Year of Faith Catechism Study: CCC 2574-2580, 2593-2594 – The Prayers of Moses and David

clock August 20, 2013 01:02 by author John |

Today’s Catechism sections discuss the prayers of Moses and David. Supporting material comes from Pope Benedict XVI’s “Jesus of Nazareth”.

Moses and the prayer of the mediator

2574 Once the promise begins to be fulfilled (Passover, the Exodus, the gift of the Law, and the ratification of the covenant), the prayer of Moses becomes the most striking example of intercessory prayer, which will be fulfilled in "the one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus."19

2575 Here again the initiative is God's. From the midst of the burning bush he calls Moses.20 This event will remain one of the primordial images of prayer in the spiritual tradition of Jews and Christians alike. When "the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob" calls Moses to be his servant, it is because he is the living God who wants men to live. God reveals himself in order to save them, though he does not do this alone or despite them: he calls Moses to be his messenger, an associate in his compassion, his work of salvation. There is something of a divine plea in this mission, and only after long debate does Moses attune his own will to that of the Savior God. But in the dialogue in which God confides in him, Moses also learns how to pray: he balks, makes excuses, above all questions: and it is in response to his question that the Lord confides his ineffable name, which will be revealed through his mighty deeds.

2576 "Thus the Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend."21 Moses' prayer is characteristic of contemplative prayer by which God's servant remains faithful to his mission. Moses converses with God often and at length, climbing the mountain to hear and entreat him and coming down to the people to repeat the words of his God for their guidance. Moses "is entrusted with all my house. With him I speak face to face, clearly, not in riddles," for "Moses was very humble, more so than anyone else on the face of the earth."22

2577 From this intimacy with the faithful God, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love,23 Moses drew strength and determination for his intercession. He does not pray for himself but for the people whom God made his own. Moses already intercedes for them during the battle with the Amalekites and prays to obtain healing for Miriam.24 But it is chiefly after their apostasy that Moses "stands in the breach" before God in order to save the people.25 The arguments of his prayer - for intercession is also a mysterious battle - will inspire the boldness of the great intercessors among the Jewish people and in the Church: God is love; he is therefore righteous and faithful; he cannot contradict himself; he must remember his marvelous deeds, since his glory is at stake, and he cannot forsake this people that bears his name.

David and the prayer of the king

2578 The prayer of the People of God flourishes in the shadow of God's dwelling place, first the Ark of the Covenant and later the Temple. At first the leaders of the people - the shepherds and the prophets - teach them to pray. The infant Samuel must have learned from his mother Hannah how "to stand before the LORD" and from the priest Eli how to listen to his word: "Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening."26 Later, he will also know the cost and consequence of intercession: "Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by ceasing to pray for you; and I will instruct you in the good and the right way."27

2579 David is par excellence the king "after God's own heart," the shepherd who prays for his people and prays in their name. His submission to the will of God, his praise, and his repentance, will be a model for the prayer of the people. His prayer, the prayer of God's Anointed, is a faithful adherence to the divine promise and expresses a loving and joyful trust in God, the only King and Lord.28 In the Psalms David, inspired by the Holy Spirit, is the first prophet of Jewish and Christian prayer. The prayer of Christ, the true Messiah and Son of David, will reveal and fulfill the meaning of this prayer.

2580 The Temple of Jerusalem, the house of prayer that David wanted to build, will be the work of his son, Solomon. The prayer at the dedication of the Temple relies on God's promise and covenant, on the active presence of his name among his People, recalling his mighty deeds at the Exodus.29 The king lifts his hands toward heaven and begs the Lord, on his own behalf, on behalf of the entire people, and of the generations yet to come, for the forgiveness of their sins and for their daily needs, so that the nations may know that He is the only God and that the heart of his people may belong wholly and entirely to him.

IN BRIEF

2593 The prayer of Moses responds to the living God's initiative for the salvation of his people. It foreshadows the prayer of intercession of the unique mediator, Christ Jesus.

2594 The prayer of the People of God flourished in the shadow of the dwelling place of God's presence on earth, the Ark of the Covenant and the Temple, under the guidance of their shepherds, especially King David, and of the prophets.

The parallels between Moses and Jesus are discussed by Benedict XVI in Jesus of Nazareth: From the Baptism in the Jordan to the Transfiguration.

Jesus sits on the cathedra of Moses. But he does so not after the manner of teachers who are trained for the job in a school; he sits there as the greater Moses, who broadens the Covenant to include all nations. This also explains the significance of the mountain. The Evangelist does not tell us which of the hills of Galilee it was. But the very fact that it is the scene of Jesus' preaching makes it simply "the mountain"—the new Sinai. The "mountain" is the place where Jesus prays—where he is face-to-face with the Father. And that is exactly why it is also the place of his teachings, since his teaching comes forth from this most intimate exchange with the Father. The "mountain," then, is by the very nature of the case established as the new and definitive Sinai. (p. 66)

Footnotes

19 ⇒ 1 Tim 2:5.
20 ⇒ Ex 3:1-10.
21 ⇒ Ex 33:11.
22 ⇒ Num 12:3,7-8.
23 Cf. ⇒ Ex 34:6.
24 Cf. ⇒ Ex 17:8-12; ⇒ Num 12:13-14.
25 ⇒ Ps 106:23; cf. ⇒ Ex 32:1- ⇒ 34:9.
26 ⇒ 1 Sam 3:9-10; cf. ⇒ 1:9-18.
27 ⇒ 1 Sam 12:23.
28 Cf. ⇒ 2 Sam 7:18-29.
29 ⇒ 1 Kings 8:10-61.



How to Help the Poor Souls in Purgatory

clock December 14, 2012 20:53 by author John |
Holy Mass for Souls in Purgatory
The Holy Mass is a powerful way to aid the Poor Souls in Purgatory.

This is the fourth article in a series on the Catholic understanding of Purgatory

Part 1: Introduction to the Catholic Understanding of Purgatory
Part 2: What is Purgatory Like? The Catholic Understanding of the Pains of Purification
Part 3: How to Avoid Purgatory: 8 Specific Ways to Reduce or Eliminate your Time in Purgatory
Part 4: How to Help the Poor Souls in Purgatory
Part 5: Indulgences - Definition and Meaning: The God's Mercy Dispensed Through the Catholic Church

Who are the Souls in Purgatory?

The souls in Purgatory are known as the Church Suffering. They are called “Poor” souls because they are separated from the Beatific Vision due to unsatisfied debt due to the sins they committed while they were on Earth. While their sins may have been forgiven in the Sacrament of Confession, they may not have made proper penance for them, and so any temporal punishment due for those sins must be endured in Purgatory. 

The souls in Purgatory are also known as the “Holy Souls” for two main reasons. First, they are no longer able to sin. Secondly, they are assured of their salvation, though they must be purified before they can stand in the presence of God for eternity.

The Church Calls Us to Help the Souls in Purgatory

The teaching of the Church is clear throughout the ages about our duty to help the souls in Purgatory. They are our departed brothers and sisters in Christ. They lived virtuous lives and ultimately chose to love God. They deserve our support in reaching the reward of Heaven. The Catechism of the Catholic Church makes clear our responsibility for the poor souls and the efficacy of our prayers for them:

1032 This teaching is also based on the practice of prayer for the dead, already mentioned in Sacred Scripture: "Therefore Judas Maccabeus] made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin."607 From the beginning the Church has honored the memory of the dead and offered prayers in suffrage for them, above all the Eucharistic sacrifice, so that, thus purified, they may attain the beatific vision of God.608 The Church also commends almsgiving, indulgences, and works of penance undertaken on behalf of the dead:

Let us help and commemorate them. If Job's sons were purified by their father's sacrifice, why would we doubt that our offerings for the dead bring them some consolation? Let us not hesitate to help those who have died and to offer our prayers for them.609

How Can We Pray for the Souls in Purgatory?

The most efficacious way to help the souls in Purgatory is to have masses said for them. In Sacramentum Caritatis, Pope Benedict XVI expressed the value of prayer, especially the Holy Mass in helping the souls in Purgatory:

The Eucharistic celebration, in which we proclaim that Christ has died and risen, and will come again, is a pledge of the future glory in which our bodies too will be glorified. Celebrating the memorial of our salvation strengthens our hope in the resurrection of the body and in the possibility of meeting once again, face to face, those who have gone before us marked with the sign of faith. In this context I wish, together with the synod fathers, to remind all the faithful of the importance of prayers for the dead, especially the offering of Mass for them, so that, once purified, they can come to the beatific vision of God. A rediscovery of the eschatological dimension inherent in the Eucharist, celebrated and adored, will help sustain us on our journey and comfort us in the hope of glory (cf Rom 5:2; Ti 2:13) (Sacramentum Caritatis 32).

In addition to masses , the Rosary, and Stations of the Cross are very powerful ways to assist the Church Suffering. These prayers all have indulgences attached to them, and as we will see, indulgences are a tool we can utilize to help the poor souls.

Fasting, Almsgiving, and Offering of Our Sacrifices for the Souls in Purgatory

Aside from prayer, there are a variety of ways in which we can assist the souls in Purgatory. Fasting, almsgiving, and the offering of our sacrifices to God in atonement for their sins are excellent ways to help them. Many of us suffer physical or emotional pains, which can be offered for the poor souls. This suffering is united with the Passion of Christ and when applied to the poor souls can cause their release and entrance into Heaven. 

Indulgences Can be Gained on Behalf of the Souls in Purgatory

A specific indulgence is given in the "Enchiridion of Indulgences", which is specifically for the souls in Purgatory. Here is the quote: 

13. Visit to a Cemetery (Coemeterii visitatio)

An indulgence, applicable only to the Souls in Purgatory, is granted to the faithful, who devoutly visit a cemetery and pray, even if only mentally, for the departed.

The indulgence is plenary each day from the 1st to the 8th of November; on other days of the year it is partial. 

In order for the indulgence to be plenary, you must meet the following conditions in addition to praying at the cemetery for the souls...

1. Sacramental confession within “about twenty days” of the actual day of the Plenary Indulgence.

2. Eucharistic Communion on the day of the Plenary Indulgence.

3. Prayer for the intentions of the Pope on the day of the Plenary Indulgence.

4. It is further required that all attachment to sin, even venial sin, be absent.

In addition to this specific indulgence, any indulgence can be offered for the good of the souls in Purgatory if we specifically make the request that the graces be applied to them.

Penance for Souls that are Not in Purgatory

Graces are never wasted. God's infinite justice assures this. If a soul is in Heaven and we pray, fast or do any other penance for them, those specific graces that would have helped the soul out of Purgatory are bestowed on other souls in need of them. The soul may also benefit from those graces in Heaven, growing yet closer to God. St. Thomas Aquinas called this "accidental glory". The souls in Heaven can grow and change (they are mutable), though they cannot depart from the Beatific Vision. 

Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, O. P., the noted theologian, Thomistic scholar, and teacher of the future Pope John Paul II, commented on this concept in his book, "The One God":

All creatures, as regards their accidental being, are mutable by an intrinsic power. Even in the angels there is mutability as regards their choice of either good or evil. All were created good and in grace, and some freely merited their eternal happiness, whereas others sinned. In fact, the blessed are capable of receiving new accidental illuminations and of acquiring accidental glory. Finally, there is mutability in the angels by way of virtual contact, inasmuch as they can act in this place or that, and do not always act in the same place.

The State of Grace

You should be in the state of grace before helping the souls in Purgatory. The Enchiridion of Indulgences states that you must be in the state of grace in order to earn an indulgence for yourself. Theologians have expressed mixed opinions on whether you must be in the state of grace in order to earn indulgences for the souls in Purgatory.  

Whether or not our prayers are efficacious for the souls in Purgatory when we are not in the state of grace should be a secondary concern for us. Our first concern should be with gaining and maintaining the state of grace for our own good. When you are in the state of grace, you can focus your energy on others, including the souls in Purgatory.

Eternal Gratitude

The souls released from Purgatory are eternally grateful to us for assisting them in attaining eternal joy in Heaven. They are part of the Church Triumphant, those blessed souls who are nearest to God, and have a special intimate connection with Him. Their prayers are very powerful, and they will pray for us in gratitude for our care for them. The Universal Church is indeed one in Christ, praying for one another and thus helping each other when we are in most need.



Tuesday Ear Tickler: Nathaniel Frank Distorts Scripture to Fit His Homosexual Agenda

clock December 11, 2012 02:02 by author John |

The Tuesday Ear Tickler award is Solemn Charge’s weekly recognition of teachers who “Tickle the Ears” of those who “no longer endure sound doctrine”. In the spirit of 2 Timothy 4: 2-4, this award serves to identify theological or doctrinal errors, dissent or hostility toward the Magisterium of the Catholic Church, or writing that undermines the purpose of each human soul – to know love and serve God so as to enjoy eternal happiness with Him in Heaven. I make no judgment of the writer’s intentions. Usually the winner of this award was raised in the 60’s so that right there is a mitigating factor toward their culpability for their actions. I do judge concrete actions and the quality of ideas, however…

Today’s winner is Nathaniel Frank (absolutely no relation to the keeper of this blog), who is a gay rights pusher and apparently, a Bible distorter. He tries to claim that homosexual activity is a social taboo and that it is only wrong in so far as it is not a customary thing for the culture at the time, naming his article, “Is Homosexuality a Sin?” His article is quite long and filled with error, so bear with me as I take it apart piece by piece. It takes many words to correct the many errors in his work. (Mr. Frank’s comments in the red quote boxes, my comments in black.)

When Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said last week that his faith teaches that homosexuality is a sin, he was clearly speaking to social conservatives. But with the 2016 election in mind, he was simultaneously moderating his rhetoric, so he also said that while his faith "informs" him "as a policy maker," he would never use it "to pass judgment on people."

It's a logically dubious position. If a set of judgments about people informs you as a policy maker, then how can you avoid judging people, and equally importantly, why should you? Casting further doubt on his sincerity, Rubio has indeed judged gay people as unworthy of equal protection under the law, opposing letting them marry, adopt or serve openly in the military.

Rubio’s point, which is aligned with Catholic teaching is that judgment is passed on concrete acts. For example, arson is wrong. There could be factors involved with the arsonist’s decision-making process that lessen his culpability for the arson, such as mental illness (pyromania) or societal acceptance or promotion of arson that causes the arsonist to believe that the arson is morally neutral or even desirable. These circumstances prevent a person from judging the reasons behind the arson, but it is still possible to clearly identify certain actions that are wrong without condemning the actor. Frank’s argument is based on emotion, as is generally the case with moral relativists, and seems to conclude that a person cannot separate the act of identifying evil behavior from the act of condemning the actor. This is perhaps the case with a great many people in our society, but it should not be, and indeed, many people are able to make this distinction.

Rubio, who has called for Republicans to appeal more to minorities and immigrants, was trying to soften his moralizing as part of a new brand of Republican thinking after the Party's White House bid failed decisively last month. The brand takes the one page from the George W. Bush playbook that the GOP still finds useful: the so-called "compassionate conservatism" embodied by the principle of "hate the sin, love the sinner." As Rubio put it, "there isn't a person in this room that isn't guilty of sin."

This is small consolation for gays (and their proliferating supporters), who shouldn't have to feel that expressing their love sexually is a shameful transgression that's tolerated merely because other evil things are, too. But Rubio was trying to walk a fine line that's increasingly tough for Republicans to pull off: salvaging their coalition of evangelicals and more moderate conservatives by moralizing and not moralizing at the same time.

Rather than evaluate the truth and wisdom of the Church’s teaching on sexual morality, Frank is more concerned with the way homosexuals “feel”. If an action is evil, and society has embraced it, that society turns on the messenger that has denounced it, claiming that they are insensitive, old-fashioned, outdated, or too legalistic. We see in these statements that Frank, like many in the gay rights movement have moved beyond simply trying to convince society to tolerate moral depravity. These statements are a direct assault on the sacred right of Christians to proclaim their faith and its moral teachings. This is pure moral relativism at its worst. These statements are a prime example of why Pope Benedict (while still Cardinal Ratzinger) called out the “dictatorship of relativism” in April of 2005:

Having a clear Faith, based on the Creed of the Church, is often labeled today as a fundamentalism. Whereas, relativism, which is letting oneself be tossed and "swept along by every wind of teaching", looks like the only attitude acceptable to today's standards. We are moving towards a dictatorship of relativism which does not recognize anything as certain and which has as its highest goal one's own ego and one's own desires.

 

The Bible, both the Old and New Testaments, actually contains two different kinds of sin. One is an act considered morally wrong because it's hurtful or dangerous. This includes obvious violations of the social contract, such as murder and theft, as well as sentiments that are discouraged because they can lead to unfairness or harm: greed, envy, idleness and arrogance. It also includes violations of more minor rules that can seem like mere rituals but which evolved to keep a population safe or healthy from perceived dangers, such as rules about diet and sanitation.

The second kind of sin is a violation against social conventions. This is where the word "moral" comes from, as in "social mores." These refer to practices and beliefs widely shared by your community, but which are not intrinsically beneficial or harmful. These mores exist as a way to bind the community together, often in opposition to another group.

Which kind of sin is homosexuality, according to the Bible? Certainly in an era of tribal rivalries and high infant mortality, procreative sex was encouraged as necessary to population growth, making alternatives potentially harmful to group survival. This, at least, is a popular explanation of how both masturbation and homosexuality became taboo in biblical times and would place them in the moral category of intrinsic harm.

Yet this explanation for the origin of anti-gay sentiment is unconvincing. Only in recent times has homosexuality become such a distinct identity that it implies forgoing procreative sex, and scholars believe that, as in many non-Western cultures today, those who engaged in same-sex behavior in the ancient world often married and slept with members of the opposite sex, too.

Instead, what becomes clear from actually reading the Bible on homosexuality is that the anti-gay taboo is, above all, a badge of team membership -- of a piece with opposition to outsiders and nonbelievers. Leviticus appears to condemn same-sex desire unequivocally, forbidding "lying with a man" as an "abomination." But the word normally translated as "abomination" is more properly understood as simply "taboo" -- something forbidden by custom, largely because it's associated with other groups. Indeed, the literal meaning of "taboo" is "set apart."

This explanation is complete balderdash.  In many passages in the Bible, the word “abomination” is used and it applies to all varieties of sin from the most serious, such as idolatry: “Cursed be the man who makes a graven or molten image, an abomination to the LORD” (Deut 27:15) and murder all the way down to arrogance and deceit: “There are six things which the LORD hates, seven which are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and a man who sows discord among brothers.” (Proverbs 6:16-19). There is no distinction between sins which are an abomination and those that are not. All sin is an abomination to the Lord.

Furthermore, we know that the most serious sins are punished by death in the Old Testament. In Leviticus 20: 13, God commands that “If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall be put to death, their blood is upon them.” Not only is homosexuality punished by death in this chapter of Leviticus, but also anyone who “gives his child to Moloch” (v 2), “turns to mediums and wizards” (v 6), “curses his father or his mother” (v 9), “commits adultery” (v 10), or commits any other sexually immoral act (v 11-21), will be put to death, “cut off from his people”, or “die childless”, all of which are generally considered to be the most severe punishments.

The Old Testament taboo against homosexuality appears in a passage that's all about the duty of Jews to honor and obey God, meant to set them apart from pagans. It begins with God telling the Israelites to worship only him and follow only his rules and not those of the whacky Egyptians and Canaanites just because they may pass through their lands. In other words, when in Rome, do not as the Romans do, or you'll mark yourself as a member of the wrong team. The so-called "abomination" really denotes a non-Israelite cultic practice, like the worship of foreign idols. It's an act that the Israelites were forbidden from doing because others did it, not because it was intrinsically bad.

I’m not sure if Frank is deliberately misleading his readers or if this is an oversight, but he claims that the taboo against homosexuality appears in “a passage that’s all about the duty of Jews to honor and obey God, meant to set them apart from pagans.” This is true – of one instance of the prohibition against homosexuality. There are a multitude of other passages, such as the one I quoted above from Leviticus 20, which forbid homosexual depravity and lumps it together with other offenses punishable by death – the most serious offenses. He gives the impression that it is only forbidden in one passage. That is patently false.

Like the Hebrew scriptures, the New Testament appears to condemn homosexuality in no uncertain terms, most notably in Paul's letter to the Romans, which bemoans men who relinquish their natural function and "burn in their lust" for each other. But it turns out that this desire is not so much the cause of harm but the punishment for a much greater violation: denying God. "Even though they knew God, they did not honor him," writes Paul. "Therefore, God gave them over" to such desires -- along with a long list of others. Like the Jews, Christians threw homosexuality into a bucket of no-nos (along with gossip, insolence and apostasy) to solidify their team membership against nonbelievers and outsiders.

Sometimes things are exactly how they appear. I’m not sure how he claims that homosexuality was not a sin, but merely a punishment for denying God. Clearly something that is “shameful” and “indecent” is sinful. They “received the due penalty for their perversion”, which indicates that they were punished additionally for the acts they committed which “God gave them over to”. God allowed them to fall into other sins because they rejected the graces He gave them. Here is the full quote from Romans 1:26-27:

Therefore, God handed them over to degrading passions. Their females exchanged natural relations for unnatural, and the males likewise gave up natural relations with females and burned with lust for one another. Males did shameful things with males and thus received in their own persons the due penalty for their perversity.

We know that without God’s grace, we fall further and deeper into sin. One sin leads to another. A man cannot maintain a particular level of evil. He always looks for the next and greater evil unless he returns to God, in which case he opens himself to God’s graces.

Looked at in proper context, the biblical taboo against same-sex desire was a product of one key fact: that foreigners and apostates practiced it. That fact, above all else, appears to be what made it unacceptable, more than anything intrinsic to same-sex acts, such as their association with depopulation.

This conclusion is based on false assumptions, therefore, it cannot be maintained. Homosexual acts were clearly forbidden in both the Old and New Testaments and included with the most grave sins.

What a Christian ought to say when asked if homosexuality is a sin is whatever he says when asked if an atheist is sinning by denying God or failing to attend Church on Sunday, which is also how an observant Jew or Muslim should answer if asked if it's morally wrong to eat pork. Homosexuality is only condemned in scripture for adherents of Judaism and Christianity (and it's actually debatable whether condemnation is the only interpretation of those texts -- increasingly, people of faith are showing strong support for LGBT dignity and equality).

This also is a false conclusion based on bad logic. Homosexuality is a violation of the natural law, like murder. It was punished by God among the “foreign people” as well as the Jews to whom the law was given. God destroyed the entire cities of Sodom and Gomorrah for the sins of homosexuality in the book of Genesis. It was not simply a cultural guideline that only the Jews should follow, otherwise the heathens in Sodom and Gomorrah wouldn’t have been scorched to death with holy fire.

The distinction between moral rules designed to prevent harm and moral rules meant solely to mark team membership is critical, and blurring it -- as the religious right has done for decades -- is itself a moral transgression that creates more harm than it prevents, and not only for those who are wrongly judged but for politicians like Rubio who continue to think they must square a circle instead of reexamining the shape altogether.

The laws of God require no “reexamination”. They are the eternal Truth. They have lasted throughout the history of man and will continue to endure long after Frank and other moral relativists have been brushed aside like every other heretic in the history of the Church. The blurring is done by liberals who feast on confusion and moral equivocation, sowing doubt and dissent among the faithful.

I hereby award the Tuesday Ear Tickler Award for Tuesday, December 11, 2012 to Nathaniel Frank, who is again, no relation to the author of this blog.



Year of Faith Catechism Study: CCC 385-395, 413-414 – The Fall of Man and the Fallen Angels

clock November 25, 2012 01:01 by author John |

Today’s Catechism sections discuss the fall of man and the fallen angels. Supporting material comes from a general audience of Pope Benedict XVI and “City of God” by St. Augustine.

Paragraph 7. THE FALL

385 God is infinitely good and all his works are good. Yet no one can escape the experience of suffering or the evils in nature which seem to be linked to the limitations proper to creatures: and above all to the question of moral evil. Where does evil come from? "I sought whence evil comes and there was no solution", said St. Augustine,257 and his own painful quest would only be resolved by his conversion to the living God. For "the mystery of lawlessness" is clarified only in the light of the "mystery of our religion".258 The revelation of divine love in Christ manifested at the same time the extent of evil and the superabundance of grace.259 We must therefore approach the question of the origin of evil by fixing the eyes of our faith on him who alone is its conqueror.260

I. WHERE SIN ABOUNDED, GRACE ABOUNDED ALL THE MORE

The reality of sin

386 Sin is present in human history; any attempt to ignore it or to give this dark reality other names would be futile. To try to understand what sin is, one must first recognize the profound relation of man to God, for only in this relationship is the evil of sin unmasked in its true identity as humanity's rejection of God and opposition to him, even as it continues to weigh heavy on human life and history.

387 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.

Original sin - an essential truth of the faith

388 With the progress of Revelation, the reality of sin is also illuminated. Although to some extent the People of God in the Old Testament had tried to understand the pathos of the human condition in the light of the history of the fall narrated in Genesis, they could not grasp this story's ultimate meaning, which is revealed only in the light of the death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ.261 We must know Christ as the source of grace in order to know Adam as the source of sin. The Spirit-Paraclete, sent by the risen Christ, came to "convict the world concerning sin",262 by revealing him who is its Redeemer.

389 The doctrine of original sin is, so to speak, the "reverse side" of the Good News that Jesus is the Savior of all men, that all need salvation and that salvation is offered to all through Christ. The Church, which has the mind of Christ,263 knows very well that we cannot tamper with the revelation of original sin without undermining the mystery of Christ.

How to read the account of the fall

390 The account of the fall in Genesis 3 uses figurative language, but affirms a primeval event, a deed that took place at the beginning of the history of man.264 Revelation gives us the certainty of faith that the whole of human history is marked by the original fault freely committed by our first parents.265

II. THE FALL OF THE ANGELS

391 Behind the disobedient choice of our first parents lurks a seductive voice, opposed to God, which makes them fall into death out of envy.266 Scripture and the Church's Tradition see in this being a fallen angel, called "Satan" or the "devil".267 The Church teaches that Satan was at first a good angel, made by God: "The devil and the other demons were indeed created naturally good by God, but they became evil by their own doing."268

392 Scripture speaks of a sin of these angels.269 This "fall" consists in the free choice of these created spirits, who radically and irrevocably rejected God and his reign. We find a reflection of that rebellion in the tempter's words to our first parents: "You will be like God."270 The devil "has sinned from the beginning"; he is "a liar and the father of lies".271

393 It is the irrevocable character of their choice, and not a defect in the infinite divine mercy, that makes the angels' sin unforgivable. "There is no repentance for the angels after their fall, just as there is no repentance for men after death."272

394 Scripture witnesses to the disastrous influence of the one Jesus calls "a murderer from the beginning", who would even try to divert Jesus from the mission received from his Father.273 "The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil."274 In its consequences the gravest of these works was the mendacious seduction that led man to disobey God.

395 The power of Satan is, nonetheless, not infinite. He is only a creature, powerful from the fact that he is pure spirit, but still a creature. He cannot prevent the building up of God's reign. Although Satan may act in the world out of hatred for God and his kingdom in Christ Jesus, and although his action may cause grave injuries - of a spiritual nature and, indirectly, even of a physical nature - to each man and to society, the action is permitted by divine providence which with strength and gentleness guides human and cosmic history. It is a great mystery that providence should permit diabolical activity, but "we know that in everything God works for good with those who love him."275

IN BRIEF

413 "God did not make death, and he does not delight in the death of the living. . . It was through the devil's envy that death entered the world" (⇒ Wis 1:13; ⇒ 2:24).

414 Satan or the devil and the other demons are fallen angels who have freely refused to serve God and his plan. Their choice against God is definitive. They try to associate man in their revolt against God.

Pope Benedict XVI gave a great reflection on Original Sin in his general audience on December 3, 2008:

However, as people of today we must ask ourselves: what is this original sin? What does St Paul teach, what does the Church teach? Is this doctrine still sustainable today? Many think that in light of the history of evolution, there is no longer room for the doctrine of a first sin that then would have permeated the whole of human history. And, as a result, the matter of Redemption and of the Redeemer would also lose its foundation. Therefore, does original sin exist or not? In order to respond, we must distinguish between two aspects of the doctrine on original sin. There exists an empirical aspect, that is, a reality that is concrete, visible, I would say tangible to all. And an aspect of mystery concerning the ontological foundation of this event. The empirical fact is that a contradiction exists in our being. On the one hand every person knows that he must do good and intimately wants to do it. Yet at the same time he also feels the other impulse to do the contrary, to follow the path of selfishness and violence, to do only what pleases him, while also knowing that in this way he is acting against the good, against God and against his neighbor. In his Letter to the Romans St Paul expressed this contradiction in our being in this way: "I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but I do the evil I do not want" (7: 18-19). This inner contradiction of our being is not a theory. Each one of us experiences it every day. And above all we always see around us the prevalence of this second will. It is enough to think of the daily news of injustice, violence, falsehood and lust. We see it every day. It is a fact.

In his great work, “City of God” (Book 22), St. Augustine comments on the fallen angels and the gift of free will to His creatures:

For it is He who in the beginning created the world full of all visible and intelligible beings, among which He created nothing better than those spirits whom He endowed with intelligence, and made capable of contemplating and enjoying Him, and united in our society, which we call the holy and heavenly city, and in which the material of their sustenance and blessedness is God Himself, as it were their common food and nourishment. It is He who gave to this intellectual nature free-will of such a kind, that if he wished to forsake God, i.e., his blessedness, misery should immediately result. It is He who, when He foreknew that certain angels would in their pride desire to suffice for their own blessedness, and would forsake their great good, did not deprive them of this power, deeming it to be more befitting His power and goodness to bring good out of evil than to prevent the evil from coming into existence. And indeed evil had never been, had not the mutable nature— mutable, though good, and created by the most high God and immutable Good, who created all things good— brought evil upon itself by sin. And this its sin is itself proof that its nature was originally good. For had it not been very good, though not equal to its Creator, the desertion of God as its light could not have been an evil to it. For as blindness is a vice of the eye, and this very fact indicates that the eye was created to see the light, and as, consequently, vice itself proves that the eye is more excellent than the other members, because it is capable of light (for on no other supposition would it be a vice of the eye to want light), so the nature which once enjoyed God teaches, even by its very vice, that it was created the best of all, since it is now miserable because it does not enjoy God. It is he who with very just punishment doomed the angels who voluntarily fell to everlasting misery, and rewarded those who continued in their attachment to the supreme good with the assurance of endless stability as the meed of their fidelity. It is He who made also man himself upright, with the same freedom of will,— an earthly animal, indeed, but fit for heaven if he remained faithful to his Creator, but destined to the misery appropriate to such a nature if he forsook Him. It is He who when He foreknew that man would in his turn sin by abandoning God and breaking His law, did not deprive him of the power of free-will, because He at the same time foresaw what good He Himself would bring out of the evil, and how from this mortal race, deservedly and justly condemned, He would by His grace collect, as now He does, a people so numerous, that He thus fills up and repairs the blank made by the fallen angels, and that thus that beloved and heavenly city is not defrauded of the full number of its citizens, but perhaps may even rejoice in a still more overflowing population.

Footnotes

257 St. Augustine, Conf. 7, 7, 11: PL 32, 739.
258 2 Th 2:7; I Tim 3:16.
259 Cf. ⇒ Rom 5:20.
260 Cf. ⇒ Lk 11:21-22; ⇒ Jn 16:11; ⇒ I Jn 3:8.
261 Cf. ⇒ Rom 5:12-21.
262 ⇒ Jn 16:8.
263 Cf. ⇒ I Cor 2:16.
264 Cf. GS 13 # 1.
265 Cf. Council of Trent: DS 1513; Pius XII: DS 3897; Paul VI: AAS 58 (1966), 654.
266 Cf. ⇒ Gen 3:1-5; Wis 2:24.
267 Cf ⇒ Jn 8:44; ⇒ Rev 12:9.
268 Lateran Council IV (1215): DS 800.
269 Cf. ⇒ 2 Pt 2:4.
270 ⇒ Gen 3:5.
271 ⇒ I Jn 3:8; ⇒ Jn 8:44.
272 St. John Damascene, Defide orth. 2, 4: PG 94, 877.
273 ⇒ Jn 8:44; cf. ⇒ Mt 4:1-11.
274 I ⇒ Jn 3:8.
275 ⇒ Rom 8:28.



Year of Faith Catechism Study: CCC 101-108, 134-136 – Sacred Scripture and Its Inspiration

clock October 21, 2012 01:03 by author John |

Today we look at Sacred Scripture and its inspiration in our Catechism paragraphs for the day.

Article 3

SACRED SCRIPTURE

I. Christ - The Unique Word of Sacred Scripture

101 In order to reveal himself to men, in the condescension of his goodness God speaks to them in human words: "Indeed the words of God, expressed in the words of men, are in every way like human language, just as the Word of the eternal Father, when he took on himself the flesh of human weakness, became like men."63

102 Through all the words of Sacred Scripture, God speaks only one single Word, his one Utterance in whom he expresses himself completely:64

You recall that one and the same Word of God extends throughout Scripture, that it is one and the same Utterance that resounds in the mouths of all the sacred writers, since he who was in the beginning God with God has no need of separate syllables; for he is not subject to time.65

103 For this reason, the Church has always venerated the Scriptures as she venerates the Lord's Body. She never ceases to present to the faithful the bread of life, taken from the one table of God's Word and Christ's Body.66

104 In Sacred Scripture, the Church constantly finds her nourishment and her strength, for she welcomes it not as a human word, "but as what it really is, the word of God".67 "In the sacred books, the Father who is in heaven comes lovingly to meet his children, and talks with them."68

II. Inspiration and Truth of Sacred Scripture

105 God is the author of Sacred Scripture. "The divinely revealed realities, which are contained and presented in the text of Sacred Scripture, have been written down under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit."69

"For Holy Mother Church, relying on the faith of the apostolic age, accepts as sacred and canonical the books of the Old and the New Testaments, whole and entire, with all their parts, on the grounds that, written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they have God as their author, and have been handed on as such to the Church herself."70

106 God inspired the human authors of the sacred books. "To compose the sacred books, God chose certain men who, all the while he employed them in this task, made full use of their own faculties and powers so that, though he acted in them and by them, it was as true authors that they consigned to writing whatever he wanted written, and no more."71

107 The inspired books teach the truth. "Since therefore all that the inspired authors or sacred writers affirm should be regarded as affirmed by the Holy Spirit, we must acknowledge that the books of Scripture firmly, faithfully, and without error teach that truth which God, for the sake of our salvation, wished to see confided to the Sacred Scriptures."72

108 Still, the Christian faith is not a "religion of the book". Christianity is the religion of the "Word" of God, "not a written and mute word, but incarnate and living".73 If the Scriptures are not to remain a dead letter, Christ, the eternal Word of the living God, must, through the Holy Spirit, "open (our) minds to understand the Scriptures."74

IN BRIEF

134 "All Sacred Scripture is but one book, and that one book is Christ, because all divine Scripture speaks of Christ, and all divine Scripture is fulfilled in Christ" (Hugh of St. Victor, De arca Noe 2, 8: PL 176, 642).

135 "The Sacred Scriptures contain the Word of God and, because they are inspired, they are truly the Word of God" (DV 24).

136 God is the author of Sacred Scripture because he inspired its human authors; he acts in them and by means of them. He thus gives assurance that their writings teach without error his saving truth (cf DV 11).

Pope Benedict XVI spoke about the nature of Sacred Scripture in his general audience on November 7, 2007:

What can we learn from St Jerome? It seems to me, this above all; to love the Word of God in Sacred Scripture. St Jerome said: "Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ". It is therefore important that every Christian live in contact and in personal dialogue with the Word of God given to us in Sacred Scripture. This dialogue with Scripture must always have two dimensions: on the one hand, it must be a truly personal dialogue because God speaks with each one of us through Sacred Scripture and it has a message for each one. We must not read Sacred Scripture as a word of the past but as the Word of God that is also addressed to us, and we must try to understand what it is that the Lord wants to tell us. However, to avoid falling into individualism, we must bear in mind that the Word of God has been given to us precisely in order to build communion and to join forces in the truth on our journey towards God. Thus, although it is always a personal Word, it is also a Word that builds community, that builds the Church. We must therefore read it in communion with the living Church. The privileged place for reading and listening to the Word of God is the liturgy, in which, celebrating the Word and making Christ's Body present in the Sacrament, we actualize the Word in our lives and make it present among us. We must never forget that the Word of God transcends time. Human opinions come and go. What is very modern today will be very antiquated tomorrow. On the other hand, the Word of God is the Word of eternal life, it bears within it eternity and is valid for ever. By carrying the Word of God within us, we therefore carry within us eternity, eternal life.

The Dogmatic Constitution, Dei Verbum speaks of Sacred Scripture in the Life of the Church in paragraph 21:

21. The Church has always venerated the divine Scriptures just as she venerates the body of the Lord, since, especially in the sacred liturgy, she unceasingly receives and offers to the faithful the bread of life from the table both of God's word and of Christ's body. She has always maintained them, and continues to do so, together with sacred tradition, as the supreme rule of faith, since, as inspired by God and committed once and for all to writing, they impart the word of God Himself without change, and make the voice of the Holy Spirit resound in the words of the prophets and Apostles. Therefore, like the Christian religion itself, all the preaching of the Church must be nourished and regulated by Sacred Scripture. For in the sacred books, the Father who is in heaven meets His children with great love and speaks with them; and the force and power in the word of God is so great that it stands as the support and energy of the Church, the strength of faith for her sons, the food of the soul, the pure and everlasting source of spiritual life. Consequently these words are perfectly applicable to Sacred Scripture: "For the word of God is living and active" (Heb. 4:12) and "it has power to build you up and give you your heritage among all those who are sanctified" (Acts 20:32; see 1 Thess. 2:13).

In the same document, Dei Verbum 11, we learn about the inspiration of Sacred Scripture:

11. Those divinely revealed realities which are contained and presented in Sacred Scripture have been committed to writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. For holy mother Church, relying on the belief of the Apostles (see John 20:31; 2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Peter 1:19-20, 3:15-16), holds that the books of both the Old and New Testaments in their entirety, with all their parts, are sacred and canonical because written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they have God as their author and have been handed on as such to the Church herself.(1) In composing the sacred books, God chose men and while employed by Him (2) they made use of their powers and abilities, so that with Him acting in them and through them, (3) they, as true authors, consigned to writing everything and only those things which He wanted. (4)

Therefore, since everything asserted by the inspired authors or sacred writers must be held to be asserted by the Holy Spirit, it follows that the books of Scripture must be acknowledged as teaching solidly, faithfully and without error that truth which God wanted put into sacred writings (5) for the sake of salvation. Therefore "all Scripture is divinely inspired and has its use for teaching the truth and refuting error, for reformation of manners and discipline in right living, so that the man who belongs to God may be efficient and equipped for good work of every kind" (2 Tim. 3:16-17, Greek text).


Footnotes

63 DV 13.
64 Cf. ⇒ Heb 1:1-3
65 St. Augustine, En. in ⇒ Ps. 103, 4, 1: PL 37, 1378; cf. ⇒ Ps 104; ⇒ Jn 1:1
66 Cf. DV 21.
67 Th 2:13; cf. DV 24.
68 DV 21.
69 DV 11;
70 DV 11; cf. ⇒ Jn 20:31; ⇒ 2 Tim 3:16; ⇒ 2 Pt 1:19-21; ⇒ 3:15-16
71 DV 11.
72 DV 11.
73 St. Bernard, S. missus est hom. 4, 11: PL 183, 86.
74 Cf. ⇒ Lk 24:45