Why don’t we, as Catholics, give the Holy Spirit permission to do His job? The Holy Spirit is our inner Companion who leads us; we do not live in fear of spiritual revelations. Many of God the Father’s children are so afraid that the devil will lead them astray, they do not even listen to His interior whispers of love. Surely we trust more in God the Almighty, ruler of heaven and earth than the devil, a mere fallen angel?
”But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.” John 16:13
The love of truth requires a person to find out what is true about a thing in its very nature, responding to that truth in approaching life. But many people are not actually willing to do this. They want to stop searching at the level where they are content—especially if continuing to follow the truth means an uncomfortable change of how one lives. This approach to life is known as Sophistry—which is the use of fallacious arguments, especially with the intention of justifying a position contrary to an unpopular truth.
The difference between the two outlooks are polar opposites. One seeks to find out what is. The other seeks to justify himself or herself in the eyes of others. When shown that his or her position is wrong, the Sophist tends to become hostile—seeing the demonstration as a personal attack on their comfortable little world, and even an attack on the person. It is important to remember, however, that sophistry is not something exclusive to one ideology—where one side is always seeking the truth and the other side seeks to deceive. Anyone of us can become a sophist if we stop searching for truth when it makes uncomfortable or even try to justify ourselves against truth.
Coronation of the Virgin by Bruyn the Elder
The king’s daughter is all glorious within: her clothing is of wrought gold.
She shall be brought unto the king in raiment of needlework: the virgins her companions that follow her shall be brought unto thee.
With gladness and rejoicing shall they be brought: they shall enter into the king’s palace.
A philosophically minded person might ask the question ‘If God is cause what is effect?’ Those of us who are more simply minded are might ask ‘If God is cause what is His effect on me?’ It was, I think, because faithful Christians were seeking an answer to this second question that they began to look upon the person of Mary the mother of Jesus. If we wish to learn what sort of impact having a direct personal relationship with God could or should have upon us it is natural enough for us to look first of all at those who have preceded us in the faith. We can deduce from them what is likely to be the case for ourselves.First to appear before the eyes of the faithful were the Apostles and still today we can learn much from them through the pages of Scripture. After them were many saints of the Church, male and female, in whom God as effect shines through in the transformations wrought in their lives and the courage with which they gave witness to their faith. Following the principle of ‘think universal, act local’ we should try to see God as effect in the Christians nearest at hand to us, perhaps within our families, perhaps within our communities.
One deduction we should be able to make from this cloud of witnesses is that having a relationship with God can have a profound, thoroughgoing and lasting effect on human lives. Another deduction would be that this effect is not uniform in nature, it is different in kind and degree in each individual depending upon that persons character and the closeness of their friendship with the Father, through the Son in the power of the Holy Spirit. Given that relationships are different in degree it follows that out of all the actual relationships that exist there must be one which is closer, more perfect and more profound than all the rest. To answer the question ‘if God is cause what is His effect on me?’ it will help us to know who it is that is most effected by Him so that we can learn from that person and through following their example come closer ourselves to God.
If we consider the question of who is most effected purely in relation to God incarnated in the person of Jesus then a number of different answers might be proposed. Apart from His mother we could consider the claims of the Beloved Disciple mentioned in the Gospel according to St John (probably the Evangelist himself) or those of St Mary Magdalene the first witness to the resurrection and Apostle to the Apostles (although claims that she was married to our Lord can be dismissed as fanciful at best.) However, if we consider the question in relation to the Triune God then there can be no doubt at all that the answer will be the Blessed Virgin Mary. The formula in which this is expressed is that Mary is daughter of the Father, mother of the Son, spouse of the Holy Spirit. This is a formulation which is both accurate and necessary but it is most useful for the philosophically minded people whom I mentioned earlier. Is there a more, as it were, human way of describing the relationship which will help us to answer our query about God’s effect on me? click here to read more
The Internet is full of people gloating over what they see as the defeat of the Catholic Church. Ireland, being long seen as a bastion of Catholicism, has voted for “same sex marriage” (62% voting yes) and the critics of the Church think this is a win-win situation. In their mind, either the Church changes her teaching and becomes what they want her to be or she refuses and goes extinct. In other words, they get what they want either way. At the same time, there are a lot of Catholics are looking for someone to blame. There are accusations being leveled that if the Church had done things differently, this would not have happened. In other words, both sides seem to look at this as a permanent loss for the Church.
There is no doubt that the implications of this vote are serious. Catholics have become so uninformed about that their faith that they think they can reject Church teaching as if it was an opinion, or even that it is compatible with the “greater truths” of the faith—as if Catholicism could be compartmentalized or one part set against another. But despite this apostasy in Ireland, this is not the “end of the Church.” Not universally, and not in Ireland (which Catholic bloggers love to ask as headlines).
I’ve been reading a book, What Went Wrong With Vatican II by Ralph McInerny that leaves me with a strange sense of déjà vu. The main premise is the rejection of authority in the 1960s did not come about because of Vatican II, but because of Humanae Vitae. A good portion of this book deals with the fact that the Pope made a binding teaching of the ordinary magisterium which people did not like, and to justify their dislike, they invented a theology which never had been taught before which claimed the right to judge the teachings of the Church and reject those which they did not wish to follow.
The déjà vu portion comes when I see what liberal dissenters did in 1968 in rejecting magisterial authority—and see just how similar their arguments are to the arguments used by radical traditionalists today in rejecting the magisterial authority of the Church when it makes decisions they dislike.
Very few people set out with the intention of “Hey! I’m going to be an evil #######!” But many people who start out with the intention of being good do wind up with the end result of having done evil.
Consider that statement. I bet a lot of us immediately thought of other people as falling under this category. I also bet that very few thought of ourselves. That means we’re either a bunch of saints (in which case, consider 1 Corinthians 10:12), or we’re blind to our failings. Personally I think the second option best describes our lives.
The fact is, the devil is out to ruin every one of us individually, and every one of us has our own strengths and weaknesses. The intention of the devil is to play on our weaknesses—our passions, our opinions, and so on. Unfortunately, we tend to be blind to this. We expect the devil to come with a direct attack against what we find important. A lot of our apocalyptic religious fiction tends to work that way. If you look at the Left Behind series or the Michael O’Brien novel Father Elijah, we see an antichrist who is a political liberal. He gives people what they want in terms of libertine debauchery and undermines the Church by turning people away from it. And this is happening today. We see this, and we make our decision to be faithful—praying to God that we be given the grace to stand in the face of persecution or seduction.
But what we don’t consider is that the devil wants our damnation as well. It doesn’t please him to destroy our body if our soul is brought to God. Some have apostatized in the past in the face of persecution, but others have stood firm with the grace of God supporting them. Some have been seduced into accepting libertine behavior, but others have not—through the grace of God. Are we to think that the devil will only succeed in trapping the political left and the weak minded, and as long as we’re politically “conservative” we’ll be safe?
This increased hostility is simply because the Church will not go along with calling evil “good.” The world wants approval for its sins. But the Church will not give this approval. The Church speaks out against many things that the world wants to do. Not because she is reactionary, or ornery. She speaks out because she is tasked with going out to the world in order to spread the Word of Salvation and to speak out against the behaviors which separate humanity from God.
The world does not mind a belief in God. What it does is resent a belief in God which requires change in behavior. People who want to think of themselves as “good,” resent being told that they do evil—especially when the evil condemned is something they do not want to give up. People have no problems speaking against evil which offends them, but tell them that the behavior they like is wrong and people become hostile.
The message of the Church is simple:
- God Exists and loves us.
- But, we are alienated from Him.
- He sent His Son to free us from our sins and restore our relationship with Him—which is impossible to do apart from Him
- We must respond by ceasing to live in a way which separates us from Him
The situation of the religious freedom in America is certainly as bleak as it has ever been in our history. The three branches of government take it as a given that they have the authority to rule on matters that involve religious obligation and to dictate to believers which of their beliefs are valid and which are not. The general trend here is to force religion out of the public square under the assumption that anything with a religious motivation cannot be used to set policy. (That’s the Genetic fallacy by the way). Between the government and the influential shapers of public opinion, people are being led to the view that unpopular religious teaching is based on intolerance (poisoning the well fallacy) and any religious opposition to an issue is portrayed as the equivalent of the racist opposition to civil rights in the 1960s (false analogy fallacy).
The result is, we are now in a situation where religion can be restricted outside of the most narrow redefinitions. The rights of people who profess belief in the Christian moral teachings and the institutions or businesses they establish is denied on the grounds that their belief is merely a repugnant intolerance (Begging the Question fallacy). We could soon see an even more overt attack where Christian individuals and institutions affiliated with churches have no right to refuse to do something their religious beliefs condemn, and thus suffer lawsuits, fines and prosecutions. It’s the kind of behavior we hitherto associated with Communist governments and long said “It can’t happen here—our Constitution prevents it.”
Very few people become heretics or schismatics by thinking, “I know I am in error, but I don’t care.” They are convinced that their views are correct, but they have encountered opposition from the teaching authority of the Church which tells them that their belief or behavior is not in keeping with the Catholic faith. When a person runs into this situation, they have two choices:
- Accept the authority of the Church and reject the behavior/belief which goes against it.
- Reject the authority of the Church and accept the behavior/belief which goes against it.
If the person chooses the first possibility, they remain with their relationship with God and the Church intact. But if the person chooses the second possibility, their relationship with God and the Church is damaged.
Many times a person who goes ahead with this damaged relationship does not want to admit that their choice is the cause of it. So they claim that the fault of the break is somewhere else, and their position is on the right side of the break. Someone else must be found then to be in the wrong. Of course, most people don’t want to say that God is to blame for this break (those that do seem to be suffering from some great hurt and despair). So they try to redefine things so God is portrayed as being on their side. Therefore if the Church goes against what they want, then they conclude that the Church teaching must be against God—otherwise the Church would be siding with them.
For about 1800 years most Christians would have understood the idea of fearing the Lord to mean just what it said on the tin. Over the past couple of centuries or so the tendency has been for many theologians, pastors and teachers to explain away the notion of fear and replace it with something altogether more cuddly. Two main strategies have been employed, to emphasise that perfect love casts out fear and to re-cast the word ‘fear’ to mean ‘awe.’ Both approaches are perfectly sound so far as they go but effectively unbalance doctrine by being deployed as primary explanations rather than as auxiliaries to add to our understanding of the plain meaning of Scripture.
The first argument rests on the words of the Beloved Disciple There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love.(1 John 4:18) It is worth noting the contrast between beginning andreached perfection. If every mention of fear is immediately counterbalanced with the effects of perfect love it will have the same effect as telling a child on the first day of primary school not to worry because whatever they do they will get a university degree in due course since perfect education means prizes for all. Perfect love is not our starting point fear of the Lord is, click here to read more