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When the average person gets an "apology" from another person, he hears that person express regrets, or ask pardon for a fault or offense. There is, however, a less common connotation of this word even in a secular dictionary; it also means "a formal justification or defense". This connotation is rarely used in common speech except when it comes to religion where it is quite common.
"Apologetics" has come to be known solely as "the branch of theology that deals with the defense and proof of Christianity." This science does NOT teach people to say, "Pardon me for believing....". Rather, it teaches one to say, "I believe this BECAUSE....", and does so with reasons which supplement the prime reason for our belief - "because the Church teaches and has always taught this." Apologetics is a science indeed, and it exists only where truth can be systematically justified and defended with consistency...in Catholicism.
Apologetics teaches a Catholic to approach a topic on the grounds of the non-Catholic listener with the object of convincing him of the truth, using logic and evidence. Obviously one would not quote from the Scriptures when speaking to a pagan, and one would not quote from the New Testament when speaking to a Jew.
For those particular non-Catholics who think they are following Christ by adhering "to the Bible alone", we can base our arguments on Holy Scripture itself. If we can show them they are plainly wrong on a major point by using the Scriptures which they say they believe in, we have done well in our apologetic work to show the truth of Catholicism. Not that you must go around picking arguments with everyone you can, but that you must be "ready always to satisfy every one that asketh you a reason of that hope which is in you." (I Peter 3:15)
As we know, having the Scriptures "alone" does not guarantee one the correct interpretation when one rejects the Church which Christ founded on St. Peter and his successors. In the Scriptures there "are certain things hard to be understood, which the unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other Scriptures, to their own destruction." (II Peter 3:16) Those who are outside of Christ's Church do not have the systematic and consistent theology (which would place them in the class of the "unlearned".) They do not have Christ in the Blessed Sacrament of which Christ said - "If any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever". Without it one would most certainly be in the category of the "unstable". St. Peter speaks of the "unlearned and unstable" who "wrest" certain things in Scripture which are hard to understand. This, however, does not exclude the fact that the more plain things of Scripture are also twisted to their own destruction.
There are now hundreds of "Christian" sects all believing different interpretations of Scripture (even within the same sect!), yet all claiming "they" personally have the guidance of "the Spirit". If we can ever apply the principle of "by their fruits you will know them", it is certainly here.
A prime example of apologetics at work is in the defense of the Holy Eucharist. While some non-Catholics may claim to adhere to Scripture as "the word of God", they at the same time deny the Real Presence of Jesus in the Sacrament of the altar. The words of Scripture were not found written on a stone such that one could take the individual words and GIVE them a purpose. No. They were already written with a purpose, inspired by God yet written by men, for other men of a certain time period. Bible quotes alone do not suffice; even the devil is known to have tempted Our Lord by quoting scripture out of the original context.
DEFENSE OF THE REAL PRESENCE
Look at Holy Scripture: Jesus often used symbolic language; He used it to give a deeper, spiritual meaning to His words (not to confuse His listeners.) Cardinal Wiseman said that, "whenever our Lord's hearers found difficulties, or raised objections to His words from taking them in their literal sense, while He intended them to be taken figuratively, His constant practice was to explain them instantly, in a figurative manner, even though no great error could result from their being misunderstood."
An example of this was when Jesus said to his disciples, "Lazarus our friend sleepeth; but I go that I may awake him out of sleep." His disciples then said, "Lord, if he sleep, he shall do well." Jesus then said plainly, "Lazarus is dead." Christ did not leave them with the misunderstanding that they expressed.
In another incident Jesus told Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews, that "unless a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." Nicodemus then asked, "How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb, and be born again?" Jesus then answered him precisely by telling him that a man must be "born again of water and the Holy Ghost." Christ again corrects his misunderstanding.
At still another time, Jesus said to His disciples, "Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees." The disciples then thought that Jesus was talking about their taking no bread with them. Jesus, knowing what they were thinking, explained Himself and asked, "Why do you not understand that it was not concerning bread I said to you: Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees?" The disciples then understood that Jesus was talking about their doctrines.
In all these incidents Our Lord explained the meaning of His figurative speech even though taking His words literally would have caused no great harm. We know from this, most certainly, that where there would arise a misunderstanding that would cause harm, Our Lord would most definitely make things very clear to his listeners. We have just such an incident in the Gospel (John 6:48-72):
When Jesus was teaching in the synagogue He told His listeners that: "the bread that I will give, is my flesh, for the life of the world."
The Jews then, "strove among themselves, saying: How can this man give us his flesh to eat?"
Jesus then, rather than give a figurative meaning to His words, repeated the same in more emphatic terms:
"Amen, amen I say unto you: Except you eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, you shall not have life in you....For my flesh is meat indeed: and my blood is drink indeed."
This was a command, and a divine precept. Many of his disciples murmured at this saying, "This saying is hard, and who can hear it?"
Jesus, knowing this, said to them, "Doth this scandalize you?" And, rather than give a figurative meaning still, "many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him." Jesus, knowing that they had taken Him literally, was then prepared to allow even the twelve apostles to leave Him; Jesus asked His twelve, "Will you also go away?"
It is obvious that Jesus meant his words to be taken literally. The way Catholics have always believed them. Jesus promised: "The bread that I will give is my flesh...". On the eve of His death Jesus fulfilled His promise saying, "Take ye and eat. This is my body."
Those who have the true Faith accept this. Before the "Deformation" of the 16th century, when being Christian was synonymous with being Catholic, all Christians believed this and obeyed Our Lord's command by receiving Him in the Eucharist so that they would "have life".
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