Homework For The World

discovering-god01I am sharing my homework here.  I have started taking classes through the Kino Catechetical Institute with the Phoenix Catholic Archdiocese.  Some who read my blog have no faith in God, believe in Jesus but not the Catholic Church and some are fully involved Catholics.  Whatever your background I hope that seeing my response to the homework causes some to think and seek God.

I am glad to be in this class.  My 14-year old self would call the Catechism the third testament of the Bible.  I would be wrong but in the neighborhood of being right.

Coming out of Protestantism where there was a constant duel with either/or paradigms one God’s election and man’s free will in soteriology, I find the approach in these paragraphs of the CCC to be altogether holistic to the mystery.  But that is not to say that it is entirely a mystery.

I am becoming more reinforced in my belief that God has a footprint of his presence over the whole world where individual cultures will point back to him by the nuances of their cultural schemas.

In many ways, throughout history down to the present day, men have given expression to their quest for God in their religious beliefs and behavior: in their prayers, sacrifices, rituals, meditations, and so forth. These forms of religious expression, despite the ambiguities they often bring with them, are so universal that one may well call man a religious being:

From one ancestor [God] made all nations to inhabit the whole earth, and he allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries of the places where they would live, so that they would search for God and perhaps grope for him and find him – though indeed he is not far from each one of us. For “in him we live and move and have our being.”  (Catechism of The Catholic Church, paragraph 28, 1994)

The search for the “Unknown God” is powerful in that there are signposts in our cultures that makes us thirst for purpose in the God who created us.

In several paragraphs in this assignment of 26-to 140 there are comments about natural law.  Where I have a pre-existing question that I hope to have answered is: where the natural law’s ability to instruct end and divine grace through the Holy Spirit begin? And what is the heart of the Catholic Church in addressing the needs of those who have reaped the repercussions of disobeying natural law and instructing them on how to start again?  Though the paragraphs of this assignment point to the philosophy of conversion being possible, they point to only the beginning.

But I see much humility in the Catholic Church about the chasm between truths that can be comprehended and appropriated seamlessly and those truths that are to be aprehended in mystery and prayed about continually.

God transcends all creatures. We must therefore continually purify our language of everything in it that is limited, image-bound or imperfect, if we are not to confuse our image of God–“the inexpressible, the incomprehensible, the invisible, the ungraspable”–with our human representations. Our human words always fall short of the mystery of God (para.42, CCC).

Now as to the revelation of God’s will in Church that was also addressed; this is near and dear to my heart.  In my young adulthood I was consumed as a zealous Protestant to be a part of my cult that supposedly got back to the restoring of what the early church really was and could be again based on our supposed insights given by God.

Years later I am even more deeply blown away by the “punk-hood” of my youth when I read the following.

The apostles entrusted the “Sacred deposit” of the faith (the depositum fidei),45 contained in Sacred Scripture and Tradition, to the whole of the Church. “By adhering to [this heritage] the entire holy people, united to its pastors, remains always faithful to the teaching of the apostles, to the brotherhood, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. So, in maintaining, practicing and professing the faith that has been handed on, there should be a remarkable harmony between the bishops and the faithful” (CCC, para. 84)

Reading this is a humbling blow to the restorationist man I used to be.  The part on “the teaching of the apostles, to the brotherhood, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” is a verse (Acts 2:42) that I used to think I had figured out.  Now I read this and remember that my instructor points to the four sections of the Catechism of The Catholic Church and shows how they nail each of those line items of scripture.  And the Church has nailed those essentials continually for two thousand years.

From my degree in the social sciences I would say there is no logical explanation that this institution would last for two thousand years against so much opposition and much less be able to guard the “Sacred deposit”  so well.  But it has.  The oak tree looks different from the seed but the DNA is the same.

As I write this in my beginning of a two year journey in the Kino Catechetical Institute, and possibly seven if I go towards the diaconate ministry, I can do no less than cover my mouth and ask for God to teach me that I can proclaim his love.

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Mary Warrior Queen- Human Magnifier

keep-calm-and-magnify-jesusTruth has consequences.  We do not always have things figured out on how to live a truth that is introduced to us if it is moral or spiritual.  In fact, “dry truth” may be easier because there is a always a quantifiable road on how to apply it.  Math has physics.  Biology has medicine.  But in a scene of the miraculous or that speaking of God in our hearts rare is the time that we “got it together”.  Any figuring out of God’s agenda has to be because we are filled with grace and the Holy Spirit in context of relationship to God.

So we see with this young woman two thousand years ago named Mary of Nazareth.  She gives her cooperation to God’s will not having much at all figured out but obeys one step at a time.  When she arrives at the house of her relative Elizabeth what we see is an openness to live, applied obedience, filling of the Holy Spirit and an absolute hope of bringing order to the chaos that evil creates.  Herein is the launching pad for Mary and what Matt Maher calls “the first Christian song” (see link below).

“And Mary said:

‘My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;

my spirit rejoices in God my savior.

For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness;

behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed.

The Mighty One has done great things for me,

and holy is his name.

His mercy is from age to age

to those who fear him.

He has shown might with his arm,

dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart.

He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones

but lifted up the lowly.

The hungry he has filled with good things;

the rich he has sent away empty.

He has helped Israel his servant,

remembering his mercy,

according to his promise to our fathers,

to Abraham and to his descendants forever’ “ (Luke 1:46-55).

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord— Some Bible versions say that her soul magnifies the Lord.  One of my surprises as I made my journey to the Catholic Church from my former Protestantism was how good Mariology only enhances ones Christology.  I highly recommend the books “Hail, Holy Queen” by Dr. Scott Hahn (former Presbyterian pastor) and “Behold Your Mother” by Tim Staples (former Assemblies of God youth minister).  They both make good cases on this point.  I know that I am only drawn closer to Jesus when I pray a rosary (in the Protestant Christianese dialect I say do a shout out for a prayer partner named Mary).  Involving her is both involving the Queen Mother and one who reminds me that God was made flesh and dwelt with us (John 1:14).

in God my savior—  “Aha! That shows she is a sinner.”  Not really.  If you pull me out of a pit then you are my savior.  If you yank me back when I am about to walk into a pit then you are just as much my savior.

behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed—- And that is true.  One could go to ancient writings and even a fresco that we before Constantine that illuminates her role in an honoring way.

His mercy is from age to age to those who fear him…He has helped Israel his servant, remembering his mercy — Mary is seeing that God is a Father who keeps his promises and it is based on covenantal faithfulness and not due to the intrinsic holiness of any person.

He has shown might with his arm… the lines here are about God manifesting His presence in such a way through the ages, and ongoing, so that social justice takes place out of divine origin.  People will reap what they sow whether it was good or bad.

The hungry he has filled with good things—this is the part where God distributes grace in the kingdom to those that make room for it.  For the rich who are stuck unto themselves there is not room for such good things.

according to his promise to our fathers, to Abraham and to his descendants forever—-this is powerful because I know Abraham is my father too but through faith (Luke 16:24, Romans 4).  For all who believe in Jesus and open up to him as Lord there is a continuation of salvation history  up to and through ones conversion.  This is the kingdom that will have no end and Mary stands as one who stands at the fork in the road of salvation history where one path points to a law without grace and another to Jesus as the “way, the truth and the life” (John 14:6).

If you are on the outside of Christianity looking in, I say choose Jesus.  If you are in the inside, keep choosing Jesus.  To magnify his name with your words and deeds is your calling.

PS

The link below will take you to a video of a song that is based on this passage of scripture.   The guest guitarist is the aforementioned Dr. Scott Hahn.

Mary, Warrior Queen–Party of Five.

judith-in-art-salvi

Not all gatherings are divine.  Some are get-togethers of people who have only goals that are shallow and only of this earth.  Some people gather seeking The Deity as they understand and are truly open to what will happen.  Some gatherings are mixed in intent.  Some are mixed in species like when Gabriel came to Mary passing on a Divine Proposal. Of that meetings one was an angel and the other was an almost mere human since she was conceived without sin.

Case in point of two humans with a resolutely divine purpose is Mary coming to her relative Elizabeth.  Mary carries Jesus and Elizabeth carries John who would prepare the way for Jesus. In this gathering is a calling and a called out gathering in the Greek is ecclesia.  Ecclessia is where we get church or iglesia in Spanish.  To an observer with the carnal eye it is a meeting of two women who may have lumps in their bellies.  To a divine observer there was more than two by far, as we will see, with women of also great significance to salvation history.

During those days Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah,  where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.  When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the holy Spirit,  cried out in a loud voice and said, “Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.  And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?  For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled” (Luke 1:39-45).

traveled to the hill country….. And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord[n] should come to me?—–  These lines show this great fellowship to be a case of the “Old is revealed in The New” (Augustine of Hippo).  These details have been pointed out by Scott Hahn in Hail, Holy Queen and Tim Staples in Behold Your Mother as closely related to when the Ark of The Covenant went to the hill country of Obed-Edom and then to King David who said parallel wording to that of Elizabeth. What we see here is a special recognition of the presence of God in a place that is out of the way but yet appointed.

and Elizabeth, filled with the holy Spirit,  cried out in a loud voice—— In this line are a layer of worship in spirit and truth (John 4) that speaks of a new Ark of The Covenant and its proper adoration.  The Old Testament was written in Hebrew and translated into Greek.  The New Testament was generally written in Greek including Luke. In the Old Testament the term “cried out” is used any times but there was one word for it that was used only when the Ark of the Covenant, an object that was sanctified by the presence of God, was used.  This word was used seven times in the Old Testament and used only once in the New—-right here.  True this conversation was originally in Aramaic but Luke has a way with words for a theological purpose.  As to our devotional purpose we can see the presence of Jesus as both divine and inherently a worship event whether quiet or not.

filled with the Holy Spirit,…. the infant in my womb leaped for joy—- This shows us that this church on the front yard is bigger than two.  We know from other scripture that the Holy Spirit is a person.  That makes three.  We know the Holy Spirit fills people and not things so John makes four.  And if John is a person in the womb then so is Jesus so that makes five.  We can apply right there that in a valid church gathering there should be an openness to life in all its forms and the filling of the Holy Spirit.  We see this repeated by Luke in his sequel, Acts, in how the early established church had that experience.

Blessed are you who believed—– This is the last but not least mark of try church we can get and if we blink we will miss it.  Mary is not to be understood as a model of faith because she was a bullseye target for the Holy Spirit to conceive Jesus.  She is known in Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition to be one who cooperated her faith and works with God’s will.  This shows the mark of a true church to be obedience to God’s will in pursuit of holiness. The theme we get so much in the bible is, according to Steve Ray in his Youtube video “Faith alone?” is that believe is a pregnant word that assumes a corresponding action to what God asks.

If ones experience of God’s kingdom begins and ends with personal happiness then it is not God’s kingdom. In this passage we see that the Holy Spirit indwells, all are counted with a culture of life and we come with resolved manner of obedience.  I frequently ask “What’s stopping us?”  Today I ask, are you caught up with the gatherings and mentalities of the world that would prevent you from those that are divine?

Most blessed are you among women—  If so, you can be a light in the world that casts our darkness.  This term is also used in the Old Testament for women that nail or cut off the head of the enemy literally (Jael, Judith).  If you are in sync on the details above, how does one not take the fight to the enemy with spiritual weapons.  No wonder Sacred Tradition uses the term of God’s people on earth as the Church Militant.  We who call ourselves Christians should be but not in carnal power but in spiritual.

Years later Paul saw it this way.

For while your obedience is known to all, so that I rejoice over you, I want you to be wise as to what is good, and simple as to what is evil; then the God of peace will quickly crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you” (Romans 16:19-20).  

Mary–Warrior Queen Part Two

keep-calm-and-stay-dedicated-4

If our lives are touched by the grace of God, and we are to go forward in applying it, how is it applied in the context of a relationship with him if things get more complex?  Here I think there is a lesson to be learned from a young Jewish girl two thousand years ago.

As I noted previously, Mary was approached by Gabriel and told that she would conceive the long awaited Messiah of Israel who would bring freedom and it would be in a way that is very expansive.  Mary was indeed full of grace which included a life filled with some sense of purpose.  When God challenges us, those things that are truly of him doing not really go away but are put in a context like gold that is refined in the fire.  When we are refined in a divine conversation of God, it is only for our good and that of the world around us as shown below.

“But Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?” And the angel said to her in reply, “The holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God. And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren; for nothing will be impossible for God.” Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her (Luke 1:34-38).

How can this be…?—  It is important to see that this is not a matter of doubt on God’s agenda being carried out for two reasons.

First, since God is impartial, she would have been punished if she doubted the word of God in this season since Zechariah the father of John the Baptist was struck mute for doubting that miraculous conception.  The difference is that Zechariah inserted that the natural decay of death was stronger than the author of life.  For him in that moment, natural law was an end in itself.

But for Mary there was the principle of consecration.  There is a strong case to be made that Mary was promised to God as a temple virgin and aged out of serving directly in the temple when she gained her menstrual cycle.  Far fetched?  Not so much if one sees celibacy as part of a spiritual life and law.

Imagine there is a wedding shower and there are comments that one day the bride to be will have a baby shower.  Then the bride says, “How can this be?  There is no sign of a stork nest being built outside my window and that is required for having a baby”.  There would be an uncomfortable silence as people wondered who is going to explain the biology of marriage.

The commentary of the Ignatius Study Bible explores this further.

“The Greek text literally says, ‘I do not know man’, which refer to Mary’s virginal status rather than her marital status.  Her concern is not that she is unmarried but that she is a virgin at present and that she is a virgin at present intends to remain one in the future.”

There are doctrinal and devotional applications to this interpretation of that verse.  Doctrinally, in the subset  of what is called Mariology, we see a great case for her perpetual virginity which was believed by Luther, Calvin and Wycliff.  There is also scriptural foundation for a husband to know of a wife’s pre-existing vow and endorsing it by silence (Numbers 30:11-13).

But for the personal devotion life of the believer there is something important for individual, spiritual formation.  Mary answered back defending the beautiful premise that saving herself sexually for God alone was important to her.  Is your calling to be a spouse, celibate, celibate but looking?  Bring God into that. Cherish his will for your life with an attitude of thanksgiving.

The holy Spirit will come upon you—- This line goes toward the profound establishment of God’s kingdom with wording that is reminiscent of the dedication of Solomon’s Temple.  God came in a cloud on that temple and an anointing was put on the king who was referred to as the meshiach or “Anointed One” where we get Messiah.  Mary would be the first person in the New Testament who would be a true worshiper because she would carry the Son of God truly and not as an honorific title for the Davidic dynasty.

Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived.—-  I have long cherished an African proverb, “If you want to go fast, go alone.  If you want to go far, go together.”  The encouragement Mary receives is that she is not alone and and God has a plan for her to be worked out in community.  God calls all of us beyond ourselves first to Him but in the faces of others.

Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.——  Being at piece in her consecration to God, her mission more specifically in God and her place in community Mary is in a very mature place to give an informed yes and live it out.  Our names, circumstances and callings in life may be different but the principles are there.  We can benefit from all those principles so that we can be flexible when God knocks on our doors and calls us to make a new ways for Him.  The absence of such are the only things stopping us from those even quieter conversations with God when he comes knocking in our lives.

Mary–Warrior Queen (Forget Xena)

Annunciation

It takes two perfect people to have the perfect relationship. Some spouses will compliment the other one saying that the other person’s perfection makes it happen.  That sounds sweet, but it is not entirely accurate when humanity is involved but not so if one is divine.   But if one is divine and changes the setting for the human involved then the whole dynamic is different.

Such is the case in the Bible when one comes to Mary.  Here we see the most perfect collaboration between the infinite God, through an angel, and a finite, specially touched human.  She was specifically a young woman in an age where women were not highly esteemed.  But in relationship to God, she is empowered in a faith journey that is not for cowards of either gender.

There is another part to the historical backdrop in the Bible before getting to Mary: unfaithfulness.  God’s people in the Old Testament were described as unfaithful but struggled righteously and unrighteously.  God starts things anew with someone in Mary that had a context of being faithful to God and called to be on the offense.

  “And he [Gabriel] came to her and said, ‘Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you!’ But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and considered in her mind what sort of greeting this might be.  And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David,and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there will be no end.”(Luke 1:27-33).

Hail [Rejoice]— The “Hail” is not a casual “hi”.  If one looks at the correspondence of the first century between highly esteemed officials, this word is used only to someone of notable, royal distinction.  Mary had that going on as one set aside by the King of the Universe for a special station in life.

Yet from an Old Testament perspective there is a Zion, or Davidic dynasty, connection.  The following verse from Pope Benedict XVI is pointed out also with that same greek word, “Rejoice, daughter of Zion; shout, Israel…the king of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst” (Zephaniah 14-17).  Pope Benedict also states, “The essential reason for the daughter of Zion to rejoice is stated in the text itself; ‘the Lord is in your midst’.  Literally it says: ‘he is in your womb’ (Pope Benedixt XVI, Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives).  What is being heralded in just that word alone is like a shorthand for God’s kingdom to come—- and is coming now.

Full of Grace—  The original Greek is Kecharitomene, the perfect passive participle, shows a “completeness with a permanent result. Kecharitomene denotes continuance of a completed action” (H. W. Smyth, Greek Grammar [Harvard Univ Press, 1968], p. 108-109, sec 1852:b; also Blass and DeBrunner, p. 175).  Or, as I have seen in my journey into the Catholic Church, she was too full of grace to have room for anything else.  Therefore, to me, she stands as the perfect prototype as the Theortokos (God-bearer) for what the Bride of Christ is supposed to be.  The words I have commenting on here and others to come in the infancy era of Jesus indicated she was without sin.  The Early Church Fathers were unanimous on this point.

So here we have royalty for a grand scale and grace with even grander ramifications all set for an expanding influence as demonstrated by—-

The Lord is with you…she was greatly troubled—-  This is not a goose bump phrase. This phrase in the Old Testament was for servants of God like Moses, Joshua and David who would go into the land promised to them by covenant.  They were used by God for natural warfare for that level of revelation.  Mary was to be used, launched by covenant, to expand God’s influence through a spiritual warfare but at that moment she did not know that.  She just knew that this greeting indicated a level and form of influence beyond what she would think was her humble state in life could handle.  So there was some fear there.

Do not be afraid, Mary… you have found favor with God. — Mary was full of grace but Gabriel elaborated that God’s favor for her and her mission was for that grace to overflow by the direct hand of God with one undeniable fact—  the source and summit of the grace and favor for her was external to her in God.

Gabriel— then gives her a micro-blueprint of the gospel and what church is supposed to be like.

you will conceive—  as the angel unfold’s God’s plan for her life there is a connection to the Incarnation.

you shall call his name Jesus—- Jesus means “God saves”.   The Incarnation means salvation is some way yet to be revealed.

He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High;—-  Here is the framework in that it will be in the pattern of David as the throne is from David.

and of his kingdom there will be no end——  The declaration of God Incarnate and being savior of the world happens within a framework of a kingdom that has no end and thus a continuation.

On the devotional side, how can a modern person relate to these lofty subjects?  Well, we know through the rest of the story that Mary cooperated with a kingdom that is personal, holistic, authoritative and beyond our early lives.  These are ways that God initiates to us for full participation.  But in some ways our calling is not as good as Mary’s in that moment.  She was to carry God in her womb.  If we respond in the same humility to the gospel of the kingdom, we carry Jesus in our hearts. Could that be better?  Could that be possible?  What’s stopping you?