Wednesday 28th September 2022

Home » Frontpage » Currently Reading:

Thank God For Christmas

December 25, 2013 Frontpage No Comments

By JAMES K. FITZPATRICK

It could be that I am thinking more about what we will experience in the afterlife now that I am over 70, but — you will have to take my word for this — it is something I have batted around in my mind since my early teens. I accept fully Jesus’ promise of an eternal reward for those who believe in Him and follow His word, in a place he described on the cross as “Paradise” to the Good Thief. (I accept as well His warning of an eternal punishment for those who reject Him and live evil lives.) But ever since some Dominican nun informed me in elementary school that it is not a place where we float around on clouds playing harps, I have had a hard time picturing what it will be like.
I can picture the risen Jesus and the Blessed Mother existing somewhere in bodily form; exactly where, I do not know. But what about the saints? And our deceased loved ones? Their bodies are not with them, and will not be with them until the Last Judgment. They are spirits. How can they hear our prayers of petition? They have no ears. How can they be aware of our plight in our earthly existence? They have no eyes. How can the saints and our loved ones be aware of their own identities as individual persons? Their brains are in their earthly graves.
Please do not misread me: I am not questioning the Church’s teaching about the worth of prayers for our deceased loved ones, or to the saints seeking their intervention in our lives. It is just that I have difficulty picturing how it all takes place.
If you think I am about to tell you I have had a revelation and now know the answer, sorry. I believe in Heaven because Jesus told us it exists. But I would come up empty if a Hollywood producer assigned me the task of devising a script and a set that accurately portray it.
That is why I always read the “near-death” stories when they appear in the papers. I am looking for a clue. But those stories never satisfy me. I am not saying they are false, only that they do not give me the sort of information that I am looking for. The tales of a white light and deceased loved ones calling us forward always strike me as images that our brains might conjure up during the last stages our lives, even if we are in a state the medical profession describes as clinically dead.
But my problem goes beyond picturing Heaven. God the Father is in the same category. When I was a boy — having learned that we were made in God’s “image and likeness” — I pictured God the Father as something like Michelangelo’s majestic old man on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, but in an invisible state, a state He could come in and out of like a Hollywood ghost.
But that is not what we mean when we call God a “spirit.” A spirit has no body. That realization struck me with just recently when I read an essay making the point that when we get to Heaven, we will not “see” God. (I wish I could recall exactly where I read this, but I can’t. My Google search has not helped. I do remember that it was written by someone loyal to the Magisterium, not by some liberal flamethrower.) The author’s point was that the Beatific Vision does not mean seeing God the Father in bodily form, or something analogous. This strikes me as a theologically sound proposition. We will see Jesus. We will see Mary. We will see our deceased loved ones after the Last Judgment, if we and they have been saved. But not God the Father. We will know Him, encounter Him in some way. But not see some glorified version of Michelangelo’s old man. Again: God is a spirit.
That’s why theologians who attempt to give us an understanding of the nature of God end up using terms such as “the ground of our being,” the “Geist,” the “ens in re,” and the “transforming energy behind man’s quest for the good.” These theologians may mean well, at least some of them. They may be engaged in an effort to depict God the Father in a manner that will be acceptable to those who would want no part of worshiping an image of something comparable to Hollywood’s depiction of Zeus. But, for me, they all end up, intentionally or not, depicting God not as a conscious being, not as a person, but as a concept, as an abstraction, as an expression of mankind’s quest for a just society, not as the Loving Father described by Jesus. Or even worse, as nothing different from the depiction of the 19th-century German atheist Ludwig von Feuerbach’s, who described God as mankind’s highest aspirations projected onto an imaginary being.
In fact, I would argue that even Fr. Robert Barron, the author and narrator of the wonderful book and DVD Catholicism and a solid and dedicated servant of the Church, does not help in this regard. Not that he has described God the Father in an inaccurate or unorthodox way. Thomas Aquinas would nod in agreement to what Barron had to say in a recent column. But I would have a hard time praying to the God Barron describes: “God is not a supreme item within the universe or alongside of it; rather, God is the sheer ocean of being from whose fullness the universe in its entirety exists….God is not a being within the natural order. Instead, He is the reason why there is that nexus of conditioned causes that we call nature — at all.” I know, I know: Barron is not promoting pantheism, but I can see why someone would interpret his words in that way.
That’s why I say, “Thank God for Christmas.” Because of Christmas we don’t have to form on our own, with unaided human reason, through philosophical rumination, a clear grasp of what God the Father “looks like” to worship God. We have Jesus. The Word was made Flesh, and dwelt amongst us. Jesus is God, as well as man. Our God is the God who taught us of the Good Samaritan and the Good Shepherd; the God who knew the difference between the prayers of the Pharisee and those of the tax collector; the God who saved the woman about to be stoned for her sins, with the warning, “He amongst you who is without sin, cast the first stone.” Our God is the God who promised the Good Thief on the cross that he — he personally, not just as part of a perfected human community in something like Teilhard de Chardin’s “divine milieu” — would be “with me this day in Paradise.”
Our God, the God who came to us on Christmas, is the God who loved little children and promised the millstone to those who would corrupt them. Our God promised forgiveness to sinners and called upon us to love one another as the Father in Heaven loves us. Fathers can love. Most humans have a hard time picturing how the “ground of our being” can love. We have more to work with. We have Jesus, because of Christmas. Jesus is a person who loves us, a person we can please, a person we can displease.
The old Christmas carols were on the mark. There has been a new and glorious morn, one which brings tidings of comfort and joy, a reason for the weary world to rejoice, a new creation. Old things have passed away; all things have become new. Christ the savior is born and through Him we know the loving Father in Heaven. The theologians’ alternate depiction of God — as the “ground of our being” and the “nexus of conditioned causes” — does not provide us a clearer picture than what Jesus gave us, just one more polysyllabic and dull.

Share Button

2019 The Wanderer Printing Co.

Vatican and USCCB leave transgender policy texts unpublished

While U.S. bishops have made headlines for releasing policies addressing gender identity and pastoral ministry, guidelines on the subject have been drafted but not published by both the U.S. bishops’ conference and the Vatican’s doctrinal office, leaving diocesan bishops to…Continue Reading

Biden says Pope Francis told him to continue receiving communion, amid scrutiny over pro-abortion policies

President Biden said that Pope Francis, during their meeting Friday in Vatican City, told him that he should continue to receive communion, amid heightened scrutiny of the Catholic president’s pro-abortion policies.  The president, following the approximately 90-minute-long meeting, a key…Continue Reading

Federal judge rules in favor of Gov. DeSantis’ mask mandate ban

MIAMI (LifeSiteNews) – A federal judge this week handed Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis another legal victory on his mask mandate ban for schools. On Wednesday, Judge K. Michael Moore of the Southern District of Florida denied a petition from…Continue Reading

The Eucharist should not be received unworthily, says Nigerian cardinal

Priests have a duty to remind Catholics not to receive the Eucharist in a state of serious sin and to make confession easily available, a Nigerian cardinal said at the International Eucharistic Congress on Thursday. “It is still the doctrine…Continue Reading

Donald Trump takes a swipe at Catholics and Jews who did not vote for him

Donald Trump complained about Catholics and Jews who did not vote for him in 2020. The former president made the comments in a conference call featuring religious leaders. The move could be seen to shore up his religious conservative base…Continue Reading

Y Gov. Kathy Hochul Admits Andrew Cuomo Covered Up COVID Deaths, 12,000 More Died Than Reported

When it comes to protecting people from COVID, Andrew Cuomo is already the worst governor in America. New York has the second highest death rate per capita, in part because he signed an executive order putting COVID patients in nursing…Continue Reading

Prayers For Cardinal Burke . . . U.S. Cardinal Burke says he has tested positive for COVID-19

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — U.S. Cardinal Raymond L. Burke said he has tested positive for the virus that causes COVID-19. In an Aug. 10 tweet, he wrote: “Praised be Jesus Christ! I wish to inform you that I have recently…Continue Reading

Democrats Block Amendment Banning Late-Term Abortions, Stopping Abortions Up to Birth

Senate Democrats have blocked an amendment that would ban abortions on babies older than 20 weeks. During consideration of the multi-trillion spending package, pro-life Louisiana Senator John Kennedy filed an amendment to ban late-term abortions, but Democrats steadfastly support killing…Continue Reading

Transgender student wins as U.S. Supreme Court rebuffs bathroom appeal

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday handed a victory to a transgender former public high school student who waged a six-year legal battle against a Virginia county school board that had barred him from using the bathroom corresponding…Continue Reading

New York priest accused by security guard of assault confirms charges have now been dropped

NEW YORK, June 17, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) — A New York priest has made his first public statement regarding the dismissal of charges against him.  Today Father George W. Rutler reached out to LifeSiteNews and other media today with the following…Continue Reading

21,000 sign petition protesting US Catholic bishops vote on Biden, abortion

More than 21,000 people have signed a letter calling for U.S. Catholic bishops to cancel a planned vote on whether President Biden should receive communion.  Biden, a Catholic, supports abortion rights and has long come under attack from some Catholics over that…Continue Reading

Bishop Gorman seeks candidates to fill two full time AP level teaching positions for the 2021-2022 school year in the subject areas of Calculus/Statistics and Physics

Bishop Thomas K. Gorman Regional Catholic School is a college preparatory school located in Tyler, Texas. It is an educational ministry of the Catholic Diocese of Tyler led by Bishop Joseph Strickland. The sixth through twelfth grade school provides a…Continue Reading

Untitled 5 Untitled 2

Attention Readers:

  Welcome to our website. Readers who are familiar with The Wanderer know we have been providing Catholic news and orthodox commentary for 150 years in our weekly print edition.


  Our daily version offers only some of what we publish weekly in print. To take advantage of everything The Wanderer publishes, we encourage you to su
bscribe to our flagship weekly print edition, which is mailed every Friday or, if you want to view it in its entirety online, you can subscribe to the E-edition, which is a replica of the print edition.
 
  Our daily edition includes: a selection of material from recent issues of our print edition, news stories updated daily from renowned news sources, access to archives from The Wanderer from the past 10 years, available at a minimum charge (this will be expanded as time goes on). Also: regularly updated features where we go back in time and highlight various columns and news items covered in The Wanderer over the past 150 years. And: a comments section in which your remarks are encouraged, both good and bad, including suggestions.
 
  We encourage you to become a daily visitor to our site. If you appreciate our site, tell your friends. As Catholics we must band together to rediscover our faith and share it with the world if we are to effectively counter a society whose moral culture seems to have no boundaries and a government whose rapidly extending reach threatens to extinguish the rights of people of faith to practice their religion (witness the HHS mandate). Now more than ever, vehicles like The Wanderer are needed for clarification and guidance on the issues of the day.

Catholic, conservative, orthodox, and loyal to the Magisterium have been this journal’s hallmarks for five generations. God willing, our message will continue well into this century and beyond.

Joseph Matt
President, The Wanderer Printing Co.

Untitled 1

Catechism

Today . . .

">Great News for Italy. Italy’s new Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni. Giorgia Meloni’s electrifying speech at the World Congress of Families

Bishops, priests and scholars correct Pope Francis’ statement on Holy Communion

(LifeSiteNews) — Four bishops, several priests, and numerous Catholic scholars have signed a statement rebuking Pope Francis for a recent statement about the reception of Holy Communion, according to which “everyone is invited to the supper of the wedding of the Lamb (Re 19:9). To be admitted to the feast all that is required is the wedding garment of faith which comes from the hearing of his Word.” The Pope wrote these words in his…Continue Reading

A futuristic Nur-Sultan ready welcomes Pope Francis to Kazakhstan

As Pope Francis prepares to depart for Kazakhstan on Tuesday, our correspondent in Nur-Sultan takes a look at his upcoming participation in the 7th Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions, as well as the small Catholic community’s great joy to receive the Holy Father.

Joe Biden Calls MAGA Americans Violent, Ignores Leftist Violence Against Churches, Pregnancy Centers

Illuminated with blood-red lights, draped in inky shadows, and flanked by U.S. Marines, President Biden launched into an angry screed Thursday night, using dangerous and inciting rhetoric to attack so-called “MAGA Republicans.” It was a terrifying sight that drew praise and flowery language from the “journalists” of CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360 as they lauded the “full frontal attack” and asserted he was “reclaiming patriotism.” “President Biden finishing a 24-minute speech at Independence Hall in Philadelphia. He said as…Continue Reading

Pope Francis creates 20 cardinals for the Catholic Church

Rome Newsroom, Aug 27, 2022 / 08:31 am Pope Francis created 20 new cardinals for the Catholic Church during a liturgy in St. Peter’s Basilica Saturday. “Jesus calls us by name; he looks us in the eye and he asks: Can I count on you?” Pope Francis said in a homily addressed to the College of Cardinals and its new members on Aug. 27. “The Lord,” he said, “wants to bestow on us his own…Continue Reading

Who Makes More Money In America?

By TERENCE P. JEFFREY The money earned by American households has grown enormously since 1967, when President Lyndon Baines Johnson was still in office and the hippie generation was celebrating its so-called Summer of Love.The median household income in the United States that year was $50,803 in constant 2021 dollars, according to the Census Bureau’s…Continue Reading

An Attack On Human Life . . . Pope Benedict Condemns “Intrinsic Evil” Of Abortion

By STEVEN ERTELT (LifeNews) — During his time as the leader of the Catholic Church, Pope Benedict was a consistent pro-life voice condemning the evil of abortion. In comments posted on Twitter the morning of September 21, Benedict XVI reminded people that abortion is evil and an attack on human life.He made it clear that…Continue Reading

Biden Is Losing The Race For The Cure

By STEPHEN MOORE President Joe Biden recently announced, with great fanfare, his Cancer Moonshot initiative. Biden used soaring and promising rhetoric about, at last, finding a cure for one of the world’s leading killers.Speaking at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston on September 12, the president declared:“Beating cancer is something we…Continue Reading

Becoming Pro-Life The Hard Way

By DONALD DeMARCO “Aujourd’hui Maman est morte. Ou, hier, peut-etre; je ne sais pas.” (Today my mother died. Or was it yesterday, I don’t know.) + + This is the celebrated opening of Nobel Laureate Albert Camus’ novel, The Stranger. It immediately establishes the main character as a person who, being emotionally unmoved by the…Continue Reading

The Queen: End Of An Era

By JOHN J. METLZER The Queen has died; the page of history has turned. The passing of Queen Elizabeth II, Britain’s longest serving monarch, has shocked and saddened much of the world despite the sovereign’s declining health and her 96 years of age. Just months after having joyfully celebrated her platinum Jubilee commemorating 70 years…Continue Reading

Advertisement

Our Catholic Faith (Section B of print edition)

On Being Faithful In A Few Things . . . Before Being Ruler Over Many Things

By MSGR. CHARLES POPE (Editor’s Note: Msgr. Charles Pope posted this commentary on September 17 and it is reprinted here with permission.) + + I. Analysis of the Sinner — In the opening lines of the Gospel, Jesus describes a sinful steward.Delusion (of the sinner) — Jesus said to His disciples, “A rich man had a steward. . . .”Notice…Continue Reading

How Long, O Lord?

By FR. ROBERT ALTIER Twenty-Seventh Sunday In Ordinary Time Readings:Hab. 1:2-3, 2:2-42 Tim. 1:6-8, 13-14Luke 17:5-10 The first reading today, from the Prophet Habakkuk, is very apropos for our time. As it was in his day, so too it is in ours: people crying to God for help, but nothing seems to happen; people crying out “violence,” but God does…Continue Reading

Catholic Replies

Q. I don’t use rosary beads to say the rosary since I pray in the car or while doing gardening or housework. Is it okay to pray the rosary daily with my fingers? Also, I have seen pictures of St. Joseph with lilies, and I have been told that is the way he was chosen to be the husband of…Continue Reading

Future Bleak for Vatican II Mass

By FR. KEVIN M. CUSICK My parish is forced back into compliance with the “unique liturgical expression of the Roman rite” this month, as expressed by Pope Francis in Traditionis custodes, with the banning of the traditional Latin Mass in my as well as in other parish churches. This in order to open us to the full experience of the…Continue Reading

Crazy! . . . A Homily For The 24th Sunday Of The Year

(Editor’s Note: Msgr. Charles Pope posted this on September 10 and it is posted here with permission.) + + The three parables in this Sunday’s lengthy Gospel challenge conventional thinking. They describe people doing things that we most likely would not do. All three of them — especially the first two — seem crazy. Who would ever do what the…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes… St. Augustine Of Canterbury

By DEB PIROCH Apostle, Benedictine monk, first archbishop of Canterbury, and the founder of the First Eccliastical See in England, St. Augustine of Canterbury is not a name remembered by many Americans. But as England buries Queen Elizabeth II this week, we hear much of Her Majesty’s Christian faith. Without St. Augustine’s work, would Christianity in England exist at all…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes . . . St. Bridget

By DEB PIROCH “Oh my friends, I love my sheep so tenderly that were it possible I would die many other times for each one of them that same death I suffered for the redemption of all” — Words attributed to Christ, Revelations of St. Bridget. + + In 1999, Pope St. John Paul II issued a moto proprio, making…Continue Reading

Advertisement(2)