That there is a God.
go about their daily tasks in much the same way as everyone else does. They
are human beings with all that goes with the condition. But they live their
lives in a radically different way. They believe that there is a God who made
them, sees them, and loves them. So their own attitude to life is very different
from anyone who doesn't have any such belief. But lets suppose
we were living in a pre-Christian era. Lets imagine that there was no
Jesus Christ. Would we still believe in God?
I don't think you can make anyone believe in God if they
are determined not to. But not to believe in God leaves huge gaps in our understanding.
If I did not believe in Him then life would involve many more unanswered questions
than it does already.
One simple process called causality simply observes that everything
we know about has a cause. Maybe we dont always know what the cause is,
but we certainly wouldnt say that it hasnt got a cause at all.
You and I are here because we all had parents. So did those parents have parents.
And so on. What happens if you go back and back? Even if you can't go all
the way back, you know that eventually reason demands that the process must
go all the way.
If you find the beginner of that process then he must be the one who started
it all off. It would be reasonable and appropriate to call that being God.
But who caused God? If you can find such a being then you simply have not got
to the end of the process. Our understanding of the one who made everything
demands that he, unlike every other link in the chain had no cause at all.
To call God the uncaused cause does not sound romantic, but in terms of
reason, the whole chain of causality is a nonsense unless at the end of it there
is a being who started it all.
Its interesting to note that Alcoholics
Anonymous requires that its members acknowledge the existence of a Power
greater than themselves. If its a person we would call it God,
But A.A. simply recognises the reasonableness of looking beyond
themselves for the answer to lifes great mysteries, including why an alcoholic
would seek to make a reason for his collapse and reconstruction. All Im
saying here is, that it is not stupid to entertain the idea that there really
might be someone out there who is at the root of our own human existence.
If you dont pray, dont know how to, why dont you make the
first attempt at contacting Him. Find a time and a place to be quite alone.
Start out with the question, Is there anybody out there?
2. In Jesus Christ.
Jesus began to work all sorts of wonders, his hearers began to ask with
awe, ”Who is he?, for even the wind and the sea obey him!” We have to go
to the times when men were asking these questions. The only ones who were
pleased with him were those whom asking these questions. The only ones who
were pleased with him were those whom he had cured, and the poor and the
law-breakers who knew instantly they had a friend.
when he began to say and do things that seemed to indicate that he was more
than just a human being like them, those in charge didn’t like that a bit.
“Who does he think he is? We know him. He comes from our village, his parents
are just ordinary people like us.” The religious leaders did not like him.
He challenged their authority, he criticised the way they claimed God for
their father, yet they themselves didn’t seem interested in the ordinary people.
Everybody knows that he was an extraordinary teacher, but his teaching was
not about putting new burdens on them. He actually preferred the company of
the down-and-outers. In the end they crucified him. But he rose from the tomb,
defeating death, and leaving no doubt in the minds of his followers that he
was truly alive in spite of being crucified. His followers were so convinced
that he really was alive that they were quite prepared to proclaim his teachings,
even in the face of persecution. In fact most of them gave their lives for
was he? It took the Church about three hundred years, long after it
emerged from centuries of persecution, to proclaim that he was both human
and divine, both God and man. He called himself the Son of God. If he
really was that, then he was a most unique being. Obviously he was a man.
Now we are saying he was Son of God as well. One person with two natures,
that of God and that of us. So he is quite unlike anyone else we know. His
humanity is identical to ours, but he possesses the nature, and the power
of God just like his Father, and as we shall see, just like the Holy
Spirit, who took over his mission in the world after Jesus went back to
In The Church
Jesus returned to his Father his followers went, as they had told him, to
await the coming of the Spirit, whatever that might mean. The coming of
the Spirit was accompanied by spectacular sights and sounds. But what was
even more astounding was the change in this small group of followers. They
were filled with a confidence which must have amazed them, as well as everyone
They were determined, resolute, and ready to work and suffer for what they
believed. They went off fearlessly proclaiming Jesus as Saviour, and most
of them died for doing just that. Such was the birth of the Church. Most
people who have any commitment to religion and to the person of Jesus Christ
have no problem about what Jesus said and did. They accept the Scripture,
even to making it the sole and exclusive rule of their faith. If God said
it, or Jesus did, then thats fine. They will accept it without reservation.
when it comes to the Church they have many reservations. man-made laws
is a common restriction about accepting what the Church teaches. For the first
Christians it was entirely different. They believed enthusiastically and without
reservation that one very good reason why Jesus left the earth was so the people
he left in his place should occupy the place that he had once held. They did
not expect to see Jesus until the end of time, and in the meantime they themselves
were the authority of God for all men and women on earth. The belief of the
Church is that it has been given authority from Christ himself, and that the
Spirit will remain with the Church as long as the world lasts. This notion is
of crucial importance when trying to understand Christianity.
The Church is made up of all conditions of men and women, with all the strengths
and weaknesses of humankind. Yet the Church stands before God in the place of
Jesus, not supplanting him, but as the actual presence of Christ in the world.
For Catholics, salvation is mediated precisely through the Church. It is not
a God and me relationship alone, although that remains important.
If Jesus had told his followers just to roam around the world obeying whatever
instinct seem to be appropriate, that would be fine. But its not what
happened. Jesus set up the Church under the guidance of the Spirit. Thats
why we listen to what the Church is saying. For me, salvation would not be available,
unless it came through the very vehicle he set up precisely for my salvation,
namely the Church.
In The Seven Sacraments
is the first of the Seven Sacraments. These sacraments use ordinary natural
elements to produce an effect which is spiritual.
In baptism we use water which is a sign of new life, but when the priest says,
while pouring the water, "I baptise you in the name of the Father, and
of the Son, and of the Holy spirit," then the child literally receives
new life in a way he did not have it before. He belongs to God in much more
than merely a natural way. This is above nature.
While the other sacraments have particular effects, such as marriage or priestly
ordination, baptism is the foundational sacrament. No matter what exalted dignity
one may possess, the primary sacrament is this one. It makes
all of us equal. We become Christians, children of God and members of the Church.
In an absolutely unique way we now belong to God.
CONFIRMATION is the sacrament now received next after baptism. It is not regarded
as any form of adult response to faith. In the early Church it was administered
by the Bishop as a seal on the Baptism already received. The new Christian was
baptised for 'the forgiveness of his sins,' and the right of initiation into
this company of Christians.
Today the sacrament can be received
at any age, although the usual age would be about ten to twelve years .This
is the sacrament of the Holy Spirit. When the bishop administers this sacrament
he says ,"Be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit." So this is
an abiding presence of the Spirit. Those who are confirmed have the Spirit as
it were, at their disposal. He is constantly present, available for enlightenment,
discernment, wisdom and encouragement.
He is the supreme gift of God's presence forever. So whether we are old or young, or whether we
are suddenly in need of inspiration and guidance, it is this abiding presence
which sustains us.
MARRIAGE In the eyes
of the Church this is a bond created by the free consent of the partners. Prior
to giving their consent they would be free either to give it or withhold it.
But once given the bond is eternal. The purpose of the Sacrament of Matrimony
is aimed precisely at the growth of the marriage bond itself. It lies apparently
dormant, but ready to be activated whenever it is required.
one would say that
marriage is easy in society today. Modern attitudes of the young couple demand
that they possess all the modern gadgets and labour-saving devices available.
Parents of my generation simply did not buy if they could not afford it.
Church's view is that only marriage gives meaning to sexuality. Sexual activity
for the married is something that cements their already permanent relationship
into something fine and continuously growing and developing. Without
this meaning sexual activity is regarded as selfishness and without meaning
apart from having a passing gratification. This couple have been married for
fifty years. They have a family of six to whom they are devoted, and who keep
returning to their home to renew the bonds they have formed.
Both closer to eighty than seventy, they have learned what total devotion is
all about. In learning about each other they have discovered that the notion
of a God who loves us perfectly is no exaggeration.
rules of the Church and those of contemporary society are now so divergent that
marriage is often considered a social formality. Divorce requires little more
than that the couple have lived apart for two years, and that they testify that
the marriage has failed irretrievably. The State claims the right to makes such
laws for its subjects.
So the pressure
on young couples is enormous. It takes a very strong and enduring love and devotion
to forgo having all the good things that their contemporaries possess. The very
conflict involved in making money when it is detrimental to the life of the family
is something all young married couples must come to grips with.
PRIESTLY ORDINATION AND THE MASS In Catholic
Theology a man ordained a priest has sacramental powers which are not given
to those not ordained. The
chief power is involved in "saying mass." When, at the Last Supper
Jesus took bread and gave it to his Disciples in the upper room, he added, "Take
and eat, this is my body broken for you." Then he handed them the cup of
wine and said, "This is my blood poured out for you. Drink this all of
the reference was to what would take place the very next day. He literally gave
his body and blood. On the cross his body was broken and his blood poured out.
Because Jesus was God he was able to anticipate for the sake of those at the
supper, what was going to happen the next day. In exactly the same way those
of us who have come after the events of Good Friday are able to share in the
dying and the rising of Jesus Christ just as truly as the Disciples did before
the physical event took place. On the road to Emmaus some of the disciples had
exactly the same experience after the event as the Disciples did before it.
So do we
today. By the ministry of the ordained priest he brings into our 'today' what
Jesus did for the twelve, and for the men on the way to Emmaus. So the priest
is revered, not for his personality, which can be anything that is human, but
for his function of "Saying Mass" which he regards as a treasure in
an earthenware container.
FORGIVENESS OF SIN Only God
can forgive sin because ultimately He
is the one who is offended, beyond the person we may have hurt, or the commands
we may have broken. In the Upper Room after his resurrection Jesus said to his
Disciples, "Receive the Holy Spirit. those whose sins you forgive are forgiven.
Those whose sins you retain are retained."
Church recognised that such power had indeed been given. The Church's confession
included the giving of Baptism 'for the forgiveness of sins.' The first converts
to Jesus were adults, so their reception to this new Church of Jesus included
not only believing in him and the followers he had appointed. It also included
the very necessary forgiveness of sins. This was no formality to impress others
who might observe their reception into the Church. This was an interior thing.
A conversion. A turning away from all that had been sinful and wayward. A conversion
adult conversion is no rare event, it is more common for parents to bring their
babies for baptism. The Church has long upheld the validity of baptising babies,
even though they are not able to choose, or express anything except perhaps
an occasional wail!
may ask, about those who, though baptised. nevertheless fall back into serious
sin. Obviously baptism cannot be repeated. The Church's tradition has been to
embody this power in the priest, by virtue of his ordination. So the priest
uses the words, "I absolve you in the name of the Father, and of the Son
and of the Holy spirit." The penitent sinner accepts that when these words
are uttered his sins are taken away just as surely as when the Disciples, and
indeed Jesus himself, used the words.
is bound by solemn secrecy, and the penitent knows that this is no magic' let
out' allowing him licence to return to his practices of sin. In fact any Catholic
would never dream of using it this way. He probably would not use the sacrament
at all until his repentance was genuine.
Sacrament of Anointing When Jesus
was on the earth he did and said many things, which only He could do. So the
question arises, Is there any continuity? Is there any way that healing can
go on, even though Jesus has left the earth? What happens between God and the
individual soul cannot be determined, not even by the Church. But having said
that, we know that Jesus did choose the Church. He founded it. He gave it authority.
He obviously meant it to be the ordinary way that those who belong to it should
be in constant touch with him. Otherwise we would be left with the conclusion,
that while it must have been nice for the people who lived in his time, we who
did not live then, are doomed to some kind of remote contact.
of a Sacrament is that it is an outward sign of inward grace. There is a certainty
about a Sacrament which we do not have, even about the way our prayers will
be answered. In other words, the belief is that if the words and actions are
said and performed accurately by a designated person, using this Sacrament,
then the effects follow.
is sick it is the custom to ask the priest to anoint the person with the oil
blessed by the Bishop in the week before Easter. These blessed oils are sent
to the various parishes in a Diocese for various purposes, one of which is for
the anointing of the sick. "Through this holy anointing," says the
priest, "May the Lord in his love and mercy help you with the grace of
the Holy spirit. May He who saves you from sin, save you, and raise you up."
But even then, what happens to the sick person relies ultimately on the choice
IN THE UNIQUE PLACE OF MARY:
of Mary is that of all women she alone was chosen for this unique role of being
the mother of God. How can anyone be God's mother? You may well ask. Catholic
teaching from the Council of Nicaea declared that Jesus was divine, that he
was the Son of God. God of course, we understand to be one in nature but three
in person. It is this second Person of the Trinity (Father, Son and Spirit),
who in our human history took our nature as well as that of God, which he always
had. So Mary was instrumental in the Divine plan.
of this we regard Mary as substantially different from every other woman ever
born. This does not make her divine, but it certainly makes her unique. She
is not a goddess, but Jesus associated her in a particular way in his own human
upbringing, and in his death of the cross. The Gospel says. she 'pondered these
things in her heart,' and that,' beneath the cross, there stood Mary his mother."
So the whole
tradition of the church, especially in its devotional lie holds Mary in special
veneration. Not only did she bring Jesus to birth, but she followed him, meditated
on his meaning, followed him in his mission, and supported the infant church
do not argue about the theology of Mary. Some say, "Well I don't deny it,
I just don't make a big thing of it." That is an understandable tradition.
But for Catholics their experience of devotional life always includes Mary.
Their practice of piety and prayer would not be complete without her.