The Apostolate of the Laity

Waxing philosophical in communion with one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church.

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I am just a sinner who holds fast to the notion that every human being on the planet is the result of a thought of God.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Three Questions

Three things are necessary for the salvation of man: to know what he ought to believe; to know what he ought to desire; and to know what he ought to do.
St. Thomas Aquinas

What does one believe?

In AD 321, St. Alexander, Bishop of Alexandria, convoked the first ecumenical council of the Catholic Church to formulate a response to the heresy of Arius, who was attracting a significant following by stating that while Jesus was a nice guy, he was not equal to the God the Father, and thus not worthy of equal respect. In Arian view, Christ was created out of nothing to serve a specific purpose at a specific time. For the man in the street, that proved a far more understandable explanation of the mystery of Christ than the less comprehensible notion of a triune god.

The Nicene Creed was the document that came out of this council at it stands today as the creed professed by Catholic rites and a good many Protestant ecclesial communities. Christ is consubstantial with God and the Holy Spirit, that is to say, He is of one essence with them, or as the modern translation states, Christ is "one in being with the Father."

Take the time to reflect on each the of proclamations of the creed and honestly assess one's own belief. Try not to confuse belief with understanding for many things require looking through the eyes of faith. The creed stands as a pillar of what one ought to believe.


What does one desire?

This is where the rubber meets the road. For while one may believe wholeheartedly in everything in the creed, one may still desire sin. St. Augustine once described the gates of hell as always being open. Souls in hell are free to leave. The true horror is that they never exercise that option. They prefer their misery.

That concept may seem hard to comprehend. How could anyone prefer such a total absence of God? Yet how often does one cling to a small set of particular sins. It's often the smaller venial sins that impede one's spiritual growth. One might not be addicted to pornography, but an occasional peek at impurity seems reasonable and forgivable. Does a little petty larceny make one a thief? And if one skips going to Sunday mass a few times a year, what's the harm?

All of these and a countless host of others indicate that one's desire is pointed at something other than God. Each of these desires serves as a brick in a wall between one and God. And this is not to pass judgment, but rather to point out the unfathomable need for the Savior.

And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, "How hard it will be for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!" And the disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said to them again, "Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God for those who trust in riches! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, "Then who can be saved?" Jesus looked at them and said, "With men it is impossible, but not with God; for all things are possible with God."
Mark 10:23-27

Take some time to honestly assess one's true desires. Where are they focused? Do they point to the here or the hereafter?


What should one do?

With a belief in God and a desire for His salvation, what does one do about that? This is perhaps the juncture where Catholics and Protestants part ways. While Catholics and Protestants agree that one is saved by grace. It is the means of how that grace gets communicated that keeps apart the universal church that Christ so desired to be one.

The Catholic reads in scripture that faith and works are required by Christ. This so terribly often get misinterpreted to mean that Catholics believe they have to do good works to earn God's favor and thus earn their salvation. Not so. Man merits zilch on his own.

Works are viewed more accurately as obedience to Christ and His Gospel. Works are how we follow the example and the command given by Christ. Reflect upon this beautiful passage:

In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard for his godly fear. Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; and being made perfect he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him, being designated by God a high priest after the order of Melchizedek.
Hebrews 5:7-10

What a tragic disservice Martin Luther committed when he added the words "alone" and "only" as he addressed the issue of faith in his German translation of St. Paul's letters. There really is no other way to present it. Luther added text to change the meaning of sacred scripture. He had to in order make his theology work along with eliminating books from the bible that potentially contradicted his teachings.

As scripture states, Christ is the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him. Obedience is not a passive thing. It requires work, submission, repentance, and often a genuine dying to self. That far transcends a simple profession of faith, thus the reason Catholics do not a agree with the Protestant assertion that man is saved by faith alone.

What is one's faith?
What is one's will?
What is one's course of action based on questions one and two?

Three simple questions to continuously ponder in one's journey to God.


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