One of our favorite things to say about Catholics, back in my Evangelical Protestant days, was “if Catholics would only read the Bible!” If we could just get a Polish translation of the KJV into the hands of John Paul II, for example, he would feel compelled to abdicate, assuming he’s an honest man, when he sees how thoroughly unbiblical his beliefs are! We were convinced that if Catholics would just read through the Bible once, they would see how ridiculous it is to subscribe to unscriptural, man-made doctrines like the belief in a hierarchical Church (Isa 22:20-22, Mt. 16:16-19, Mt. 18:17-18, Lk. 10:16, Acts 1:15-26, Acts 6:6, Acts 15, Acts 16:4, 2 Cor 10:6, 2 Thess 3:14, 1 Tim 3:15, 2 Tim 1:6, 2 Tim 2:2, 2 Tim 4:1-2, Titus 2:15, 1 Jn 4:6, Heb 13:17, etc.) You see, Protestants don’t realize how Biblical certain Catholic beliefs and practices are because they do not know the Scriptures. Oh, they THINK they know the Scriptures – most study them at least once a week, if not every day. But the truth is, they read the Bible through their denomination’s schema, which serves to filter out anything that sounds different from what their pastor happens to be teaching. That’s how they end up with bone-headed notions like “nowhere does the Bible teach some kind of distinction between ‘mortal’ and ‘venial’ sins,” (1 Jn 5:16-17) or “nowhere does the Bible say mere men can grant absolution” (Jn 20:21-22). Really, it’s right there. Former Protestant pastor Marcus Grodi of the Coming Home Network often speaks of “the verses I never saw,” verses like 1 Timothy 3:15 and Revelation 14:13, verses that contradict the Protestant narrative and therefore are glibly glossed over (“You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone” being a perennial favorite). The verse that knocked me personally for a loop was a verse in a passage I knew well. It was the passage read whenever we Evangelicals celebrated the Lord’s Supper:
For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is fore you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. 1 Cor 11: 23-30
I do believe that most Evangelicals would claim familiarity with those words. And yet, hidden in that passage was a phrase that would rock my theology: Anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. Body? What Body? Since I had been taught to take figuratively the Lord’s discourse in John 6:22-69, that phrase blew in one ear and out the other, communion after communion after communion. Then one day it dawned on me that I as an Evangelical took Jesus’ words in John 6 figuratively because I lacked the faith to believe what He had actually said (and what everyone present had understood Him to say, and what every Christian for 1,000 years after that would believe He had said). Those words in 1 Corinthians exploded into my consciousness: we must discern Christ’s Body when we eat the bread and drink the cup, or we are drinking judgment on ourselves.
So, if your Protestant next-door neighbors ever start complaining to you about the “unscriptural” Catholic Mass, why not suggest just for fun that they mail a couple of Spanish KJV’s to the Vatican? After all, our Holy Father is known for his sense of humor. I think he’d get a kick out of it, don’t you?
On the memorial of St. François de Laval
Deo omnis gloria!