Lifestyle and relations between morality and transgressions: Churches and sects
The answers to the questions are prepared by the theologian Monsignor Costantino Di Bruno, Central Assistant of the Apostolic Movement.
Q. Some time ago I conversed with a Presbyterian. She spoke of the reformation that led to their religion as comparable to the movement of St. Francis of Assisi. What is the difference between a reformation that is made in the Church and a reformation which then breaks away from the Church? And what difference is there between religions that we consider Christian, but that are not Catholic, and the sects?
A. To be a Christian you need the baptism in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Who has not this baptism is not a Christian. Because he is not the body of Christ. For example, Jehovah’s Witnesses are not Christians, because they do not have the baptism in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, and because they do not believe in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. The fundamental truths that make you God’s church are two: unity and trinity of God, and the Incarnation, Passion, Death, Resurrection and Ascension into heaven of our Lord Jesus Christ, with all that the Ascension into heaven, his Passion and his redeeming death imply. If these two truths do not exist neither do the sacraments. If there are no sacraments there is no Church of God. The Church of God has strict rules on which she is based and on which then you have to build. The Church of God is one, not two. Reading the gospel of Matthew, chapter 16, we find that Jesus says to Peter: “You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against her.” The Church of Christ is one, there are not two churches of Christ. The Church that is not founded on Peter is a lame church, it limps. Peter is fundamental, he is the rock, and without him the Church either limps in the truth or limps in grace. All churches that are not based on Peter either lack in grace or in truth. In fact, many churches, do not have the sacraments, and except for baptism, the seven sacraments are not there. St. Francis did not get out of the Church. First, he went to the Pope, he knelt at his feet and asked him to be the Church of God. This is the truth of the Church. Without Peter the Church navigates in vain and we cannot allow that a person may sail in vain. Even the Presbyterians are not perfect Church of God. They can do what they want but they are lacking in grace and truth.
Q. For what concerns new religious movements, extreme cults, esoteric cults, Satanism, sects, and so on, I think that we are faced with two contradictions. The first is that despite living in an affluent society, many go to seek welfare in belonging to extreme cults expecting to find happiness, fulfillment, joy and the elusive well-being, there. The second is that the man of 2011 cries for freedom, claims to liberty and at the same time he goes to increase the ranks of the sects. Here, we know quite well that people are subject to forms of seduction, indoctrination and psychological manipulation that have little to do with the freedom that, instead, God allows to man. Is there anything that perhaps man has forgotten and that maybe the Church as a mother wants to remind us? Is there a recipe to achieve this happiness without necessarily having to prove these strong emotions? Or do we think Satanism and sects are phenomena of not so important relevance, and they are much more banal and maybe just a transgression or a fad?
A. They are destructive, they are not indifferent, they destroy man in his truth. Who is the Lord of man? This is the question we must ask. We can have three answers: the Lord of man is God, the Lord of man is the devil, the Lord of man is man. Who do we choose? It is a choice. All sects choose either Satan or choose man as their lord, and therefore they choose the falsity. Never does falsity produce well-being, because it cannot produce it. One cannot build a building on falsity. However, man has a choice, because man is the only creature together with the angel, that must want to choose God. You can find yourself before a man who says to God: “I do not choose you” . Think of Eve in the Garden of Eden, she chose to be God. Still before, Lucifer chose to be like God, for his pride; and Michael, who is the Archangel of the faith defended the Lord saying, “Who is like God.” Like God is only God. it is necessary that we decide who our Lord is. If we choose God, we must choose his word, not ours. Choosing the word of God means walking in his obedience. Here is our realization. God did not give man the possibility of choice. Between freedom and non freedom, he gave a command: “Choose me, and if you do not choose me you die.” Whenever we do not choose God we are setting on a path of death. This is the truth. The non choice of God is a tragic thing, and every day we experience it, even in the little choices in life. Not choosing God becomes tragic. However, the fundamental problem is always the same: who is the Lord of man? Do you know why Christ was killed on the Cross? Because a class of priests, scribes and Pharisees decided that God was their hearts and their minds. Christ had to go to the Cross for a choice made by man. This is sin.
Q. How do we prove and also explain the authenticity and truth of our faith?
A. Our faith is not a truth, because if it were a truth, all truths are equal. Our faith is a history, the testified history. Buddha died, and he is in death. Christ died and he rose. The resurrection is a historical event, because today Christ is the living one. He was not yesterday the living one, he is today. We must make the history of Christ our history. Your history is the truth of your faith. With history you have to show the truth of your faith. In the letter of James we find: “Show me your faith and I by my works will show you what I believe in.” The faith is shown with the works. In the fifth chapter of Matthew Christ says to his disciples: “Let them see your good works and let them give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” Let them see your history. It is my history that attests to the truth of Christ, it is my history that attests to the truth of my faith. Between one who forgives and one that hates no difference. There is a difference between one who forgives pliant and one who hates. Between one who is compliant and who is not there is a difference. Between one who always operates mercy, and one who does not there is a difference. Between the holy Christian and the non saint there is a difference, and it is this difference that the world must see. Because history is the truth of your faith. that which is your history, and that which is your faith. Faith is not the creed we recite in the Church. That is a truth that you need, a pagan does not need it. A pagan does not need what you confess, he needs what you live. The early Church lived her faith, and it was this faith that conquered the world. When on the cross, Jesus Christ lived all the power of his faith in the Father, he moved the centurion, and the centurion was a killer of people. Every day, he crucified several people, but none of them convinced the centurion. They all died in the same way. When Christ died, he did it so in a different way than the others, and the centurion seeing him die said, “Truly this man was the Son of God.” He probably knew nothing of Jesus, however, he saw him die, and it was that death what opened him to confess the mystery of this Man. Your history changes the way of thinking, your history changes life. Show me your history and
Q. What is meant by infallibility of the pope?
A. At the Last Supper Jesus said to Peter: “I have prayed for you that your faith never fails. Once you are confirmed in the faith you must strengthen your brothers.” At Caesarea Philippi when Peter made his confession on Christ – all the people were confused about Christ. And is not there perhaps confusion about Christ today? Christ is no longer known. Who says a thing about him who says another. Who speaks in a way and who speaks in another, on Christ – he said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God,” and Jesus said to Peter: “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for neither the flesh nor the blood revealed it to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I say to you: you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the powers of hell will not prevail against her. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven: whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” That is how Christ spoke to his vicar, Peter. The infallibility is a dogma of 1870, the First Vatican Council. This dogma states that: in matters of faith and morality, in a teaching of the pope that holds for all and forever, and that it also appears such in its formulation (the pope must say: “we define” or “we establish”), that definition applies to today and forever. The infallibility is to preserve the Church in the truth of Christ, in the truth of the gospel and in the truth of salvation. How must you save yourself? What truths are needed for your salvation? The Pope teaches you these truths, he tells you what you must do to in order to have, to achieve eternal life. His teaching is ordinary and extraordinary. It is ordinary every day, when he announces a truth that will be updated, surpassed, perfected in time and brought to the present day of history. The extraordinary things are eternal, and there is no updating. The dogma of the Assumption has no update, it is an infallible truth forever. Mary is taken up into heaven in body and soul, and this cannot be discussed. It is the faith of the Church. The Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary is the Church’s faith, a defined faith, an infallible faith and eternal faith. You can no longer doubt it, because this is your faith. The pope can define the true, certain, enduring and eternal faith,. This is the dogma on the infallibility of the pope. As already mentioned, it refers only to matters of faith and morality. In other areas, the pope goes through human science, like all the others.
Q. A question from the seminarians of Milan. Sure, it would be nice to become a historical image of Christ. But what to do to concretely to become worthy testimony of Christ. The will is perhaps there, but then the strength to become as a manifestation of Him is lacking.
A. The Catholic Church by the grace of God is in the fullness of grace and truth. Why did Christ give us the grace? In order to live the truth. As you draw the truth, so you must also draw the grace. Where do you draw the grace? In the Eucharist. We need to celebrate the Eucharist well. The Eucharist is the source of grace, the source of all grace. Everything comes from the Eucharist, which must be celebrated well, saintly well. Then comes the prayer. In the prayer that Jesus taught us, Our Father, our whole life is presented to Him. We ask the Father to be made by Him, and we could be. We must pray with faith, with the certainty that the Lord changes our lives. If you immerse yourself in the grace you make it. As my body needs nourishment, needs bread if I want to walk, if I want to work, if I want to carry out my ministry and do every good thing, I also have to feed on Christ if I want to live as a Christian. Why was the Eucharist given to us? We find this in the Gospel of John, chapter VI: “He who eats me will live because of me, who feeds on me will have the strength to live for me.” However, the Eucharist must be celebrated with dignity, it must be lived with dignity and taken part in with dignity. It takes a sure faith that you are not taking a piece of bread, you are taking the live flesh of Lord Jesus in which there is all the power of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. If we do not start from this strong truth of our faith, and we receive the Eucharist out of habit, distracted, inattentive, we in the Church with the body not with the spirit; we chat, we get distracted, then, the Eucharist does not produce its fruit. This is our sin. We have so much power of grace in us, but we do not exploit this power. The prayer with the Holy Rosary. What is more beautiful than a well-meditated, well celebrated and well lived rosary. The rosary is something sublime and beautiful. Just a rosary a day and all the devils in hell run away. Sometimes even one Hail Mary is enough to give the spiritual charge to keep going on. We have the means, but we have to make use of them well. We use these means, but often in a not so holy and not so good way.
Q. What is the Opus Dei?
A. It is a religious congregation made of priests and lay people, which is approved by the Church. In this association you live in a communal way. There is a communion between the members at a participation level in the everyday practical and concrete life. It was and is worthy in the Church. It brings in the church its charisma sharing in her life, her evangelization. It is a good and not a bad thing. Always, where there is man, there may be something that does not go right, because it is of the nature of man the possibility of making mistakes. There is the idea that it is good and there is a history that must always be purified. Is there anything more holy than the Church? Yet, every day, the Church must be purified. Is there anything more beautiful than the Apostolic Movement? Yet every day the Apostolic Movement must be purified, because the weakness, fragility and poverty of man always introduce themselves in our things. And we must always work so that the charisma of the founder must be respected.
Q. On what basis must inter-religious dialogue be founded?
A. You can found an interreligious dialogue on your truth. You are obligated to give your truth, to show the reasons for your faith to others, to show the beauty of your faith. In the Gospel you find an interreligious dialogue that is sublime, the dialogue of Christ, a Jew, with a woman of Samaria. They had two different faiths, even if originally the faith was one. The Samaritans for historical reasons were a little syncretistic – Samaria had been occupied by the Babylonians who introduced their troops and their people, who brought their beliefs. Thus, the original faith was set with the beliefs of the people of Babylon. Because of this syncretism, the Jews did not look with favour on the Samaritans as they thought that they had denied the faith of the fathers – and Jesus goes to Samaria. He stops at Jacob’s well and meets this woman. With this woman he establishes a sublime interreligious dialogue, and it all starts with a simple question of Jesus: “Give me a drink.” The woman replies that she would not have given him water because he is a Jew and he cannot even enter into dialogue of sympathy or convenience with a woman of Samaria. Then Jesus says to the woman that he would have given her some water and with this water she would not have any thirst forever any more. The woman agrees, and at this point Jesus goes beyond in the dialogue, and touches her heart, inviting her to go and call her husband. The woman affirms to have no husband, Jesus confirms her that she said well, because she had five husbands, and the one with which she now lives is not her husband. The woman recognizes a prophet in Jesus, and so the spark is shot in her. We must always have a spark of faith that ignites the other person. In the interreligious dialogue this spark, the spark of the truth of your faith must be brought. But you can do this if you always bring with you the Holy Spirit. The spirit is the spark that enters into the heart of the other and convinces him. Zacchaeus was on the tree and tried to see Jesus. Jesus passes and invites him to come down, he touches him with the spark of faith. Zacchaeus caught fire, came down and was converted. It is right that we dialogue with others, but not to say words, but to give the power of our faith, the power of the Holy Spirit that is in us. We are not like the others, who go on to say words, we bring a power of Holy Spirit and bring a power of different history. If we do this, we change the world. If we move just to bring words, and say that the gospel of the one is better than the gospel of the other, then it is better to stay home. Under these conditions there is no need for a dialogue, because the heart is ignited only with a spark of love, grace and truth of the Holy Spirit.
Q. You first said that within the Church all the functions and tasks are given by sacrament. Being the priestly sacrament responsible for the salvation of others, I wonder: when this sacrament is not lived in communion with the Church but outside of the Church, what will it be of those souls that are lost due to this deficiency?
A. Your way of living the sacrament badly does not negate my responsibility. Every one of us has a single, personal soul, and everyone has a responsibility, the salvation of his own soul. The Lord has put the salvation of your soul, first of all in your hands. You are supposed to have this desire to save your soul. You must have so much love for Christ as to ask him every day to save your soul. If you believe, every day you will find Christ and His truth, Christ and his church, Christ and his gospel on your way. But only if you believe, if you ask, if you are convinced that Christ is your salvation. Jesus never abandons you: “I will never leave you.” However, you must want his presence. If a minister lives badly his mission, the Lord will make you meet the right one that can guide you, can support you and can help you walk properly. But your discernment, your wisdom, your prayer and your heart must be placed in Christ. If you do not do this then you do not love Christ, and if you do not love Christ you do not seek him. If you seek him Christ lets himself be found. Zacchaeus lived in a world where there was no salvation for him, for the Pharisees, he was a living dead man. He had this desire to seek Jesus and he found him. The apostle John and Andrew were not disciples of Jesus but of John the Baptist. However, in their hearts, they sought the ultimate truth, and when John said, “Behold, the Lamb of God”, they left John and followed Jesus because they saw John imperfect for their desires. We Christians have low desires, very low desires, we do not have this great desire of salvation. When I a pagan I was looking for the Lord, and when He who sees everything, watched my research he told me: “You seek the truth, well the truth is before you, if you want you can welcome it.” I lived this personal experience of a search for the truth that was not there, was not found in the world. It did not exist in books because there was an abstract, metaphysical truth, a conceptual truth. There was discussion on Christ as we discuss a math problem. But there was in me the desire to seek something more true, deeper, more real, more alive; and the Lord had mercy on me. His spark was struck, and I got burned. God cannot act without this deep desire for elevation of your, because it is from this desire that are struck the sparks of truth, grace and holiness. God can fill the heart if there is this research, always, in every moment: “Seek the Lord while he lets himself be found, call upon him while he is near.” This invitation is also true for us today. On Monday, when I come among you I ask the Lord to give me a spark of truth, so that I may grow, so that I can move forward, so that I can see well. I ask for it because the people need a greater light and it must be given to him. Lord, you will give it to him, I will receive it, and we will do something. It takes this spark of truth in our hearts, this desire that burns, and God hears you. The disciples of Emmaus were disappointed, however they were searching. They were returning unhappy, sad, grim-faced, but they were not people who had abandoned the idea. They had not found what they were looking for, because they were looking badly for it; however, they were looking and Christ did not abandon them. He went and retrieved them, otherwise they would have been lost forever. The recovery of God wants us, because God always comes to retrieve man. Adam was rescued by God, Abraham was rescued by God, Moses was rescued by God, I have been rescued by God, God wants to rescue everybody. This happens if we want and if we ask for it, because our will and our desire have also a profound effect on the work of God in our lives.