What do you believe? Part 6

Posted in Uncategorized by fatherjimb on April 26, 2009

One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church

One of the arguments posited for a true church is that it be one, holy, catholic and apostolic but what does that mean? Being one is sometimes confused with being in union with the Pope in Rome. Depending on whose side you are on in any division within the church you will get a different perspective.

The church is one in Christ for it is Christ who calls us to himself. It is our sinfulness of pride that separates us from one another believing we each have the whole truth. It is we, not God, who places limits on being one. The church is one because Christ is the church and we as members of the Body of Christ find our oneness in Him alone despite our separateness from each other.

The church is holy? Again, we are often caught up in our own self centeredness when we feel we are the arbiters of what is holy whether we couch this in our interpretation of scripture or tradition. In the Benedictine Rule we are told to treat the pots and pans of the kitchen with the same reverence as the vessels of the altar. Why? All things are made holy not because they are set aside for “holy” purpose but because they instruments we can use for the purpose to which they were intended, the service of others. The church is holy when we act in concert with Christ in service to one another.

Catholic (with a little “c”) means universal but also refers to those who use symbols and signs to plumb the mysteries of who God is. The church is catholic because it transcends individuals and locations for Christ is the church and we are members of the body which is Christ.

To be Apostolic is more than identifying a linear descent from the apostles. The church is also Apostolic in that the individual communities are devolved from the apostolic communities established centuries ago. It can be said that it is Apostolic from the top down and the bottom up. However, for the church to be apostolic it must dare to preach the Word fearlessly. There are many fine examples of individuals and groups who have exemplified this.

(to be continued)

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What do you believe…

Posted in Uncategorized by fatherjimb on February 21, 2009

For us and our salvation…

The creed talks about Jesus coming down from heaven and by the power of the Holy Spirit becoming human for us and our salvation. Two questions come to mind, the first is Why did God decide to come down from heaven? The second might be from what do we need saving?

We recently completed celebrating the Feast of the Incarnation when God took on our humanity. Here is a God who wants to become so intimate with us that he shares the very life of his creation. What love must God have for us that he would diminish himself so that he could enter into our time and space, share our challenges and joys, eat with us, walk beside us and experience the one thing we all dread – death. His love is not just for us humans or for our world but for all of creation.

We are saved, rescue, ransomed and redeemed by a God who understands our humanness. Why? We are our own worst enemy, our egos, our desire to be more than we can ever be get in the way of being who we really are. We need saving from ourselves. Dickens, in “A Christmas Carol” portrays Ebenezer Scrooge as an individual who rejects the love of others concentrating all his efforts on achieving his own personal goals. As Marley’s ghost tells him each of us creates our own hell cutting ourselves off from God’s creation. We, like Scrooge, are unable to break away from our self centeredness alone. Christ needed to come among us to show us the way and to be the way.

So God’s very Word of creation became human through the power of the Holy Spirit and a virgin. He then grew into our lives being fully human, loving so strongly that he made the ultimate sacrifice to show us the depth of his love. Not only did he suffer and die like us, he went one step further. Through the same Holy Spirit of God the Father raised Jesus to life, not a resuscitation of a battered body but a transformed body, the kind of body we too will have when he comes again. His judgments will be fair and loving calling all who know him into a loving embrace forever.

(to be continued)

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What do you believe?

Posted in Uncategorized by fatherjimb on January 28, 2009

I’d like to share a few thoughts on the meaning behind the Creed we say each Sunday. Too often we rattle through it without much prayerfulless. The creed has a history behind it and is also a statement of who we are as Christians. Perhaps this will give you food for thought, and so we begin:

We believe in one God.

One God? There was a recent newspaper article that talked about a group of women who worked together on a project, some were Christian and others were Moslems. The writer of the article stated that these individuals were able to work as one even though they worshiped different Gods. Of course there was a retraction of this statement since God, by whatever name we give, is still God, the one and only. In our new multicultural society the monotheistic presumption of our youth has been turned on its head by believers in multiple gods that are strange to Western ears. Despite this, there is still only one God by whatever name or names we call God.

Even in the early church the concept of one God caused problems. If there is only one God how can Jesus be God or the Holy Spirit be God? Councils were called. The very existence of the entire Roman Empire was at stake since religion and the state were so closely linked. It was in Nicea that a statement of beliefs we recite each Sunday was created.

Who is God?

Human definitions of God vary. I suppose you would get a different answer based on each person’s perception of who and what a God is if we believe in God’s existence at all. In a sense, God is created in our own image since we have no words to describe an existence. When Moses asked God by what name the people of Israel should call their God, God simply answer “Tell them I am who I am.”

What is it you believe about God?

Georgetown university decided to open a campus in the gulf nation of Qatar. They determined that their class offerings would be the same as those in their DC campus and sent Jesuit Fr Ryan Maher, SJ to teach his Comparative Religions course. “Do you think you will be going to hell, Father?” There was a pause after which the other student said “Yes.” And then “Sorry Father.” It was then that Fr Maher began to reflect on what he was teaching. In the US his The Problem of God class was just another academic subject. He expected his students to study, debate and regurgitate the correct answers to the exams questions. Here, however, he was faced with an entirely new variable, students whose belief systems were not an academic exercise but part of who they are. “It’s not that we don’t know bout religion, it’s that we don’t understand faith and its life shaping power, ” noted Fr Maher in discussing his two year experience. How many of us can say that about our faith?

Its all about the Iced Tea.

Henry from a small town in Mississippi was the parish maintenance man. Being a true southerner from a rural area he was not as sophisticated as we might expect. Henry drank his milk right from the carton and left a spit of iced tea in the pitcher even though he knew there wasn’t enough for his wife. His wife of three years was slowly working to change Henry to get him to think about his actions.

One day Henry was leaving for work and decided that a nice glass of iced tea would be just the thing he needed to jump start his day. Like usual Henry poured himself a glass and placed the nearly empty pitcher bag in the refrigerator. He headed out the door, started his pickup and was about to put it into gear when he had an epiphany. He realized that not only was leaving a nearly empty pitcher going to rive his wife crazy he realized he really loved her. So, he turned off the car, went inside, washed out the pitcher and brewed a new pot of tea and even sliced up some lemons. Henry knew that if he truly loved his wife he needed to demonstrate it by his actions.

When we say we believe in God that belief should not just be an academic pursuit but one which permeates our thoughts and actions. When I am at work, do I act in a loving and caring manner? Do I treat my neighbors with respect even when I disagree with them? Can the poor and those in need count on me to place their needs before my desires? Does my desire for more money, a better position, a bigger house and more personal recognition become the rule of my life? Are my spouse,children and parents first in my life or does work or hobbies crowd them out?

Belief in God is an action statement not just a declarative one. Will I fail in my belief? Yes, the Apostle Thomas didn’t believe that Jesus rose from the dead. Perhaps our prayer should be like the father of the child possessed who sought Jesus’ help: “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief.” (Mark 9:24)

(to be continued)

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