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27 Jan 2015 Articles Comments (2)

Why the Crusaders Went

This post is the third in a series about the most prevalent modern myths about the Crusades and how to refute them. Anna Comnena was the thirteen-year-…

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11 Sep 2014 USA No comments

Tense political divide doesn't stop Christian unity over Middle East

Washington D.C., Sep 11, 2014 / 03:03 am .- Despite strained political differences, Christian leaders at a historic ecumenical conference voiced the need for un…

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30 Nov 2015 Middle East - Africa News No comments

Watch Pope Francis Open "Holy Door" in Bangui

Holy Father celebrates Mass in Central African Republic where he opened the holy door https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=11xK4-brI1k  

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12 Dec 2014 Q&A No comments

Can deacons perform exposition and benediction?

Full Question My parish is instituting adoration and benediction during Lent. The pastor and associate are not willing to participate, and they are giving …

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31 Dec 2014 Q&A No comments

Can God make square circles? If not, does that mean he isn't all-powerful?

Full Question Can God do literally anything? Make square circles? Make 1 + 1 = 72? If he can't do these things, is it safe to say that he cannot do literal…

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20 Nov 2015 Articles No comments

Governor forced to become bishop: the story of St Ambrose of Milan

St. Ambrose was Bishop of Milan, his hometown. He was born around A.D. 338 and died in 397. He was a very popular political figure, and since he was the Gove…

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13 Jul 2016 Americas Asia-Pacific Middle East - Africa News USA Vatican No comments

Lesotho Church officials call for international intervention following shooting of journalist

The shooting of a newspaper editor in Lesotho is the latest in a series of attacks on government critics in the mountainous country surrounded by South Africa, …

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29 Nov 2014 Q&A No comments

What is the difference between saints and blesseds?

Full Question What is the difference between saints and blesseds? Answer There are several steps in the Church’s process of declaring someone a s…

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09 Sep 2016 Articles No comments

Are Americans WRONG about work? How a Catholic approach to work actually increases profits

Are Americans wrong about work? New research and practical experience suggests we Americans are wrong about work, and that if we want to be more productive, we …

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Does Isaiah 64:6 state that good works are useless?

Full Question

A Fundamentalist I know has been bashing my Catholic faith by quoting Isaiah 64:6, where the Bible says, “our acts of righteousness are as filthy rags.” He says this proves humans have no good works before God. What should I say in return?

Answer

He misunderstands the verse he is quoting. It does not say that all acts of righteousness are as filthy rags to God, but that those being rendered to him in Isaiah’s day were.

In context the passage says:

Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him. You come to the help of those who gladly do right, who remember your ways. But when we continued to sin against them, you were angry. How then can we be saved? All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away. Your sacred cities have become a desert; even Zion is a desert, Jerusalem a desolation. Our holy and glorious Temple, where our fathers praised you, has been burned with fire, and all that we treasured lies in ruins. (Is 64:4-6, 10-11, NIV)

This pertains to a particular historical situation, not to a general condition. The passage appeals to a time when Israelites once had a right relationship with God, when God helped them against their enemies because they waited on him, gladly did right, and remembered his ways.

When they sin against him and did not repent and return to their former state, he abandoned them to the will of their enemies, so that even Jerusalem and its Temple were destroyed. (Isaiah speaks of this prophetically, before it happened.)

It was during that period of continued sin, leading up to the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 B.C., that they had “become like one who is unclean”–they hadn’t always been like that. In this state, even the nation’s acts of righteousness appeared like filthy rags to God, so he wouldn’t help them: “When you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide my eyes from you; even if you offer many prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are full of blood; wash and make yourselves clean. Take your evil deeds out of my sight! Stop doing wrong, learn to do right!” (Is 1:15-17).

Protestants are often confused about the role Catholics believe good works play in salvation, so you should clear this up for the Fundamentalist you know. You should explain to him that we do not perform good works in order to enter a state of justification. The Council of Trent stated that “nothing which precedes justification, whether faith or works, merits the grace of justification” (Decree on Justification 8).

In fact, it is impossible for an unjustified person to do supernaturally good works, since these are based on the virtue of charity (supernatural love), which an unjustified person does not have. Good works therefore flow from our reception of justification; they do notcause us to enter a state of justification. Good works increase the righteousness we are given at justification and please God, who promises to give us supernatural rewards on the last day, including the gift of eternal life (Rom 2:6-7, Gal 6:6-10).

 










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