As I go further in this week’s readings for my homework the term “laying down the gauntlet” comes to mind. I have heard that term when I was in school about different theories of psychology. Some would come and go but some seem to have staying power to describe or explain the psyche of humanity. That is essentially what psychology is with theories that can be tested by observation 100% of the time or they will not have credibility. In fact, true of almost any “logy”.
Where theology from a Christian perspective is the exception is that it involves the explanation of God’s nature in relation to humanity with professionals or amateurs (like myself). This is incredible in the sense that it is no discipline by the rules of observation described above.
Only the light of divine Revelation clarifies the reality of sin and particularly of the sin committed at mankind’s origins. Without the knowledge Revelation gives of God we cannot recognize sin clearly and are tempted to explain it as merely a developmental flaw, a psychological weakness, a mistake, or the necessary consequence of an inadequate social structure, etc. Only in the knowledge of God’s plan for man can we grasp that sin is an abuse of the freedom that God gives to created persons so that they are capable of loving him and loving one another (Catechism of The Catholic Church, para. 387, 1994).
I am reminded of the saying from GK Chesterton that “When is a train most free? On its tracks”. Seems silly in wording but holds reason. I use that quote sometimes with my clients in recovery and illustrate how silly it really is to say that we have set a train “free” if we knock it over. So in the spiritual realm I can say the same about when we know the plan of God in our lives in what the Gospel states and fail to conform as designed. If we submit to that plan we are then free to be “capable of loving him and loving one another”.
“At the heart of catechesis we find, in essence, a Person, the Person of Jesus of Nazareth, the only Son from the Father. . .who suffered and died for us and who now, after rising, is living with us forever.” To catechize is “to reveal in the Person of Christ the whole of God’s eternal design reaching fulfillment in that Person. It is to seek to understand the meaning of Christ’s actions and words and of the signs worked by him.”‘ Catechesis aims at putting “people . . . in communion . . . with Jesus Christ: only he can lead us to the love of the Father in the Spirit and make us share in the life of the Holy Trinity ” (CCC, para. 426, 1994).
Catechesis is the handing down of Sacred Tradition that began with the apostolic preaching of the 12 apostles who were witnesses of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.
Because one of my goals is to pass on the teachings of the Church to others, starting with my children, I really take this to heart. My favorite line is how “Catechesis aims at putting ‘people . . . in communion . . . with Jesus Christ’ “. This is rich to me because in recent years I have seen conversion as an ongoing process that is sustained by God’s grace.
In catechesis “Christ, the Incarnate Word and Son of God,. . . is taught – everything else is taught with reference to him – and it is Christ alone who teaches – anyone else teaches to the extent that he is Christ’s spokesman, enabling Christ to teach with his lips. . . Every catechist should be able to apply to himself the mysterious words of Jesus: ‘My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me’ “ (CCC, para.427)
This brings to mind the fine line of authority. Frequently in the New Testament the giving of power to the followers of Jesus is exhousia which is specifically delegated authority. The above paragraph implores the one who would teach the Sacred Scriptures and/or Sacred Tradition to remember that they are answerable to God and the delegated authority that is over them. The teacher is not the plan but just passes it on.
But in stepping out of this wonderful bubble of the Kingdom of God, there is always a reminder that there is an ugly world out there. It is one of people loving things and using people instead of loving people and using things as ways to love people (Pope John Paul II).
From the beginning of Christian history, the assertion of Christ’s lordship over the world and over history has implicitly recognized that man should not submit his personal freedom in an absolute manner to any earthly power, but only to God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Caesar is not “the Lord”. “The Church. . . believes that the key, the center and the purpose of the whole of man’s history is to be found in its Lord and Master” (CCC, para. 450).
Whenever possible, the wisdom of historical Christianity does well with “both/and” and often does not try to instigate conflicts. But when the Church is consistent with the deposit of faith in practice down to the most humble believer we must declare out of the divine revelation in the Gospel that Caesar, secular humanism, materialism, ISIS and convenience are not lord but Jesus is Lord. I am growing further in the belief that the further the Body of Christ grows in the centrality of Jesus Christ and His divine nature shining through us, the more distinction will be on the darkness of this world.