Saturday, December 24, 2011

"What If God Was One of Us?"

I was driving home a couple days ago, when a long-forgotten song about Jesus came on the radio. The song exemplifies the blindness of the modern world when it comes to the person of Jesus Christ.
The song is titled “One of Us,” and the question posed by the song is “What if God was one of us?” The song’s lyrics begin as follows:
If God had a name what would it be?
And would you call it to his face?
If you were faced with him
In all his glory
What would you ask if you had just one question?

(Refrain) And yeah, yeah, God is great
Yeah, yeah, God is good
Yeah, yeah, yeah-yeah-yeah

What if God was one of us?
Just a slob like one of us
Just a stranger on the bus
Trying to make his way home

And so on.
We already know the answer to the question posed by the song. As Christians, we know that God indeed was one of us – He lived among us for thirty-three years, in the person of Jesus Christ.
The song questions what would happen if God felt the same pain and temptations we felt. But we know that Christ suffered horrible pain and longing - that He was born in a stable, was hunted by an evil king in his infancy, lived His childhood years in poverty and anonymity, and was abandoned by all except His closest friends and family during His excruciating death on a cross. St. Paul tells us that Christ was “tempted in all things like we are, yet without sin.” (Heb 4:15)
The whole of Christianity is the answer to the question “What if God was one of us?” God, in the person of Jesus Christ, was truly one of us - poor, meek, and lowly.
It is a sign of the poverty of the modern world that so many of our counterparts have forgotten (or worse, deliberately ignore) this incredible, joyous truth. It is our task to remind them of it, especially during this Christmas season, in which we celebrate Christ, born as a human being.
Let us proclaim Christ’s glorious humanity loud and clear to the rest of the world through our words and holy example.
Have a blessed Christmas, dear readers.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

"Credo Quia Impossibile"

Many people argue that the teachings of the Church cannot be believed, because they include seemingly impossible doctrines such as transubstantiation or the Trinity. The mysteries of the Church are treated as grounds for disbelief.
But the fact that we, as humans, cannot understand the full measure of the Trinity and other divine mysteries is one of the greatest signs of the truth of the Catholic Faith. In the famous (and apocryphal) words of the early Christian theologian Tertullian, “I believe because it is impossible.”
For as Christians, we believe our God is infinite. We know that He acts and moves in ways beyond our understanding. We believe He can do all things – even things seemingly contrary to physical nature, because He made physical nature.
By contrast, we, as human beings, have limited intellects. There are many things, even in the physical world, that humans cannot and will never be able to comprehend. The same is infinitely truer of the spiritual world. Indeed, it would be presumptuous for us to expect that we could understand God and the spiritual realm completely.
The veracity of the mysteries of the Faith is not destroyed by the seeming impossibility of transubstantiation or the virgin birth; indeed, it is strengthened by those divine paradoxes. It stands to reason that since God is so far beyond us, we as human beings will not be able to understand everything about God. As Isaiah says: “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts your thoughts.” (Is 55:9)
Could a God that humans fully understand be truly God? Or would a supposedly infinite God that limited humans could fully understand be merely a human construct and nothing more?
(By now, longtime readers should know my policy on rhetorical questions.)
The question is not whether we, with our limited intellects, can fully understand all the mysteries of the faith. The question is whether belief in a God we could fully understand with our limited intellects would even be possible.

Monday, December 19, 2011

A Call for Unity

The Church thrives under conditions of persecution, war, and oppression. Attack Her, mock Her, publicly humiliate Her, kill Her members – and She will rise stronger than before. Christ promised that “the gates of Hell would not prevail against His Church” – and His words have been proven true, through two millennia.
But although the Church has survived and even thrived under persecution, she faces a greater threat – internal division.
Disunity among Christians is nothing new. The Church has faced division since Her very inception. St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians (1 Cor 3:4) chastises those following different preachers in the Church. Schism ripped apart the Eastern and Western Churches. The Great Western Schism produced three different men who claimed to be Popes at one time.
These divisions continue today. Dissent from clear Church teaching is common among many self-described Catholic scholars and professors. Divisions between devotees of the Extraordinary and Ordinary Forms of the Mass in the Roman rite gives rise to threatened schism. Popular preachers and priests (such as Fr. Corapi) refuse to accept Church discipline. These are only a few of the disunities that plague the modern Church.
Disunity also severs common believers with each other. Common quarrels, petty arguments, complaints, backbiting in parishes – these are all ever-present among self-professed Christians.
The end result of this disunity is chaos. Who would join a Church where the members are divided against one another?
A clear mark of the true Church is that it is one. The Church is united in faith and belief. And Her members act with one accord, using their many talents to bring others to God.  
Christ designed the Church with this end in mind. Jesus’ prayer for the apostles echoes through 2000 years: "I pray also for those who will believe in me... ...that they all may be one."
God grant that we, the members of the Church may be one.