Tag Archives: Jesus

The true Church can change the world … again

Just as we are tired of hearing people say that Jesus would not recognize the Church [today], we are also tired of hearing people talk about “reimagining” the Church, as if the Church needs to be revamped for a new generation. We didn’t imagine the Church in the first place, so we don’t need to reimagine it (nor is it our place to do so). The Church was founded by Jesus Christ and His apostles, and we want to affirm that Christ’s vision for the Church is still alive, in spite of human failures throughout her history. The problem is not that the Church needs to change to conform to a new generation (Rom 12:2); the Church needs to reclaim her power to change the world.

Back when the Church was persecuted by the Roman Empire, there was no question that the Church was countercultural. The Church converted the (known) world and influenced it for the better. This was a mixed blessing, because subsequently the line between the Church and the world was blurred. That line is being drawn again, sometimes by the Church and sometimes by the world, and Christians today must realize that living the faith means being countercultural.

We are not saying the culture is inherently evil or that all expressions of culture are sinful. Although polls suggest that a majority of people in our country still identify themselves as Christian, it is an unwitting collaboration of the nonreligious minority and non-practicing Christians that now drives the factors that impact our culture. These factors include politics, entertainment media, and consumer marketing.

… Maybe you have also heard that the Church is no longer relevant to the current generation. This is ridiculous. First of all, the mission of the Church is not relevance. Second, the definition of what is relevant changes by the moment and depends on the person. The focus on relevance is in many ways a symptom of the very relativism we encounter all around ourselves. Having said that, even if the Church is perceived as being out of touch with the current generation, the problem is with the generation, not with the Church. Was Jesus being irrelevant when He called His own generation adulterous and sinful? (Matt 11:16-17).

… Christians will be increasingly threatened with marginalization and even legal action, and they will be tempted to compromise their beliefs for the sake of their livelihoods. …More Christian business owners will face lawsuits for trying to run their businesses according to their principles. More restrictions on religious practice and religious expression will be written into law. …

It’s tempting to hide away in private devotion or, for some, to give up on Church altogether. But to do that is to contribute to the social entropy that is hastening the decay of our culture.

Excerpt taken from How Christianity Saved Civilization … And Must Do So Again, by Mike Aquilina & James L. Papandrea (Sophia Institute Press, 2018), from Chapter 9, “The Church Can Change the World Again,” pp. 215-16. www.SophiaInstitute.com.

MIKE AQUILINA has written over 50 books on Catholic history, doctrine, and devotion. He has cohosted nine series on EWTN, hosted documentaries on early Christianity, and is a frequent guest on Catholic radio.

JAMES PAPANDREA is a Catholic author, professor, speaker, and musician, as well as fellow of the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology

Discerning The King, Long Before His Coming

Messiah, a new eight-part documentary film series, explores how the prophecies of the Old Testament are fulfilled in Christ – and his Church

After millennia of preparing his people through the patriarchs, prophets, the law and his covenant, God sent his only Son, Jesus Christ, to proclaim the good news of salvation and to redeem us through his cross and resurrection.

The story of Jesus has been told in film numerous times, from motion picture epics that keep close to the Gospel narratives to modern reinterpretations that strive to make Jesus more accessible to contemporary believers.

Now comes Messiah, a new eight-part documentary series due for release this fall. Filmed on location in the Holy Land, in Rome, and in the United States, it is produced and marketed for use in churches, schools, and private homes.

So why make another Jesus film? What more is there to say about Christ?

“In one sense Messiah doesn’t say anything new. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever,” said Rick Rotondi, creator and executive producer of the series, referencing the Letter to the Hebrews. “Two thousand years ago, Jesus revealed Himself fully to His apostles. In a project like Messiah, all any artist or filmmaker can hope to accomplish is to mine the riches of this revelation once given to the saints.”

Although Christ remains the same, Rotondi added, “Every generation must discover Christ afresh. There are truths about Christ we tend to forget. We’ve forgotten the astounding ways in which Christ fulfills the Old Testament.

“I hope Messiah changes that,” he added.

What Messiah brings to the forefront

Due for release in the fall, Messiah guides viewers through the Old Testament covenants and prophecies beginning with the Exodus event and reveals how these prophecies are fulfilled in the person of Christ — and the Church he established.

Filmed on locations in the United States, the Holy Land, and Rome, Messiah uses beautiful images and music, narration, voice actors, and expert interviews to convey how the Church fulfills the messianic prophecy as a “light to the nations.” Designed for presentation in churches, schools, and private homes, the new series is a catalyst for catechesis and discussion.

Leonardo Defilippis, who serves as the series’ host, has evangelized through stage and film presentations on the Gospels and the lives of the saints for nearly four decades. He calls Messiah “a very profound work.”

All Christians are taught that Jesus is the Christ, the “anointed one” of God, Defilippis said, but Messiah shows how He is the priest who builds God’s true Temple, which is the Church.

Unfortunately, “so many Christians do not recognize Him and slip away due to their lack of faith and lukewarm spirit,” he explained. “This is the state of the world and of our very beings most of the time.”

Defilippis said it’s easy to see why people stray from the Church, and it can be summarized in one word: sin. “We leave Jesus because we constantly reject His very person and follow the way of the world,” he said.

But Messiah “reminds us that He is the true liberator, and it is all clearly proclaimed through the history of salvation,” he added. The film thus points viewers toward “the reality of the kingdom of God, heaven itself.”

Catholic novelist and co-producer Bud Macfarlane agreed with the evangelizing potential of Messiah. “No viewer will ever experience Mass the same way again, because the series places Old and New Testament readings into a world-historical and supernatural perspective,” he said.

Challenges and blessings

Filming in Rome and the Holy Land often came with tight restrictions that presented special challenges. Sometimes authorities allowed the crew just an hour to stage and film a scene; other times guards were unexpectedly tolerant of their presence at particular locations. The project, however, seemed to be blessed at every turn.

“We saw one mini-miracle after another while on this set,” said director John Strong. “We went to impossible lengths and got the footage we desired.”

Defilippis found himself deeply inspired while filming in the Holy Land. “I had the privilege to see a window into heaven many times,” he said. At the Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth, he was moved to drop to his knees in silent prayer. “At that moment it hit me that this is one of the most significant places in all of creation,” he explained.

Anticipating profound impact

Rotondi said he hopes viewers will be affected profoundly by Messiah. “One of the takeaways I hope people obtain from Messiah is that God is faithful to His promises,” he said. “To see how God’s promises to Abraham and Moses and David come to fruition in Christ fills us with awe and should give us confidence that God will fulfill His promises to us.”

Another hoped-for takeaway is that the Church on earth is the Kingdom of God and the Lord’s Temple, tasked with carrying out Christ’s work of salvation.

“We don’t often get to enjoy this glorious image of the Church today, but it’s a true one,” Rotondi said. “Despite the Church’s sins and wounds, despite corruption, sin, and timidity in her human members, the Church is the living and active presence of Christ in the world. The Church is the Mystical Body of the Messiah, extending His dominion through time and space, putting all things under His feet.”

For more information about the film’s September 2019 release, visit SeeMessiah.com.

GERALD KORSON is a Legatus magazine staff writer.

How truth regarding Jesus’ birth affects us today

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.” — John 3:16

During this wondrous season, while Christians around the world proclaim the most significant event in human history, that Jesus, the Word made flesh, was “conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary,” its real significance is often missed.

Have you ever stopped to think about the deeper meaning of the Incarnation and Nativity of Jesus? His birth was the birth of the most unique Person in history – the incarnation of God Himself, the mingling of God with humanity. As the greatest testimony of His love, the Father has His only Son become man to heal us from everything that separates us from Him – to save us from our sins. In this way, Jesus merits for us the dignity of becoming children of God, allowing us to cry out, Abba Father.

This great love story is retold every year and portrayed in the Christmas creche, which focuses our reflection, contemplation, and gratitude upon the wonder and beauty of our Savior’s birth. It is hard to imagine Christmas without this humble scene and its profound teaching of the heavenly Father’s love for His children.

The origin of the Christmas creche rests with St. Francis of Assisi. It is said that St. Francis lived daily with great joy the wonder and awe of the Incarnation of the Son of God and His blessed and humble birth. The meek saint would often shed tears of heartfelt gratitude, praising the divine Son who took upon Himself our human nature to reveal His Father and to reconcile all things and destroy the power of sin and death forever.

This event is the central moment in human history, which has changed forever our understanding of earthly realities. One reality is how we look upon the sanctity of human life. Jesus’ body was formed in the womb of Mary: “And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). The eternal Son of God came into the world in the womb of the Blessed Virgin, thus blessing the womb of every woman and the precious life of every child. The ministry of Jesus didn’t begin at His birth but at His conception.

Despite this, life at every stage – from conception to natural death – is under siege. We cry and protest for the children who are impeded from being born, for the millions of children born and left to die from hunger and sickness, for the poor, the elderly, the sick, the disadvantaged, the marginalized, and the disabled. Yet, amid our weary struggle with these injustices, Pope Benedict XVI reminds us of the wonder of the Incarnation, its significance, and its power to tranform:

“The action of God, in fact, is not limited to words, indeed we might say he is not content only to speak but is immersed in our history and takes on the fatigue and weight of human life.”

The unapproachable God became approachable and is fully expressed – a God of love, mercy, righteousness, holiness, compassion, and glory. If we lose perspective on the essential truths that are bound up in the Incarnation and Nativity of the Lord Jesus, we lose sight of the Gospel and its revealed truth about life, the human person, and our eternal destiny.

FATHER SHENAN J. BOQUET is the president of Human Life International www.hli.org and a priest of the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux, LA.

Do we need a personal relationship with Jesus?

If you pray and go to Mass regularly, why do you do it? Your answer likely fits into one of three generic answers. Your answer will determine whether you move into a personal relationship with Jesus.

Fr. John Bartunkek, LC

Fr. John Bartunkek, LC

First, we can pray and worship out of routine. It’s like punching a spiritual time clock. We’ve always prayed, always gone to Mass, and we feel a kind of comfortable inertia in continuing to do so. We have a vague sense that we ought to do such things, and we have a vague sense that if we fail to do them, we will feel guilty for some reason. So we keep going through the motions of being Catholic.

When I was in eighth grade, I remember sleeping over at a friend’s house. As we went down to the basement, his parents were sitting on the couch watching television, the wife cuddling against the husband, who had his arm around her. Two months later they were divorced. My friend told me that they just kept up appearances for the kids’ sake, but there was no love in it. That’s falling into routine.

Second, we can pray and worship out of fear. This can be akin to superstition. We have the idea in our heads that if we stop going to Mass or praying the rosary, God will punish us and maybe even send us to hell. In this case, our spiritual commitments (prayer and worship) are like paying taxes to a tyrant or being extorted by a strongman: If we pay our dues, the Boss won’t bother us.

In ancient pagan religions, proper worship depended on following formulas exactly. A priest had to offer an elaborate ceremony with perfect execution or the god would not be pleased. During the ceremony, if the priest sneezed, for example, he would have to start over again. In this religious vision, people are not children of a loving Father but slaves of angry, fickle and aloof deities.

Third, we can pray and worship out of conviction. The word conviction comes from the same word that gives us convinced. Religious conviction is an internal state of assurance with regard to religious truth. The primary reason convinced Christians pray and worship is because they sincerely believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God; they believe that he deserves their praise, and they need his grace.

If our spiritual life flows from conviction, then the actual activity we engage in during our times of prayer is conscious: We pay attention to the meaning of the words, we lift our hearts to God in thanksgiving and adoration, and we strive to conform how we live to God’s will. In this case, our faith actually connects our mind and heart to God during our prayer. We are not just going through motions, not just paying our dues; we are actually encountering the God who speaks to his beloved children through the revelation of Jesus Christ.

FR. JOHN BARTUNEK, LC, is a former professional actor who became a Catholic priest in 2003. This column is printed with permission from his book Answers: Catholic Advice for Your Spiritual Questions (Servant Books, 2014).

Catechism 101

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. This communion of life is always possible because, through Baptism, we have already been united with Christ. Prayer is Christian insofar as it is communion with Christ and extends throughout the Church, which is his Body.

Catechism of the Catholic Church, #2565

Finding our purpose in Christ

You’ve probably heard this old adage before: Each of us is created with a purpose. This saying had stuck around for centuries because it has rung true for people through the ages. And when we cooperate with God’s plan for our lives, marvelous things will happen.

Patrick Novecosky

Patrick Novecosky

There was a time in my life, however, when I didn’t know what my purpose was — or even how to go about discerning that purpose. Little did I know that all I had to do was ask (in prayer) and wait for the Lord to reveal it. After all, life is a journey not a destination.

My career path was quite clear to me ever since I was in high school writing for the student newspaper. My purpose, however, was not so clear — and I wasn’t much of a discerner in my teens and 20s. Now, as a 40-something husband and father of five, God has made my purpose very clear.

Part of that clarity came from five years of working for the Association of Marian Helpers and the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy. “Jesus I trust in you” is embedded in my DNA. A little more than 10 years ago, on the very day that St. John Paul II was laid to rest, my boss (at a small, secular company) called me into his office and gave me my walking papers. My wife was eight months pregnant with our second child and we were a single-income family.

My first thought was: Jesus I trust in you!

Prayer and persistence paid off when, two months later, a call came from Legatus headquarters. You see, I had dropped my resume at Legatus four years earlier but didn’t get a call back. This time, they came looking for me. After a few interviews, I became the new editor of Legatus magazine and happily relocated from Ann Arbor to Southwest Florida.

Our October magazine marks my 100th issue as editor. It’s been a remarkable journey, allowing me the great honor to tell the stories of hundreds of Legatus members. That’s a lot of paper and ink, and if God wills it, perhaps a few hundred more issues are ahead of me.

The truth is, though, that my real purpose is to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. That’s where it all begins. It all flows from the power of God working in our lives for the good of His Kingdom.

Legatus is a remarkable vehicle for the Holy Spirit to reach men and women of influence, and if they have found their purpose in Him, amazing things will continue to happen in the Church and in the world.

PATRICK NOVECOSKY is Legatus magazine’s editor-in-chief.