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The two elements that make something worthy to be believed in is the worth and permanence of that thing.
8/30/2017 Question 2
The phrase “people of God” or “God’s chosen people” does not indicate that God has favored a specific people over others in the sense that one group of people he loves and the other he does not. Rather, the people of God are chosen to help God in his ministry. In choosing a people to help Him in his ministry, God establishes a covenant with those people.
In the new covenant with Christians, God offers the redemption of sins through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. They, in turn, are called to proclaim this redemption and salvation by proclaiming the Gospel. The full reality of this salvation and redemption proclaimed in the Gospel is hidden to the naked eye. Therefore, to proclaim and share the Gospel is to proclaim the sacramental word of God that reveals the hidden mystery of the Gospel.
9/1/2017 Question 2
When we celebrate a sacrament, we are celebrating the hidden mystery that that sacrament discloses. The Seven Sacraments disclose the Foundational Sacrament that is the Church. In being part of the Church and, therefore the Body of Christ, we reveal the Primordial Sacrament which is Christ himself. Christ as the Primordial Sacrament reveals God the Father. In celebrating a Sacrament, we celebrate what is already present but is otherwise hidden to the naked eye.
For example, when the Mass is celebrated, the Eucharist celebrates the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Mass discloses the Church, the Church discloses Christ, and Christ, in the Real presence, discloses God the Father.
To understand the sacraments, one must understand its relationship to scripture in two senses—forward and backward. Backward, in the sense of looking in the text of the scripture to find the root of the sacrament in the earliest texts. Forward, in the sense of looking to the future—to see both the promise and the fulfillment of that promise, even in its imperfection.
Therefore, in understanding the sacraments we recognize God’s continuous activity, especially in the sacrament of the sacraments—the community of the church. The biblical word can only bear fruit when it has a living subject, in this case it is the community of the church.
When the Church celebrates a sacrament, it is more than a group gathering, social function, or event of an association. Rather, the celebration of the sacrament has the Church giving more than the people celebrating can give. The entirety of history, past, present and future, is included in the sacrament. The sacraments reach down into the roots of universal human history and brings to humanity the salvation offered by Christ. Through this, the sacrament also includes the future by opening life after death.
The sacraments are both ever new and ever ancient. The new covenant purifies all creation from the beginning of time. In this way, Jesus Christs demonstrates that he is the One who can give man his salvation. All the symbols of creation point to him and in that way, Christ not only fulfills history but all of creation as well. Everything attains its unity in Christ.
The purpose of the class is to grow in knowledge of the sacraments. It is important not to confuse knowledge and data. Data is useless if you can’t make sense of what it measures or indicates.
The way that we identify a community of person is to identify a common experience or trait. In this case, we look for a community of persons with a common experience of the transcendent. In Judaism, the Book of Exodus details the nation of Israel’s common experience with the transcendent. For Christianity, the Gospel details Christian’s common experienc3e with the transcendent.
In both cases, a covenant is formed between God and a group of people. In the Old Testament, the Passover is symbolic of the favor status of Israel. This favor status leads them from slavery to freedom and eventually to the Blood Covenant. In the New Testament, Jesus is the New Covenant and his spilt blood opens eternity to all God’s beloved.
The blood covenant God makes with his people is frequently broken. This creates a cycle: Covenant- Breaking of Covenant – Prophets warn- sorrow and forgiveness of the people – reconciliation.
A community of persons celebrates the religious history of the community. The church of the present time is on journey that, while celebrating its past, is still moving toward its final destination of the bodily resurrection. It is a pilgrim church – escaton.
The church of the “People of God” is a people in communion. Vatican II’s “Lumen Gentium” constitution that details what the church is.
The fourth paragraph of the Rahner article says that the sacraments are something that is new and present while at the same being ancient. The fact that Christianity is relatively new does not contradict the history of humanity that spans history that is older than Christianity. Jesus Christ’s sacrifice purifies all creation which proves that he is the One that saves humanity from its sin. All the signs of creation are signs that point to Christ which shows that not only our shared history is made one in Christ but all Creation. Everything is in sync and unity through Christ.
This ties to the rest of the paragraphs because the other paragraphs detail how the entirety of history is included in sacraments- past, present, and future. When a sacrament reveals the hidden mystery of God, it reaches in and reveals anything that God is present or involved in. Since God is present at all times and places, through the power of Christ all time and creation is united and disclosed through the sacrament.
Belief matters to a person who desires to live with integrity because it makes explicit and declaratory what a person of integrity already upholds. Belief in a religion is the admission and acceptance that what that religion teaches is held true and the values that the religion holds are also true. To be an agnostic or a skeptic solely because one refuses to place the time and effort to truly consider what one believes is to be lazy. Worse, to be agnostic and simply say that one does not know is to hold the integrity that one believes in only at face value.
It is true, there are many people who are name-less and anonymous Christians. Non-practicing and, even, non-believers that are more charitable and merciful than those that claim to hold the Christian faith. But it is worth underlining the fact that belief strengthens one’s valuing of integrity. As those who hold to integrity in Christianity are, in the end, rewarded for their virtuousness. Those who hold no belief are tempted to give up their stance when faced with a challenge for they have no hope, other than their good feeling, that their sacrifice will mean something substantive in the end.
A life worth living is a life that brings forth good into the world. A life worth living is a life in service and sacrifice for others. When an individual forgoes their own comfort to fulfill another person’s needs, that individual’s life of service has made their life worthwhile.
The belief in a transcendent God and one’s participation in a faith community as a member of a church reinforces this idea. Belief in a transcendent God additionally justifies sacrifice on behalf of others because it makes clear that the temporal world surrounding us is not the final goal of humanity. The fact that this life is not an end in and of itself makes seeking utopia on earth or maximizing one’s own comfort irrational and unprofitable. Even without belief in a transcendent God, we find this idea enshrined in our own nature with a natural repulsion to those who are selfish and to our own selfish impulses when we are conscience of them.
Rahner begins by positing whether belief in an unspeakable infinite mystery known as God is possible. Rahner talks about his own faith and how he has always been a believer of the faith. He was raised in the faith and found no reason to cease placing his faith in God. He does recognize the struggle of those who do not believe in God. He recognizes that facing the trouble and evil of the world is often the best argument against Christianity for if God is good, how could there be such great evil in the world. Underlying all the complicated theology and dogma of Christianity is the simple belief that the great Mystery remains a mystery unless He reveals Himself in absolute self-communication. It would seem that Christianity is not helpful nor that belief in God possible with such lack of total knowledge in the face of great evil. Rahner, instead says that the Christian message and the goodness of Christianity is not only something that is necessary because of belief but necessary because of our nature. He looks at other cultures and points to the fact that they, while not explicitly Christian, upheld and expressed Christian values. These values humans uphold because they are human, and Christianity serves to reinforce these values. More than that, Christianity is the pinnacle of these values and virtues. That, again, is not to say that those who are not Christians are less intelligent or evil hearted relative to those who are Christians but rather in an imperfect world, disbelief in God is to be expected. That does not diminish the fact that belief in God is more than possible in the world, but actually serves the world and makes it a better place.
Since the Church discloses Christ, uttering the Word of God in Church combines the disclosure of Christ with the message of Christ. In that way, the People of God, who together disclose Christ, are given their mission from Christ. The Word of God, when uttered in Church, is more than a series of words put together. It itself becomes a sacrament because for the People of God, the Word of God is more than just talk, the Word of God embodies everything the People of God are to do and follow.
Moreover, since the Word of God is Jesus Christ, to utter the Word of God in Church is to speak Christ while the Church is disclosing Christ. This sort of dynamic of the Word of God is unique to when it is uttered in Church. That which the People of God disclose becomes clearer when the Word of God is read.
The three matters of dispute Rahner lists in the article What is a Sacrament? are: sacraments that are a matter of dispute between sects of Christianity, the doctrine of the Church as the basic sacrament of salvation, and the finding that in the word itself the proclamation of a genuine presence of the Lord as bringing about salvation is achieved.
Often, when discussing faith with those who are Christian but not Catholic, I find that their dispute is rarely about the core teachings of the Church but about the Church’s authority to teach them. The sacraments that are in dispute between sects of Christianity are most often the sacraments that possess an overt reference of the Church’s authority and thereby depend on the authority of the Church to be recognized as one of the seven ecclesial sacraments. This questioning and challenging of authority spills over to other areas of the church’s conduct as well. The church’s interpretation of the Word of God, both in the Bible and in the person of Christ, are challenged and held up as a matter of dispute. In disputing the Church’s interpretation, the salvation offered by God is obscured when, in reality, it has a direct and exhibitive character when understood and embraced in its full reality. Finally, as the Church is a living being, it’s doctrines and teachings are a sacrament that discloses Christ and, thereby, the salvation offered by Christ. To remove or question the authority of the Church is to attempt to undermine its living character; the Church ceases to be a living body and instead becomes an unfeeling database with its teachings open to interpretation.
There is a difference between words about Christ and the words of Christ. The words used in the sacraments are not simply the lofty and recited ramblings of an ordained minister. Rather, the words of the sacraments in and of themselves bring attention to a reality that, while hidden, is nevertheless consequential. Moreover, the words used in the sacrament are part of what causes a spiritual event to occur. A change in the reality of a soul takes place as a result of the words of the sacrament being said. If a child is baptized, the words of baptism cause an indelible mark to be placed on the soul. The words themselves caused something to occur that, while the full reality is hidden, was seen and exhibited in the conduct of the sacrament. The same can be said of all the other sacraments. Speaking the words not only enhances and helps convey the meaning of the sacrament, but the words themselves have an effect on those participating in the sacrament itself. These are the words of Christ because through the words used in administering the seven sacraments, the church is disclosed and thereby Christ is disclosed.
Words about Christ, such as instruction or catechesis, certainly conveys the message of salvation and the facts of the faith to someone. However, they are not the words of salvation itself nor do they, in and of themselves, bring salvation to a person in the same manner the words of baptism do. These words, compared to the efficaciousness of the words used sacraments, are deficient. Not deficient in the derogatory connotative understanding of that word, but deficient as in lacking the same ability to exhibit and bring forth the salvation of Christ as the words used in the seven ecclesial sacraments do. These words about Christ can only help prepare the individual to enter fully into the mystery of God and understanding the hidden reality of the sacraments.
The consequences resulting from and nature of the Sacrament of Baptism are the major focus of the first five chapters of Francis’ book. The Sacrament of Baptism is not a magical rite or an excuse for families to have a party. It is, as Pope Francis writes, the very moment when a person is born anew into a life in Christ. It is the foundation of our Christian life, the base from which we grow, and the beginning of our journey. That is why this sacrament is mentioned in the Creed itself because our entire life in Christ began with, and thereby stems from, the moment of our Baptism.
Second, baptism is the first time that God directly sacramentally administers His forgiveness to an individual. As such, any sacramental act of forgiveness is a reminder and, indeed, a “second baptism” in that it resets us on our Christian path the same way the baptism started us on our Christian path. We carry our baptism in all that we do and in everything we do. All the actions we take and decisions we make, we do so in context of being baptized and a member of the Body of Christ.
Finally, Baptism is not only the foundation of our individual life in Christ, but the foundation of our life in Christ as part of a community. It is the vehicle of direct transmission of the Christian faith to future generations and of welcoming new members into the Christian community. The sacrament of Baptism is the foundation of Christian unity.
The sacraments transmit the faith to its members and sustain them in faith. They initiate a person into communion with other believers and makes them members of a single body. Therefore, through the sacraments, not only is one’s soul changed by the indelible mark of Baptism, one’s very being and personhood changes. They are reborn in the life of Christ. Sacraments strengthen this new life and sustains it. The Sacrament of Penance resets a person on their Christian path while the Sacrament of Eucharist feeds the soul and gives it strength to persevere in times of trial. That being said, the sacraments are not some sort of magic but rather they are God’s way of directly relating with us.
When we celebrate the Sacrament of Penance, we are not just talking to a human priest, we are talking to the priest as Alter Christus—we are talking to God himself. In the Eucharist, we receive the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity—the Real Presence—of Jesus Christ Himself. In the Sacrament of Confirmation, the bishop doesn’t cast a spell, rather he simply asks the Holy Spirit to come upon the confirmandi. In the Sacraments of Holy Orders and Matrimony, God is the one who has led the young couple to that wedding or a given candidate to Ordination. During the Anointing of the Sick, it is God who sits at your bedside, holding your hand, comforting you during your time of pain, suffering, and trial. The point is that throughout our life and Christian path, we approach the Church for the Sacrament we need at the time. Every single time we celebrate a Sacrament, we encounter God Himself. God is really and truly present anytime a Sacrament is celebrated. In approaching the Sacraments, we invite God to be part of our lives and to accompany us as a companion, as a friend, as our parent, and as our God.
True hope is a hope that is not inhibited by anything. True hope is rooted in the belief that nothing is overwhelming, and any difficulty is surmountable. The belief that nothing is impossible for God. Without faith, that sort of true hope is not possible. Without faith, there is no life after death and therefore death becomes an insurmountable difficulty that limits the possibility of life and hope. Hope becomes constrained within the context of one’s singular earthly life and existence. For those with faith, the ultimate conquering of sin and death gives hope that, no matter what sort of difficulties are encountered here on earth, God will triumph and the challenges we face will dissipate.
The value of belief for the human being is that it elevates our human life to a life in Christ. Without the love of God, human beings are only very intelligent animals. With the love of God, we are raised from our lowly state and made into the children of God. God gives us new life and an opportunity to be reconciled with God and fully restored to his friendship. It is up to us to accept God’s offer by embracing the gift of faith that he offers us and by following the Christian path.
This Christian path is a narrow path and we, in our fallibility, often stray from it. We are tempted by the material things of this world which distract us from the higher spiritual greatness that awaits us in the eternal life. Fortunately, through the sacraments, we have the ability to continually return to God and be guided by Him.
In light of all of this, God gives us access to true hope. True hope is a limitless and unbounded hope that can only be granted by God. Nothing of this world can restrain us or constrain such hope because through our faith, even death has no hold on us. In the end, no matter what burden we bear or cross we carry, the repentant Christian can rest assured that God will not abandon them and will grant them eternal life in his heavenly kingdom. Moreover, the sacraments restore our integrity in their direct administration of God’s grace. The sacraments, restoring us on the Christian path, allow us to continually embrace the promises we made to God in embracing the faith.
The sacraments elevate our minds and being to a place beyond the world directly around us. Often, we make snap judgements regarding the world around us and only see what is at the surface level. We ignore what is beneath the surface and what the world around us could be. Sacraments have the creative and imaginative power of bringing forth the good that lies beneath the perceptible surface. This is highlighted by the involvement of the schizophrenic woman in liturgical Eucharistic roles. On the surface, it would seem to be irresponsible to place the Precious Body and Blood of Christ in the hands of a woman that is seemingly unstable. But to say that it is too dangerous for her to handle the Body and Blood of Christ is to ignore the danger of other peoples’ unworthiness to handle the Eucharist. No one is worthy to approach the sacraments, yet all are called to seek them and embrace them as well as we can.
The christening at the homeless shelter also demonstrates this idea but also the concept of the sacramentality. Based on the physical appearance of the homeless people, people often judge their interior being to look the same. Yet, when it came time to baptize the child, it was the homeless people, not the couples’ closest friends, that took a loving interest in the event and took part in it. The homeless peoples’ interest in the child and willing participation in the Christening disclosed the hidden reality that is their love for this couple and his child.
All of these stories serve to highlight that through the use of the simple physical elements in a ritual, unseen and unpredictable grace flows forth. Alone, bread, water, oil, and water do not change a person’s life. In context of community, ritual, and the sacraments they have the ability to bring back those who are lost, to awaken a person’s sense of innocence, and to heal the sick. The unseen creative and imaginative power demonstrates the sacramentality of simple actions done in great love.
The sacraments are more than just appearances or fancy events, they are a real encounter with God. Through the sacraments, we are able to ‘experience’ God is a real physical way, giving greater confidence and understanding to the more profound spiritual encounter that occurs concurrently. In encountering Christ, we are given, and reminded of, our mission to live a holy life and, through it, proclaim the Gospel. In this way, we are called by God to live the faith and to live it with others.
The greatest piece of evidence for this calling to live the faith in community is the strength of diversity. Every single person has strengths and talents that other people may not have. No one, except the divine, is a master in everything and in every respect. Therefore, when many people come together with a variety of talents, or charisms, the whole group is strengthened and enriched. An area of one person’s weakness is an area of another person’s strength. Together, they are made stronger as a group. Moreover, since every talent or charism we possess, particularly the spiritual ones, are a gift from God, we are meant to utilize these gifts to their fullest extent to fulfill the mission given to us by God. We are meant to devote our talents and abilities to serve God and His people.
It is important, however, that in sharing our gifts with one another as a community, we do not embrace an institutional mentality. Such an institutional mentality may result in talents and gifts being shared with one another, but it lacks love. In lacking love, such sharing could not possibly serve God whose very being is love. Therefore, as a church we must have a familial approach to living in community. We must especially share our gifts and talents during difficult times. We must be willing to share the burden of one another’s sufferings. The same way a loving family unites, in particular way, in times of trial, so to must the church unite in charity to help carry each member’s cross.
The new commandment Jesus gives in John 13, “Love one another as I have loved have loved you” is rooted in the verses preceding it “Now is the Son of man glorified, and in him God is glorified, if God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and glorify him at once” (John 13:31-32). This is Jesus’ explaining the church’s sacramental role. In being one as church, the church discloses Christ who discloses the Father for “he who receives me receives him who sent me” (John 13:20). The church’s sacramental role is reinforced in John 17 when Jesus prays that the church “may all be one; even as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me…I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me” (John 17: 20-24). The church is called to disclose through its community, unity, and action, Christ in His person and His activity. The ideal of unity within the church, in order to more readily disclose Christ, is modeled after the Communion of Persons present in the Trinity.
The mission of the church is to proclaim the Gospel and declare to the world that Jesus is Lord. That is the call of each member of the church to attain holiness. The way to go about fulfilling this mission is to do so sacramentally as Jesus says. He prays that his church disclose Him through their unity and activity so that the Gospel may be spread through this disclosure of the hidden reality of God.
Personal piety is important to develop a life of self-discipline and personal relationship to God. Its focus on the individual enhances a person’s ability to grasp the closeness of God and the nearness of His grace. It helps make clear that God loves a person not only because he is a human being but because that person is THAT individual person. God loves you because you are you. That being said, the Christian faith was not, is not, and will never be a faith that is meant to be lived alone. The Christian faith is meant to be lived in the unity that is the church. In every sacrament, the participants of the sacrament are not only the people present physically in the church building, but the entirety of the Christian people. Sacramental piety is our way of showing our unity as a church.
Moreover, the church discloses the hidden reality which is Christ present. In other words, while personal piety helps grow a relationship with God, sacramental piety makes Christ present to the individual. In every ecclesial sacrament, God directly ministers to the receiver of the sacrament in a way that other non-sacramental devotions can’t. Yes, God is present all through our lives and hears our prayers no matter where we are, but at no point on earth do we come as close to God’s presence as we do when we receive Christ in the Eucharist. In the sacrament of reconciliation, we receive God’s forgiveness directly in a way that personal piety can’t, necessarily, deliver to us.
Personal piety and sacramental piety together complement and enhance each other. Personal piety develops an individual’s relationship with God while sacramental piety makes God present so as to give that relationship the time and opportunity to grow. Personal piety helps us comprehend what great grace underlies the sacraments and the love that drives God to minister to us through them.
The life of grace is enhanced by living that complementarity because the fullness of grace is understood in context of both the entire church and of the individual. Personal piety builds our personal relationship to Christ which allows us to understand our relationship with God through the church. It is through the church that God most clearly and directly ministers to us.
If I was marrying an agnostic I would first point out how important the Catholic faith is to me, how great of a gift faith was to me, and how I want to pass down that same gift to my children. If my future spouse’s doubts or uncertainty regarding religion are correct, then the child is not hurt nor is anything deprived from them by being baptized besides getting a little wet. On the other hand, if my Catholic faith is right, it is the greatest act of negligence and child abuse to deny my child baptism and fail to raise them in the faith I have depended on my whole life. Baptizing a child is no more an imposition on the child’s freedom then is choosing what the child wears, where the child goes to school, and who has access to the child. Parents make plenty of decisions regarding their child that limit their child’s freedom, but they do so in the interest of giving their children the best that can possibly be obtained for that child. To baptize a child is to do them no physical harm and to grant them plentiful spiritual gifts, if there is a spiritual realm. There is no cost to the child to be baptized.
Moreover, in the Catholic faith, people usually obtain the Sacrament of Confirmation at an older age. Preferably when they are past the age of reason and can hold their own independent opinion on important issues. It is during this sacrament that a person confirms their faith and ‘makes the faith their own’. To force someone past the age of reason to confirm a faith that they don’t hold would, in fact, be an imposition on their freedom.
Finally, if someone holds the Catholic faith, the sacraments can never be out of date. To be ‘out of date’ implies that they no longer accomplish the objective that they were originally designed to achieve. On the contrary, the seven sacraments are meant to disclose the hidden reality of the church and Christ and they continue to do so. To say that they are out of date is to fail to see their purpose and function.
The sacrament of baptism and the sacrament of reconciliation are closely related in that both are sacraments of forgiveness. In the sacrament of baptism, original sin, along with any sins committed prior to the baptism, are washed away and forgiven just as in the sacrament of reconciliation the sins of the penitent are forgiven. Both the sacrament of baptism and the sacrament of reconciliation are rooted in the Paschal Mystery in that both sacraments have the efficacious power to forgive sins because of and through Jesus Christ’s passion, death and Resurrection. These sacraments remind us of the New Covenant established in Jesus Christ and His promise of salvation and redemption.
In another sense, both the sacrament of baptism and the sacrament of reconciliation are closely related as part of a Christian pilgrim’s path to heaven. The sacrament of baptism is the first step in starting out on this path toward heaven. Being sinful and imperfect beings, Christians often stray from this path. In straying from the narrow way of God, the integrity of the Christian is undermined as they break the resolutions they made to God to follow His commandments. The sacrament of reconciliation restores this Christian’s integrity and renews the Christian hope of being fully reconciled with God. In this manner, the sacrament of baptism starts the Christian on their pilgrim path while the sacrament of reconciliation helps to return them to that path whenever they stray from it.
The passion, death, and resurrection of Christ forgave all sin and restored all things burdened by sin to their original pure state. In light of that, anything that is done through this pascal mystery is also restored to its original unblemished state. In being baptized we, ourselves, are made new through this pascal mystery as we accept the redemption offered and the mission given by Christ. Therefore, any decision and/or choice we make in service of the mission we received also serves to make all things new and restore anything damaged or undermined by sin. Moreover, baptism, eucharist, and confirmation are sacraments of initiation in the Body of Christ—the Church. As a member of the Body of Christ our choices are allowed to be not only actions of the individual, but also actions of the Body of Christ for a member cannot be separated from the Body. This sort of dynamic is only possible because of the paschal mystery into which each member of the church was baptized into. Without this pascal mystery, reconciliation between God and man would not be possible and thereby neither would be human membership in the Body of Christ.
At the heart of every Sacrament is the relationship of the Word between the speaker and the hearer. What unites every member of the church is their common need to hear the Word of God and receive its contents. Yes, the Word of God is written in Sacred Scripture, but the Word’s act and effects are clearly expressed in the sacraments themselv
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