Cousins: Immortal Enemies?

A sibling rivalry between half-brothers began when the youngest received his father’s birth-right and the eldest went off to a foreign land with a different blessing to prosper as well.

Generations later great religions would wage holy wars claiming true authenticity to a covenant with God.  To put it another way, 3.6 billion people (54% of the world’s population) belong to one of three Abrahamic religions:  Christianity (33%), Islam (16%), and Judaism (.2%).[i]

Abrahamic religions are religions that derive their lineage from the original covenant God had with Abraham.  There were covenants before with Adam and Eve, with Noah, and later with Moses.  However, Abraham had a formal unwavering Covenant from God.  The Old Testament mentions the word covenant 280 times!  The Covenant with Abraham was a lasting promise where God promised land and success to all of Abraham’s descendants.

Much of our law and our societies are based on agreed covenants between people, states, and nations that it is worth defining the term here:

Definition of covenant

  1. 1: a usually formal, solemn, and binding agreement :  compact… international law, which depends upon the sanctity of covenants between rulers. — George H. Sabine
  2. 2a:  a written agreement or promise usually under seal between two or more parties especially for the performance of some action the deed conveying the land contained restrictive covenantsb :  the common-law action to recover damages for breach of such a contract[ii]

These three religions all believe in one God but have very different and clashing views.  The half-sibling connection?   Abraham had two sons:  Ismael the first son and Isaac the second.  Ismael went off to a land that would become Muslim and predominately Arab.  Islam claims lineage from Ismael while Judaism and Christianity from Isaac.  It is not as simple as I have stated here – but this enough detail for the purpose of this writing.

Portions of the nation of Islam are at war with non-Muslims today.   The Koran and other teachings of Islam have plenty of Holy Scripture references from their prophet Muhammad that legitimize violence in the name of God.  You either live within the “Abode of Islam” or “Abode of War.”  Mohammed’s early years in Mecca and later years in Medina saw a military shift in both his actions and his revelations (114 Suras) that were not written down until about 118 years after his death in 750 Common Era (CE)!   His prominent preaching occurred from 610 CE until his death in 632 CE.  The move to Medina marks the end of “The Era of Ignorance” in 622 CE and is called the Year of the Hegirae!

Death to the Pope

Christianity, a little bit older than Islam had its periods of violence as well.  However, it is difficult to attribute Christianity’s Crusades with the writing and teaching of Jesus Christ.   Their folly into violence I place squarely on human beings misusing scripture and being all too human.

Crusades

Judaism is the oldest and is accepted by both Christianity and Islam!   However, Judaism does not accept the Prophets Jesus Christ or Mohammad.  Christians do not accept Mohamad!  Both believe their Prophets were the last messengers from God.  The Old Testament has many different references to violence and war.  To be fair, most of the references are from the Jewish people seeking relief  from oppression or slavery.

violence

All three religions have roots in helping the poor and being oppressed in different epochs of time.  By sheer numbers alone, and if one is not a Holocaust denier, the Jewish people have endured the brunt of religious oppression.

To put this time period into perspective let’s look at time along a continuum with the Creation of the World being the year 1 and today being the year 5777 if time were linear without the B.C. and C.E.

Day 1:  Creation of the World

Day 6:  Adam and Eve – Garden of Eden (say 3500 – 3900 BC)

Year 1656:  Noah and the Great Flood

Year 1812:   Abraham (The Covenant)

Year 2240:  Moses

Year 2494:  David unites the Israelites!

Year 2594:  Israel finds itself in-between Egypt and Assyria – two great powers that would overrun them many times.

Year 3490:  Jesus Christ is born.

Year 3525:  Jesus is crucified at age 34 (say 30 CE).

Year 3565:  Earliest writings begin somewhere from 40 to 60 years after Christ death.

Year 3815:  Emperor Constantine adopts/converts to Christianity.  This is troublesome in the long run.  The church that started out as non-political gets wedded to the state.  Pope Urban the II and Pope Innocent the IVth would condone force for converting non-believers down the line.   Nowhere is this in the writings and preaching of Jesus Christ or in his actions.

Year 4100:  Mohammad is Born (say 610 CE).

Year 4132:  Mohammad Dies (say 632 CE).

Year 4236:  Koran written capturing Mohamad’s revelations (Suras).

Year 5777:  The actual year is now 2017.

If each generation passed every 40 years on average we have only been around 144 generations.  How far back does your family tree go?  How far back does your oral tradition go?  How knowledgeable are your kids regarding the history of your family, your nation, your faith?

There is plenty room for error in almost 6000 years of human existence.

The three religions

Judaism, Christianity, and Islam:  The Monotheists Course Guide by F.E. Peters, PHD (A Modern Scholars Course) attempted to provide an objective viewpoint of the similarities and differences between these three religions.  I enjoyed his detailed views on Abraham, Jesus Christ, and Mohammad and the traditions and sacred writings that later formed the three great religions.   I am Catholic and hence a subjective reader.   The history of Islam here and the life and times of Mohammad were very troubling in this course.

The degree to which Jihad is ingrained in the prophet’s actions and the religions sacred writings is utilized today to justify ISIS and other violence.

The history of Judaism has war and violence as well both in actions and in scripture.  However, their beliefs and practices have had many reformations over the last 6000 years and they account for only .2 percent of the world population.

Christianity does not have the scriptural or the prophet example to justify violence accept it does accept the Old Testament.  However, Jesus Christ is a redeemer who gave us a new covenant that for all practical purposes abolished many old ways.

If you are a Muslim reading my post please reply and explain how the “Abode of War” and Muhammad’s violent history is not applicable today?  If you are Jewish, please explain to me where and when the second coming will be here and how a God is only here for the “Chosen People.”  If you are a Christian, it has been a longtime since Christ death.  When exactly is the end of the world?   There are too many questions!

E Peters covered an excellent review on how people pursue an understanding and achieving a proximity to God: Direct revelation (thru no effort on our part – as revealed to our ancestors and given to us in scripture), Theology (formal study and pursuit of knowledge), Asceticism (self-denial of worldly things and pursuit of God’s way), and Mysticism.   The latter is the most intriguing and dangerous.  We have very few true mystics in our history.  How many of us have truly heard the voice of God talk to us? Too often men of this world purport to be mystics for evil purposes or believe they are mystics without having a true relationship with the God of Abraham.

I raise these avenues of pursuit of a higher understanding of a spiritual transcendence as religion as it is today cannot be static.   People of the word of God, of the Abrahamic line, are not acting and promoting a lifestyle that portrays a transcendent God.

To be Holy in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam is to aspire to live a holy life.    If F.E Peter’s description of our religions being cousins is at all close to reality, we have in 6000 years destroyed our sense of kinship.   In the name of man alone each has claimed moral authority without legitimate sanction over the other.

As a member of the Christian faith, I am saddened by the lack of evidence and historical verification that is present for Islam and its founder.  Much of what is written cannot be verified by other sources.  My inclination is Islam cannot be an extenuation of the Abrahamic line.  The Jews feel about Jesus Christ.

Yet, I know many Muslims that are peaceful people and follow a reformed set of Islamic principles.   But they cannot define for me the justification for deviation from the Koran and the more orthodox Islamic scholars.  There is a bridge between me and Muslim beliefs that escapes my yearning for ecumenical thinking and bridging our faiths on our commonalities.   I know the orthodox Jews may feel the same way about Christians – but at least I can understand their disbelief in Jesus Christ and my church.

I am living in a glass house as well.  I cannot throw rocks at my cousin religions as my own house is in a state of disrepair in many ways.

Are we Immortal Enemies?  Have we created a hatred and suspicion so deep that we cannot possibly approach a transcendent God?

Let us assume, that tomorrow was the day of reckoning.  And we were called to be accountable for our actions in threes.   Together, three cousins we are with Three faiths o facing a transcendent God together.   And we are asked to explain just how is it that the three of us, cousins by descendants, linked by the covenant, stand before God without working out our differences before this day?

Or even without the messianic end of the world coming in our time, how are we living up to being holy, to striving to create heaven on earth, to preparing ourselves and our brothers to live in harmony now?

If the age of Ignorance was truly over as proclaimed by Islam would we not be farther along at this time in our history?

transcendent

[i] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abrahamic_religions

[ii] https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/covenant

Are we keeping our part of our covenant with God as we understand him, whether we be Jewish, Catholic or Muslim?

broken

The Case for Christ: A Journalist’s Personal Investigation of the Evidence for Jesus by Lee Strobel

Most of us Christians do not have the resources or time to complete a pilgrimage dedicated to exploring our historical faith, visiting holy places close and far, interviewing experts on both our theology and the historical accuracy of the bible.  A majority of us have the luxury of being raised in the faith which provides a solid foundation for belief, hopefully re-enforced by lived actions and a faith driven life-style.  However, sometimes being born and raised in a tradition is a disservice.  The religion of our heritage goes untested, the theology taken for granted, and the believer reduced to being a passive recipient rather than an active and engaged believer testing the word inside and outside the bubble of our community of believers.

Throughout history from the apostolic age to present Christians have faced criticism from Judaism, Secularism, Atheist, other world religions,  philosophers, and others.  Generally educated and ethical critics have not been a threat to our existence of safety.  They have refined and tested our faith.  We continue to develop our believers and message in-line with Jesus Christ while ensuring our institutions are teaching and being held accountable for preserving the word of true Christianity.  If Christ were to return today I am confident that more than a few teachings would be upended and many a tabernacle laid bare and empty.  The many splinters of Christianity today demonstrate the enormity of the task of humans preserving the message and striving to be close to the divine.   I worry more about the safety of our faith and the safety of Christians at the hands of blowhards with shallow understanding, politicians with a political motivation, and mobs instigated by fear and hate.  These are real and ever-present realities.  Having critics and apologist debate sincerely and with intentional benevolence is divine pursuit.   Having an uneducated and fear driven populous acting on mis-informed secular representations or false prophets rhetorical call to violence is our real enemy.

About the author:  Lee Strobel is commonly called a Christian apologist today despite once being atheist.  I see him as a mass market/motivational speaker, not necessarily a theological source.  He has a history in journalism which he utilized to explore his found faith.  At the end are links to his web page and a documentary on this book.

I hate the word “apologist.”  It sounds too much like apology!  “Apologetics is about rationally defending a position or view whose truth is challenged.”

apologist

Strobel does this by interviewing expert Christian Apologist and challenging them on the most common attacks from modern-day critics of Christianity.  In one book he has covered the vast majority of criticisms that you will hear from people who have not had the time to delve deeply into investigating each new age or old age attack on Christian identity and theology.  It is an “inside baseball” book as it is a dialogue of a Christian convert  interviewing Christian apologist.  However, having read many criticisms of Catholicism and christianity, listened to countless uninformed representations of the faith, and having a background in philosophy/psychology/social work – it is refreshing to read an unapologetic, easy to read, defense of the faith.  It is not error free and clearly not exhaustive.  The review I provided on Zealot prior covered many of the same points – in some cases reaching different conclusions.  These are the types of books that everyday people are reading.  Who these days goes and reads comphrehenisve documents from Antiquities in the native language of the day?   However, if you are exploring the faith and the ongoing attacks on the christian faith – every Christian needs to understand the arguments for and against Christianity.  This book is an excellent primer on the subject.  No believer should take their faith for granted.  We are all apologist!

That being said, we have no need to sell one version of the divine, to convince others of our beliefs, or to denigrate others not in the faith.   Faith sharing will not be one by theological arguments  but by lived faith and the grace of God.  We are not here “to win” but to serve the faith and our shared God.

Book rating:  10

http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/the-case-for-christ/

http://leestrobel.com/

resurrection

Zealot THE LIFE AND TIMES OF JESUS OF NAZARETH by Rena Aslan

Two thousand plus years and Jesus the man (revolutionary, rebel, bandit) and Jesus “The Son of Man” (The Jesus Christ of Christian believers, the son of God, sent to save mankind from eternal damnation, died on the cross for our sins than and now) live in a historical reality much as we do today.  Aslan delves into the historical Jesus Christ and the context of how and by whom the New Testament came to be.  Regardless of how you define Jesus Christ, both the man and the Jesus Christ our savior, challenged government and priestly authorities to stop abusing privilege and care for the poor, reform and create a just society that is reflected in the Sermon on the Mount. Do we believe in that message today?

The destruction of Jerasulem in 70 C.E. is marked by Aslan as the true birth of Christianity separating from Judaism and fully accepting Paul’s theological framework that sees the Torah and the rules of Judaism as a “ministry of death, chiseled in letters on a stone tablet” that must be superseded by a “ministry of the spirit come in glory.” (2 Cor 3: 7-8) Very strong words.  Indeed Christianity did rid itself of many rituals – but not of its theological roots and scripture of the Torah.

A key critism of this book is Aslam attributes authorship of Gospels to be penned after 70 A.D. whereas many scholars date Gospels “no later than 59 AD” which is only 29 years after Jesus’s death.  This is a major blow to Aslan’s carefully built assertion that Jesus was more a political rebel or revolutionary than Prophet and Divine son of God.  It is not affirmative who is right on timelines.  Here is another source:  http://catholic-resources.org/Bible/Four_Gospel_Chart.htm

The oral and written traditions that superseded the New Testament we have today, the influence Jewish Authorities, competing Messianic movements, and divisions within the Christian community had a profound impact on the narratives and literary devices used to capture the life of Jesus Christ.  Aslan takes a look at contrast between the earliest written gospel (Mark) versus gospels written later (Matthew, Mark, John, and Q sources) and other historical references that bring to light the distinctions between the historical Jesus and the theological Jesus that evolved over time by his apostles preaching the word and the word enventualky taking form under Emperor Constantine in 325 C.E.

Imagine if Christians did not blame the Jews for the Crucifiction, but the Romans? Perhaps two thousand years of antisemitism could have been avoided. The early Christians though, may have chosen to avoid that fight with the Romans.  Look where it got the Jews of Jerusalem in 70 C.E.

The relationships amongst the 3 original apostles (James, Peter, and John) and Paul (Saul, convert self-proclaimed apostle who had an a vision of Jesus Christ while encounter to persecute Christians) who never met Jesus Christ and outreached to gentiles and Jews a message quite different than the apostles (casting off Jewish law).  This is somewhat contentious as Aslan is basically saying Christianity represents Paul’s vision – not the thinking and vision of Jesus Christ the man.  He has a kernel of truth here.  Paul championed Christianity for gentiles and liberal Jews.  He was not preaching in the land of Jerusalem, the heart of Orthodox Judaism.

A major theme in Aslams book is how commonplace healers, magicians, and messiahs were in Jesus time.  He does note that Jesus was remarkably different in several ways – but his intent is a revisionist attempt to make Jesus more human.  I did find his information on other rebels and bandits fascinating:  

The Fourth Philosophy led by Judah’s the Galilian and later chef Hazekiah were famous bandits that espoused freeing Israel from foreign rule and serving no one but one God.  A legendary group named the Sicarri by the Romans (or daggerman) had a “penchant for small, easy to conceal daggers, called sicae, with which they assassinated the enemies of God (Romans or more likely wealthy priestly aristocracy who did Romes bidding).  In 56 C.E the Sicarri managed to kill the Jewish high priest in the temple, in broad day light, slit his throat with a dagger and slipped back into the crowd. Some depict the group as equivalent to modern day terrorist.  Murder justified under religious edict and fervor….or Zeal. There were many Jewish messiahs before and after Jesus Christ prophesying.  Other claimants of messiah included Simon of Perea, Athronges the Shepard, Menahem (also a Sicarri), Simon son of Giorgio,  and Theodas the wonder worker.  John the Baptist himself proclaimed a messianic message but did not claim himself a messiah.  Jesus refrained from calling himself messiah, he befuddled the Romans and Jews by using the term “the son of Man.”

Getting back to Jesus Christ, he did not accept money or titles.  He had a message and a direction that differed from previous messiahs.  The Beatitudes (Luke 6: 20 to 24) capture the messianic message of the day, a vision that promotes both an internal transformation of Judaism but also a promise of deliverance from sub-servience and foreign rule.  The evaluation of Jesus Christ on previous expected messiahs failed by measures of re-establishing Kingship or Kingship line, liberating the Jews from Roman rule, or bringing the end of days.  These three themes of messianic beliefs and preachers who espoused them were commonplace as were their deaths for threatening sedition from Rome as well as attacking the power of the priestly elite.

Jesus understood the risk of preaching any of the above and avoided naming himself the messiah.  He let others do that until the end.  The author refers this to the messianic secret, a strategy employed most likely by Jesus, to use  parables and ambiguity until the very end.  However, Jesus also knew, as countless messiahs and others who challenged Rome, were crucified at Golgotha.

In the end, I have to agree with the critics that Aslan has created a biography that leans towards historical imagination (some would say fiction) and personal beliefs.  Nonetheless the book was very enjoyable and the politics of the time bought to life.

The messy evolution of Christianity as a theology and its massive break from Jewish tradition in a time of great political turmoil invites believers, atheist, and skeptics to explore and express intriguing questions.  As Christianity today forwarns, beware of assertions made in this book.  

In fact, I say beware of anyone asserting their interpretation of the logos (or the eternal being, the Godhead, and all the other nomenclature we use as humans to capture the unknowable, unimaginable, existence of a supreme being) is right and yours is (fill in adjective).  If they have to sell or attack they are probably not in line with divinity.  A divine soul need not pretend to be divine or to sell – they just do.  They do not have to assure themselves or others nor deminish others beliefs.  Pure divine souls humbly attract believers to them by their actions and words of love, compassion, and mercy.

Christianity Today criticism of book captures a few errors and potential exaggerations.  Little provided on the substance of the historical and theological mix of the times:

http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2013/august-web-only/zealot-reza-aslan-tells-same-old-story-about-jesus.html?share=

The National Catholic Register also hammered it’s oversimplification, errors, and timelines.  It is a good idea to read what others write outside the bubble of your own political or religious perspective. It not only challenges and refines the “kool aid” you drink, but enables you to grasp why others may find your beliefs incredulous to the rationale eye!  

Rating:  9 of 10 for religious imagination and exploration.  6 if treated as historically or theologically accurate.

Advent Adventure

we-interrupt-this-broadcast-2

“We interrupt this broadcast to report unprecedented dramatic events.  World leaders have closed communication with the press and have unexpectedly cancelled events.  The White House, Bellevue Place, Kirribilli House, Elysee Palace, Zongnaihai, Buckingham Palace, the Kremlin, and the Vatican have been confirmed by our News Agencies to have shuttered their doors and key staff retreated to interior corridors of powers.”

An unprecedented notification like the above would create quite apprehension.  Most would suspect we are on the verge of war, a terrorist attack, or an assassination of a world leader has disrupted our world view once again.   Some survivalist would consider stocking up on water, bread, milk, canned goods, generator, ammunition, and cash.  Governments encourage you to be prepared.[i] Conspiracy groups count on people’s fears and market extreme survival strategies.

You should be prepared for at least three days.  Natural and man-made disasters are on the increase.   Help may get to you in hours or days.  What if the disaster was not man-made or a natural disaster?  What if help was not hours or days away – but an eternity for the unprepared?

Everyone will not escape this earth without facing this demon – either individually (alone) or with the great company of the masses at the end of time.  Given that the earth is 4.5 billion years old and we have only inhabited it for a fraction the latter possibility is not without some degree of risk, especially given how ungrateful we are as stewards of the planet.  Check out our Grant Earnhart’s 4.5 billion year review for perspective.[ii]

The demon of our mortality is a given with 100% certainty!  Actuaries calculate your probability of death every day, not because they don’t like you (I believe), but because they can profit by tilting the mortality scales in favor of a getting a few shillings from you.

Are you prepared for either eventuality – facing mortality alone or facing it at the end of time?  Dying is not something you can prepare for when you are at death’s door.   It is something you live for and prepare for all your life.  Our mortality gives our lives meaning.  Every moment is a treasure of untold value as we do not know when no more moments will be afforded us.

The Catholic Season of Advent can be an invitation to “sobriety, to not be dominated by the things of this world” and “an invitation to vigilance, because, not knowing when He will come, we must always be ready to depart.”[iii]

What would we do if the news event that started this post out was announcing a man has descended from the heavens proclaiming the second coming?  Or as Orson Wells did in 1938 predicted the War of the Worlds and potential certain death. Or closer to home, a doctor’s call informs you nothing can be done?  

We need not wait for these eventualities.  Do not wait for the bell to toll for you. Take care to be rid of regrets now.[iv]  You can easily tackle many worldly concerns now or at least attempt to so you can to your final resting place without having tried. 

Preparing to meet God is a higher order task.  Negatively speaking people often slip into existential rubric measurements of past shame and counterpoints of sincere goodness, like the actuary above, tilt the scales in their favor for that final meeting. The Bible reminds us that “it is appointed for men to die once, and after this the judgment.” [v]

Positively speaking practicing living well will do more than rubrics calculation.  The Sermon on the Mount and St. Augustine’s is a good starting point:[vi]

Therefore, whosoever hears these words of mine, and does them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock.”

The Sermon on the Mount can be found here from the United States Catholic Conference Bishops website with annotations here:  http://www.usccb.org/bible/matthew/5

After having read this chapter – living “Christian Living” is not about perfection.   Jack Mahoney gives a good review of living the Sermon on the Mount that is not so imposing:[vii]

“Christian morality must be understood as part of an embracing love of God as well as of neighbor. Both the Decalogue and Sermon on the Mount begin with the gift of God and his covenant, and sketch the response of members of the chosen people, the ancient and then the new Israel, as they attempt to live with God’s gift and grace in their lives.”

When read with careful thought and sincere prayer the complexity of the beatitudes and the Ten Commandments melt into a simplicity that is congruent with rational human ethics that include a spiritual mandate of authenticity and authority.   Given that we are bound to be imperfect, the writings are a guide to strive for perfection, while recognizing human infallibility and the grace of God go hand in hand. 

You have a blueprint for preparing for the next “We interrupt this broadcast” regardless of cause:  man-made, natural disaster, or spiritual crisis.    The next 28 days is an advent adventure for me. Thank you for joining me by reading this post.  Advent is perfect for a self-directed retreat adventure.   

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[i] https://www.ready.gov/build-a-kit

[ii] http://www.npr.org/2016/11/22/502920622/watch-earths-history-play-out-on-a-football-field

[iii] Pope Francis, November 27, 2016

[iv] http://thedailypositive.com/top-10-regrets-dying/

[v] http://www.justforcatholics.org/06.01.pdf

[vi] http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/16011.htm

[vii] https://catholicismpure.wordpress.com/2012/02/07/living-the-sermon-of-the-mount/

advent2016

Revelation?

revelation_chart1

Defining revelation for me is very challenging.  I have broken it down into four levels and one huge spiritual barrier. It is more personal and real.  It is not driven by the “Book of Revelation.”  I am not a mystic – though I sometimes wish I could be.  Than again, be careful what you wish for – you may get what you ask!

The first level that comes to mind is revelations that others have had (fathers of the church, the original apostles, martyrs, saints, Popes, and theologians).  Their experiences hover above and out of reach.

The second level is the New Testament and the parables of Jesus Christ serve as a basis point for reflections.  Interpretations by others help as well.  These are more educationally inspired and didactic in nature.  Scripture readings and the liturgy come into play here.  As well as celebrating the Sacraments.

The third level has been times in my life where I believe the hidden hand of God or the Holy Spirit has gently or not so gently knocked me on the head.  There have been fewer times when grace seemed overpowering.   Those very rare moments that dim with time and are susceptible to later doubts and criticisms of authenticity.     These have come at times of great turmoil or at times of extended and disciplined prayer life.  On the latter I am a light weight and drift in and out of prayer filled life.  The connectedness to an existential presence beyond my comprehension has been so fleeting and so rare that I can only call it a subjective spiritual journey.

Spiritual warfare comes into play for any revelation.  The dimming of a grace filled experience or increase of self-doubt.  There are many barriers to a sustained faith and openness to revelations.  Both the Old Testament and the New Testament are riddled for me with the challenges of historical context, biblical interpretation, purpose of literary devices, and the spiritual arc of development of people at the time of these revelations.   The wealth of Catholic dogma that has come after these revelations challenges me as well, both in its scope and in its accuracy.  Perhaps atheists are not born atheist – perhaps we create atheist with distorted scripture and over-zealous religiosity, institutionalized rigidity, and all too human leaders demonstrating unseemly hypocrisy?  (Presumptuous as not all atheist are atheist as a direct reaction to over-reaching believers – but in many ways we do not make it an easy bridge for others to find faith).  I contend with these contradictions by taking courses, reading, praying, and when I can get away on a retreat.    The Catechism also has this disconcerting guidance:

“The Christian economy, therefore, since it is the new and definitive Covenant, will never pass away; and no new public revelation is to be expected before the glorious manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ.”28 Yet even if Revelation is already complete, it has not been made completely explicit; it remains for Christian faith gradually to grasp its full significance over the course of the centuries.[i]

For this we need the fourth level, outside all the above and guided by the unseen:   revelations in the eyes of children, hidden in the sounds of music, in a stroke of paint on a canvass, in nature, in love and compassion between people, and in acts of selflessness that exceed any hint of personal motivation or glory.   These are where I am most apt to find spiritual strength.

[i] http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p1s1c2a1.htm

 

Jesus Died for my sins

“Jesus died for my sins.”

We are taught from a young age our faith and taught in the language of grade school children.  This language, perhaps condescendingly, often crashes into a series of ‘”you” and “I” dialogue.  At that age, we are taught our place first, often wrongly, within the larger church.  The larger context, of social responsibility and collective unity of all human beings, is often overshadowed by the lesson of the day.  Catholicism does recognize collective ownership as represented by collective guilt, we do that very well.

However, our unity understanding, through the prism of our western culture which stresses individualism, and through the culture of multi-faith societies, has created a sense of helplessness when considering the magnitude of grave sin amongst believers, never mind the actions of non-believer or people of other faiths.  We have default human response to attend to the controllable, to the “I.”

When we do that we are at crossroads with the basis of our faith.  Jesus Christ came not for one individual or one cast of people, but all people, sinners and saints alike.     The mystery of the bride of Christ (saints, the church, wayfarers) joining Christ in preparing for union as one is often lost as our multi-faith society and multi-nation society, often indistinguishable from each other, battle for earthly and religious superiority.    Is this not reminiscent of the tower of Babel?

The entire bible addresses not relationships with individuals, but a call to all people.  Some individuals are chosen to lead, but to lead for all, not for the self, the “I.”

The story of the greatest sacrifice and atonement for our sins was for all people (the Jews, the Christians, the romans, the pagans, their forefathers and all the generations to come).  It is a new day.

Atonement means that Jesus sacrificed for all of our “lawlessness” and sins and united us as one, believers and unbelievers in solidarity.  How incredibly frustrating this is for us Catholics.  Aside that we are always seemingly sub par relative to the chosen (Saints) or even to the guy next door, we are on a team with murderers, rapist, child abusers, kidnappers, terrorist, atheist, Jews, ISIS, capitalist, communist, and every type of person who acts contrary to God’s nature.

In the face of overwhelming evil, how critical is it that we model, each according to our ability, the “visible communion as a visible solidarity” among those of us who have accepted Jesus Christ?  Without the scripture, without the liturgy, without the Eucharist, without all the symbolism and signs of our faith, we are powerless to attract people to join us in salvation.  The emptiness of soulless lives will require the constant feeding of temporal needs of which we will have no alternative to offer but our judgement and condemnation?  How often do we see condemnation from our religious and political representatives without any visible solidarity with those they condemn?

Through the visible actions (not words) of attending church, praying, receiving the Eucharist, all the sacraments, helping the poor and living the word we can achieve greater peace (mind you we will still suffer)  that can project the glory of God, with the grace of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, to all people.  By merely acting and living like Catholics we can do more than by any acts of condemnation of our brothers in Christ.

Jesus did not die for my sins, although they are many, he died for all of our sins that we all maybe redeemed.

Wayfarers

Like a very long a parable, the bible presents scripture from Genesis to Revelation.  Ask ourselves questions that simplify following the thread of connectivity through the lens of God (well perhaps not as clearly!) through these historical time periods. Genesis establishes the “foundation” of the earth (creation account). The Old Testament provides testimony to man’s journey and disappointments to God thru repeat grave sins against creation, himself, and God despite numerous prophets sent to provide instruction. We live in empires (think St. Augustine City of men) driven by power (think Lucifer the beast of the earth).
Enter stage left, the lamb of God, begotten of the father, one and the same, Jesus Christ from the very foundation of the world, the one of God, is sent as truly man, to be slain for our sins. God provides us his only son so that we may “see” his glory and his compassion, his grace, and his never-ending majesty. Meaning, Jesus Christ, in his death conquered death for us. The blood of Jesus Christ, if we wash our robes in the blood of the lamb, opens the kingdom of heaven for us eternally despite our shortcomings while living in the kingdom of men.
Jesus, symbolically the bridegroom, is courting us the bride (wayfarers here on earth). The church, the saints, and each of us committed to God and Jesus, are the bride. The book of revelation discusses this betrothal period (preparation period) highlighting different degrees of readiness of the churches and their people. The Saints, exercising greater holiness and righteousness than the rest, wear the robes of the bridegroom as they help move us towards unity with Jesus, the true bridegroom, that we will join as one. Easy enough said, just read revelation, it’s as clear as day!  The betrothal period is getting long!

Skeletons Dancin’

The tight rope between Ezekiel’s description of dancing bones (37:7) as a “rattling of bones came together bone to bone” to the resurrection of Jesus Christ in the Lucan Gospel, although laced together with scriptures all throughout the Old Testament and the Gospels, defies the imagination. Ezekiel prophesized a vision as follows: “So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet—a vast army.” This was to his people who were exiled and needed hope and vision of a glorious return. The improbability of the original vision is perhaps as challenging as the delivered savior: a suffering savior who dies to give us life and is resurrected corporately (for everyone), body and all. The faith of the exiled Israelites expecting a savior and the faith of the disciples when presented with a savior is not a given despite tangible “miracles” and visions.
In the Lucan gospel, the visitation to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, cannot discern Jesus Christ has joined them on the road in conversation. They do not recognize him until the act of breaking bread, which was preceded by scripture (revelation by Jesus though not discerned). The Gospel discusses that not all can see. Several accounts are given of the disciples themselves being in disbelief.
How than, can we in modern day believe? Is it not so much harder? The answer is no as we have the same tools of discernment as the disciples: scripture and breaking bread (receiving Jesus Christ). Scripture prepares the self with knowledge of God, breaking bread is accepting God’s gift of Jesus Christ sacrifice, and union with God is perfected in our pursuit of proximity to God and God’s providence. Man cannot discern God alone, in the past or in the present.
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