Month: February 2019

GOD EXISTS BECAUSE GOD IS LIFE

                                             

                                         ” I AM THAT I AM” (Exodus 3:14)

We are caught up in the simple but precise argument that if there was nothing to begin with how could there be anything at all? And the core of our argument is that the existence of God is “an imperative of metaphysical reasoning,” or even of simple logic.

Wilhelmsen states that “the metaphysics of being is simultaneously the Philosophy of God.” Such a statement finds correlation in the Bible, where God is revealed to Moses as I AM (Exodus 3: 14 ). And Jesus says –  rather amazingly –  that he is “the life” (John 14:6 ). In other words, God is that very beginning, or that very unbeginning, the absence of which there would simply be nothing.

The “Supreme mystery,” then, is the mystery of a Being whose very essence is to exist. The philosopher says that God exists simply in virtue of Himself, so that God is the pure act of existing. “God affirms himself as the absolute act of being in its pure actuality” (Etienne Gilson).

Father Garrigou-Lagrange, a great scholar of St. Thomas Aquinas, explains that:

“God is the eternally subsisting being. God, then, is not only pure spirit, He is being itself subsisting immaterial at the summit of all things and transcending any limits imposed by either space or matter or a finite spiritual essence. Now, because God is the self-subsisting being, the infinite ocean of spiritual being, unlimited, unmaterialized, He is distinguished  from every material  or spiritual creature. The divine essence is existence itself, it alone of necessity exits. No creature is self-existent; none can say: I am being, truth, life, etc. Jesus alone among men said: “I am the truth and the life,” which was the equivalent to saying, “I am God” (Providence, 70-71).

Another scholar, quoting Jacques Maritain, says that “the act of existing is the key to St. Thomas’s philosophy, and it [being] is something super-intelligible which is revealed in the judgment I make that something exists. ‘This is why, at the root of metaphysical knowledge, St. Thomas places the intellectual intuition of that mysterious reality disguised under the most commonplace and commonly used word in the language, the word to be…that victorious thrust by which it [being] triumphs over nothingness.'” Our affirmation or intuition of being, then, leads us to “the affirmation of Being Itself, God” (Wilhelmsen).

The Incarnation is the revelation that Jesus is LIFE! One day Jesus revealed his glory to the apostle Thomas, saying, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the father but through me” (John 14:6). As the Pulpit Commentary explains, “I am the Life [means that Jesus is] the life eternal, the Possessor, Author, Captain, Giver, and Prince of life.”

On another occasion Jesus encountered a grieving woman, Martha, whose brother Lazarus had died, and Jesus said to her (before raising Lazarus back to life): I am the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25). This profound pronouncement of Jesus demonstrates that he “possesses the absolute sovereignty over life and death” that is “the sole prerogative” of God (ICSB).

CONCLUSION: God is life, or, as the Bible says, God has LIFE in himself (John 5:26). “God is the ultimate Possessor of life per se” (Pulpit Commentary). This is a great mystery, but it is a mystery confirmed by Scripture and human intelligence, and St. Paul warns that our minds are darkened if they don’t rise to a knowledge of God (Romans 1: 19-22; ICSB). So, we return to the ultimate philosophical question, Why is there something rather than nothing?, and we must conclude that nothing can produce nothing! And it is only because God IS (that is, because God is ETERNAL LIFE, the eternally subsisting Being) that we hold on to life day by day, hour by hour, moment by moment. Our present “to-be-ness” is completely dependent on Him who IS I AM. And in this light we can come to see in a more penetrating way that God has the power – as the eternal custodian of life –  to raise up our mortal bodies on the last day (John 6:40). 

Tom Mulcahy, M.A.

References: The Paradoxical Structure of Existence by Frederic D. Wilhemsen; Providence by Father Garrigou-Lagrange; Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics under the title, “Principle of Causality” beginning at page 120; The Spirit of Medieval Philosophy by Etienne Gilson; Existence and the Existent by Jacques Maritan; and Ignatius Catholic Study Bible.

Image: Moses and the Burning Bush, circa 1450-1475, attributed to Dieric Bouts, Public Domain, U.S.A.

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CARDINAL MULLER ISSUES A MANIFESTO CORRECTING DOCTRINAL ERRORS

 

INTRODUCTION:   I have set forth below in its entirety the just released Manifesto of Faith by Cardinal Gerhard Muller who was the Vatican’s Prefect for the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith from 2012-2017. Under each numbered portion of the Manifesto below I have provided a very short commentary in italics.

                                         

 

                                   Manifesto of Faith by Cardinal Muller                                      

                  “Let not your heart be troubled!” (John 14:1)

In the face of growing confusion about the doctrine of the Faith, many bishops, priests, religious and lay people of the Catholic Church have requested that I make a public testimony about the truth of revelation. It is the shepherds’ very own task to guide those entrusted to them on the path of salvation. This can only succeed if they know this way and follow it themselves. The words of the Apostle here apply: “For above all I have delivered unto you what I have received” (1 Cor. 15:3). Today, many Christians are no longer even aware of the basic teachings of the Faith, so there is a growing danger of missing the path to eternal life. However, it remains the very purpose of the Church to lead humanity to Jesus Christ, the light of the peoples (see LG 1). In this situation, the question of orientation arises. According to John Paul II, the Catechism of the Catholic Church is a “safe standard for the doctrine of the faith” (Fidei Depositum IV). It was written with the aim of strengthening the Faith of the brothers and sisters whose belief has been massively questioned by the “dictatorship of relativism.”

1. The one and triune God revealed in Jesus Christ

The epitome of the Faith of all Christians is found in the confession of the Most Holy Trinity. We have become disciples of Jesus, children and friends of God by being baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. The distinction of the three persons in the divine unity (CCC 254) marks a fundamental difference in the belief in God and the image of man from that of other religions. Religions disagree precisely over this belief in Jesus the Christ. He is true God and true Man, conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. The Word made flesh, the Son of God, is the only Savior of the world (CCC 679) and the only Mediator between God and men (CCC 846). Therefore, the first letter of John refers to one who denies His divinity as an antichrist (1 John 2:22), since Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is from eternity one in being with God, His Father (CCC 663). We are to resist the relapse into ancient heresies with clear resolve, which saw in Jesus Christ only a good person, brother and friend, prophet and moralist. He is first and foremost the Word that was with God and is God, the Son of the Father, Who assumed our human nature to redeem us and Who will come to judge the living and the dead. Him alone, we worship in unity with the Father and the Holy Spirit as the Only and True God (CCC 691).

Commentary: The Pope signed a document last week, cosigned by Sheik Ahmad el-Tayeb, Grand Imam of Cairo’s al-Azhar Mosque, which stated that “the pluralism and the diversity of religions” are “willed by God in His wisdom,” a statement that many felt was doctrinally troubling. Here Cardinal Mueller is reasserting that Jesus Christ is “true God” and the “only Savior of the world.”

2. The Church

Jesus Christ founded the Church as a visible sign and tool of salvation realized in the Catholic Church (816). He gave His Church, which “emerged from the side of the Christ who died on the Cross” (766), a sacramental constitution that will remain until the Kingdom is fully achieved (CCC 765). Christ, the Head, and the faithful as members of the body, are a mystical person (CCC 795), which is why the Church is sacred, for the one Mediator has designed and sustained its visible structure (CCC 771). Through it the redemptive work of Christ becomes present in time and space via the celebration of the Holy Sacraments, especially in the Eucharistic Sacrifice, the Holy Mass (CCC 1330). The Church conveys with the authority of Christ the divine revelation, which extends to all the elements of doctrine, “including the moral teaching, without which the saving truths of the faith cannot be preserved, explained, and observed” (CCC 2035).

Commentary: The moral teachings of the Church cannot be watered down to accommodate the times because these teachings are intrinsically linked to the “saving truths of the faith.” Moreover, Jesus Christ is the one mediator between man and God, and the Catholic Church is the visible sign of this reality. 

3. Sacramental Order

The Church is the universal sacrament of salvation in Jesus Christ (CCC 776). She does not reflect herself, but the light of Christ, which shines on her face. But this happens only when the truth revealed in Jesus Christ becomes the point of reference, rather than the views of a majority or the spirit of the times; for Christ Himself has entrusted the fullness of grace and truth to the Catholic Church (CCC 819), and He Himself is present in the sacraments of the Church.

The Church is not a man-made association whose structure its members voted into being at their will. It is of divine origin. “Christ himself is the author of ministry in the Church. He set her up, gave her authority and mission, orientation and goal (CCC 874). The admonition of the Apostle is still valid today, that cursed is anyone who proclaims another gospel, “even if we ourselves were to give it or an angel from heaven” (Gal 1:8). The mediation of faith is inextricably bound up with the human credibility of its messengers, who in some cases have abandoned the people entrusted to them, unsettling them and severely damaging their faith. Here the Word of Scripture describes those who do not listen to the truth and who follow their own wishes, who flatter their ears because they cannot endure sound doctrine (cf. 2 Tim 4:3-4).

The task of the Magisterium of the Church is to “preserve God’s people from deviations and defections” in order to “guarantee them the objective possibility of professing the true faith without error” (890). This is especially true with regard to all seven sacraments. The Holy Eucharist is “source and summit of the Christian life” (CCC 1324). The Eucharistic Sacrifice, in which Christ includes us in His Sacrifice of the Cross, is aimed at the most intimate union with Him (CCC 1382). Therefore, the Holy Scripture admonishes with regard to the reception of the Holy Communion: “Whoever eats unworthily of the bread and drinks from the Lord’s cup makes himself guilty of profaning the body and of the blood of the Lord” (1 Cor 11:27). “Anyone conscious of a grave sin must receive the sacrament of Reconciliation before coming to communion” (CCC 1385). From the internal logic of the sacrament, it is understood that divorced and civilly remarried persons, whose sacramental marriage exists before God, as well as those Christians who are not in full communion with the Catholic Faith and the Church, just as all those who are not disposed to receive the Holy Eucharist fruitfully (CCC 1457), because it does not bring them to salvation. To point this out corresponds to the spiritual works of mercy.

The confession of sins in Holy Confession at least once a year is one of the Church’s commandments (CCC 2042). When the believers no longer confess their sins and no longer experience the absolution of their sins, salvation becomes impossible; after all, Jesus Christ became Man to redeem us from our sins. The power of forgiveness that the Risen Lord has given to the Apostles and their successors in the ministry of bishops and priests applies also for mortal and venial sins which we commit after Baptism. The current popular practice of confession makes it clear that the conscience of the faithful is not sufficiently formed. God’s mercy is given to us, that we might fulfil His Commandments to become one with His Holy Will, and not so as to avoid the call to repentance (CCC 1458).

“The priest continues the work of redemption on earth” (CCC 1589). The ordination of the priest “gives him a sacred power” (CCC 1592), which is irreplaceable, because through it Jesus becomes sacramentally present in His saving action. Therefore, priests voluntarily opt for celibacy as “a sign of new life” (CCC 1579). It is about the self-giving in the service of Christ and His coming kingdom.

Commentary: The Cardinal is essentially saying that the permission granted in Amoris Laetitia for divorced and civilly remarried Catholics (who thus have not had their first marriage annulled) to receive Holy Communion after the consideration of mitigating circumstances is in error, and further that non-Catholics are not disposed to receive the Holy Eucharist.

4. Moral Law

Faith and life are inseparable, for Faith apart from works is dead (CCC 1815). The moral law is the work of divine wisdom and leads man to the promised blessedness (CCC 1950). Consequently, the “knowledge of the divine and natural law is necessary” to do good and reach this goal (CCC 1955). Accepting this truth is essential for all people of good will. For he who dies in mortal sin without repentance will be forever separated from God (CCC 1033). This leads to practical consequences in the lives of Christians, which are often ignored today (cf 2270-2283; 2350-2381). The moral law is not a burden, but part of that liberating truth (cf Jn 8:32) through which the Christian walks on the path of salvation and which may not be relativized.

Commentary: Clearly a criticism of the idea in Amoris Laetitia that the moral pronouncements of the Church are more or less an ideal that not everyone is capable of fulfilling in concrete circumstances. Moreover, the situation ethics language of AL 301-303, which broadly discusses how one may opt out of Catholic morality with God’s approval, is rebutted here since the moral law “may not be relativized.” 

5. Eternal Life

Many wonder today what purpose the Church still has in its existence, when even bishops prefer to be politicians rather than to proclaim the Gospel as teachers of the Faith. The role of the Church must not be watered down by trivialities, but its proper place must be addressed. Every human being has an immortal soul, which in death is separated from the body, hoping for the resurrection of the dead (CCC 366). Death makes man’s decision for or against God definite. Everyone has to face the particular judgement immediately after death (CCC 1021). Either a purification is necessary, or man goes directly into heavenly bliss and is allowed to see God face to face. There is also the dreadful possibility that a person will remain opposed to God to the very end, and by definitely refusing His Love, “condemns himself immediately and forever” (CCC 1022). “God created us without us, but He did not want to save us without us” (CCC 1847). The eternity of the punishment of hell is a terrible reality, which – according to the testimony of Holy Scripture – attracts all who “die in the state of mortal sin” (CCC 1035). The Christian goes through the narrow gate, for “the gate is wide, and the way that leads to ruin is wide, and many are upon it” (Mt 7:13).

To keep silent about these and the other truths of the Faith and to teach people accordingly is the greatest deception against which the Catechism vigorously warns. It represents the last trial of the Church and leads man to a religious delusion, “the price of their apostasy” (CCC 675); it is the fraud of Antichrist. “He will deceive those who are lost by all means of injustice; for they have closed themselves to the love of the truth by which they should be saved” (2 Thess 2:10).

Commentary: Clearly there has been controversy surrounding Pope Francis’ understanding of hell. Cardinal Muller reminds us very forcefully that “the eternity of the punishment of hell is a terrible reality.”

Call

As workers in the vineyard of the Lord, we all have a responsibility to recall these fundamental truths by clinging to what we ourselves have received. We want to give courage to go the way of Jesus Christ with determination, in order to obtain eternal life by following His commandments (CCC 2075).

Let us ask the Lord to let us know how great the gift of the Catholic Faith is, through which opens the door to eternal life. “For he that shall be ashamed of me, and of my words, in this adulterous and sinful generation: The Son of Man also will be ashamed of him, when He shall come in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” (Mark 8:38). Therefore, we are committed to strengthening the Faith by confessing the truth which is Jesus Christ Himself.

We too, and especially we bishops and priests, are addressed when Paul, the Apostle of Jesus Christ, gives this admonition to his companion and successor, Timothy: “I charge thee, before God and Jesus Christ, Who shall judge the living and the dead, by His coming, and His kingdom: Preach the word: be instant in season, out of season: reprove, entreat, rebuke in all patience and doctrine. For there shall be a time, when they will not endure sound doctrine; but, according to their own desires, they will heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears: And will indeed turn away their hearing from the truth, but will be turned unto fables. But be thou vigilant, labour in all things, do the work of an evangelist, fulfil thy ministry. Be sober.” (2 Tim 4:1-5).

May Mary, the Mother of God, implore for us the grace to remain faithful without wavering to the confession of the truth about Jesus Christ.

United in faith and prayer

Gerhard Cardinal Müller, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith 2012-2017

February, 2019

 

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A TIME OF SEVERE TESTING FOR THE CHURCH: A LETTER FROM PETER HERBECK

“But now that the Saviour has raised his body, death is no longer terrible, but all those who believe in Christ tread it underfoot as nothing, and prefer to die than to deny their faith in Christ, knowing full well that when they die they do not perish, but live indeed, and become incorruptible through the resurrection.” (St. Athanasius)

 

Dear Friends,

                            “Keeping Our Heads in All Situations”

(By: Peter Herbeck, Vice President of Renewal Ministries)

I’m so grateful to be able to write a letter for this month’s newsletter. I’ve been thinking and praying for all of you—all of us—who are living through these unprecedented times for the Church. These are chaotic and destabilizing times, filled with sorrow, anger, confusion, and fear for many people. It is without a doubt a time of great testing for all of us

One of the constant questions I get from people is, “How do I respond to this? What should I do?” A great deal of helpful practical advice has been given on how to help the leaders of the Church, bishops and priests, to cooperate with this time of purification. But more needs to be said about how we can, as St. Paul puts it, “keep our heads in all situations” (2 Tm 4:5), especially in times of hardship and great testing. The teaching of Jesus and the apostles is a great help in times like these.

Keeping the big picture in mind is key to helping us live above our circumstances and to seeing in trials great opportunity to grow in maturity as disciples. St. Peter exhorts us to “not be surprised at the fiery ordeal which comes upon you to prove you, as though something strange were happening to you” (2 Pt 4:12). All of us are being proved, tested by the crisis in the Church. This “fiery ordeal” is a self-inflicted wound, the result of serious failures and scandalous behavior of leadership.

The scandalous behavior is a shock to the system, but it shouldn’t ultimately be a surprise or too strange for us to understand. Jesus told us that we would have great tribulations in this world and that we would see and experience scandal, the kind witnessed even among the twelve apostles. Among Jesus’ closest friends, those He knew best, the ones He trusted the most: at the moment Jesus needed them most, one betrayed Him and another denied even knowing Him. Sin, failure, and betrayal among leaders is scandalous, but it shouldn’t ultimately take us by surprise.

As disciples, we know, or should know, human weakness. We also know that we’re living in an “evil age,” in a fallen world that is “in the power of the evil one” (1 Jn 5:19). The world is a battle field; the Church is at war, every single day, against powerful principalities and powers deployed against us. What we are seeing writ large is the same struggle we all face, the daily temptations and seductions of the world, the flesh, and the devil.

Jesus is showing mercy in this severe discipline and judgment that has come upon the Church. He is at work, shining light into the darkness, removing the chains and breaking the strongholds that are binding the Church. He’s revealing the consequences of sin, the depth to which even clergymen, religious leaders, can fall. We’re seeing the face of sin, and this, friends, is a great and severe mercy.

This is a moment for all of us to take stock, to examine our lives in the light of Jesus. He is disciplining His Church, and in that He is testing each one of us. Where are we in relationship to His call in our lives? Are we giving Him everything? Are we putting Him first? Are we fulfilling the assignment He has given to each one of us? Are we passionately, completely dedicated to bringing the kingdom and the will of the Father into every area He has given us responsibility for? Are we living in the wisdom of the eternal perspective, knowing with confidence and certainty that we, each one us, will soon be standing before the judgment seat of Christ, giving an account for what we have done with what He has given to us?

St. Paul gives us a beautiful perspective to live by, especially in these days:

“So we are always of good courage . . . whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive good or evil, according to what he has done in the body” (2 Cor 5:6, 9-10).

Despite the many trials, persecutions, punishments, disappointments, and failures in the Church, St. Paul has his eye on the climax of his life, the ultimate moment that he knows with certainty lies before him: his appearing before the judgment seat of Christ. This certainty fills Paul with what he himself describes as “the fear of the Lord,” which gives him clarity and wisdom on how to live in the moment, no matter what circumstances he is facing. The only thing that matters is to live in a way that pleases the Lord. It simplifies his life in the midst of constant complexity. It gives him wisdom: the ability to know how to live well, to live an authentically fulfilling life, to walk in the footsteps of Jesus, and to do the will of the Father. Nothing else matters. Period.

This is where Jesus is leading the Church. He wants to awaken the fear of the Lord in all of us so that we can have wisdom. He has brought us to a point of decision:

Are we going to live in the fear of men, which necessarily leads to foolishness and slavery, or are we going to fear God and live in the freedom of the sons and daughters of God?

Let’s not let this trial pass without harvesting everything Jesus has for us personally and corporately. I believe in my bones that the Renewal Ministries’ family was made for this moment! He is here, ready to strengthen us, to empower us to give a wholehearted and radical “yes” to Him and to do all we can to lead those He brings to us out of bondage, foolishness, and fear, into the wisdom of God.

Lord, we love You! Help us to make the most of the time and to use the resources You have given us to serve Your purpose in this hour!

Friends, we will all be dead soon. Life is short, it’s a passing shadow, let’s help each other make the most of the time for the glory of the Lord and for the salvation of souls.

In Christ,

Peter Herbeck

Biographical notePeter Herbeck is the vice president and director of missions for Renewal Ministries. For more than thirty years, he has been actively involved in evangelization and Catholic renewal throughout the US, Canada, Africa, and Eastern Europe. Peter is a co-host for the weekly television programs The Choices We Face and Crossing the Goal. He also hosts the daily radio show Fire on the Earth. He is a frequent conference speaker, has authored When the Spirit Comes in Power and When the Spirit Speaks, and has produced CDs and booklets about discipleship and life in the Spirit. Peter is involved with i.d.9:16, an outreach to Catholic young adults sponsored by Renewal Ministries. Peter and his wife Debbie have four children and reside in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Source: This article, used with permission, is in the February 2019 Newsletter of Renewal Ministries available at renewalministries.net

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