Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Interesting but complex questions!

Here are two questions from anonymous bloggers:

1) “We've noted many times here that many people do not believe that Jesus was God, some of whom have never given it any thought. What does the Church believe about some people's failure to consider Christ or believe in Him? Does God reveal Himself to some and not others, or is it due to some failure on the part of a person who does not believe?”

This is actually a timely question as we have just celebrated the feast of the Epiphany which has a special focus on the manifestation of Christ to all nations, and not just Israel. So, God reveals himself to all. It is the mission of the Church to reveal God fully in Jesus Christ, and to offer all the opportunity for happiness in this life and in the next. The following paragraph (#1260) from the Catechism reminds us that happiness and salvation are offered to all. It also comments on those who haven’t received the fullness of God’s revelation through no fault of their own:

“’Since Christ died for all, and since all men are in fact called to one and the same destiny, which is divine, we must hold that the Holy Spirit offers to all the possibility of being made partakers, in a way known to God, of the Paschal mystery (Gaudium et Spes, Vatican II).’ Every man who is ignorant of the Gospel of Christ and of his Church, but seeks the truth and does the will of God in accordance with his understanding of it, can be saved. It may be supposed that such persons would have desired Baptism explicitly if they had known its necessity.”

Now, let’s consider those who have knowledge of Jesus Christ and the Church’s call to live out His Gospel. If they knowingly and freely fail to consider Christ or believe in Him, they fail to consider true love and happiness in this life, first and foremost. In other words, they won’t know love and happiness in their lifetimes on earth. In addition, they put their happiness in the next life in great jeopardy. It’s all about they know: if they know that Jesus is the Christ and fail to believe in Him in their lives, then they sin gravely against the first commandment. If their knowledge is full and choice is free, then they commit mortal sin which is separation from God’s love and friendship. “If it is not redeemed by repentance and God's forgiveness, it causes exclusion from Christ's kingdom and the eternal death of hell, for our freedom has the power to make choices for ever, with no turning back” (CCC, # 1861).

2) “I had an interesting question posed to me today. I was asked if I thought trust and faith were the same thing. I was told that perhaps I was confusing the two. Maybe. I was told that trust is based on evidence while faith extends beyond reason. Would that mean that faith is NOT based on evidence? Wouldn't that make faith, at least sometimes, unreasonable? And what human being is totally trustworthy or totally untrustworthy? If we trust based on evidence alone, what human being could we reasonably trust?”

Interesting but complex questions! Webster’s dictionary equates trust with hope. And, we know that while faith and hope are interrelated, they are distinct theological virtues. Per the Catechism, faith is a gift from God and a human act; it is “man’s response to God” (#26) and to the truth that God has revealed. I think it’s safe to say that God gives us “evidence” about Himself and that faith means assenting to it. The Church herself points to the evidence of the Resurrection as “reasons” for believing that it happened. Faith does involve reason; an example of faith without reason is 9/11 (believing that God’s Will was to fly airplanes into buildings).

Hope is centered on our happiness. It stems from the desire in every human heart for happiness. Trust that God is our happiness is inherent to us, then. We trust that the faith we are putting in God will result in our happiness. We trust that what God has revealed and promised will be fulfilled. The Catechism also links hope with trust: “we desire the kingdom of heaven and eternal life as our happiness, placing our trust in Christ’s promises and relying not on our own strength, but on the help of the Holy Spirit” (#1817).


At 6:24 PM, Blogger fran said...

How do you want to spend your eternity?

Yesterday during a farewell interview with Joe Gibbs, the coach spoke of Sean Taylor and how he had turned his life to Christ. He said that this was beginning to have an impact on other teammates. He added that he thought Taylor's death had prompted players to think about 'how they would want to spend their eternity.'

In this season of resolutions and desiring to do better; to develop a deeper relationship with God, to develop a relationship at all, to believe, to be more fervent believers, to forgive, to be a better parent or spouse...whatever it is we may wish to improve upon spiritually or otherwise, perhsps if we ask ourselves that simple question, it will help us to commit to our resolution(s) and live them out, so that our eternity will be one of happiness and joy.

At 10:41 AM, Anonymous mindy said...

I can't remember the exact quote, but Joe Gibbs was interviewed before some season had begun. He was asked about winning and achieving, and he basically said that the desire alone to win was meaningless without the desire to prepare to win. In listening to much of what he has said over the years about his faith and especially since the death of Sean Taylor, it's clear that his way of thinking on "preparing for the win" extended well beyond the game of football. He's one of the sports figures I'm happy my son looks up to.

At 2:01 PM, Anonymous Maryann said...

I knew there was a reason I was not a philosophy major in college. Is there really an answer to the questions posed by the anonymous bloggers?

In the book The Four Agreements, Don Miguel Ruiz expresses an interesting philosophy on our thinking on earth. “Everything we believe about ourselves is a story we create that is based in reality, but is just our point of view. Our point of view is based on our experience, on what we know, on what we believe” (p. 6). We mix perception, imagination, and emotion to create what we perceive to be truth and express our interpretation of truth through words, opinions and ideas we have learned from others and from our own experiences. The words we use to tell our story, our truth, is only truth for us. Everyone creates their own story of truth, and lives within these thoughts. As soon as we put truth into words, it is no longer truth. God’s revelation is available to all, but its’ truth will be different for each person and it is not something that can be defined or constrained by words. The best I can conclude is that God is revealed through a feeling, unique to each, and difficult if not impossible to explain through words.

Ruiz continues with his concept of awareness as a means to feel and communicate with God. Why some and not others? He discusses a philosophy, or state of existence called “awareness”, seeing the world as it is, not the way we want it to be, not a world that justifies our unique perception of it. “If we practice awareness, then the time comes when we master awareness. When we master awareness as a habit, we always see life the way it is, not the way we want to see it. Then we no longer try to put things into words that explain to ourselves that which we perceive. Instead, we use words to communicate with someone else, knowing that what we are communicating is just our point of view” (p.9).

I have a hard time understanding the complexity of his philosophy, which originates from his large Mexican family of healers, yet, I am intrigued by it. I find his state of mind, which he calls “awareness”, a difficult concept to grasp. Then I ask myself why it is difficult for me to grasp, and I start thinking in a circle, never sure if there really is an answer to every question or curiosity.

Ruiz continues with his thought that, instead of aligning our life with the words we have used to define life, we need to realize that God is here, today, right now, living inside each of us as life, as love. Until we stop looking or waiting for God’s presence to become known to us, to be described to us, we will never know the truth of God. I equate “truth” to be the revelation the blogger questioned. When we get in touch, become aware of the love that lives within us because God lives within us, we are able to feel the love of God, the love for all creation. Then we live a life on this earth as heaven. This made me think of the Lord’s prayer; “Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

As for the question of whether trust and faith are the same thing, it comes back to the uniqueness of life, and whether or not words can really describe trust and faith. Every definition is based on a perception of life. Trust and faith become unique for each person as words are a result of our interpretations. I see life, love, trust, faith, God as concepts belonging to that of infinity, a circle with no beginning or end, a concept that I find difficult to comprehend. No two people perceive the world the same, so the words used to describe something will not be the same. So then, is there really a definition to the question posed?

At 6:59 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have 10,000,000 questions about everything. I like to know who, what, where, when, why and how of just about any situation that involves me. So when I hit a speed bump in my life for which I cannot find the answers, it usually makes me crazy. One question leads me to another and then another until I’m curious, confused and sometimes quite frustrated. Strangely enough, after some difficult things happened for which there were no answers that would have satisfied me sufficiently, I came to a conclusion; I’m not ever going to get all the answers I think I need. But, if I trust that God does have a perfectly designed plan for each of us, I can accept the bump and turns without having to question everything. So, I guess, I’m learning that I trust because I have faith. If I go with that, and stop fighting against the things that scare or upset me, I will live out His plan, and since I believe that God is good, His plan must be good too. That makes me hopeful.

At 11:45 AM, Blogger fran said...

Anon with 10,000,000 questions-

You have summed it up perfectly! There will always be questions, but sometimes it is necessary to "let go, and let God." ( A phrase from the 80's, I think.)

Psalm 27:1
"The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom should I fear? The Lord is my life's refuge; of whom should I be afraid?"

Psalm 62:1-3,9
"Only in God is my soul at rest; from him comes my salvation. He only is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold; I shall not be disturbed at all."
"Trust in him at all times, O my people! Pour out your hearts before him; God is our refuge!"


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