Today's Wisdom

Those who do not pass from the experience of the cross to the truth of the resurrection condemn themselves to despair! For we cannot encounter God without first crucifying our narrow notions of a god who reflects only our own understanding of omnipotence and power
Pope Francis

Monday, January 28, 2013

Unity of Humanity

On October 30, 2010, I spoke at the Jaaffari Islamic Center in Thornhill. I was invited to speak to the Shiite Muslim, Hindu, and Christian youths gathered there for a presentation about angels and demons by 3 scholars  from the Catholic perspective, Islamic perspective, and Hindu perspective.

The first thing I did is in respect of their place of worship and according to the example given by Blessed John Paul II, I removed my shoes before stepping in the mosque. After distributing my handouts, including an excerpt from the Second Vatican Council's Declaration on non-Christians and another from the Catechism of the Catholic Church on "Angles and Fallen Angels," I was given a cordial introduction by their youth coordinator.

In my presentation I emphasized the need to collaborate among all peoples of religions since we share a lot in common especially defending the family, the pro-life movement, and traditional moral values. When it came to the topic of angels and demons, I explained the Christian faith in the existence of spirits, angels and fallen angels, and their roles in the salvation plan as narrated in the Bible and the development of understanding the phenomenon of possession by the Devil. Being possessed by the Devil is itself a complex topic that needs a separate lecture!

My Muslim scholar fellow spoke about the evidence of the cosmic powers of angels and demons in the Qura'n but made a subtle note that, in his opinion, Christians have doubt that Christ may be divine! Our Hindu scholar fellow was brief and did not make any remark about Christian faith...Then came the Question Period in which we answered questions from attendees. There I replied to the Muslim scholar that we Christians believe in both the perfect divinity and the perfect humanity of Christ. He countered "Christ was a human person" to which I agreed that he is fully human without the least change in his divinity. Christ is God and Man in the same person! One Muslim young man asked me "How can God be three and one?" to which I replied that this topic needed a separate debate.

One question was directed to me  "Do you think the world will come to an end or is it endless?" I knew this question carried in it the New Age Eastern idea that the cosmos never started and will never end. According to this thought, it is in an everlasting cycle of Big Bang and Big End. Some scientists are already speculating this theory. It is not the Standard Cosmological Model of the Big Bang. I replied that the world will end in the Second Coming of Christ. When the young man asked "When and how?" I answered straight "When Christ comes again, I think and hope he will find the entire world Catholic."

That was a big bang for some attendees! But it makes sense to me. Why?

 the Catholic Church is the largest single organization in the world. It is widespread in all continents and cultures and has been successful in adopting the inculturation directive of the Second Vatican Council. This alone positions her as the most powerful of all Christian organizations. It is also the most effective Christian Communion in terms of missionary work. The Catholic Church built and continues to build universities, schools, and education centers in the entire world where she is welcome. Other Christian missionaries of comparable activities are Protestant individual missions which, nevertheless, lack the cohesion and unity which exist only in the Catholic Church.

Second, the Catholic Church is the single Christian Communion in which all members are in full union in the worship of God. For nearly 2,000 years she has grown in its Apostolic mission from Jerusalem to Rome, then to the rest of the known world.  The sign of its unity is the Successor of Peter, the Bishop of Rome. Within her bosom are found Eastern-Tradition Churches and Anglican Western-Tradition Churches that are recognized as sister Churches to the Church of Rome fully in communion with the Successor of Peter. Well organized and cognizant of the signs of times, the Catholic Church adapts well to the demands of a changing world. Following the Second Vatican Council, the faithful no longer worship in Latin only, but in the language of the local Church i.e. English, French, Arabic....etc.

Third: In the Catholic Church are to be found some of the most knowledgeable experts in all fields of knowledge from natural sciences to humanities, philosophy, and - of course - religion. In the Vatican stands a space observatory fully equipped with powerful telescopes and directed by scientists who may also be priests. In the past 3 decades the Vatican has sponsored many conferences on science that attracted atheist scientists as well as theist scientists. These activities are well organized within the bounds of the dialogue of the Catholic Church with advanced science. All agencies and organizations that offer Catholic social and educational services are accessible on the Web. They are tailored to support and educate the needy and people in most countries including those countries that may have authorities opposed to her (for example China with whose government the Catholic Church continues a dialogue.)

Fourth: In the moral sphere, which is central to all political powers to gain support, who else but the Pope of Rome that every one in the world must listen to when he speaks? Although Stalin in his days and Napoleon in his glory attempted to denigrate the Pope, they both lost their powers while the Catholic Church continues to grow. Against the advice of John Paul II, the American George W. Bush thought he will win the second Gulf War, and Americans are now paying the price with a huge debt! 

Fifth: We know from history who won and who lost among Christian Churches. Today the world is inhabited by some 1200 million Catholics, 300 million Orthodox and another estimated 300 million Protestants. The Eastern Churches claim Apostolic origin, yet they also suffered great calamities because of divisions and rivalry among their leaders; and in one case because the Patriarch of Alexandria in Egypt dared to excommunicate the Pope of Rome, he and his followers were excommunicated (Council of Chalcedon, 451 AD). Following the Islamic Conquests, many Christians in the Middle East either converted to Islam or their presence was weakened until Napoleon conquered the Middle East and brought with him missionaries such as the Jesuits who educated Muslims and Christians. Moderate Muslims had already contributed The great School of Alexandria (known for the contributions of such giants as Philo, Origen, and St. Cyril) today no longer exists. The great See of Constantinople, which once governed large territories under the Byzantine emperor, today has about 10,000 faithful in today's Turkey and its huge Agia Sophia Cathedral is now a museum. The Assyrian Church of the East which once flourished in China with millions of Christians, counts today some 600,000 with a Patriarch who lives in the United States! When the late Melkite Catholic Bishop Elias Zoghby proposed a reunion with the Orthodox Church of Antioch, his project was rejected by the Orthodox themselves and was advised to refer to Rome. The program for reunion of all Christians must pass by Rome, not because Rome is the best place but because the Catholic Church is the most open body in Christian Communions. The Successor of Peter holds the keys and in communion with him the College of Bishops (some 4,000 bishops). There have been exaggerations in papal judgments but there have always been reforms. It is said that Martin Luther thought initially at least that his Reformation was part of the reform in the Catholic Church. It is regrettable that misunderstandings between him and Rome culminated in excommunication. The Catholic Church attempted twice a reunion with the Apostolic Churches of the Orthodox East (in the Council of Lyons in the 14th century and the Council of Florence in the 15th century). Following Vatican II (1962-1965) it is the Catholic Church that made the most recognized advances in the dialogue with the Oriental Orthodox since 1972 and with the Lutherans since 1999 as inspired by the Ecumenical Movement which had started in some Protestant Communions in the early 20th century.  It is here that we see a Church that not only teaches but also learns.

Sixth: In fact in the development of civilization, Catholics played the most important role in adopting the classics of the Greeks when the Renaissance was born in Europe inspired in part by St. Francis of Assisi. In the 13th century St. Thomas Aquinas was able to build a philosophical system that adopted the good in Aristotle's philosophy and hence opened the Western mind to the "Scientific Revolution."  Although the excesses and sins of some popes and bishops in the Middle Ages caused protests and divisions that later culminated in the Reformation, no one can deny the good that the Catholic Church as a whole gave to the world including the good intentions of the Crusades which above all were not initially directed against fellow humans but against the persecution of Christians in the Holy Land. Surely princes and kings took advantage of the Crusades to increase their own material power and fortunes but historian tell us that the Roman Pontiff excommunicated those who killed or usurped people rather than following the dictates of Christian conscience. Humanism itself was largely born in Catholic minds such as Dante and the arts have always been supported by popes and bishops in paintings, building of Churches and museums as well as in the development of sacred music. This dynamic still lacks in most ancient Churches of the East.

I had listed quite a few more reasons for my belief in the uniqueness of the Catholic Church in a post on the blog I wrote in 2009. You may wish to refer to it
here but I cannot deny my hope that the definition of being a Catholic or "Anonymous Catholic" belongs to everyone who, in search for the truth, follows the dictates of his/her conscience. 
This last point is based on the document Dominus Iesus
 published by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 2000 on authority of Pope John Paul II. In it, the Congregation defends the salvific universality of Jesus Christ, sole mediator for the salvation and eternal life of any humans as taught by the Catholic Church, and the Church as "the universal sacrament of salvation." It also recognizes the possibility of salvation of non-Christians although it cautions that errors in their religions could be obstacles to their salvation. Yet, quoting Vatican II, the document articulates a vision for dialogue with non-Christian bodies and encourages theologians to explore how the salvific grace of Christ and the Spirit may be at work in non-Christians for their salvation which is only possible through the grace of Christ. Here is a little excerpt, but the reader is encouraged to read the entire document in the context of the tradition of the Church:
"For those who are not formally and visibly members of the Church, “salvation in Christ is accessible by virtue of a grace which, while having a mysterious relationship to the Church, does not make them formally part of the Church, but enlightens them in a way which is accommodated to their spiritual and material situation. This grace comes from Christ; it is the result of his sacrifice and is communicated by the Holy Spirit”; it has a relationship with the Church, which “according to the plan of the Father, has her origin in the mission of the Son and the Holy Spirit.” (Cf. Dominus Iesus; 21).

The above is based on  my own opinion subject to approval by the teaching authority  of the Catholic Church. This is why I think and hope that in the Second Coming of Christ, the world will be Catholic (some as Anonymous Catholics). The dialogue with non-Christians will hopefully be fruitful by the grace of Christ. Hell is reserved for those who never repent.  Christ the king, the One who will reign, will make all one in his one Church and his eternal kingdom.

[And he who sat upon the throne said, "Behold, I make all things new."] (Revelation 21, 5)

Today's Quote

"Behold I make all things new." (Revelation 21:5)


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