Category Archives: Science and Christianity

Sunday Devotional: The Magi and the Christmas Star

Matthew 2:1-2, 9-12

When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea,
in the days of King Herod,
behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying,
“Where is the newborn king of the Jews?
We saw his star at its rising
and have come to do him homage.”

And behold, the star that they had seen at its rising preceded them,
until it came and stopped over the place where the child was.
They were overjoyed at seeing the star,
and on entering the house
they saw the child with Mary his mother.
They prostrated themselves and did him homage.
Then they opened their treasures
and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod,
they departed for their country by another way.

 

The Oxford Dictionaries defines “ephiphany” (with a small “e”) as “a moment of sudden revelation or insight” and “a manifestation of a divine or supernatural being”. The word “Epiphany” (with a capital “E”) refers to “the manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles as represented by the Magi”.

Today is the great feast of the Epiphany, which celebrates the adoration of Jesus by the Magi — an event that had been foretold in Isaiah 60:1-6 some 800 years before the birth of Christ.

Isaiah 60:1-6

Your light has come,
the glory of the Lord shines upon you….
Nations shall walk by your light,
and kings by your shining radiance.
Raise your eyes and look about;
they all gather and come to you….
Then…the wealth of nations shall be brought to you.
Caravans of camels shall fill you,
dromedaries from Midian and Ephah;
all from Sheba shall come
bearing gold and frankincense,
and proclaiming the praises of the Lord.

The Magi were wise men, non-Hebrew pagans from the East. Bearing gifts fit for a king — those of gold, frankincense, and myrrh — their coming to Jerusalem to pay homage to “the king of the Jews” shows that they sought, in the messianic light of the Christmas star, the one who will be king of all nations.

It is noteworthy that the first creatures to see the newborn Jesus were his human parents, Mary and Joseph; angels on high; humble farm animals; lowly shepherds; and Gentiles — the Magi.

The Epiphany, therefore, signifies the manifestation of Jesus as Son of God and Savior of the world, not just the Old Testament‘s oft-prophesied messiah of the Jews. God is not a tribal deity, exclusive to only the so-called “chosen people”. Jesus the Christ came for Jews and Gentiles. He came for all of us, no matter our race, gender, language, country, or creed.

As St. Paul wrote in his letter to the Ephesians 3:6:

[T]he Gentiles are coheirs,
members of the same body,
and copartners in the promise
in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

Noteworthy also is the fact that the Magi, as the first Gentiles to find Jesus, were also the first Gentiles to receive His salvific grace. As recounted in Matthew 2:12:

And having been warned in a dream
not to return to Herod,
they departed for their country
by another way.

By the way, astronomers, using software programs reproducing the night sky exactly as it was thousands of years ago, have determined there really was a Christmas Star or Star of Bethlehem — another empirical or scientific confirmation of biblical accounts. David Reneke, news editor of Australia’s Sky and Space Magazine, said: “We found out something startling. It looks like the ‘Christmas star’ really did exist.”

It’s generally accepted by most researchers that Christ was born between 3 BC and 1 AD. On 12 August, 3 BC, Jupiter and Venus appeared very close together just before sunrise, appearing as bright morning stars. It would have been visible in the eastern dawn sky of the Middle East from about 3:45 to 5:20 a.m.

But it didn’t stop there. The crowning touch came ten months later, on 17 June 2 BC, Venus and Jupiter joined up again in the constellation Leo. This time the two planets were so close that, without the use of our modern telescopes and other optical aids, they would have looked like one single, brilliant star.

Venus is known as the planet of love, Jupiter the planet of kings, and Leo denotes royalty and power.

How appropriate that these heavenly bodies were pointing to the birth of Jesus the Christ — the King of kings, Lord of lords, the salvific God of love who became human in order to suffer and die for our redemption.

Did you know that last year on December 21, the Christmas star reappeared when the two largest planets in our solar system, Jupiter and Saturn, seemed to almost merge in Earth’s night sky, just 0.1 degrees apart or a mere one-fifth the width of the Moon. The two planets were closer than they were in almost 800 years, since 1226 A.D., when Genghis Khan was conquering large swaths of Asia, and Europe was still generations away from the Renaissance. (Astronomy)

The next Great Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn will occur in 2080, 58 years from now.

Below is a picture of the 2020 Christmas star viewed from Jerusalem looking toward Bethlehem (source: Earl Tucker Dickerson):

For other passages in the Old Testament foretelling the incarnation of the Second Person of the Triune Godhead, see my post “Sunday Devotional: He shall be peace“.

May the joy of the Epiphany and the peace and love of Jesus Christ, the King of Kings, be with you!

~E

Sunday Devotional: Be joyful!

Isaiah 12:3

With joy you will draw water
from the fountains of salvation

Zephaniah 3:14, 17

Shout for joy, O daughter Zion!
Sing joyfully, O Israel!
Be glad and exult with all your heart,
O daughter Jerusalem! […]
The LORD, your God, is in your midst,
a mighty savior,
Who will rejoice over you with gladness,
and renew you in his love,
Who will sing joyfully because of you,
as one sings at festivals.

Philippians 4:4-7

Rejoice in the Lord always.
I shall say it again: rejoice!
Your kindness should be known to all.
The Lord is near.
Have no anxiety at all, but in everything,
by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving,
make your requests known to God.
Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding
will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

The Bible is replete with injunctions that we be joyful; the above three passages are examples.

What is joy?

The dictionary defines “joy” as “a state of happiness or felicity.

Joy is different from happiness in that happiness is a fleeting emotion, but joy is a”state” — the condition of a person — of happiness. As someone once said, “Joy is not a season, it’s a way of living.”

Joy is not based upon whether things are going well or not. Joy is an emotion that comes from the anticipation, acquisition or expectation of something great or wonderful.

Joy consists of at least two components, gratitude and optimism, both of which are beneficial to our health (see my post of October 24, 2021, here).

Have you noticed how what God instructs us to do always turns out to be good for us?

St. Paul tells us joy is one of the fruits or results of having the indwelling of the Holy Spirit (1 Thessalonians 1:6; Romans 14:17), which is why we can be joyful even in the midst of great trials and suffering.

I recently was subjected to malicious rumor-mongering from three nieces-in-law, which reminded me of two aphorisms: (1) No good deed goes unpunished; and (2) Never underestimate the human potential for evil.

Instead of getting angry, I thought of what our Lord Jesus had endured — betrayal by a beloved disciple, abandonment by His friends when He needed them the most, followed by torture and death by crucifixion, the most extreme form of execution that the Romans reserved for the worst criminals.

How can any of our trials and tribulations ever compare to His?

At that thought, I became joyful.

Joy even helped our Lord Jesus Christ endure the cross: “who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2).

So be joyful!

Praise the Lord, and let your heart burst with joy!

May the joy and peace and love of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you!

~E

Sunday Devotional: The power of prayer

Luke 21:25-28, 34-36

Jesus said to his disciples:
“There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars,
and on earth nations will be in dismay,
perplexed by the roaring of the sea and the waves.
People will die of fright
in anticipation of what is coming upon the world,
for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.
And then they will see the Son of Man
coming in a cloud with power and great glory.
But when these signs begin to happen,
stand erect and raise your heads
because your redemption is at hand.

“Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy
from carousing and drunkenness
and the anxieties of daily life,
and that day catch you by surprise like a trap.
For that day will assault everyone
who lives on the face of the earth.
Be vigilant at all times
and pray that you have the strength
to escape the tribulations that are imminent
and to stand before the Son of Man.”

The word advent is an anglicized version of the Latin word adventus, which means “coming”.

Today is the first Sunday of Advent, a season observed by Christians as a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the incarnation and birth of the Second Person of the Triune Godhead, and of His return — His coming — at the end of all things.

In today’s reading from Luke 21, Jesus, once again, warned about the end times, the timing of which, He stated in Mark 13:32, “no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.

Since no one knows the precise day or hour of the last days, our Lord instructs us to “Be vigilant at all times and pray“. For that matter, in Luke 18:1, Jesus emphasized “the necessity” for us “to pray always without becoming weary.

Being a loving God, what He counsels us to do turns out to be good for us (see “Neuroscience explains why gratitude is good for our health“).

Did you know these benefits of praying? —

  • Regular prayer and meditation has been shown in numerous scientific studies to be an important factor in living longer, reducing stress, coping better with sickness, and staying healthy. (allnurses)
  • When we pray, our heart rate slows down, blood pressure goes down, and our breath becomes calmer and more regular.
  • A study funded by the National Institutes of Health found that those who attended religious services at least once a week and prayed at least once a day or studied the Bible frequently were 40% less likely to have high blood pressure. (NCBI)
  • Praying helps patients heal, according to a study by Dr. Andrew Newberg of Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, Philadelphia. (NBC News)
  • Praying helps people have fewer migraine headaches and an increase in pain tolerance, according to a study by Ken Pargement of Bowling Green State University. (US News and World Report)
  • Praying reduces levels of infidelity and alcohol consumption by helping us maintain self-control, resist temptation and enhance emotional stability, according to a 2013 study by German psychologists at Saarland University and the University of Mannheim. (Daily Mail)

Not only are we told to pray for ourselves, we should also pray for others.

Here are the reasons for intercessory prayer — petitioning God on behalf of and for the benefit of another, even those who have hurt us (“Pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you” – Matthew 5:44):

  1. Jesus, the Second Person of the Triune Godhead, is the foremost intercessor:
    1. On the cross, “he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors” (Isaiah 53:12).
    2. Since His return to heaven, He has been continually occupied with His ministry of intercession: “Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:25); “It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us” (Romans 8:34).
  2. When we are baptized, we are gifted with the infusion of the Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Triune Godhead, who also intercedes for us! “For we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit [Himself] maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.” (Romans 8:26).
  3. Studies found that intercessory prayer really works:
    1. In 1988 and 1999, randomized controlled trials of remote intercessory prayer (praying for persons unknown) showed a beneficial effect in patients in intensive coronary care units (Southern Medical Journal, July 1988,81(7):826-9; Archives of  Internal Medicine, Oct. 25, 1999; 159(19):2273-8).
    2. In 2000, a systematic review of randomized, placebo controlled trials of distant healing found that 57% of the randomized, placebo controlled trials of distant healing showed a positive treatment effect (Annals of Internal Medicine, June 6, 2000; 32(11):903-10).
    3. In 2001, a double-blind study of 3393 adults hospitalized with a bloodstream infection found that remote intercessory prayer is associated with a shorter hospital stay and shorter duration of fever in those patients even when the intervention is performed 4-10 years after the infection ( Dec. 22, 2001; 323(7327): 1450–1451).

And remember, always, to tell God you love Him with your whole heart, your whole soul, your whole mind, and with all your strength.

May the peace and love of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you!

~E

Sunday Devotional: Beware of scribes who go around in long robes

Mark 12:38-40

In the course of his teaching Jesus said to the crowds,
“Beware of the scribes, who like to go around in long robes
and accept greetings in the marketplaces,
seats of honor in synagogues,
and places of honor at banquets.
They devour the houses of widows and, as a pretext
recite lengthy prayers.
They will receive a very severe condemnation.”

The Second Person of the Triune Godhead is the epitome of humility.

He was born not in a palace, but in a lowly manger, surrounded by livestock. He was a manual laborer, a carpenter, by occupation. (Contrast that with our elite class’ disdain for manual labor, for which they employ illegal aliens.) In His three years of public ministry, thousands of people flocked to see and hear Him speak, some trekking for miles on foot.

But Jesus remained humble: He did not garb Himself in fancy robes, nor did He take seats and places of honor in synagogues and banquets. On what Christians now celebrate as Palm Sunday, He entered Jerusalem riding on a mule, before adoring crowds who spread their cloaks on the road, proclaiming Him their king (Luke 19).

Contrast Jesus’ humility with the “scribes” of His time — those of high authority and influence who held important offices in public affairs. Among them were the Pharisees and Levites, with their “long robes” occupying seats of honor.

Contrast Jesus’ humility with the pomp and circumstance of church clergy today.

I am reminded of the trenchant observation by the late psychiatrist, M. Scott Peck, M.D. In his book, People of the Lie: The Hope for Healing Human Evil, Peck warned that evil people conceal themselves, especially by camouflaging themselves as benevolent people in institutions dedicated to the public good, such as churches, synagogues, temples and, I would add, governments. Dr. Peck wrote (p. 76, footnote):

Since the primary motive of the evil is disguise, one of the places evil people are most likely to be found is within the church. What better way to conceal one’s evil from oneself, as well as from others, than to be a deacon or some other highly visible form of Christian within our culture? by camouflaging themselves as good.

About the video: On Dec. 31, 2019, as reported by Fox News, “A visibly annoyed Pope Francis slapped away a woman’s hand and pulled himself away from her while greeting a crowd in St. Peter’s Square.” You can hear in the video that the woman was begging the pope, “Help me.”

Ryan H. Murphy, a research assistant professor at Southern Methodist University’s School of Business, in Dallas, Texas, would agree with Dr. Peck.

In a study in 2018, “Psychopathy by U.S. State,” Murphy devised a measure to estimate the level of psychopathy for occupations and for each of the contiguous 48 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. Murphy found that the “most disproportionately psychopathic” occupations are CEO, lawyer, media, salesperson, surgeon, journalist, police officer, clergyperson, chef, and civil servant (or politician), and that Washington, D.C., with its concentration of politicians and government workers, was the most psychopathic.

The hypocrites hiding in churches and governments should heed Jesus’ warning to them in Mark 12:40:

“They will receive a very severe condemnation.”

May the peace and love of Jesus Christ our Lord be with you,

~E

Sunday Devotional: Be joyful, always

Psalm 126:2-3

Then our mouths were filled with laughter;
our tongues sang for joy.
Then it was said among the nations,
“The LORD had done great things for them.”
The LORD has done great things for us;
Oh, how happy we [a]re!

St. Paul counsels us in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18:

Always be joyful.
Always keep on praying.
No matter what happens, always be thankful,
for this is God’s will for you
who belong to Christ Jesus.

The dictionary defines “joy” as “a state of happiness or felicity.

Joy is different from happiness in that happiness is a fleeting emotion, but joy is a”state” — the condition of a person — of happiness. As someone once said, “Joy is not a season, it’s a way of living.”

Joy consists of at least two components: gratitude and optimism.

While it is sadly true that the political, economic, social and cultural circumstances in America are worsening by the day, we still have much to be grateful for.

Being grateful actually benefits us in at least seven scientifically-proven ways:

(1) Gratitude is good for our physical health:

Grateful people experience fewer aches and pains and they report feeling healthier than other people, according to a 2012 study published in Personality and Individual Differences. Grateful people are also more likely to take care of their health — they exercise more often and are more likely to get regular check-ups.

(2) Gratitude is good for our psychological health:

Gratitude reduces a multitude of toxic emotions, ranging from envy and resentment to frustration and regret. Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D., a leading gratitude researcher, found that gratitude increases happiness and reduces depression.

(3) Gratitude reduces stress and makes us more resilient:

For years, research has shown gratitude not only reduces stress, but it may also play a major role in overcoming trauma by making us more resilient:

  • A 2006 study published in Behavior Research and Therapy found that Vietnam War veterans with higher levels of gratitude experienced lower rates of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
  • Recognizing all you have to be thankful for – even during the worst times of your life – also fosters resilience, enabling you to better withstand trauma and stress. A 2003 study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that gratitude was a major contributor to resilience following the 9/11 attacks.

(4) Grateful people sleep better:

Writing in a gratitude journal improves sleep, according to a 2011 study published in Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being. Jotting down a few grateful sentiments before bed helps you sleep better and longer.

(5) Gratitude opens the door to friendship

Showing appreciation to other people can help you win new friends, according to a 2014 study published in Emotion. The study found that thanking a new acquaintance makes them more likely to seek an ongoing relationship.

(6) Gratitude improves self-esteem:

  • A 2014 study published in the Journal of Applied Sport Psychology found that gratitude increased athletes’ self-esteem, which is an essential component to optimal performance.
  • Other studies have shown that gratitude makes us better able to appreciate other people’s accomplishments, and reduces the toxic social comparisons that makes us resentful toward people who seem to have more — money, beauty, better jobs, better health, more friends — than we have.

(7) Gratitude is good for society by enhancing empathy and reducing aggression:

Grateful people are more likely to behave in a pro-social manner according to a 2012 study by the University of Kentucky. Study participants who ranked higher on gratitude scales were sensitive and empathic toward other people; less vengeful; and less likely to retaliate against others, even when given negative feedback.

The dictionary defines “optimism” as “a disposition or tendency to look on the more favorable side of events or conditions and to expect the most favorable outcome” and “the belief that good ultimately predominates over evil in the world.”

Like gratitude, there is ample scientific evidence that optimism is good for our health in myriad ways (source: Harvard Medical School):

  1. Heart: Pessimists are more than twice as likely to develop heart disease than optimists, even after taking other risk factors into account. Among those who had undergone cardiac surgery, pessimists were three times more likely than optimists to have heart attacks or require repeat angioplasties or bypass operations.
  2. Blood pressure: Optimists have lower blood pressures than pessimists. On average, the people with the most positive emotions have the lowest blood pressures. Pessimists are three times more likely to develop hypertension than optimists, even after other risk factors are taken into account.
  3. Viral infections: Optimists are less likely to develop viral symptoms than pessimists.
  4. Overall health: Over a 30-year period, optimism was linked to a better outcome on eight measures of physical and mental function and health.
  5. Longevity: Since healthy people live longer than sick people, and since optimism improves health, it should also boost longevity — and according to two studies from the U.S. and two from the Netherlands, it does.

All of which goes to show that God, being a loving God, His injunction to us to be joyful is for our own good!

And may the joy, peace and love of Jesus Christ our Lord be with you!

~E

See also “Religious Americans are only group whose mental health improved during coronavirus pandemic“.

Sunday Devotional: To whom we must render an account

Hebrews 4:12-13

Brothers and sisters:
Indeed the word of God is living and effective,
sharper than any two-edged sword,
penetrating even between soul and spirit, joints and marrow,
and able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart.
No creature is concealed from him,
but everything is naked and exposed to the eyes of him
to whom we must render an account.

Did you know a life review is common in near death experiences (NDEs)?

“There is evidence that a type of judgment occurs at the time of death. This judgment involves a review of a person’s life and results in their placement in the spirit world. Sometime after the judgment the person is assigned (in many cases this assignment is self-imposed) to a specific place or level in the other world – a place where his or her spirit feels most at ease.” (Dr. Craig Lundahl)

From Kevin Williams, “The Life Review and the Near Death Experience,” NDE, September 22, 2019:

The life review is an amazing experience having many interesting characteristics – not all of which are found in every life review. The following is a list of some of those characteristics.

a. Instantly becoming everyone you came in contact with in your entire life (feeling their emotions, thinking their thoughts, living their experiences, learning their motives behind their actions).

b. Reliving every detail of every second of your life, every emotion, and every thought simultaneously.

c. Re-living the way you dealt with others and how others dealt with you.

d. Viewing a few special deeds in your life.

e. Replaying a part of your life review to focus on a particular event for instruction.

f. Viewing past lives and/or your future.

g. Feeling a strong sense of responsibility.

h. Feeling a sense of judgment or self-judgment (often these feelings transform from judgment to self-judgment).

i. The review is a fact-finding process rather than a fault-finding process.

j. Your motives for everything will be as visible as your actions.

k. The negative events you expected to see did not show up because you had a change of heart.

[…] The life review reveals how God is concerned about deeds – not creeds. This fact becomes crystal clear during a person’s life review. Many [near death] experiencers have expressed the astounding realization of how life on earth is one gigantic “test” for which our deeds will be graded during our life review. […]

The overwhelming consensus among experiencers is that love is supreme. Love is where we came from. Love is where we will return. Love is what life is all about because love is God.

May the peace and love of Jesus Christ our Lord be with you,

~E

Sunday Devotional: Be kind to one another

Ephesians 4:30-5:2

Brothers and sisters:
Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God,
with which you were sealed for the day of redemption. 
All bitterness, fury, anger, shouting, and reviling
must be removed from you, along with all malice. 
And be kind to one another, compassionate,
forgiving one another as God has forgiven you in Christ.

So be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love,
as Christ loved us and handed himself over for us
as a sacrificial offering to God for a fragrant aroma.

This Sunday’s reading from St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians exhorts us to “be imitators of God”.

Just as Jesus love us so much He sacrificed Himself so that we may be redeemed and have access to a life after death in Heaven, we are exhorted to also “live in love” by removing all “malice…bitterness, fury, anger, shouting, and reviling” from ourselves, and instead “be kind to one another”.

What does kindness mean?

Being kind is defined as “harboring a spirit of helpfulness, as well as being generous and considerate, and doing so without expecting anything in return. Kindness is a quality of being.”

Note that the above definition doesn’t specify the recipient of our kindness must be human. Being kind isn’t species-specific.

Being kind isn’t just for the benefit of others, human and nonhuman (animals). It turns out that being kind is good for us!

Science has found evidence that being kind is:

(1) Good for our body:

  • Kind people tend to be healthier and live longer. 
  • Being kind can decrease blood pressure and cortisol, a stress hormone. When we are under stress, our bodies release cortisol, which increases blood sugars. While small increases in cortisol have positive effects on our response to stress by giving us a quick burst of energy, heightened memory and a lowered sensitivity to pain, increased cortisol levels caused by chronic stress can decrease immune functioning, increase weight gain and difficulty losing weight, and increase blood pressure, cholesterol and risks of heart disease. Sustained cortisol increases can actually harm the brain and impair thinking, memory and learning, which is why people under chronic stress can “go blank” and be forgetful. (Michigan State University)

(2) Good for our mental wellbeing:

  • Kindness can increase our sense of connectivity with others, which  elevates our mood and alleviates loneliness — a widespread epidemic in our time, exacerbated by government-imposed COVID-19 lockdowns and “social distancing”.
  • Kindness increases self-esteem, empathy and compassion.
  • Physiologically, kindness can positively change our brains by boosting dopamine, serotonin, and endorphins:
    • Dopamine, a “feel-good” chemical, is a chemical messenger in the brain that can give us a feeling of euphoria, and is credited with causing what’s known as a “helper’s high.”
    • Oxytocin, sometimes called “the love hormone,” is the hormone mothers produce when they breastfeed, cementing their bond with their babies. Oxytocin is also released when we’re physically intimate. Oxytocin plays a role in forming social bonds, making us more trusting, more generous, and friendlier, while also lowering our blood pressure.
    • Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that helps regulate mood.
    • An endorphin-like chemical in our body called substance P can relieve pain.

But for the above beneficial effects to last, kindness can’t be a single act. Being kind is most beneficial as a practice—something we work into our daily routine whether in the form of ongoing volunteer work, donating to worthy causes, random acts of kindness like feeding an expired parking meter for a stranger, bringing a snack to share with friends and colleagues, or feeding the homeless, human or animal.

Sources: Mayo Clinic; Cedars Sinai

May the peace, kindness and love of Jesus Christ, our Lord, be with you!

~E

Religious Americans are only group whose mental health improved during coronavirus pandemic

We have evidence from study after study of the beneficial effects of religious faith on one’s physical and mental health.

Here’s the latest.

In “Psychiatry Needs to Get Right with God,” for Scientific American, June 15, 2021, David H. Rosmarin, an associate professor at Harvard Medical School and director of the McLean Hospital Spirituality & Mental Health Program, writes:

In the past year, American mental health sank to the lowest point in history: Incidence of mental disorders increased by 50 percent, compared with before the pandemic, alcohol and other substance abuse surged, and young adults were more than twice as likely to seriously consider suicide than they were in 2018. Yet the only group to see improvements in mental health during the past year were those who attended religious services at least weekly (virtually or in-person): 46 percent report “excellent” mental health today versus 42 percent one year ago. […]

My own research has demonstrated that a belief in God is associated with significantly better treatment outcomes for acute psychiatric patients. And other laboratories have shown a connection between religious belief and the thickness of the brain’s cortex, which may help protect against depression.

~E

Sunday Devotional: ‘Take it; this is my body’

Two Sundays ago, the universal Church remembered our Lord Jesus Christ’s Ascension, when He left this mortal world, not to return until the End Days. In leaving, our Lord bade a last farewell to His faithful disciples and, knowing full well how bereft they would be, He made sure we are not abandoned. He promised that although “the world will not see me anymore . . . I will not leave you as orphans” (John 14:19, 18).

Jesus made two promises to ensure we would not be left “as orphans”:

(1) The Father will send the Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Triune Godhead. As Jesus said:

John 14:16-17

“And I will ask the Father,
and He will give you another advocate
to help you and be with you forever —
the Spirit of truth.
The world cannot accept Him,
because it neither sees Him nor knows Him.
But you know Him,
for He lives with you
and will be in you.” 

(2) We will have His Body and Blood:

John 14:18

“I will not leave you as orphans;
I will come to you.” 

How thoughtful and loving our Lord is!

Mark 14:12, 16, 22-26

On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread,
when they sacrificed the Passover lamb,
Jesus’ disciples said to him,
“Where do you want us to go
and prepare for you to eat the Passover?” […]
The disciples then went off, entered the city,
and found it just as he had told them;
and they prepared the Passover. […]
While they were eating,
he took bread, said the blessing,
broke it, gave it to them, and said,
“Take it; this is my body.”
Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them,
and they all drank from it.
He said to them,
“This is my blood of the covenant,
which will be shed for many.
Amen, I say to you,
I shall not drink again the fruit of the vine
until the day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”
Then, after singing a hymn,
they went out to the Mount of Olives.

Today is the Feast of Corpus Christi, when we remember and celebrate the new Covenant that our Lord made with His Body and Blood, with all who believe in Him. In so doing, Jesus transformed the tribal religion of Judaism into a universal faith. As St. Paul said in his letter to the Hebrews 8:13:

In speaking of a new covenant,
He makes the first one obsolete.
And what is becoming obsolete and growing old
is ready to vanish away.

Our Lord said in Mark 14:22, “Take it; this is my body.”

Do you doubt His words?

Have you heard of the Lanciano Eucharistic miracle?

19 years ago, my Godsister joandarc and I went on a pilgrimage to Italy.

Among the places we visited were the wondrous Sanctuary of St. Michael the Archangel in Mount Gargano and the Church of San Francesco in Lanciano. In the latter was a glass case containing a brownish substance.

Church of San Francesco, Lanciano, aka Shrine of the Eucharistic Miracle

As described by TheRealPresence.org, during the middle of the 8th century, a Basilian monk doubted the Real Presence in the Eucharist — that at consecration, bread and wine become Christ’s true body and true blood.

The doubting monk was celebrating Mass one day. As he intoned the words of consecration, “suddenly the monk saw bread turn into Flesh and the wine into Blood,” according to documents at the Sanctuary of the Eucharistic Miracle in Lanciano, Italy.

Today, more than 12 centuries after the Lanciano miracle, the transformed host and wine are preserved still, despite being exposed to atmospheric and biological agents:

  • The Host-Flesh is light brown and appears rose-colored when lit from the back.
  • The Blood is coagulated into five globules, irregular and differing in shape and size, of an earthy color resembling the yellow of ochre.

Scientific investigations of Lanciano were conducted since 1575, most notably in 1970-71 and taken up again partly in 1981, by Dr. Odoardo Linoli, head of the clinical analysis laboratory and of pathological anatomy at Arezzo Hospital, and Dr. Ruggero Bertelli, professor of anatomy at the University of Siena.

Linoli and Bertelli came to the following conclusions:

  • The flesh is real human flesh, the blood is real human blood.
  • The flesh is heart tissue — of the myocardium, the endocardium, the vagus nerve and the left cardiac ventricle.
  • The flesh and blood have the blood-type AB, which is the same blood-type found on the Shroud of Turin and the Sudarium or Oviedo Cloth — the piece of cloth that is believed to have covered Jesus’ head after the crucifixion.
  • In the blood were found proteins in the same normal proportions (percentage-wise) as are found in the sero-proteic make-up of fresh human blood, as well as the minerals chloride, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, sodium and calcium.

According to “The True Presence,” in 1973, the UN World Health Organization’s board of governors appointed a scientific commission to investigate Lanciano. After 500 examinations, the scientists verified the 1971 findings and declared the tissue to be human.

There have been other Eucharistic miracles elsewhere since Lanciano. See here, here, and especially the website “The Eucharistic Miracles of the World” that was the work of a devout Italian boy named Carlo Acutis before he died from a brain tumor in 2006 at the tender age of 15.

To conclude, Christ is with us through the Holy Spirit, and in His Body and Blood, which makes it all the more terrible and reprehensible that state governments, ostensibly to “contain” the COVID-19 “pandemic,” had barred Catholics and other Christians from attending church service, including the receiving of the Holy Eucharist, which is life itself.

Tell our Lord your troubles and fears.

And tell Him, often and always, that you love Him with your whole heart, your whole soul, your whole mind, and with all your strength. ❤️

May the peace and love of Jesus Christ our Lord be with you,

~E

The more ape fossils we find, the less we know about human evolution

Darwinian evolutionists maintain that human beings (homo sapiens) evolved from simians millions of years ago. It is said that humans diverged from apes — specifically, the chimpanzee lineage — at some point between about 9.3 million and 6.5 million years ago, towards the end of the Miocene epoch.

The persistent problem is scientists, specifically archeologists, have not discovered fossils of the “missing link” — a hypothetical extinct ape-man or man-ape creature halfway in the evolutionary line between modern human beings and their anthropoid progenitors. That creature is believed to be the last common ancestor of humans and chimps.

Since Darwin, archeologists have discovered many ape fossils. But American Museum of Natural History writes in SciTechDaily, May 9, 2021, that “In the 150 years since Charles Darwin speculated that humans originated in Africa, the number of species in the human family tree has exploded.” Despite the “explosion” of ape fossils, “most human origins stories are not compatible with known fossils,” resulting in an increase in “the level of dispute concerning early human evolution.”

Sergio Almécija, a senior research scientist in the American Museum of Natural History’s Division of Anthropology, the lead author of “Fossil apes and human evolution,” a new review out on May 7, 2021 in the journal Science, said: “When you look at the narrative for hominin origins, it’s just a big mess — there’s no consensus whatsoever. People are working under completely different paradigms, and that’s something that I don’t see happening in other fields of science.”

Almécija said: “In The Descent of Man in 1871, Darwin speculated that humans originated in Africa from an ancestor different from any living species. However, he remained cautious given the scarcity of fossils at the time. One hundred fifty years later, possible hominins — approaching the time of the human-chimpanzee divergence — have been found in eastern and central Africa, and some claim even in Europe. In addition, more than 50 fossil ape genera are now documented across Africa and Eurasia. However, many of these fossils show mosaic combinations of features that do not match expectations for ancient representatives of the modern ape and human lineages. As a consequence, there is no scientific consensus on the evolutionary role played by these fossil apes.

Almécija explains that there are two major approaches to resolving the human origins problem: A “top-down” approach that relies on analysis of living apes, especially chimpanzees, and a “bottom-up” approach that puts importance on the larger tree of mostly extinct apes. For example, some scientists assume that hominins originated from a chimp-like knuckle-walking ancestor. Others argue that the human lineage originated from an ancestor more closely resembling, in some features, some of the strange Miocene apes.

In reviewing the studies surrounding these diverging approaches, Almécija et al.  discuss the limitations of relying exclusively on one of these opposing approaches to the hominin origins problem. “Top-down” studies sometimes ignore the reality that living apes (humans, chimpanzees, gorillas, orangutans, and hylobatids) are just the survivors of a much larger, and now mostly extinct, group. On the other hand, studies based on the “bottom-up”approach are prone to giving individual fossil apes an important evolutionary role that fits a preexisting narrative.

Overall, the researchers found that most stories of human origins are not compatible with the fossils that we have today.

Despite that, hope springs eternal among evolutionists that the ever elusive “missing link” will be found. Almécija et al. insist that “fossil apes remain essential to reconstruct the ‘starting point’ from which humans and chimpanzees evolved.”

~E