Category Archives: Christology

Is following Christ worth it?

That’s an odd question for Christian, no? Well, no, it is not. The other day my friend Henry and I were talking about this question and why so many Catholics, or at least those who claim to be Catholic, and therefore, Christian, don’t adhere more closely to Christ, the Scripture, Tradition and the Church. Our conclusion is that the poor nature of catechesis, preaching, sacramental preparation, faith formation and pastoral guidance has done a dis-service to the Church for a VERY long time. I am not willing to say “since Vatican II” because while I think that Christian life since V2 has disintegrated a lot and Catholics have become somewhat Protestant, we can’t blame everything on Pope John’s Council.

Stories surface –and you may have heard them too– that some priests, nuns and other lay pastoral associates in the parishes have acted irresponsibly and incredibly when a Protestant comes to them saying, “Father, I’m a baptized Lutheran and I want to be Catholic.” And Father says, “Why bother ‘converting to Catholicism,’ Lutherans and Catholics are the same, our churches just nuance things differently. I wouldn’t bother, you already have a good church. Besides, Lutherans do a lot of things better than we Catholics.” Really? I thought following Christ closely meant living in and with the Church He gave us. Is Christ worth following, or not? Upon this rock….

Is it just about a nuance? Since when can a Catholic say (i.e., hold to be true) that faith in the Triune God, salvation [heaven, hell, or purgatory], sacraments, the Sacrifice of the Mass, ecclesiology, Christology, etc. is just about nuancing “theological opinions” differently from those who live as Protestants? Do these things not truly, substantially matter? Is there no consequence in believing the wrong datum of Christ’s teaching? What about the teaching of the Scriptures on Christ as the Way, the Truth, and Life, that upon Peter, the rock, Christ built the Church, what about the Emmaus and Pentecost experiences, what about the Eucharist, what about the forgiveness of sins, what about the priesthood, etc? What about the clear teachings of the Church Fathers down through the ages on the necessity of the Church as Christ’s foundation for salvation? Do these things not matter? Are there no differences but only nuances? Are we insane in allowing those who seek the face of God according to the sacrament of the Church as Christ established to find their own way, in their own time and according to their own method? Is there no objectivity of faith & reason in the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, the one founded by Christ in 33 AD? Is there any value in following Christ authentically? It is my hope that Catholics will begin again to seriously take the Catholic way seeing/knowing reality as coherent and life-affirming.

I was surprised just this morning in reading one of the Q&As in 
Rabbi Marc A. Gellman’s

 “God Squad” column (New Haven Register, September 11, 2010) where a 62 year old Catholic says she believes in reincarnation. What???!!!??? Rabbi Gellman’s answer to this person is insufficient on many levels but since space is limited in the Register, and deep theological intercourse is impossible, he reduced the issue to the idea that the Bible is not trying teach us anything about reincarnation or the 4 last things, etc, but “is lovingly scolding us to retain an appropriate  level of spiritual humility when we pretend to know the will and workings of God.” Well, OK, but this answer is not enough and is leaning toward spiritual malpractice from both the Jewish and the Catholic point of view. No practicing Jew or Catholic I know of would be so squishy on this topic but reducing the Scriptures to mere spiritual practice. I have a feeling there’s more in that 72 book volume than mere spiritual humility.


< span class="Apple-style-span" style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Tahoma; font-size: medium; line-height: 16px; ">Reflecting on recent experience, I remembered that in my Christian Anthropology class this past year Sister Sarah said that belief in reincarnation is on the rise among mainline Christians, including “practicing” Catholics. I said to myself that can’t be true. Evidently, it is true that many Catholics have some sort of belief in reincarnation and see no problem in doing so. Shirley MacLlain’s teachings seem persuasive for some than the 2000 years of orthodox teachings on life after death, heaven, hell, Messiah, etc.  A little research shows that the question of coherence of Catholicism and reincarnation is a very old question. Many of the Church Fathers addressed the incoherence of saying you believe in Christ and hence the Church as Christ’s visible manifestation on earth, and the possibility of holding reincarnation as a certain path to the destiny God has in mind for us. You can do a search on the web, read the Catechism or read the International Theological Commission’s work on the subject if you are interested.


This brings me back to my conversation with Henry. He’s doing a parish program in adult faith formation at his Brooklyn parish this year and he’s opening the first session with this question about following Christ. I believe it is a useful question for all church-going Catholics, especially since we read in Scripture that we need to given reasons for our hope and testimony that the Risen One is in fact real.

So, how would you answer the following question?

Is it worth it to follow Christ?  Think about that for a minute – Is it worth it to follow Christ?  Imagine I was sincere “seeker” asking you that question, how would you respond in concrete ways?  (If your answer is yes, why?  If your answer is no, why?)


By the way, Henry is hosting a blog. He’s not as neurotic in updating as I am when it comes to this blog, but I think he’s contributing to a deepening and furthering of friendship with Christ and, therefore, I’d recommend visiting Henry over at Bumping Elbows with Christ.

Christ, the life of the Church

Are you thinking about the Transfiguration yet? You know, tomorrow’s feast. I think an excerpt from Samuel H. Miller’s The Life of the Church (p. 44ff) gets me pondering the person of Christ and who I want to be. And you?

He was careless about himself, we are careful.
He was courageous, we are cautious.
He trusted the untrustworthy, we trust those who have good collateral.
He forgave the unforgiveable, we forgive those who do not really hurt us.
He was righteous and laughed at respectability, we are respectable and smile at righteousness.
He was meek, we are ambitious.
He saved others, we save ourselves as much as we can.
He had no place to lay his head and did not worry about it, while we fret because we do not have the latest convenience manufactured by clever science.
He did what he believed to be right regardless of consequences, while we determine what is right by how it will affect us.
He feared God but not the world, we fear public opinion more than we fear the judgment of God.
He risked everything for God, we make religion a refuge for every risk.
He took up the cross, we neither take it up nor lay it down, but merely let it stand.
He was a scandal to the Jews proud of their tradition, a scandal to the scribes proud of the law, a scandal to the priests proud of the temple, scandal to his family proud of respectability, a scandal to the disciples proud of their ambitions.

Exaltation of the Holy Cross


Cross, San Francesco, Arezzo.jpg

God the Father has exalted

Jesus Christ, the Lord of all,

Who has emptied self of glory,

Took our human nature’s thrall;

In obedience, He was humbled

Taking even cross and death;

Now creation shouts in wonder

“Christ is Lord” with ev’ry breath!

As the Cross is boldly
lifted

And the faithful now embrace

What was once a thing so shameful,

Now the hope of all our race,

Let us, marked with Cross, and
baptized,

Shout this news throughout the earth:

Through the Cross, our God has conquered!

Through it, come to His new birth!

87.87. D, no tune
suggested

James Michael Thompson, (c) 2009, World Library Publications

Haight speech about Christ muzzled

The Church has judged that Jesuit Father Roger Haight’s writings are beyond the limits of orthodox theological reflection on the nature of Christ (Christology).

Either one is a Catholic theologian teaching orthodox theology or you don’t teach. The problem with Father Haight is that Church’s objectivity is reduced to school yard monitor and while he is an ordained Catholic priest, Haight very rarely celebrates the Mass. AND then there is his own admission that he considers himself not a Catholic theologian but a Christian theologian. I suppose that’s what you get when a Catholic priest destined to teach priesthood candidates is educated by the Baptists. The objectivity of the Faith means something: one, holy, catholic and apostolic for starters.

Once asked if he would revise his thinking/publications sentire cum Ecclesiae so that he could be missioned by the Jesuits to teach, Father Haight told two scores of Jesuit seminarians that he would not do so. I guess that is what is called by many Jesuits “loyal opposition to the Church.” Of course, if you understand the Church to be a sacrament founded by Christ then saying no to the Church is saying no to Christ. Does this remind you of a conversion story from the Acts of Apostles where the protagonist in the narrative hears said: “…why are you persecuting me?”

Sandro Magister’s article

The 2004 CDF notification on Jesus, Symbol of God

As Jesuit Father Gerald O’Collins once said: “I wouldn’t give my life for Roger Haight’s Jesus. It’s a triumph of relevance over orthodoxy.” Neither would I, would you?

The name of Jesus is light, food, power

Saint Bernard of Clairvaux offers a power witness to the name of Jesus. Today’s feast of the Holy Name of Jesus is a good time to consider the words of Bernard as food for the soul.

I recognize now the name hinted at by Isaiah: “My servants are to be given a new name. Whoever is blessed on earth in that name will be blessed by the Lord, Amen.” O blessed name, oil poured out without limit! From heaven it pours down on Judaea and from there over all the earth, so that round the whole world the Church proclaims: “Your name is oil poured out.” And what an outpouring! It not only bathes the heavens and the earth, it even bedews the underworld, so that all beings in the heavens and the earth, it even bedews the underworld should bend the knee in the name of Jesus, and that every tongue should
Adoration of the Name of Jesus.jpgacclaim: “Your name is oil poured out.” Take the name of Christ, take the name of Jesus; both were infused into the angels, both were poured our upon men, even upon men who rotted like animals in their own dung. Thus you became a savior both of men and beasts, so countless are your mercies, O God. How precious your name, and yet how cheap! Cheap, but the instrument of salvation. If it were not cheap it would not have been poured out for me; if it lacked saving power it would not have won me. Made a sharer in the name, I share too in its inheritance. For I am a Christian, Christ’s own brother. If I am what I say, I am the heir of God, co-heir with Christ. And what wonder if the name of the Bridegroom is poured out, since he himself is pour out? For he emptied himself to assume the condition of a slave.

 

Did he not even say: “I am pour out like water”? The fullness of the divine life was poured out and lived on earth in bodily form, that all of us who live in this body doomed to death may receive from that fullness, and being filled with its life-giving odor say: “Your name is oil poured out.” Such is what is meant by the outpouring of the name, such its manner, such its extent.

 

By why the symbol of oil? I have yet to explain this. In the previous sermon I had begun to do so when another matter that seemed to demand mention suddenly presented itself, though I may have dallied with it longer than I intended. In this I resembled the valiant woman, Wisdom, who put her hand to the distaff, her fingers to the spindle. Skillfully she produced from her scanty stock of wool or flax a long spool of thread, out of which she wove the material that made warm clothes for the members of her household. The likeness between oil and the name of the Bridegroom is beyond doubt, the Holy Spirit’s comparison of the two is no arbitrary gesture. Unless you can persuade me otherwise, I hold that the likeness is to be found in the threefold property of oil: it gives light, it nourishes, it anoints. It feeds the flame, it nourishes the body, relieves pain: it is light, food, medicine. And is not this true too of the Bridegroom’s name? When preached it gives light, when meditated it nourishes, when invoked it relieves and soothes.

 

How shall we explain the world-wide light of faith, swift and flaming in its progress, except by the preaching of Jesus’ name? Is it not by light of this name that God has called us into his wonderful light, that irradiates our darkness and empowers us to see the light? To such as we Paul says: “You were darkness once, but now you are light in the Lord.” This is the name that Paul was commanded to present before kings and pagans and the people of Israel; a name that illumined his native land as he carried it with him like a torch, preaching on all his journeys that the night is almost over, it will be daylight soon -let us give up all the things we prefer to do under cover of the dark; let us arm ourselves and appear in the light. Let us live decently as people do in the daytime. To every eye he was a lamp on its lamp-stand; to every place he brought the good news of Jesus, him crucified. What splendor radiated from that light, dazzling the eyes of the crowd, when Peter uttered the name of the strengthened the feet and ankles of the cripple, and gave light to many eyes that were spiritually blind. Did not the words shoot like a flame when he said: “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, arise and walk”? But the name of Jesus is more than light, it is also food. Do you not feel increase of strength as often as you remember it? What other name can enrich man who meditates? What can equal its power to refresh the harassed senses, to buttress the virtues, to add vigor to good and upright habits, to foster chaste affections? Every food of the mind is dry if it is not dipped in that oil; it is tasteless if not seasoned by that salt. Write what you will, I shall not relish it unless it tells of Jesus. Talk or argue about what you will, I shall not relish it if you exclude the name of Jesus. Jesus to me is honey in the mouth, music in ear, a song in the heart.

 

Saint Bernard of Clairvaux

Sermon 15 on the Song of Songs.

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
coat of arms

Categories

Archives

Humanities Blog Directory