Crossed The Tiber

An Evangelical Converts to Catholicism

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Location: Pennsylvania, United States

I was born into the Catholic faith. At 14, I was "born again" and found Jesus personally but lost His Church. After thirty years as an evangelical protestant, I have come full circle to find that He has been there all the time, in the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. I wish others to find the beauty and truth of the Catholic faith as I have found.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Do Catholics Know the Gospel? Part 2

In my last blog I began to respond to the misconception that Catholics don't know or are not exposed to the gospel message. What is the gospel message?  St. Paul defines it quite nicely and I assume every Christian reading this would agree that this is the gospel. A commenter in the last post gave me this verse from 1 Corinthians:

"Now I make known unto you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you have received, and wherein you stand; By which also you are saved, if you hold fast after what manner I preached unto you, unless you have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all, which I also received: how that Christ died for our sins, according to the scriptures: And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day, according to the scriptures: And that he was seen by Cephas; and after that by the eleven."

So let's ask ourselves, does the liturgy of the Catholic Mass present the gospel as above?
The mass begins (after we humble ourselves by genuflecting toward the tabernacle and acknowledging Christ's presence in the tabernacle) with the Penitential Rite. It is our prayer of acceptance and acknowledgement before God that we are indeed sinners in need of  His salvation.

I confess to almighty God, and to you, my brothers and sisters, that I have sinned through my own fault. In my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done, and in what I have failed to do.
and I ask Blessed Mary, ever virgin, all the angels and saints, and to you, my brothers and sisters, to pray for me to the Lord our God.

The priest reaffirms this confession of sin by praying,

May almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins, and bring us to everlasting life.
And the whole congregation says Amen, which translated means, "I believe or agree." The priest continues.

Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy,

and we conclude with this prayer:

Lord show us your mercy and love. And grant us your salvation.

We then pray the Gloria.   How I never saw the gospel in this is a mystery to me:

Glory to God in the highest, and peace to his people on earth. Lord God, heavenly King, almighty God and Father, we worship you, we give you thanks, we praise you for your glory. Lord Jesus Christ, only Son of the Father, Lord God, Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world, have mercy on us; you are seated at the right hand of the Father, receive our prayer. For you alone are the Holy One, you alone are the Lord, you alone are the Most High, Jesus Christ, with the Holy Spirit, in the glory of God the Father.

The Profession of Faith reads,

For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven: by the power of the Holy Spirit he was born of the Virgin Mary, and became man. For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate.

In the Eucharistic Prayer 1, the priest prays:

Remember [Lord] all of us gather here before you. You know how firmly we believe in you and dedicate ourselves to you. . . We pray to you, our living and true God, for our well-being and redemption . . . Grant us your peace in this life, save us from final damnation, and count us among those you have chosen.

The prayer ends with an appeal to God for salvation through Jesus Christ:

May, these and all who sleep in Christ, find in your presence light, happiness and peace. For ourselves, too, we ask some share in the fellowship of your apostles and martyrs . . . Though we are sinners, we trust in your mercy and love. Do not consider what we truly deserve, but grant us your forgiveness. Through Christ our Lord you give us all these gifts. You fill them with life and goodness, you bless them and make them holy.

Similarly the second Eucharistic Prayer proclaims,

Dying you [Jesus] destroyed our death, rising you restored our life. Lord Jesus, come in glory. . . Have mercy on us all; make us worthy to share eternal life with Mary, the virgin Mother of God, with the apostles and with all the saints who have done your will throughout the ages.
Likewise, Eucharistic Prayer 3 reads,

All life, all holiness comes from you through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, by the working of the Holy Spirit . . .Father, calling to mind the death your Son endured for our salvation, his glorious resurrection and ascension into heaven, and ready to greet him when he comes again, we offer you in thanksgiving this holy and living sacrifice. Look with favor on our your Church’s offering, and see the Victim [Christ] who death has reconciled us to yourself . . .

May he make us an everlasting gift for you and enable us to share in the inheritance of your saints . .

Lastly, the fourth Eucharistic Prayer reads,

Father, you so loved the world that in the fullness of time you sent your only Son to be our Savior...

In fulfillment of your will he gave himself up to death; but by rising from the dead, he destroyed death and restored life.

In this prayer, the congregation proclaims the mystery of faith:

Lord, by your cross and resurrection, you have set us free. You are the Savior of the world.

Finally the Mass culminates in "the altar call.' After we have prayed and proclaimed the liturgy as above we get ready to physically receive our Lord and Savior
This is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Happy are those who are called to his supper.

And the congregation responds,

Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed.

The Catholic Christian then goes forward towards the altar and receives in his/her own body the body blood soul and divinity of Jesus Christ our Lord.

With this infusion of grace we then are dismissed to go out into the world to share Jesus with others.

Clearly, the gospel is presented in the Mass.  If our Protestant brethren want to "witness" the gospel to us, the most effective way would be for them to show the "sleepy" Catholic where the gospel is in their own liturgy. Perhaps if someone had sat down with me in 1973 after my "born again" experience and told me to re-read the liturgy section by section,  perhaps I never would have left.  Instead, I was given handfuls of Jack T. Chick tracts  which effectively poisoned me to my own poorly understood Catholic faith. This quickly caused me to  reject Catholicism.  But He had still been there all this time and His message of salvation was proclaimed to me each Sunday. I chose to ignore it.

(Thanks to Lindsay for her link to Gary Michuta's story on "How A Catholic Hears the Gospel" from which this material was borrowed)


Anonymous Nancy said...

And let's not forget that when the new, corrected translation of the Roman Missal comes into use this Advent, the Gospel roots of our prayers are going to show even clearer.

June 26, 2011 1:00 PM  
Blogger Russ Rentler, M.D. said...

Amen Nancy, I am looking forward to Advent when it comes out. Our priests are really into it as well, thank God.

June 26, 2011 3:50 PM  
Anonymous Mark J said...

Great post, Russ. Nothing there I disagree with. I don't know what the original post was, that sparked yours, but, as a Protestant, I would say a more "interesting" discussion might be "What is NOT the Gospel?"

June 27, 2011 2:13 PM  
Blogger Russ Rentler, M.D. said...

Thanks Mark. The original post was on a blog by a reformed Calvinist Protestant minister from Wheaton College who has a ministry focusing on Catholics. He describes himself as a former "devout"* Catholic and feels called to a ministry to help Catholics find the truth which , ultimately will lead them out of the Catholic faith.
As it is quite obvious, I have a similar but opposite goal. To help Catholics stay in the Church and to win back those who left, as well provide information to anyone who may be interested in hearing the claims of Catholicism.
He made a statement on his blog: "In a couple of weeks, I’ll deliver a set of lectures at Biola University and finish writing curriculum for our class, Relating to Roman Catholics with the Gospel.
I suggested to him that the title of his lectures suggests that Catholics don't know the gospel. An analogous situation would be if I started a series of blog posts and facebook entries entitled "Relating to Reformed Christians with the Gospel."
He was open enough to respond to my concerns and said he would change the name of his lecture series. This inspired my blog post of how much of the gospel is present in the Mass, which is the primary way the average Catholic experiences their faith, so even a Catholic who is not "on fire" for Jesus is still going to have the opportunity every Sunday to hear that:
1)they have sinned and need to acknowledge that before God 2)Christ died for their sins and rose again to give us opportunity to attain heaven 3)They can receive Him into their hearts, and be transformed.

But we have a strong belief in free-will and God won't force himself on anyone. Only by HIs grace does a heart respond to the gospel. Some will respond to the grace and see their life changed, others will refuse the grace, which happens in every non-Catholic Church as well.

(*He really was never devout, went to Church twice a year, and by his own admission was involved in new age practices and didn't practice or live out the teachings of the Catholic faith as teenager and young adult.)

June 27, 2011 6:30 PM  
Blogger kkollwitz said...

"He really was never devout..."

Sounds like many nominal-Catholic-ex-Catholics I've known.

June 30, 2011 6:09 PM  
Blogger Russ Rentler, M.D. said...


June 30, 2011 9:17 PM  

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