January 3, 2000
volume 11, no. 1

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    Every day we present a short point that helps bring into focus the treasures of the Roman Catholic Church that comprise the great Deposit of Faith.

      It is no secret that over the past thirty years fewer and fewer know their Faith and it shows with the declining number of vocations, parish participation and attendance at Holy Mass. We have the new Catechism of the Catholic Church but for the common man, the one brought up on sound bites and instant gratification, it is more of a text book and that in itself prompts them to shy away from such a tome. So what's a loyal Catholic to do in evangelizing to fellow Catholics and understand their Faith? Our answer: go back to basics - to the great Deposit of Faith. We have the Baltimore Catechism which, for unknown and ridiculous reasons, was shelved after Vatican II. We have the Holy Bible but there are so many newer versions that the Douay-Rheims and Confraternity Latin Vulgate in English versions, the ones used for so long as the official Scriptural text authorized by the Church, seem lost in a maze of new interpretations that water down the Word. This is further complicated by the fact there are so few Douay-Rheims editions in circulation though it is available on the net at DOUAY-RHEIMS BIBLE. We have so many Vatican documents available at the Vatican web site and other excellent Catholic resource sites that detail Doctrine, Dogma and Canon Law. We have the traditions, and the means of grace but how do we consolidate all these sources into one where it is succinct and easy to understand? We have the perfect vehicle. It is called "My Catholic Faith", now out of print, that was compiled by Bishop Louis Laravoire Morrow and published by My Mission House. This work ties in Scriptural references, the Sacraments, Dogmas, Doctrines, Traditions, Church documents, Encyclical and Papal decrees to clearly illustrate the Faith in simple, solid and concise terms that all can understand and put into practice. We will quote from this work while adding in more recent events and persons when applicable since the book was written in the late forties during the pontificate of Pope Pius XII. We also quote from the Catholic Almanac published by Our Sunday Visitor for the Roman Curial offices and from Old Testament Confraternity Edition and New Testament Confraternity Edition of the Saint Joseph New Catholic Edition of the Holy Bible.

    Nothing in Holy Mother Church's teaching has changed and therefore we feel confident that these daily "points of enlightenment" will help more Catholics better understand their faith, especially those who were not blessed with early formation of the faith in the home and their parish school. Regardless of where any Catholic is in his or her journey toward salvation, he or she has to recognize that the Faith they were initiated into at the Sacrament of Baptism is the most precious gift they have been given in life. For points covered thus far, click on APPRECIATING THE PRECIOUS GIFT OF OUR FAITH

installment 79:   The Four Gospels
    The Latin word commonly used for Gospel is evangelium, a term derived from the Greek. In the New Testament it means the glad news of salvation first brought to earth by the Son of God, and afterwards delivered by word of mouth to the world by the Apostles. About the end of the first century or the beginning of the second, this word was applied to the books containing this glad news, and their authors were called "evangelists." The English word to express this Latin evangelium is "Gospel," from the Anglo-Saxon godspel, an abbreviated form of good-spell, i.e., "good tidings."

    Though many non-inspired, or apocryphal, gospels eventually made their appearance from the earliest period of ecclesiastical history, only four Gospels were recognized as inspired and canonical. They contain the Gospel in four forms, or as the oldest titles express it, the Gospel according to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Saint Irenaeus, writing during the latter half of the second century, points out that the four Gospels were the only recognized ones: "It is not possible that the Gospels can be either more or fewer in number than they are." Origen tersely sums up the teaching of the Church for the first half of the third century when he says: "The Church has four Gospels, heretics have many more."

    The four evangelists and their Gospels were believed to have been prefigured by the four living creatures mentioned in the vision of Ezechiel ( 1, 10). Explanations varied, but the opinion of Saint Jerome is now the prevailing one. St. Matthew is symbolized the "man," because he commences his Gospel with Christ's earthly ancestry and stresses His human and kingly character. St. Mark is represented as the "lion," because he starts his Gospel with St. John the Baptist, "the voice of one crying in the desert", and emphasizes the jiraculous powers of the Savior. St. Luke is typified by the "ox," the animal of sacrifice, because he begins with the history of Zachary, the priest, offering sacrifice to God, and accentuates the universal priethood of Christ. St. John is expressed by the "eagle," because from the very beginning of his Gospel he soars above the things of the earth and time and dwells upon the divine origin and nature of Jesus.

    The titles prefixed to the four Gospels, though not original, are of early date. They are mentioned in the latter part of the second century in the churches of Lyons, Rome and Alexandria. Thus one can reasonably conclude that they were added to the Gospels during the first half of the second century. These titles indicate the human or ssecondary authors and not that the Gospels were written merely according to the preaching, mind or authority of St. Matthew, St. Mark, St. Luke, and St. John.

    Our present order of St. Matthew, St. Mark, St. Luke and St. John is chronological and sanctioned by tradition. The first three, though distince in many ways, show a striking resemblance in content and form. They adopt a simple and convenient plan for the life of Jesus, the arrangement of which appears summarily for the preaching of Saint Peter (Acts 10, 37-41): 1. His preparation for His ministry. 2. His preaching in Galilee; 3. His journey from Galilee to Jerusalem; 4. The Last week in Jerusalem, together with His Passion, Death, and Resurrection. Hence they are called the "Synoptists" and their writings, the Synoptic Gospels," because, whenever they are placed in parallel columns or are otherwise compared they give us at a glance the same general view of our Lord's life. The fourth Gospel, on the contrary, written at the close of the first century, contains much new material, but in certain parts, either common or related to the Synoptic Gospels, St. John supplements them and thus prevents a false interpretation of their writings.

Tomorrow: The Gospel of Saint Matthew


January 3, 2000
volume 10, no. 1

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