Friday, February 29, 2008

Christ and His Mother

To know a little more about the relationship between Christ and his mother we have to fully understand who Christ is. It’s very important that we do not see Christ as something changeable or inferior. As Christians, we believe that Christ was not created because if he had been created, something (which created him) was superior, thus the Church has always taught us that Christ was uncreated –‘begotten, not made.’ We should all recognize that The Creator became a creature. As St. Augustine says, “He whom the world could not contain was contained in a mother’s womb.”

With all this said I would like to ask, ‘What would you do if you were able to choose your own mother, and how would you create her?’ Catholic Author F.J. Sheed couldn’t have explained it any better:

“. . . In seeing what the difference is, a good starting point is the simple fact that this son existed before his mother. So that he is the only Son who was in a position to choose who his mother should be; he could choose therefore what every son would choose if he could, the mother who would suit him best. Further, it goes with the very heart of sonship that a son wants to give his mother gifts; and Christ, being God, could give her all that she would want. To his giving power there was no limit. And what above all she wanted was union with God, the completest union possible to a human being of her will with God’s will, grace therefore in her soul.

He was her Son, and he gave it lavishly. She responded totally, so that she was sinless. It was her response to the grace of God that made her supreme in holiness – higher even that the highest angel, the Church tells us. We may pause for a moment to look at this truth. . .”

[1] Theology for Beginners. F. J. Sheed. Servant Books. Chapter 15, pg. 128.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

St. Augustine on Sin

There was very little that the mind of St. Augustine did not touch upon during his career as bishop of Hippo. Indeed Augustine had an intimate knowledge not only of the actions and results of sin, but of the motivations that were behind a sin. His approach of always being more patient and forgiving toward the sinner is all that much more remarkable.

Fr. John Vidmar shares with us some of St. Augustine’s thoughts on sin:

“No one, perhaps, understood the psychology of sin better than St. Augustine. He knew intimately the forces that played on people and the need to have compassion on the sinner. Hence, he instinctively hesitated to condemn those who did not measure up. He wrote: “Many sins are committed through pride, but not all happen proudly . . . They happen so often by ignorance, by human weakness; many are committed by men weeping and groaning in their distress.”

This sympathy for the sinner presented the church with a legacy of Christian forgiveness and a greater awareness of its mission in distinguishing hatred for sin from love for the sinner. Had St. Augustine done nothing else, this alone would have earned him the gratitude of future generations.”

[1] Father John Vidmar, OP. The Catholic Church Through the Ages. History. P. 72

Sunday, February 17, 2008

40 Days of Lent

There is no question that ‘40’ is a very significant number in the Bible. As Catholics, we have the liturgical season of Lent for forty days which begins with Ash Wednesday and ends with Easter. Lent is the primary penitential season in the Church’s liturgical year, reflecting and uniting ourselves each year to the mystery of Jesus in the Desert. (CCC 540)

The period of forty days or years is an important one in Scripture and in Jewish tradition. As the church fathers observed, it is most often associated with hardship, affliction, suffering, purification, fasting and punishment. Catholic author Steve Ray has recognized the following significant uses of the number 40 in Scripture below.

*The flood judgment in Noah’s day lasts 40 days (Gen 7:4).
*The fasting of Moses for 40 days on Mount Sinai (Ex 24:18; Deut 9:9).
*Elijah 40 days of fasting while running to Mount Sinai (1 Kings 19:8).
*The Israelites wandered for 40 years in the wilderness (Ex 16:35; Ps 95:10).
*Israel is in the hand of the Philistines for 40 years (Judg 13:1).
*40 days Ezekiel lies on his side to symbolize the punishment of Judah (Ezek 4:6).
*Jonah prophesies that Nineveh will be destroyed in 40 days—unless they fast and repent (Jonah 3:4).
*Punishment limited to 40 stripes —lashes (Deut 25:3; cf. 2 Cor 11:24).
*There were 40 days before purification in the Temple
*40 days for Mary’s purification (Lk 2:22-24; Lev. 12:1-8, CCC 583).
*Jesus’ temptation for 40 days and nights in the Wilderness (Mt 4:1-2).
*Jesus on earth 40 days between resurrection and ascension (Acts 1:3).
*We have 40 years between Christ's death and resurrection and the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem. (Tip to Mr. Cox)
*We have 40 days of Lent to prepare for Easter week.

Though 40 is often associated with suffering, we can also see it is as blessing for those who persevere to the end. Look at each of the examples above and think of the blessing that arrived at the end of the event. With Noah, after the flood there was new life and a rainbow as the sign of the Covenant. After Elijah's 40 days of fasting while running to Mount Sinai he met God, after the wandering in the wilderness for 40 years the Israelites entered the Promise Land, and after 40 days and 40 nights in the desert, Jesus gave us a 3 fold victory over sin. What will be at the end of your 40 days of Lent?

I hope you are all having a great Lent, and try to remember that you are not alone or the first to suffer through the number "40".

Please Visit: St. Annes Youth Ministries. Lent 2008

Sunday, February 3, 2008

The Donatist Controversy

A few months ago, while browsing through our local library (specifically in the theology section), an elder man happened to approach me to discuss a little about my religious background. As soon as I advised him that I was Catholic, you could easily tell that our discussion began to, ‘pick up.’ Of course, The Pope was brought up, then questions about Mary arose, however, these were nothing new to me. It wasn't until he brought up a concern about the Sacraments, specifically the Eucharist, that I felt unprepared. His concern about the Eucharist wasn’t about transfiguration and the Real Presence, but about those who administer the Sacrament and whether or not a notorious sinner could validly administer the sacraments. This man informed me that, according to scripture, only those that are pure and free from sin are eligible to administer the sacraments, and that all the other sacraments that are being administered by everybody else, are tainted.

Now I have to be honest, I didn’t have an answer for him that day. In fact, I didn’t have an answer at all until last week. But I did find someone who did have an answer for him. And he happens to be one of my favorite early church fathers, St. Augustine. One of the greatest theologians who ever lived had an answer for him sixteen hundred years ago! This issue was known early in the 3rd Century as Donatism, and Augustine had just a few words to say about it. .

“Augustine saw the danger of elitism in this (Donatism), . . Augustine taught that the church is holy, not because its members are holy but because its founder and its purposes are holy. Sacraments are valid because of their inner purity and sanctity, not because of the sanctity of the Minster. Thus baptism, if administered according to the proper form and intention (however minimal that intention might be), is valid whether the minister is “worthy” or not. Its is not Peter who baptizes, it is Christ. Sacraments, as a result, are available to all, and not merely to an elect group.”

[1] The Catholic Church Through the Ages. John Vidmar, OP. Paulist Press. pg. 69-70