such times, a living relationship with Christ is decisive if we are to keep on the right path, without falling .... Prayer, as a means of drawing ever new strength from Christ, is concretely and urgently needed.” (Deus Caritas Est, 36) Pope Benedict XVI in an Encyclical published 2005

“Jesus, who said that he had come so that we might have life and have it in its fullness, in abundance (cf. Jn 10:10), has also explained to us what “life” means: “this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (Jn 17:3). Life in its true sense is not something we have exclusively in or from ourselves: it is a relationship. And life in its totality is a relationship with Him who is the source of life. If we are in relation with Him who does not die, who is Life itself and Love itself, then we are in life. Then we “live”.” (Spe Salvi, 27) Pope Benedict XVI in an Encyclical published 2007

“Our relationship with God is established through communion with Jesus—we cannot achieve it alone or from our own resources alone. The relationship with Jesus, however, is a relationship with the one who gave himself as a ransom for all (cf. 1 Tim 2:6). Being in communion with Jesus Christ draws us into His “being for all”; it makes it our own way of being. He commits us to live for others, but only through communion with Him does it become possible truly to be there for others, for the whole.” (Spe Salvi, 28) Pope Benedict XVI in an Encyclical published 2007

“Every responsibility and every commitment spelt out by that doctrine is derived from charity which, according to the teaching of Jesus, is the synthesis of the entire Law (cf. Mt 22:36- 40). It gives real substance to the personal relationship with God and with neighbour” (Caritas In Veritate, 2) Pope Benedict XVI in an Encyclical published 2009

“Only through an encounter with God are we able to see in the other something more than just another creature.” (Caritas in Veritate, 11) Pope Benedict XVI in an Encyclical published 2009

“Accordingly, the definitive aim of catechesis is to put people not only in touch but in communion, in intimacy, with Jesus Christ: only He can lead us to the love of the Father in the Spirit and make us share in the life of the Holy Trinity.” (Catechesi Tradendae, 5) Pope John Paul II in an Apostolic Exhortation published in 1979

“The kingdom will grow insofar as every person learns to turn to God in the intimacy of prayer as to a Father (cf. Lk 11:2; Mt 23:9) and strives to do his will (cf. Mt 7:21)..” (Redemptoris Missio, 13) Pope John Paul II in an Encyclical published 1990

“Missionary cooperation is rooted and lived, above all, in personal union with Christ. Only if we are united to him as the branches to the vine (cf. Jn 15:5) can we produce good fruit.” (Redemptoris Missio, 77) Pope John Paul II in an Encyclical published 1990

“The root reason for human dignity lies in man's call to communion with God. From the very circumstance of his origin man is already invited to converse with God. For man would not exist were he not created by God’s love and constantly preserved by it; and he cannot live fully according to truth unless he freely acknowledges that love and devotes himself to His Creator.” (Gaudium Et Spes, 19) Second Vatican Council’s Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, published in 1965

Catechism of the Catholic Church 299 The universe, created in and by the eternal Word, the "image of the invisible God", is destined for and addressed to man, himself created in the "image of God" and called to a personal relationship with God.

Catechism of the Catholic Church 2558 "Great is the mystery of the faith!" This mystery, then, requires that the faithful believe in it, that they celebrate it, and that they live from it in a vital and personal relationship with the living and true God. This relationship is prayer.

Catechism of the Catholic Church 35 Man's faculties make him capable of coming to a knowledge of the existence of a personal God. But for man to be able to enter into real intimacy with him, God willed both to reveal himself to man and to give him the grace of being able to welcome this revelation in faith.

Catechism of the Catholic Church 2591 God tirelessly calls each person to this mysterious encounter with Himself. Prayer unfolds throughout the whole history of salvation as a reciprocal call between God and man.

Catechism of the Catholic Church 2567 God calls man first. Man may forget his Creator or hide far from his face; he may run after idols or accuse the deity of having abandoned him; yet the living and true God tirelessly calls each person to that mysterious encounter known as prayer. In prayer, the faithful God's initiative of love always comes first; our own first step is always a response. As God gradually reveals himself and reveals man to himself, prayer appears as a reciprocal call, a covenant drama. Through words and actions, this drama engages the heart. It unfolds throughout the whole history of salvation.

Catechism of the Catholic Church 2560 "If you knew the gift of God!" The wonder of prayer is revealed beside the well where we come seeking water: there, Christ comes to meet every human being. It is he who first seeks us and asks us for a drink. Jesus thirsts; his asking arises from the depths of God's desire for us. Whether we realize it or not, prayer is the encounter of God's thirst with ours. God thirsts that we may thirst for him.

Catechism of the Catholic Church 2659 We learn to pray at certain moments by hearing the Word of the Lord and sharing in his Paschal mystery, but his Spirit is offered us at all times, in the events of each day, to make prayer spring up from us. Jesus' teaching about praying to our Father is in the same vein as his teaching about providence: time is in the Father's hands; it is in the present that we encounter him, not yesterday nor tomorrow, but today: "O that today you would hearken to his voice! Harden not your hearts."

Catechism of the Catholic Church 2565 In the New Covenant, prayer is the living relationship of the children of God with their Father who is good beyond measure, with his Son Jesus Christ and with the Holy Spirit. The grace of the Kingdom is "the union of the entire holy and royal Trinity . . . with the whole human spirit." Thus, the life of prayer is the habit of being in the presence of the thrice-holy God and in communion with him

Catechism of the Catholic Church 1101 The Holy Spirit gives a spiritual understanding of the Word of God to those who read or hear it, according to the dispositions of their hearts. By means of the words, actions, and symbols that form the structure of a celebration, the Spirit puts both the faithful and the ministers into a living relationship with Christ, the Word and Image of the Father, so that they can live out the meaning of what they hear, contemplate, and do in the celebration.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

The Catholic Church As the Fulfillment of the Kingdom

The following was written by this fabulous, brilliant young man, Dave Brokke, who spent years online with me debating Catholicism and winning! And am I so thankful to God for that! He is getting his masters in Theology (I think) at the Franciscan College and is soon to be a full time missionary. He has given me permission to post this here:

Something very important to always keep in mind is the fact that the first Christians were not the same as the Christians of the 20th century but were in fact Messianic Jews, Christ came not to do-away with the law, but to fulfill the law and so Christianity is not the destruction of Judaism but the fulfillment of Judaism. Because the first Christians were Jews including Christ and the Apostles, it is important to look at Scripture through the lens of a Jew.

Catholics believe that from the very beginning, God intended the perfected Church to be the fulfillment of creation. Yet if the Church is what God intended for creation, why was it that when Christ came He only mentioned the “Church” twice, yet mentions the “Kingdom of God” over one hundred times? Why is it that He explains to His Apostles that not the gospel of the Church, but that the “gospel of the kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, as a testimony to all nations” (Mt 24:14, RSVCE)? The answer is both in the Old and New Testament…

David is the central figure of the Old Testament. It is through David that the kingdom of Israel reaches its climax. David is promised the covenant of the Kingdom that will last forever on which a descendant of his will reign forever.

Moreover the Lord declares to you that the Lord will make you a house. When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come forth from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom for ever. I will be his father, and he shall be my son…And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure for ever before me; your throne shall be established for ever (2 Sam 7:11-14,16).

Because the sons of Solomon had committed sin, the structure of the Davidic kingdom fell and Israel went into Exile, yet the Lord promises through the prophets that He will be true to His promises, He will not go back on His covenant. Therefore a descendent of David, shall reign on his throne forever.

I will not violate my covenant or alter the word that went forth from my lips. Once for all I have sworn by my holiness; I will not lie to David. His line shall endure for ever, his throne as long as the sun before me (Ps 89:20-22,29-36).

Hear then, O house of David...Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel (Is 7:13,14).

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name will be called “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David, and over his kingdom, to establish it, and to uphold it (Is 9:6-7).

For thus says the Lord: David shall never lack a man to sit on the throne of the house of Israel (Jer 33:17-18).

My servant David shall be king over them; and they shall all have one shepherd. They shall follow my ordinances and be careful to observe my statues…and David my servant will be their prince for ever. I will make a covenant of peace with them; it shall be an everlasting covenant with them; and I will bless them and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in the midst of them for evermore. My dwelling place shall be with them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people (Ezek 37:24,25-27).

The prophets set the stage for a descendent of David to come and fulfill the Lord’s promises that would be fulfilled in Jesus. In order to show how Jesus truly is the fulfillment of the Davidic kingdom as well as the promise to Abraham, the Gospel writers constantly reinforce Jesus’ fulfilling the Davidic lineage in their writings. Observe the passages below.

The angel Gabriel was sent from God to…a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary…And he came to her and said…’And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus…and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there will be no end (Lk 1:27,28,31-33).

Blessed be the Lord the God of Israel, for he has visited his people, and has raised up a mighty savior for us in the house of his servant David, as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old, that he would save us from our enemies…to perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember his holy covenant, the oath which he swore to our father Abraham (Lk 1:68-73)

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be enrolled…And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be enrolled with Mary his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to be delivered. And she gave birth to her first born son (Lk 2:1,4-7).

Brethren, I may say to you confidently of the patriarch David…being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendents upon his throne, he foresaw and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. This Jesus God raised up… being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this which you see and hear (Acts 2:29,30).

He raised up David to be their king…Of this man’s posterity God has brought to Israel a Savior, Jesus, as he promised (Acts 13:22,23).

In addition to these texts, throughout Jesus’ ministry, Jesus is continually recognized as “Son of David” (cf. Mt 9:37, Mt 12:23, Mt 15:22, Mt 20:23, Mt 20:31, Mt 21: 9, Mt 21:15, Mt 22:42, Mk 10:47, Mk 10:48, Lk 18:35, Lk 18:39). The Gospel writers found it particularly important to stress this fact. So Jesus is the heir and ruler to the throne of David and his kingdom.

The Inauguration of the Kingdom
If Jesus is the king, then He must have a kingdom. It is no wonder than that many Jews thought that Jesus' kingdom would be an earthly kingdom and that the Messiah would set them free through a military victory over the Romans. But Christ came to bear testimony to the truth and His kingdom would not be of this world full of error but a kingdom of truth.

At the institution of the Last Supper, Jesus shares bread and wine with His disciples acting in the order of Melchizedek, as both priest and king. Jesus offers bread and wine to them as His body and His blood and then promises His disciples “I shall not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God” and “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I tell you I shall not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God” (Mk 14:25, Lk 22:15,16). Yet we read later on that while Jesus was on the Cross He received the vinegar (fruit of the vine) placed before His mouth. It is precisely through the Cross then that not only the Kingdom is born but also the Church.

The Church is born primarily of Christ’s total self-giving for our salvation, anticipated in the institution of the Eucharist and fulfilled on the cross. “The origin and growth of the Church are symbolized by the blood and water which flowed from the open side of the crucified Jesus.” “For it was from the side of Christ as he slept the sleep of death upon the cross that there came forth the ‘wondrous sacrament of the whole Church’” As Eve was formed from the sleeping Adam’s side, so the Church was born form the pierced heart of Christ hanging dead on the cross (CCC §766).

After Jesus resurrects from the dead He eats of the meal that He would not eat until it was fulfilled in the Kingdom using the same manner of taking the bread and giving it to them (Jn 21:13, Lk 24:30). The Kingdom of God is then fulfilled in the age of the Church, which is why to make manifest the Kingdom of Jesus Christ the Apostles continued the breaking of the bread (Acts 2:42).
The central theme to the book of Acts is the kingdom. The book of Acts begins with the theme of the Kingdom. “To them [Jesus] presented himself…speaking of the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3). And the Apostles ask at the time of the Ascension, “Lord will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6). Throughout the book of Acts, the Kingdom is being preached (cf. Acts 8:12; 14:22; 19:8; 20:25).
The book of Acts also ends with the theme of Kingdom. “[Paul]…welcomed all who came to him, preaching the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ quite openly and unhindered” (Acts 28:30-31). Yet the book of Acts is continually examining the beginning of the Church. This is precisely because the Church is the fulfillment of the Kingdom. Alfred Loisy commented, “Jesus came preaching the Kingdom, and what arrived was the Church,” as if the promise of the Kingdom was a broken promise or a promise yet to be fulfilled because all that happened was the Church (Loisy 166). Yet the Church is the glorious and mystical fulfillment of that Kingdom.

The Davidic Kingdom and the Catholic Church
You might ask, what does this have to do with the Catholic Church? If we look a little closer at the Davidic kingdom, we begin to understand what it means for the claims of the Catholic Church.

In the Eastern kingdoms, each king has a kingdom, and each king would have a “master of the palace.” The king would delegate the authority and administration of his kingdom to this “master of the palace,” who managed the kingdom, almost to the point of ruling, especially in his absence. The keys were a sign of the authority of the king, and the king would at times delegate the keys to the steward of the kingdom (Ray 266, 268). In the Davidic kingdom, there was the office of the master of the house (1 Kings 4:1,6). This office is more clearly explained through the office of Eli’akim, “who was over the household” (2 Kings 18:18).

And I will place on his shoulder the key of the house of David; he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open. And I will fasten him like a peg in a sure place…In that days says the Lord of hosts, the peg that was fastened in a sure place will gave way; and it will be cut down and fall (Is 22:22-23,25).

The office of the master of the house in the Davidic kingdom will thus be renewed in the New Covenant through someone who will be given the keys to open and to shut, to loose and to bind.

Now we will discuss the notion of a Jewish rabbinate. The rabbi was the teacher who had pupils who would follow him. How one became a rabbi was that they joined a rabbinate as a pupil and would follow a rabbi. The rabbi would designate a chief pupil who then would argue with the rabbi. Once the pupil could outwit the rabbi in an argument, the pupil would be worthy to become a rabbi himself. This is extremely important in examining Matthew 16.

Peter is following the traditional model of the rabbinate. He follows Christ and then Christ seemingly designates him as the chief pupil to which Peter assumes that it is his time to argue with Jesus. Jesus says He must go to Jerusalem to die, to which Peter argues. At that Jesus rebukes Peter in order to show Peter that this is not a typical rabbinate. Peter will never outwit Christ and Christ will always be the Teacher and Peter’s job is not to declare anything new but only declare that which is revealed to him by the Father.

This relationship between the structure of the Davidic kingdom and the structure of the Kingdom proposed by Christ continues to have similarities. One such similarity is in the office of the “master of the palace” which is given to Peter.

And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock, I will build my Church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven (Mt 16:18-19).

Jesus ascended the throne of David, and God gave Him all authority in heaven and on earth. Jesus was in possession of the key of David, yet He delegated the keys to Peter (cf. Rev 3:7, Mt 16:18-19). Peter is designated as the “master of the palace.” This authority given to Peter would not end with his death, but would continue on through his successors.

The office of steward in the old economy is now superseded by the Petrine office with the delegation and handing on of the keys. The office of steward was successive, and so is the Petrine office in the new kingdom (Ray 274).

However, the Petrine office’s authority is not over temporal matters, but rather spiritual matters as Peter was given the keys to the Kingdom of heaven. The Petrine office is given the authority to “bind” and to “loose.” The terms to “bind” and to “loose” are rabbinical terms that designate authority in teaching on matters in faith and morals. Notice how Matthew uses very similar language to that of Isaiah but instead of using “open” and “shut” uses the term “bind” and “loose” in order to show that his authority is not in earthly matters but authority in being able to declare the truth to which not even the gates of hell could prevail against.

This teaching authority based on the Petrine office is found only within the Catholic Church. His teaching authority would be infallible for the gates of hell would not prevail against it.

There is no doubt, and in fact it has been known in all ages, that the holy and most blessed Peter, prince and head of the Apostles, pillar of the faith, and foundation of the Catholic Church, received the keys of the kingdom from our Lord Jesus Christ, the Savior and Redeemer of the human race, and that to him was given the power of loosing and binding sins: who down even to today and forever both lives and judges in his successors (Council of Ephesus, 431 AD, qtd. in Ray 235).

St. Cyprian of Carthage wrote in 251 AD…"The Lord says to Peter: ‘I say to you,’ he says, ‘that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church.’ . . . On him he builds the Church, and to him he gives the command to feed the sheep, and although he assigns a like power to all the apostles, yet he founded a single chair, and he established by his own authority a source and an intrinsic reason for that unity. Indeed, the others were that also which Peter was but a primacy is given to Peter, whereby it is made clear that there is but one Church and one chair. So too, all are shepherds, and the flock is shown to be one, fed by all the apostles in single-minded accord. If someone does not hold fast to this unity of Peter, can he imagine that he still holds the faith? If he desert the chair of Peter upon whom the Church was built, can he still be confident that he is in the Church?" (The Unity of the Catholic Church 4; 1st edition [A.D. 251]).

The holy Roman Church has been placed at the forefront…by the evangelic voice of our Lord and Savior, who says: “You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My Church”…The first see, therefore, is that of Peter the Apostle, that of the Roman Church, which has neither stain nor blemish nor anything like it (Pope Damasus, 382 AD, qtd. in Ray 212).

Christ is the Good Shepherd who gives his flock to Peter, who is the “one shepherd” who is over the one flock who is told, “Feed my lambs,” “Tend my sheep,” “Feed my sheep” (cf. Ezek 37:24, Jn 21:15,16,17).

In addition to the master of the house, the king took counsel with these twelve officers, who would advise him how to answer the people of the kingdom. (1 Kings 7:7,1 Kings 12:6-7).

The twelve officers of the Davidic kingdom managed the household of the king, advised the king, and provided food for the king’s household. This too will play a significant role in the Kingdom that will be established by Christ. Christ too appointed twelve officers who would oversee the people of His Kingdom.

And he called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every infirmity. The names of the twelve apostles are these: first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddeus; Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot…These Twelve Jesus sent out, charging them ‘Go… and preach as you go, saying “The kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Mt 10:1-4).

These twelve were the keepers of the Kingdom who were sent out to preach the Kingdom. These twelve are able to feed the household of the King most directly through the Eucharist.

Christ is the prophet, who was prophesized by Moses (Deut 18:18-19, Acts 3:20-23). Christ, as the Truth, came to bear testimony to the truth (Jn 14:6, 18:37). Jesus spoke with an authority that other rabbis at the time did not (Mt 7:28). He proclaimed the truth as a prophet, preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom. He thus covenants His authority to proclaim the truth to the Apostles and the keys of His Kingdom to Peter, the first of Apostles.

The Apostles were commissioned with Jesus’ authority to teach all nations to observe all that He commanded (Mt 28:18-19). He gave His Holy Spirit to the Apostles that they may be guided into all truth, bringing to their remembrance all that Jesus said (Jn 14:26, 16:13). If anyone received what they taught, they received Jesus; if anyone rejected what they taught, they rejected Christ (Lk 10:16). Thus Christ acts as the promised prophet through the Church, who proclaims the truth. If anyone would not listen to the prophet through His Church, God will require it of him (Deut 18:18-19, Lk 10:16). The Apostles in union with Peter are the shepherds under the one shepherd who care for the faithful. “I will set shepherds over them who will care for them, and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall any be missing, says the Lord” (Jer 23:4). This is why it is particularly interesting that right before Jesus gives the Apostles a similar authority to the authority of Peter, He tells the parable of the lost sheep.

... So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish. If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you…If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the Church; and if he refuses to listen even to the Church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven (Mt 18:14-19).

The Church is seen as the final authority because the Church is “the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus being the cornerstone” (Eph 2:19-20). If one does not listen to the Church they are to be treated as a Gentile. Because of the authority of the Church, built upon the foundation of the apostles, we might know how to act and what to believe, because the Church would declare the truth. “If I am delayed you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the Church of the living God, the pillar and bulwark of truth” (1 Tim 3:15). This fullness of faith, fullness of truth is passed down to those whom the Apostles appointed and is protected by the Lord.

This fullness of faith is the deposit of faith which has been guarded, protected, and preserved without error by the Apostles and their successors. "Sacred tradition and Sacred Scripture form one sacred deposit of the word of God, committed to the Church. Holding fast to this deposit the entire holy people united with their shepherds remain always steadfast in the teaching of the Apostles, in the common life, in the breaking of the bread and in prayers (see Acts 2, 42, Greek text), so that holding to, practicing and professing the heritage of the faith, it becomes on the part of the bishops and faithful a single common effort.

But the task of authentically interpreting the word of God, whether written or handed on, has been entrusted exclusively to the living teaching office of the Church, whose authority is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ. This teaching office is not above the word of God, but serves it, teaching only what has been handed on, listening to it devoutly, guarding it scrupulously and explaining it faithfully in accord with a divine commission and with the help of the Holy Spirit, it draws from this one deposit of faith everything which it presents for belief as divinely revealed." (Dei Verbum, 10)

For this gospel I was appointed a preacher and apostle and teacher…for I know Whom I have believed, and I am sure that He is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me. Follow the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me…guard the truth that has been entrusted to you by the Holy Spirit who dwells within us (2 Tim 1:11-14).

Christ promised that the gates of Hades shall not prevail against the Church fulfilling the Abrahamic promise that Abraham’s descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies (cf. Mt 16:18; Gen 22:16-18). The Church will last forever and will not fall into error.
The scribes and Pharisees sat on Moses’ prophetic seat or cathedra, and therefore the Jews were obligated to practice and observe whatever the Pharisees or scribes taught (cf. Mt 23:2-3). Jesus, however, appoints the twelve Apostles the Kingdom He was given, and gives to the Apostles the thrones or cathedra to teach, to bind and to loose.
As my Father appointed [covenant] a kingdom for me, so do I appoint [covenant] for you that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel (Lk 22:29-30).

Thus the Apostles speak for Christ as His prophets, teaching with His authority. The offices of the Davidic kingdom were successive, and this is true of the new kingdom in Christ. This is why when Judas died it was necessary to fill his office as seen in the Scripture below.

In those days Peter stood up among the brethren… “Brethren the Scripture had to be fulfilled…concerning Judas… ‘His office let another take.’” …And they prayed and said, “Lord…show which one of these two you have chosen to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside, to go to his own place.” And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthi’as; and he was enrolled with the eleven apostles (Acts 1:15,16,20,24,25-26).

This is the meaning of apostolic succession, which is found within the Catholic Church. Apostolic succession is the filling of the seats of the Apostles in order that the prophetic ministry of the Church might continue.
The elders of the Church in union with apostles in union with Peter had the ability to answer questions with authority through the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Paul and Barnabas and some of the others were appointed to go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and the elders about this question…the apostles and the elders were gathered together to consider this matter. And after there had been much debate, Peter rose and [spoke]…and all the assembly kept silence…then it seemed good to the apostles and the elders, with the whole Church, to choose men from among them and send them… with the following letter: “The brethren, both the apostles and the elders…it has seemed good to us in the assembly…to tell you the same things by words of mouth. For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things” …they delivered the letter. And when they read it, they rejoiced at the exhortation” (Acts 15:2,6-7,12,22,23,25,27,28,30,31).

The elders with the apostles in agreement with Peter were able to speak of what the Holy Spirit wanted for the whole Church. The churches rejoice at the exhortation because now they knew the truth concerning the Gentiles. The elders are the priests who are under the Apostles who are under Peter, the chief of Apostles, who is under Jesus Christ, the King of the Kingdom. This is essentially the hierarchy of the apostolic and prophetic Catholic Church, in which the small mustard seed grew into the greatest of all shrubs (Mk 4:31-32).