Monday, January 23, 2012

The TRUTH will set you FREE!

For centuries, we've been wondering, "what comes first, the chicken or the egg?"  Children often like to ask "why is the sky blue?"  Over a cold beverage, one might ask...  "Is the glass half empty or full?"  In the end, we are looking for the truth.  We're looking for answers to the seemingly impossible questions.  Some give up asking the questions and others fight for the answers.

I just left my first class of "Moral Theology" at the University of Dallas.  I'm currently in my 4th semester working on my masters of theological studies.  In class, we began to throw out terms of good/bad, right/wrong, vice/virtue.  We talked about what was revealed and mediated through God and through all his creations.  We discussed the many different lenses people inherently look through when approaching a moral or ethical dilemma.  Most importantly we looked at the tools in which we use when making a moral/ethical decision.

As a Catholic, we learned how to define "Catholic" back in 1st grade CCD.  It comes out to mean "Universal".  Ok - everyone that is Catholic knows that's what that means but have we really sat down and looked deeply into it's meaning?  Here are some major uses of the term universal when pertaining to Catholicism...
1.  Catholicism spans across every race, every language, every culture and country.  We have the same exact standard of belief throughout the entire world.  We may not all live to that standard, but it is given as a challenge for all those who claim to be Catholic. 
2.  Catholics worship the same across every race, language, culture and country.  We have the same prayers, the same readings, the same order, and the same theology.  You can walk in any catholic church throughout the world, and find the same mass on any given day.
3.  We use the entire bible rather than my 10 favorite verses.
4.  We openly use historical, literary and other forms of criticism to break apart the real meaning of scripture as it is related to way of thought, culture, authorship and social and economic challenges.
5.  We have had over 1800 years to debate the scripture and seek the truth in its accurate meaning and give a consistent message throughout the whole church.  We can't just make up our own interpretation. 
6.  We use science, sociology, philosophy, anthropology, history, biology, psychology, and theology to break apart every theory the church has ever had.
7.  We are COMMUNITY centered - not ME centered.  It's not ONLY about my PERSONAL relationship with Jesus Christ, but how we are supporting our community and building up the kingdom of God.  A baptism for a Catholic is not completely about the child - but about the community in which that child belongs to.  In baptism it is the community that welcomes the child and accepts that child and the challenge to bring them into the faith.  Its the community that supports the child when it's seeking answers and is struggling with the challenges of life.  It's community that bounces ideas around and contemplates together the meaning of truth and debates on what's right and wrong.  It's the community that builds you up when you fall.  That community IS the Kingdom of God. 

The Kingdom of God and Heaven often seem interchangeable, but they're not.  Heaven is our afterlife, and the place which our soul resides once we die.  The Kingdom of Heaven is everywhere, and spans over all time from before humankind until it is wiped from existence.  It encompasses every aspect of God and all His creation.  It speaks to us through the world and all its inhabitants.  It speaks to us in our own nature created by God, for God.  It is revealed to us in our thoughts, our hopes, our joys, our relationships, and our inner compass and voice.  It's only available once we tap into listening to that voice.  We put on our own lenses and see the world from that particular prospective.  I personally look through my Catholic Christian lens.  I make my decisions based on what I believe to be true.  Unfortunately, some people are misguided on what they believe true.

As a new dad, I was thinking how it would be both really cruel to teach my son that the color blue is really red.  I'm sure in such a great time of growing and learning, it wouldn't take long before I had him completely tricked.  Now - he'll go into the world thinking blue is red.  With the lens he's been given, he is right.  With the way he was taught, he thinks he's right and would probably argue with anyone that got in his way to tell him differently - but when it comes down to it, he was taught incorrectly.  The knowledge he was given may have seemed right, but in the end, he was wrong, and what he thought was inherently one thing was incorrect.  When you're seeking the truth of the world, I'd recommend using every possible source to discern what is truth, what is partial truths and what are lies.

I've recently been working on teaching a defending the faith series.  In order to know how to defend your own faith, you should know the attack.  One of the greatest attacks on Catholicism is the fundamentalist bible only approach to theology.  First, I would like to outline the 4 categories in which a Catholic uses to define revelation.
1.  Scripture
2.  Tradition
3.  Reason
4.  Experience

Now, this is the quadrilateral theory developed by John Wesley who founded the Methodist church.  He too believed in these 4 aspects and they all 4 were necessary for a BALANCED belief in search of truth.  If you ONLY use Scripture and tradition, you are generalized as a fundamentalist.  If you only use reason and experience, you're a philosopher.  As a Catholic, we use all 4 ways to break apart scripture and to develop our theology.

Over the centuries, the truth has stayed the same, but we've broken apart our belief and changed our stance on what we believe to be true.  Some of the darker moments of the church were finally broken apart by the help of Luther, and other theologians, philosophers, scientists, anthropologists, and anyone else willing to propose an argument.  Over and over the Church continues to debate what is true and accurate.  Its not about building bigger churches, making more money, having more people - it's about maintaining its stance on what is true even when unpopular.  If the Pope was trying to win a popularity contest, he could petition to change several of the church teachings to make it all seem so easy... but that wouldn't be standing up to what is true.

This week, 1000's of people marched in Washington DC for the march for life...  being pro-life isn't the most popular thing in the world - but we are not advocates on such a topic because it's popular, rather because it's the right thing to do. In the end, we're all searching for truth.  We're all searching for the Kingdom of God right here in our presence.  We're all searching to make ourselves better and to help others be better.  When we support our community by helping them grow into stronger faith filled people striving for the truth, we build that kingdom we are so anxious for.

I love being Christian - for in Christianity there is freedom.  Many look at the rules of Christianity and are turned off - but what we don't realize, is these rules lead us to freedom.  In the moral person, we intrinsically understand and can psychologically and emotionally feel the wounds our mistakes make on our soul.  We can sense the separation our sin causes as it leads us away from Christ and further into despair.  Only in Christ when we turn to him and seek forgiveness are we set free.  We have already been justified!  There is nothing we can do to earn his love and compassion for he already loves us unconditionally.  However - we must recognize and turn to him in acknowledgment each day that he is our Lord and Savoir.  "Lord, I am not worthy to receive you under my roof, but only say the words and my soul shall be healed."   In his suffering, there was such an abundance of Grace waiting to be given if only we ask for it. 

I LOVE being Catholic.  I love being Catholic even when it's not always super exciting, super fun, entertaining, or easy.  I love being Catholic even when a homily is boring.  I love being Catholic even when there are several mistakes my church has made in the last 2000 years.  I love being Catholic because in being Catholic, I know it's an OPEN search for the truth.  There are no hidden agendas.  There is no selective use of tools.  We use every possible mode of challenges to ensure the truth comes out.  I love being Catholic because we are the faith the Apostles first developed and even today, our apostolic succession continues through the church.  I know where my church started and the rock in which it was founded. 

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