Theological Tidbits

…archives…

May 29
Using the commonplace experiences of His own people in the parables, Christ revealed Truth—He preached the Gospel. In other words, Christ taught us revelation in a certain historical and cultural garb. As Christ, the Church never ceases to reflect on the Truth and to reveal it in the Church’s own words. Tradition is the Church’s continuing and constant effort to reflect on the Gospel and to state it anew for each age: “Tradition transmits in its entirety the Word of God which has been entrusted to the Apostles by Christ the Lord and the Holy Spirit. It transmits it to the successors of the Apostles so that, enlightened by the Spirit of Truth, they may faithfully preserve, expound, and spread it abroad by their preaching” (DV 9). Of course, since the content of Tradition is the Word of God, the content never changes. However, the garb does. Each restatement of the Gospel becomes part of Tradition. The New Testament holds a particularly important place as the Church’s first surviving, written statement of revelation in a particular garb. In turn, both the New Testament and other statements contained in Tradition have become the stimuli for ever new restatements of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Of course, the Holy Spirit guided the Church in the writing of the New Testament and continues to guide the Church in its proclamation of revelation—in restating the Word of God in new garb for each age. In addition, the same Holy Spirit enables the Church to study revelation.
May 22
Using the commonplace experiences of His own people in the parables, Christ revealed Truth—He preached the Gospel. In other words, Christ taught us revelation in a certain historical and cultural garb. As Christ, the Church never ceases to reflect on the Truth and to reveal it in the Church’s own words. Tradition is the Church’s continuing and constant effort to reflect on the Gospel and to state it anew for each age: “Tradition transmits in its entirety the Word of God which has been entrusted to the Apostles by Christ the Lord and the Holy Spirit. It transmits it to the successors of the Apostles so that, enlightened by the Spirit of Truth, they may faithfully preserve, expound, and spread it abroad by their preaching” (DV 9). Of course, since the content of Tradition is the Word of God, the content never changes. However, the garb does. Each restatement of the Gospel becomes part of Tradition. The New Testament holds a particularly important place as the Church’s first surviving, written statement of revelation in a particular garb. In turn, both the New Testament and other statements contained in Tradition have become the stimuli for ever new restatements of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Of course, the Holy Spirit guided the Church in the writing of the New Testament and continues to guide the Church in its proclamation of revelation—in restating the Word of God in new garb for each age. In addition, the same Holy Spirit enables the Church to study revelation.
May 15
All the baptized “have put on Christ.” Therefore, all the baptized are in some sense other Christs and are joined to the mystical Christ—the Church. The fathers of the Second Vatican Council taught that the Church is “joined in many ways to the baptized who are honored by the name of Christian, but who do not however profess the Catholic faith in its entirety or have not preserved unity or communion under the successor of Peter.” The conciliar fathers make a distinction between those who are members of the Church and those who are “joined” to the Church. Since the baptized have all received the same sacrament, there cannot be a distinction among the baptized on the basis of Baptism. In other words, a validly baptized Lutheran, Baptist, or Methodist is another Christ, just as a Catholic is. All the baptized are Christians. All the baptized “have put on Christ.” All the baptized express Christ outwardly. It is more a question of degree and fullness. As the fathers of the Second Vatican Council taught, “These Christians are indeed in some real way joined to us in the Holy Spirit for, by His gifts and graces, His sanctifying power is also active in them.”
May 8
Mary was chosen by God to be the Mother of God the Son. Yet God did not force her to be the mother of His Son. Mary had a choice. At the annunciation, the messenger said to Mary, “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.” The Angel Gabriel was revealing God’s will to Mary. Then, in freedom and with the help of God’s grace, Mary spoke her glorious words of consent: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” Through her free choice, Mary accepted God’s will for her and the mystery of the incarnation was accomplished. Mary became the new Eve who, unlike the first Eve, responded to God’s love. Eve chose to believe that God lied and therefore was not to be trusted. On the other hand, Mary entrusts herself totally to God without even fully understanding what He was asking of her. Mary reveals that God is to be believed and trusted. Her words of trust, “Let it be to me,” are surpassed only by the words of her Son on the cross when He utters, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” Christ showed human beings how to love God, themselves, and others. Christ loved God and human beings in and through the total self-gift He made on the cross. However, standing at the foot of the cross was Christ’s mother, Mary. Through her faith, Mary was perfectly united with Christ in His self-giving. Her Son’s Calvary is her own Calvary.

 

May 1
Christ revealed who human beings are as images of God. All men and womenas images of Godneed to know the Godman to know fully their identity, their proper activity, how to love God in and through a human body, and how to love others by using things for the sake of people. As images of God, human beings do not know themselves unless they know God. Further, since they are made like God, they are called to act like Him. However, they cannot act like Him unless they know how He acts. Although the angels are images of God, God did not need to become an angel for them to know their identity and proper activity. The angels are pure spirits as God is pure spirit. Thus, they are able to relate to God solely on the spiritual level. By relating to God as spirits to spirit, they experience their prototype according to their own nature, and thus they can know themselves as spirits. As God, Christ reveals who human beings are as images of God. In revealing who God is, He reveals their identity. Further, in revealing how God acts, Christ reveals how they should act. Moreover, as the incarnate God Who loves them in and through His body, He reveals that they are to love HimGodin and through their bodies, and they are to love others by using things for their benefit. Christ accomplishes this mission through His human nature.
April 24
What kind of knowledge did the Person of Christ possess? In His divine nature, Christ possesses the knowledge of God because He is God the Son. However, in speaking of Christ’s knowledge as a man, two extremes are to be avoided. One extreme holds that Christ possesses all divine knowledge in His human intellect. This is something that is not possible for a limited, human intellect. The other extreme holds that in His humanity, while He was on earth, Christ did not see God as the saints see God in heaven—that Christ did not enjoy the beatific vision. In reality, Christ did experience the beatific vision. As a man, Christ must have possessed self-knowledge. Christ is the second Person of the blessed Trinity. In order for Christ’s human intellect to possess self-knowledge, Christ’s human intellect had to possess the most comprehensive knowledge of the second Person of the blessed Trinity as possible. Such knowledge of God is only possible for human intellects through the beatific vision—by seeing God face to face. Thus, Christ’s human intellect must have enjoyed the beatific vision on earth. In addition, as a man, Christ did gain human experiential knowledge—“Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature, and in favor with God and man.” He learned carpentry from His human father, Joseph. His mother, Mary must have taught Him to pray. He experienced everyday life, and He learned to use these experiences to teach the truths of the kingdom of God. Thus, the one divine Person of Christ possessed all knowledge proper to God (in His divine nature) and all knowledge proper to man (in His human nature). His human intellect was perfected.
April 17
God did not punish Adam and Eve. Rather, He announced what they had done to themselves. He announced the effects of sin on them. Original sin weakened Adam and Eve. They were no longer able to orchestrate their own bodily fears and desires—nor were they able to exercise the proper dominion over the world. The effect of sin mentioned by God to Eve indicates that her body is no longer integrated. Most of the effects announced to Adam show that humans could no longer exercise a dominion over the things of the world. Lacking this dominion, Adam and Eve were no longer in paradise because paradise was precisely the dominion of humans over the elements. God had not thrown them out of paradise. Rather, their sin had wounded them and made paradise an impossibility. The prediction of death pertains to human dominion over the body—to human lack of integration. Adam and Eve needed clothes to hide themselves from each other because their sin caused them to feel shame. Further, they needed clothes to protect themselves from the elements because their sin caused them to lose their dominion over things. Even though their need for clothing was the direct result of their sin, God did not let them suffer the full effects of their sin. They had hurt themselves. They had brought the need for clothing on themselves—but He fulfills the need: “the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins, and clothed them.” He does not eliminate the sin or all of its effects—but He does overcome some of the effects. The clothing provided by God for Adam and Eve is a sign of His continuing care for the human race.
April 10
God has the power to prevent sin. Instead of exercising this power, God chose to permit sin and then to deal with its consequences. The only possible way for God to have prevented the sin of Adam and Eve would have been for Him to have eliminated their capacities of knowing and freely choosing. If God had wanted to prevent the original sin, He would either have to create Adam and Eve without minds and free wills or He would have had to inhibit the functioning of these powers—at least at the time of temptation. Without the capacities for knowing and freely choosing, Adam and Eve would have been little better than the animals. They would not have been images of God—persons. If God had inhibited the powers of thinking and freely choosing, Adam and Eve would have been like robots operated by God. When God created man and woman, He wanted neither another animal species nor robots. By creating Adam and Eve and their descendants as persons—in His own image, God willed that they should imitate Him by loving. God willed that there be love in the world and since true love is possible only on the basis of freedom, God was willing to risk the evil of sin in order that true love would exist. Human love was more important to God than the possibility that human persons might misuse freedom—that they might sin. God also created the angels as free beings so that they might love. Thus, with the angels as well as with man, God risked the evil of sin for the sake of love.
April 3
From Gods perspective, all creation happens at once.However, from the human viewpoint, it is possible to conceive of human creation as a progressive series of events. It is possible to place the theory of evolution within the context of the divine creative act. Guided by the creative hand of God, the human body with all its physical powers and properties could have evolved through the process of gene mutation and natural selection. Such a gradual unfolding of Gods creative act would in no way diminish His divine power, wisdom, and love demonstrated in and through creation. If the human body did evolve, God would have willed and foreseen every single gene mutation and natural selection process on the path from the very first, most simple animal species to the most complex animal and ultimately to the human body. Even if the human body did evolve, there are human powers that did not. The theory of evolution does not completely explain mans creation. Since the theory postulates a physical process, it cannot account for the existence of a spiritual, immaterial, and noncorporeal personal soul in each human. The souls of all human beings cannot have their origin in matter. They must have their origin in the spiritual realmin God, Who alone is the Creator. Therefore, Christians may employ the theory of evolution to explain the origin of the human bodybut not the origin of the human soul. If Christians choose to accept the theory of evolution, they still would believe that when a suitable body had evolved, God infused into that body a personal soul. By giving man a personal soul, God gave him life and made him into the divine image and likeness. Further, Gods creation of personal souls continues today. Every time a human being is conceived, God creates a personal soul that gives life to a human body.
March 27
God created human beings and angels in His own image. As images of God, they are persons—they have the faculties of thinking and choosing, minds and wills. Unlike human persons, the angels are pure spirits. As pure spirits, they do not have bodies. Every time one recites the Nicene Creed, one confesses belief in the existence of pure spirits: “I believe in one God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible.” In this context, “all things visible and invisible” refers to all beings. “Invisible” beings are pure spirits, the angels, who do not possess bodies. With their more powerful intellects, angels penetrate the truth more deeply and accurately than humans ever could. Men and women can “change their minds” because they often make choices based on incomplete knowledge or understanding. When they gain further knowledge or understanding, they “change their minds.” But it is not possible for an angel to change his mind because angels are created with all the knowledge they will ever have. Thus, an angel does not acquire greater knowledge or a greater understanding as humans do. Therefore, angels always make an informed choice. Consequently, once an angel has chosen, the choice cannot be changed. Since the angels do not have bodies, any sin by them is a choice in their wills—uninfluenced by any bodily desires—to accept a false understanding of their own position as creatures in relation to God. While humans are capable of such sins of pure pride, most often their sins begin with the selfish seeking of bodily pleasure or the avoidance of pain. Their bodily desires influence their minds and wills. This kind of sin does not occur in angels because they do not have bodily desires. But sins of pure pride do occur because the angels do have intellects and wills.
March 20
God lacks absolutely nothing. He does not need anyone or anything outside of Himself to fulfill Himself. He is completely free of any and all necessities. There is no necessity in any of His actions. It was not in any sense necessary for Him to create anything. Since God does not “have to” create, why does He? God seeks to share Himself. He does not create out of any necessity—but rather out of a desire to give His power, His wisdom, and His love to others. In creating persons from nothing, God shared His power. However, the creation of persons also reveals God’s wisdom because God makes Himself known in a unique way through persons who are made in the image and likeness of God. Further, the creation of persons is an act of love because in creating persons, God shared existence. Since He is existence itself, God gave Himself when He gave existence to persons. In other words, He loved. In creating persons, God gives Himself to them—He loves them. God’s love establishes a value in those He creates. Without God’s love, there would be no value outside of God because nothing outside of God would exist. God’s love is not a response to an already existing value because His love is the source of all value. The self-gift of created persons does not establish value in others as God’s love does—the love of created persons is a response to the value they discover in others. According to G.K. Chesterton, this is the lesson of Beauty and the Beast: a thing must be loved before it is lovable. God loves one even before one is lovable.
March 6
Since God is changeless and immaterial, He does not have emotions. Emotions are a bodily reaction to a stimulus. This reaction is a change in oneself. Since God is changeless, He cannot be subject to emotions. Although God does not experience emotions, He does love. In fact, God is love. This is because love is not an emotion. Love is the “choice” to give oneself to another. In God, love is a purely spiritual act—an act of the will. God gives Himself to the world. God longs for all of us and therefore He reaches down to us through creation, revelation, and sanctification. In popular culture, “love” is mostly described as passive. However, love is a decision. In the Catholic celebration of matrimony, the spouses declare that they will “love and honor each other” for as long as they both shall live. Love here cannot be passive—since they do not know how “lovable” the other will be years down the road. At that moment, they are speaking for their middle-aged and senior selves. They may be “totally different” people by then. Nevertheless, with God’s grace, they are able to consent to something they have no way of “knowing” will be possible. They are agreeing to “choose” to love and honor the other for as long as they both shall live. This is also true for religious sisters and priests when they vow “respect and obedience” to their superior. They don’t know what will be asked of them and if they will be capable of obedience—yet they promise to “choose” to be obedient, with God’s help.
February 27
In order to give, the giver must possess what they wish to give. Since God is the cause of all perfections, He must possess all these perfections. He must be perfect—lacking nothing. If He were to lack something, He would not be the fullness of being. He would not be “I am.” As the uncaused cause, God cannot change under the influence of an outside cause. He cannot react to things that occur because He is the cause of all things. He does not react—but rather acts. Created things do not act on Him. Rather, He acts on them. He cannot be “taken by surprise” at what happens. If God were to react or to change because of some influence or cause outside of Himself, He would not be the uncaused cause. Since God does not change, He stands outside of time. Without change, there is no time because time is the measurement of change. Units of time measure the changing positions of the earth. Hours measure the earth’s rotation on its axis. Years measure the earth’s orbit around the sun. Months measure the moon’s orbit around the earth. Without these changes, units of time would cease to exist. God is timeless because He is changeless. Since God is timeless, God lives in the present and everything He creates is present to Him at the same time. In the same gaze, God sees Adam and Eve, Mary, those living now, and those living at the end of time. It is like God sees all time and the whole world frozen on a screen. Nothing happens for God “before” or “after”—everything is in the present. God does not predestine us in the sense of determining beforehand whether we will be in heaven or hell. He sees all of our decisions at once. There could never be predetermination that would interfere with our free will.
February 20
God created the world. He is also the foundation of His own being. If God was not the source of His own being, some other being would have created Him. But then who would have created that being? Another being. But then who would have created that being? Yet another being. But there cannot be an infinite chain of beings who were created by others. It would have never gotten started in the first place. There must be a being Who created everything but Who Himself is not created: God. God is the source of His own being. God revealed his name to Moses, I am Who I am.The Creator possesses existence in Himself and from Himself. He is the one being Who is the source of His own being.
February 13
According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church: “Unintentional ignorance can diminish or even remove the imputability of a grave offense. But no one is deemed to be ignorant of the principles of the moral law, which are written in the conscience of every man (1860).” Human beings can’t not know the “principles of the moral law” because they are “written in the conscience.” The term “conscience” comes from the Latin verb “scire” meaning “to know.” Conscience is “knowledge” of the moral law. Even if one does not “feel” guilty about violating moral principles, they nevertheless “know” they are breaking the moral law. Conscience is a matter of knowledge and not feelings. The most hardened criminal still “knows” when they are doing something wrong, even if they do not feel guilty, because they can’t not know. Convicts are sometimes asked whether they feel guilty about their crimes and they answer in the negative. However, they should also be asked whether they know they did something wrong. Guilty feelings do not necessarily follow a violation of the moral law but guilty knowledge does. Many high profile criminals in history have appeared stoic in their actions—but it does not follow that they were ignorant about what they were doing. As the Catechism states, “no one is deemed to be ignorant of the principles of the moral law, which are written in the conscience of every man.”
February 6
Mortal sin is committed when one consciously and freelyfor whatever reasonchooses something seriously against Gods law. This sin is called mortalor deadly because it deprives the sinner of sanctifying grace, which is the supernatural life of the soul. Any willful thought, desire, word, action or omission, in serious violation of Gods law, is a mortal sin. With a mortal sin, the soul becomes spiritually dead because it is no longer united with God through grace. If we commit mortal sin, we should go to confession as soon as possible. Once the mortal sin is absolved, the soul is again in the state of grace. For a sin to be mortal, three conditions are necessary: grave matter, full knowledge, and complete consent. There must be grave matter, meaning the matter must be seriously wrong. The thought, desire, word, action or omission may be grave in itself (e.g., blasphemy, murder, adultery, etc.) or because of the circumstances or purpose (e.g., lying under oath). Things seriously evil are known, to be such, from their nature, Sacred Scripture, Sacred Tradition, and the teachings of the Church. To commit a mortal sin, the sinner must be clearly aware of the serious nature of the act at the time it is performed. They must have full knowledge and reflection and know that what they are doing is grievous. To make a sin mortal, complete consent is required. This means the sinner must fully consent to itthey deliberately want to do what they know to be gravely sinful. When these three elements (grave matter, full knowledge, and complete consent of the will) are present in a sinful act, mortal sin is committed.
January 30
Sin is an offense against God. There are two kinds of sin. Originalsin is the guilt of sin which we inherit from our common ancestorsAdam and Eve. Actualsin is the kind of sin that we commit ourselves. Original sin (and actual sins for those who have reached the age of reason) is taken away by the sacrament of Baptismthrough which God gives us the divine life of sanctifying grace. All have contracted the guilt of Original sin except the Blessed Virgin Mary who, through the merits of her Divine Son, was conceived without sin. This privilege is called the Immaculate Conception.The sacrament of Reconciliation forgives all sins committed after Baptism. All sins can be pardoned in the sacrament of Reconciliation. Actual sin is an offense against our loving Godcommitted by any willful thought, desire, word, action, or omission forbidden by the law of God. We can sin not only by doing what God has forbidden (sin of commission) but also by failing to do what God has commanded (sin of omission). For example, failing to keep the Lords day holy is a sin of omission. Temptation is not a sin. It is only an invitation to sin. As long as one does not willfully entertain or give consent to the attraction of evil, even if they cannot help but feel it, they do not commit sin.
January 23
Catholics are sometimes asked by other Christians whether they know they are saved. The Catechism addresses this question by clarifying whether Catholics can know they are in a state of grace: Since it belongs to the supernatural order, grace escapes our experience and cannot be known except by faith. We cannot therefore rely on our feelings or our works to conclude that we are justified and saved. However, according to the Lord’s words Thus you will know them by their fruitsreflection on God’s blessings in our life and in the lives of the saints offers us a guarantee that grace is at work in us and spurs us on to an ever greater faith and an attitude of trustful poverty. A pleasing illustration of this attitude is found in the reply of St. Joan of Arc to a question posed as a trap by her ecclesiastical judges: Asked if she knew that she was in God’s grace, she replied: If I am not, may it please God to put me in it; if I am, may it please God to keep me there.(CCC 2005).” Catholics can use the answer of St. Joan of Arc when asked whether they are saved: If I am not, may it please God to save me; if I am, may it please God to keep me saved.
January 16
The precepts of the Catholic Church are 1. assist at Mass on all Sundays and holy days of obligation and rest from those works and activities which could impede sanctification of these days, 2. confess sins at least once a year, 3. receive the Eucharist at least during the Easter season, 4. observe the days of fasting and abstinence established by the Church, and 5. help provide for the material needs of the Church, each according to his/her own ability.