Monday, July 25, 2016

The Resurrection Part 1

 To talk about the resurrection we can start with our very own selves. Our hopes can help us appreciate the resurrection.
Who are we? We are humans and we are flesh. We are embodied persons. We are not air. We are not gas. We are not angels. We are not pure spirits. We are persons of flesh and blood. Our experience of our body is quite ambivalent. On one hand we experience our body as something we have, like a tool or a shirt. We feel a distance from our body. Yet at the same time we also experience an identity with our body: “I am my body”. If someone holds my hand that person is holding my hand. That person is holding a piece of myself. But at the same time that person is also holding me.
So there is this experience of distance and identity with our body. When a person dies the body turns into a cadaver. It continues to be a human body but it has stopped all web of relationships with others and the world. It is dead. We have memories of the dead…but the dead is dead and the body is a cadaver.
Still, we make the effort to bury the dead. We do ceremonies and rituals. There is a sense of importance we give even to that dead person—even to that cadaver. But there is probably something more in what we do when we respectfully treat the dead.
We treat with respect the dead. Let us look at the dynamism inside of us when we do this. We just do not want to keep memories of the dead. We assert that somehow….somewhere along the way…we can hope that death is not the end of that person.
A French philosopher, Gabriel Marcel, once wrote, “If I love you then you will not die”. In other words my love for you hopes that death is not the end. My love for you does not end, so I continue to expect that my love will continue even after death. Love aims at the eternal.
So many cultures hold on to this respect for the dead, this love and this hope. It is a hope we find little words to explain. It is deep within us.
Let us call this a “transcendental hope”. It is the hope that really life can be fuller and so eternal. It is the hope that the “bad things” that happen to us in life will never win…and that death will never win completely. It is this hope that can make us appreciate the resurrection of Christ.
The resurrection of Jesus is not historical…and it is historical. It is not historical because history (as science) cannot verify that someone who died lived again after. History does not have the competence to say that there is life after death. History is limited to its study of place and time. Life after death is already outside place and time. So we cannot have a claim on the historicity of the resurrection.
Yet the resurrection is historical. It happened to a specific man, Jesus, in a place and time. How do we know that? There are historical traces. What are they? There are the attestations of the Apostles. They said that they saw the risen Lord. They said that they saw him alive again. This affirmation cannot be denied historically. It is historically true that Apostles said that. We can also add that there were many people, especially the early Christians, who have accepted that witnessing of the Apostles. The impact of the experience extended far and wide beyond the circle of the Apostles.
Although we cannot scientifically verify that Jesus indeed had risen from the dead, we can in faith accept it. We can in faith accept the witnessing of the Apostles.
For the Apostles the resurrection was God’s way of raising his son from the dead. It was the eschatological act of God done within history. Jesus was the same man in history, the same man who lived in Palestine in the first century. The risen Lord is the same man of Nazareth. There is a continuity. Yet there is a discontinuity because the risen Lord is not glorified. Yes, he is the same man, the same body, but in a radically new condition.
This can explain why, at first, the Apostles could not immediately identify the risen Jesus. They needed faith to recognize the risen Lord.
There is one theme that is so often mentioned when discussing the resurrection. This is “the empty tomb”. The fact that the tomb was empty does not prove the resurrection. Who knows, maybe someone stole the body.
Yet the empty tomb can generate faith. It can be sign of the resurrection. It can signify that Jesus was not abandoned to the corruption of the body. The empty tomb announces the accomplishment of the eschatology when corruption ceases to win. It is not the definite destiny of the human being.

Finally, there is also the point about Jesus sitting at the right hand of God. That Jesus sitting there is a human Jesus too in full human embodiment. This tells us that “one of us”—a human—is in full communion with the divine. The Apostles saw that thanks to Jesus, as fully human, was elevated to the throne of God, we too can have a share in that communion. That communion is made possible thanks to the risen Lord.

Some Points on Faith

Things to be careful about

Our Christian faith is very deep and wide. But we have the temptation to narrow it down. Here are a few points to be careful with.
Be careful not to get stuck in fideism. Fideism is the refusal to get to know better the faith. Here we just say yes and yes without trying to understand what it is we are believing in. We are humans and we are capable to deepening our faith. Let us study more.
Be careful not to get stuck in intellectualism. In intellectualism faith is only classroom stuff. It is only an academic affair. Of course we need to study the faith but we also have to recognize that faith is more than classroom thinking. It touches on life.
Be careful not to get stuck in sentimentalism. Many people like emotional activities and they look at faith as an opportunity to get very emotional. Yes, faith can include feelings and affections but faith is more than these.
Be careful not to get stuck in quietism. In quietism we say that faith is purely inside the church it has nothing to do with the concrete moral and social questions of life. Of course faith is also in the church but it touches on all aspects of life and faith can question our moral and social positions.
Be careful not to get caught in moralism. In moralism we always look for where people make mistakes. We look for where people are bad. We might use faith to judge too much others and impose on them rules and norms that will only make them unhappy. Faith is liberating and should make us happy, not miserable.
Be careful not to gat caught in angelism. In angelism we think that God does everything we have no more participation. We just wait for God to do things for us. Yes, we rely on God but we have our roles to play too.

Faith of the Community

Our faith is the faith of the community, the Church. Yes, we must accept that our faith is personal. Each of us is responsible for the faith. But faith is not private, it is not mine alone. Sometimes we have the temptation to think that faith is a private affair. But no. Faith is the faith of the Church, it is a shared faith, a community faith.
When we pray “I believe” we must remember it is also a “we believe”. If we say, “I have faith” we also mean “we have faith”.
Remember that God communicated himself to a people—the Hebrew nation in the Old Testament. He communicated himself in Christ to the Apostles and disciples. When St. Paul received the revelation of Christ he still had to verify it with the Apostles. He never took that revelation privately.
Human authors put in writing that self-communication of God to his people. And when the human authors wrote they were also thinking of the faith of their communities. Even Scriptures are community based. They were written from the context of the community and they were written for the community.
God continues to communicate this time through the Scriptures and the Church. Of course we do not rule out the possibility of God speaking directly to individual persons. But even there the revelation will still have to be confirmed in the Church. In Lourdes when the Mother Mary revealed to Bernadette, Mother Mary still made sure that Bernadette went to the priest to make the revelation “official” for the Church.

Faith maturity

Let us talk about our faith as adult faith. We understand that for children the faith is transmitted without critical thinking. Children are formed by catechism and family tradition, they accept and accept whatever is transmitted to them. But then the day comes when we all become adult. Faith therefore also becomes faith of adults.
For the adult faith becomes more personal. (Again, we repeat, it is personal but not private.) Each of us, as adult, lives the faith personally. Each is responsible for the faith. Each takes charge of the faith and makes the effort to grow in the faith. It is a commitment of each and every one of us. This is why we say that there is a personal side to adult faith.
For the adult faith consists of a growing trust and confidence in God. The adult knows how he/she is related to God and how much God cares. Adult faith readily recognizes this care of God. The adult then is more trustful and confident that God never abandons his people.
This trust and confidence in God is done in the company of the whole Church. Adult faith is concerned about the faith of the whole Church. The adult is more willing to participate in the needs of the Church—in a small scale or large scale. The adult does not give up on the Church, knowing that in the Church we need the support of one another. Faith is lived with God in the Church.
For the adult faith marks daily life. Daily life makes sense and meaning thanks to faith. The events, choices and decisions are influenced by a perspective on faith. The daily life struggles are not empty struggles. They are understood in the light of faith.
Adult faith includes the effort to understand better the basis of faith. The adult wants to grow in understanding. The adult is not stagnant. The adult updates himself/herself with Scriptures and Church teachings. Adult faith is not lazy faith.
Adult faith consults faith when making hard choices and decisions. For example when confronted with a tough situation an adult will ask what Jesus would do in that situation. What will be the stand of the Church with that situation. Hard decisions are made with the help of the faith.
Adult faith is prayerful. The adult spends time in personal—and communal (like the Mass)—prayer. In prayer there is a face-to-face communication with God. In prayer we address God as a “you”, we talk to God. Adult faith is willing to spend quality time on this. Daily life can be busy but the adult knows the importance of breaking that busy-ness for prayer.

Adult faith is happy faith. It is celebrating. It is thankful for the faith. It holds no grudges. Although life can be hard, the adult in faith has the thankful attitude of having received faith transmitted by the Scriptures and the Church. The adult in faith is thankful for not having missed the grace of having heard the Word of God, the grace of being in the Church and the grace of having the Lord God in Jesus as God.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Sin, Darkness, Death?

1.     There are obstacles lying between God and us. These comprise what we can call, in a lump sum, “Sin, Darkness, and Death”. God created all things. Human beings are created in God’s own image. God found his creation to be “very good” (Gen 1/31).
2.     The human person is image of God. This has been distorted as a result of sin. But this has never been deleted.
3.     We are called to improve levels the conditions of human life. We are to work for the happiness of persons, promote justice and peace, foster a love that is inclusive of all. This is how we are as image of God.
4.     But we can see the human condition of wretchedness. There is evil and suffering which are a universal experience. All humanity experiences evil and suffering. Our faith demands that we make a coherent and honest assessment of the human condition.
5.     Our faith assesses  that evil appears as being always present. Evil has always been with us and it precedes our responsibilities. It looks as if there are “powers” present before we do anything. These powers of evil show to be external to any of our personal awareness, choice and action.
6.     But we also experience evil and suffering that have their source in our human heart. We humans are also responsible. We have our selfish reflexes. We have cravings for inordinate pleasure and power. In many ways we participate in evil. In mass we pray, “that I have sinned in what I have done and in what I have failed to do”. Often we participate in evil by intentionally failing to do good.
7.     We human beings are alienated from God because of sin. Yes we are creatures and not the Creator. God moves in love towards us, sinful humans, and this is presupposed in our belief in salvation.
8.     We experience break up of relationships, inadequacies and frustrations in our lives. We cannot deny how we also are responsible. Still we must note as objectively as possible those aspects of our lives that destroy us and we are not directly responsible for them. Those aspects are beyond our control and the also speak of our need for salvation. Just think of the natural catastrophes, illness, physical and mental suffering. These tell us that evil is about what we are responsible for and what we are not responsible for.
9.     Traditional teaching says that death itself, and all the “bad things” around us, has been understood as a result of sin, “the mystery of iniquity”. (see 2 Thes 2/7).
10. In a more personal level we can talk of difficulties in balancing our own personalities. At time each of us can be…well….an “a.h.” We have difficulties in living well and harmoniously with others. We know of the presence of violence around us and perhaps seeds of violence are sprouting within us.
11. And then we need to recognize how we have been harming and destroying our environment. Some scientists say that we are in a point of really falling apart ecologically.
12. We can understand why there are people who are skeptical about life and they think that, really, life is absurd and without sense.

13. Picture the Apostles with their very deep anguishes in life. Then they see Jesus alive again! Imagine how that presence of Christ would resolve all the questions of sin and evil.