WierdAl invoked my name ;-) in a blog post.
Like Gervase Markham, I am a Christian, and pretty serious about it.
However I’m afraid that, much as I love the guy (and I really mean that), I’m going to have to put a bit of distance between me and him on this one. He says:
Now, when I was in the U.S. Navy, there were times when we weren’t able to celebrate Mass for a month. In fact, it was the Navy that (inadvertently, but nonetheless) came between me and God, and that drove me absolutely batty.
This gets to the heart of one of the massive differences between Christianity and Catholicism.
As I understand it, Catholics believe (and Al will have to jump in here if I’m misrepresenting his particular view) that it’s vital to go to Mass regularly, because that’s where the priest pronounces that your sins have been forgiven. That, it seems, is why Al felt that the Navy came between him and God when it prevented him going to Mass.
But I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation [including the US Navy], will be able to separate [me] from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. That’s from Romans 8, verses 38-39. The Bible clearly teaches that you can have a ongoing relationship with God without the need for any intermediary apart from Jesus, and that it’s not conditioned on attendance at any ceremony.
At Mass, Catholics believe, the bread and wine actually change into the body and blood of Christ, as he is sacrificed again for the forgiveness of sins of those present. Catholics are required to attend Mass every week, as the sacrifice is made again and again on their behalf.
But the Bible teaches that Jesus made one single sacrifice upon the cross, and his work is now finished. Hebrews Chapter 10 explains this. Discussing the old, Jewish system it says:
Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when this priest [that is, Jesus] had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God. Since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool, because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.
By his one sacrifice he has (past tense) made Christians perfect forever. He sat down at the right hand of God, his work done and completed. He is now waiting “for his enemies to be made his footstool”, which will happen at the Last Day. So there is no need for further sacrifice, and no need for priests to perform it. (This is why many Christian churches avoid using the word ‘priest’ about their leaders, to prevent confusion.)
So is this just some esoteric religious quibble? No, it’s absolutely key. If forgiveness from God is conditioned on something that is done (attending Mass) then we can’t be sure that we are saved. If Jesus’s saving work needs to be perpetuated, repeated or “made effective” by ceremonies, then it’s power is limited and we can’t rely on it.
But, wonderfully, on the cross Jesus cried “It is finished!”. And it is. So I would encourage Al and anyone else to study the scriptures again, particularly the book of Hebrews (where a key theme is the magnificence and finality of Jesus’ work on the Cross), to see if what I’m saying is true. Because it’s of vital importance.
[I’ve just about cleared the backlog; hopefully this post marks the resumption of normal blog service. Thank you for your patience.]