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Friday 4 May 2012

On Baptism Again......

I shall get back to Pope Benedict XVI's encyclical on love after this post. I must write about the terrible confusion in the Church regarding the sacrament of Baptism. Now, I have written about this before, but the confusion is so widespread among Catholics, that a repetition is needed. I hope other people in catechesis and RCIA help clarify the confusion. It is almost as if some Catholics no longer believe in Original Sin.

We are all born with Original Sin. Baptism takes away the sin, which has separated us from God and grace.

So, what does baptism do?

One: it makes one a child of God. We are not born as adopted children of God; only once, in our life and with His Life, which is sanctifying grace, are we made children of God.

Two: it makes us co-heirs with Christ in eternal life and in the life of God on earth, with is the life of grace. Without baptism, we do not inherit heaven, nor the life of God, the Kingdom of God within. We receive the Indwelling of the Holy Trinity in baptism, not in any other way. We are heirs of God and heirs of heaven. (These points could be divided into three).

Three: we are given the means to achieve perfection, that is, through sanctifying grace. We are given the virtues of Faith, Hope and Charity. We are given the gifts to grow and develop the other virtues, not natural virtues, but supernatural ones.

Four: we are given salvation, which means, eternal life, if we cooperate with the graces and virtues given.

Five: we are made pleasing to God and just in His Eyes, through the Death and Resurrection of Christ, through the waters of baptism.

Six: we are given the means to gain merit. Only souls in grace, not those in mortal sin, can gain merit.

Seven: we are united with God in an intimate union.

All these items may be found in the Catechism of the Council of Trent, in the documents of the Church regarding baptism, and in the Scriptures, particularly the Letters of Paul and the Letters of John and in other catechisms, as well as the writings of the saints.

To believe that all people have access to heaven and the above gifts, as well as the state of grace becoming children of God without baptism is to be a heretic. It is too bad, but many Catholics fall into heresy for the following reasons.

One: like myself, there are children in our families, such as nieces, nephews, etc. who are not baptised and some people cannot bear the suffering of facing the truth about their state. I, for example, have a niece who is not baptised. This is a painful situation, but as I am not her parents, I can only pray that God will inspire her to be baptised someday.

Two: many Catholics cannot face the real tragedy of abortion, which is that the souls of these little victims may not be taken up into the Beatific Vision as those who are baptised. Unbaptized babies, as Blessed John Paul II stated, are in the mercy of God. But, we cannot assume that their state is the same as that of a baptised baby. Otherwise, we are denying the efficacy of the sacrament.

Three: many Catholics simply do not believe in Original Sin, hell, or purgatory. In other words, some believe in the heresy of universal salvation, which I think is the most common heresy in the world today.

Four: relativism regarding religions demands that baptism makes no difference as all good people go to heaven--this is a common heresy as well.

Five: the misunderstanding of the baptism of desire, which only applies to those over the age of reason who cannot because of serious circumstances, such as persecution, be baptised. Another person other than one's self cannot desire baptism for a second party.

Six: some Catholics believe all children are in a state of innocence simply because they are children. This is a sentimental idea which used to be common and still lingers on in some circles.

Seven: the misunderstanding of the Nature of God makes some think that God would never punish or damn a child. Now, invincible ignorance is always a possibility, but as I wrote in an earlier posting, children can choose evil and if not baptised, the choosing of good is much harder.

This list is not exhaustive. Now, I am going back to the great encyclical on love.....see next post later tomorrow

Love and the Church Against Socialism--Part Two

Well, I am still in Part I of Deus Caritas Est.  

Here is a section which is found at the end of that part, and my comments.The Pope continues....

Earlier we spoke of the process of purification and maturation by which eros comes fully into its own, becomes love in the full meaning of the word. It is characteristic of mature love that it calls into play all man's potentialities; it engages the whole man, so to speak. Contact with the visible manifestations of God's love can awaken within us a feeling of joy born of the experience of being loved. But this encounter also engages our will and our intellect. Acknowledgment of the living God is one path towards love, and the “yes” of our will to his will unites our intellect, will and sentiments in the all- embracing act of love. But this process is always open-ended; love is never “finished” and complete; throughout life, it changes and matures, and thus remains faithful to itself. Idem velle atque idem nolle [9]—to want the same thing, and to reject the same thing—was recognized by antiquity as the authentic content of love: the one becomes similar to the other, and this leads to a community of will and thought. The love-story between God and man consists in the very fact that this communion of will increases in a communion of thought and sentiment, and thus our will and God's will increasingly coincide: God's will is no longer for me an alien will, something imposed on me from without by the commandments, but it is now my own will, based on the realization that God is in fact more deeply present to me than I am to myself.[10] Then self- abandonment to God increases and God becomes our joy (cf. Ps 73 [72]:23-28).
If I have no contact whatsoever with God in my life, then I cannot see in the other anything more than the other, and I am incapable of seeing in him the image of God. But if in my life I fail completely to heed others, solely out of a desire to be “devout” and to perform my “religious duties”, then my relationship with God will also grow arid. It becomes merely “proper”, but loveless. Only my readiness to encounter my neighbour and to show him love makes me sensitive to God as well. Only if I serve my neighbour can my eyes be opened to what God does for me and how much he loves me. The saints—consider the example of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta—constantly renewed their capacity for love of neighbour from their encounter with the Eucharistic Lord, and conversely this encounter acquired its real- ism and depth in their service to others. Love of God and love of neighbour are thus inseparable, they form a single commandment. But both live from the love of God who has loved us first. No longer is it a question, then, of a “commandment” imposed from without and calling for the impossible, but rather of a freely-bestowed experience of love from within, a love which by its very nature must then be shared with others. Love grows through love. Love is “divine” because it comes from God and unites us to God; through this unifying process it makes us a “we” which transcends our divisions and makes us one, until in the end God is “all in all” (1 Cor 15:28).

There are so many points here, I do not know where to begin. Firstly, our potentialities come out, as it were, in love. If and when we know we are loved, we have a great opening of the gifts which God has given us for ourselves, our close loved ones, and the entire community. The transcending and ascending love are the daily contacts in prayer and in the community. Secondly, this section points out the lukewarmness of just doing our duties in the Church. Yuck. Who wants that sort of love anyway? If we Live in Love, are immersed in Love, Who is God, this energy to love reaches out again and again. 

The Pope writes above, a freely-bestowed experience of love from within, a love which by its very nature must then be shared with others.

What does this mean? For the younger couples, it means having and rearing children; for the men, it means leadership in families and in the Church community; for women, it means care and concern for the vulnerable, as well as the special charisms; for sisters and nuns, it means their call and the rule of their orders which feed their charisms; for priests it means being totally in love with God and His People and becoming perfect. No more, no less.

This is not the description of a false utopianism. It means hard work, not only from the heart, but from the will united with the heart. Sometimes, as I know personally, love is unrequited, not returned, for many reasons known only to the heart. That love is unrequited does not stop the creativity, the persistence, and the joy of love. As the Pope states above,  Love grows through love. Love is “divine” because it comes from God and unites us to God; through this unifying process it makes us a “we” which transcends our divisions and makes us one, until in the end God is “all in all” (1 Cor 15:28).

The we is you and God, me and God, me and you and God. This is staggering. So, if there is a lack of love, either one has let it die within, it has died from lack of food--which are prayer and the sacraments; or it has never been there in the first place. We cannot love without being loved and accepting that love. 

Yesterday, a friend of mine apologized for a lack of patience in a meeting at her church. She was humble enough to do so. The response was "an apology is not enough." Wow, where is the love there, and this happened among the so-called "church ladies", who do all the flowers and stuff. No love there, I am afraid....No love, no acceptance. No love, no community. The jobs one does becomes mere dross and not gaining any merit. None.

No love, no merit.

One cannot do what is not in one's heart. We must follow our hearts, and if our hearts are one with God, and if the love is divine, as the Pope writes above, creation itself is transformed.

Can we not have a renewed vision of the Church from this wonderful encyclical, a vision which would destroy the godless, dangerous isms of the world? 

On Love and the Answer to Socialism--Part One

This is a follow-up on both my series on perfection, which is not finished, and my rants against socialism, especially those written yesterday-three-which I posted. Also, these meditations begin to reveal why socialist leaders hate the Church, the family and Christian marriage. The sources of love are the sources of real charity and selflessness, not any governmental policy or political ideology. This is not utopianism, but hard work.

I am re-reading and re-studying Pope Benedict XVI's first encyclical, Deus Caritas Est, in order to build up a case for the restructuring of a society which cares for its young, old, sick, poor, which the socialists say they do and don't. The Catholic Church has always had a viable alternative to socialism, which those who are godless hate, and those who are greedy do not believe is worthy of attention. The Catholic Church's political or governmental or civic position on the organization of charity lies in the teachings of Christ and all His followers on the need for the Christian community. In Deus Caritas Est, the Pope, I think, radically re-defined, or at least clarified, the classical definition of eros, in order to bridge the gap between so-called sexual, or at least, married love, and the love of friends and brothers and sisters in Christ in the Church.

That the Church on the local levels of the parishes has failed in this regard, with people changing the definition of love to exclude agape, and in people placing their hopes on bloated governments instead of their own call to agape, is one of the tragedies of modern times.

In the encyclical, which is brilliant, of course, the Pope sets out the argument that eros has been misunderstood and too easily relegated to the sexual sphere. Here are some sections which are relevant to my discussion. These are from Part I

Yet it is neither the spirit alone nor the body alone that loves: it is man, the person, a unified creature composed of body and soul, who loves. Only when both dimensions are truly united, does man attain his full stature. Only thus is love —eros—able to mature and attain its authentic grandeur.

Christian faith, on the other hand, has always considered man a unity in duality, a reality in which spirit and matter compenetrate, and in which each is brought to a new nobility. True, eros tends to rise “in ecstasy” towards the Divine, to lead us beyond ourselves; yet for this very reason it calls for a path of ascent, renunciation, purification and healing.

In other words, we do not love unless the body and the soul are engaged (no pun intended) in a movement of the heart and will to love. Eros brings us to God. I know this, personally, as do many other people, including some who read this blog. However, the message is lost in the world of selfishness and pleasure-seeking activities.

Again, the Pope,this time on the Hebrew definitions of love, found in Scripture:

First there is the word dodim, a plural form suggesting a love that is still insecure, indeterminate and searching. This comes to be replaced by the word ahabĂ , which the Greek version of the Old Testament translates with the similar-sounding agape, which, as we have seen, becomes the typical expression for the biblical notion of love. By contrast with an indeterminate, “searching” love, this word expresses the experience of a love which involves a real discovery of the other, moving beyond the selfish character that prevailed earlier. Love now becomes concern and care for the other. No longer is it self-seeking, a sinking in the intoxication of happiness; instead it seeks the good of the beloved: it becomes renunciation and it is ready, and even willing, for sacrifice.

This searching is sometimes unrequited love, which roams seeking the beloved, not being able to see or find him or her. The searching love is from God, as a spark, to find the fulfillment of love, either in the person sought and found, or in the community, as we shall see. This dodim is a gift, as is ahaba. All real love is a gift from God. The Pope is amazingly clear, as well as deep. looks to the eternal. Love is indeed “ecstasy”, not in the sense of a moment of intoxication, but rather as a journey, an ongoing exodus out of the closed inward-looking self towards its liberation through self-giving, and thus towards authentic self-discovery and indeed the discovery of God: “Whoever seeks to gain his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will preserve it” (Lk 17:33), as Jesus says throughout the Gospels (cf. Mt 10:39; 16:25; Mk 8:35; Lk9:24; Jn 12:25). In these words, Jesus portrays his own path, which leads through the Cross to the Resurrection: the path of the grain of wheat that falls to the ground and dies, and in this way bears much fruit. Starting from the depths of his own sacrifice and of the love that reaches fulfilment therein, he also portrays in these words the essence of love and indeed of human life itself.

Now, some of you are shaking your heads and thinking, what does all this have to do with the Church's anti-socialist stand. Be patient. Already, we see a huge break in the invocation of the Passion of Christ and the idea of self-giving. It is not about ME, or the State, but about the other. I find the encyclical exciting. Here is more..

Yet eros and agape—ascending love and descending love—can never be completely separated. The more the two, in their different aspects, find a proper unity in the one reality of love, the more the true nature of love in general is realized. Even if eros is at first mainly covetous and ascending, a fascination for the great promise of happiness, in drawing near to the other, it is less and less concerned with itself, increasingly seeks the happiness of the other, is concerned more and more with the beloved, bestows itself and wants to “be there for” the other. The element of agape thus enters into this love, for otherwise eros is impoverished and even loses its own nature. On the other hand, man cannot live by oblative, descending love alone. He cannot always give, he must also receive. Anyone who wishes to give love must also receive love as a gift. Certainly, as the Lord tells us, one can become a source from which rivers of living water flow (cf.Jn 7:37-38). Yet to become such a source, one must constantly drink anew from the original source, which is Jesus Christ, from whose pierced heart flows the love of God (cf. Jn 19:34).

Now, for those of you who have been following my ideas and those of the great spiritual writers I have been quoting on perfection, will begin to make the connections. The giving and the receiving, even in the mystical life, which I believe is absolutely necessary and wanted by God for all of us, leads to real charity, real agape. St. John of the Cross knew this, as did SS. Teresa the Great, and Therese the Little Flower.

The Pope states and this is a key sentence,  that biblical faith does not set up a parallel universe.

Love is real, tangible, as well as ecstasy, great emotion, and peace. The Bible gives us pictures of all these types of love, and the list of personages, including, of course, Our Lady, who exhibit real love, both physical and spiritual, centered on God and His People, are the crowd of witnesses.

I venture at this point that some do not experience God at the eros level because they limit their own experiences as either bad or good, puritanical, or zealous. St. Teresa of Avila and St. Therese the Little Flower understood and experienced no boundaries in love.

In fact, St. Francis said once, "My God never says 'Enough'."  That is the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, etc. and that is my God.

The encyclical continues:

The history of the love-relationship between God and Israel consists, at the deepest level, in the fact that he gives her the Torah, thereby opening Israel's eyes to man's true nature and showing her the path leading to true humanism. It consists in the fact that man, through a life of fidelity to the one God, comes to experience himself as loved by God, and discovers joy in truth and in righteousness—a joy in God which becomes his essential happiness: “Whom do I have in heaven but you? And there is nothing upon earth that I desire besides you ... for me it is good to be near God” (Ps 73 [72]:25, 28).

We have seen that God's eros for man is also totally agape. This is not only because it is bestowed in a completely gratuitous manner, without any previous merit, but also because it is love which forgives. Hosea above all shows us that this agape dimension of God's love for man goes far beyond the aspect of gratuity. Israel has committed “adultery” and has broken the covenant; God should judge and repudiate her. It is precisely at this point that God is revealed to be God and not man: “How can I give you up, O Ephraim! How can I hand you over, O Israel! ... My heart recoils within me, my compassion grows warm and tender. I will not execute my fierce anger, I will not again destroy Ephraim; for I am God and not man, the Holy One in your midst” (Hos 11:8-9). God's passionate love for his people—for humanity—is at the same time a forgiving love. It is so great that it turns God against himself, his love against his justice. Here Christians can see a dim prefigurement of the mystery of the Cross: so great is God's love for man that by becoming man he follows him even into death, and so reconciles justice and love.

Now, the people come into perspective. A people, a community of Faith, as my old pastor Father Rory used to say, reflect God's Love for them. But, but, but, only if those in that community do not run away from the eros of God, which is, as the Pope writes above, totally agape.

Simply put in the negative, the community agape fails, or does not even begin, if those in that community are not open to real Love, Who Is a Person. Unless one gives one's self over to Christ completely, one cannot accept God's eros which is totally agape. This is not only astounding, but the teaching of the Church from the earliest days. My boldface type...on my comment stresses this importance. No love accepted from God, no transcendent love, no ascending love. Without this, Christianity fails at the local level, as it has failed in the heart of each man and woman in that community.

The Pope continues: the Logos, primordial reason—is at the same time a lover with all the passion of a true love. Eros is thus supremely ennobled, yet at the same time it is so purified as to become one with agape. We can thus see how the reception of the Song of Songs in the canon of sacred Scripture was soon explained by the idea that these love songs ultimately describe God's relation to man and man's relation to God. Thus the Song of Songs became, both in Christian and Jewish literature, a source of mystical knowledge and experience, an expression of the essence of biblical faith: that man can indeed enter into union with God—his primordial aspiration. But this union is no mere fusion, a sinking in the nameless ocean of the Divine; it is a unity which creates love, a unity in which both God and man remain themselves and yet become fully one. As Saint Paul says: “He who is united to the Lord becomes one spirit with him” (1 Cor 6:17).

Priests, the Church, the community is your Bride. People, God is your Lover. How cool is this dynamic of love, faith, hope, energy, the gifts? How blessed are we to be asked into this Heart of Christ, into His Mystery with the passion of true love? The wow factor could not be greater and the transformation of our own souls means that the community will, or could be, transformed.

While the biblical narrative does not speak of punishment, the idea is certainly present that man is somehow incomplete, driven by nature to seek in another the part that can make him whole, the idea that only in communion with the opposite sex can he become “complete”. The biblical account thus concludes with a prophecy about Adam: “Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife and they become one flesh” (Gen 2:24).
Two aspects of this are important. First, eros is somehow rooted in man's very nature; Adam is a seeker, who “abandons his mother and father” in order to find woman; only together do the two represent complete humanity and become “one flesh”. The second aspect is equally important. From the standpoint of creation, eros directs man towards marriage, to a bond which is unique and definitive; thus, and only thus, does it fulfil its deepest purpose. Corresponding to the image of a monotheistic God is monogamous marriage. Marriage based on exclusive and definitive love becomes the icon of the relationship between God and his people and vice versa. God's way of loving becomes the measure of human love. This close connection between eros and marriage in the Bible has practically no equivalent in His death on the Cross is the culmination of that turning of God against himself in which he gives himself in order to raise man up and save him. This is love in its most radical form. By contemplating the pierced side of Christ (cf. 19:37), we can understand the starting-point of this Encyclical Letter: “God is love” (1 Jn 4:8). It is there that this truth can be contemplated. It is from there that our definition of love must begin. In this contemplation the Christian discovers the path along which his life and love must move.

Can there be a clearer more dear call to holiness and perfection than that from Love Himself? And, the type of married love which grows to a maturity of complete selflessness, is what each Church community is called to live....I dedicate this to Anita and M., my siblings in Christ. More to come.......

Please pray for Chen

And Hillary did not take this man, and his family, who are in danger of their lives, back to America. That would have won Obama the election. How cruel to turn this vulnerable freedom fighter back into the Chinese society. I am ashamed today to being an American. Here is a man who has openly come out against the Chinese one-child policy and forced sterilizations, etc. Pray for Chen.



Frustration at Blindness of Catholic Voters

I am in the throes of disbelief this morning at the British elections. First of all, only 32% of the population who could have voted did. The other 68% will use their democracy if this continues. Labour won seats in the local elections, even in supposedly Catholic areas. This is again the problem of Catholics supporting socialist doctrines and even anti-life positions. I do not know how to convert the hearts of hard-core unionists to Catholic social teaching. I do not know what to do to separate labor needs as perceived, as many are just resting in a gospel of greed, from socialism.