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November 1, 2019 Our Catholic Faith No Comments

 

Editor’s Note: In his weekly bulletin at the Church of St. Michael in New York City, Fr. George Rutler included a statement from St. John Henry Newman that is as appropriate today as it was when he wrote it a century and a half ago:
“What is the world’s religion now? It has taken the brighter side of the gospel, its tidings of comfort, its precepts of love; all darker, deeper views of man’s condition and prospects being comparatively forgotten. This is the religion natural to a civilized age and well has Satan dressed and completed it into an idol of the Truth….Our manners are courteous; we avoid giving pain or offence…religion is pleasant and easy; benevolence is the chief virtue; intolerance, bigotry, excess of zeal are the first of sins….[I]t includes no true fear of God, no fervent zeal for His honour, no deep hatred of sin, no horror at the sight of sinners, no indignation and compassion at the blasphemy of heretics, no jealous adherence to doctrinal truth…and therefore is neither hot nor cold, but (in Scripture language) lukewarm” (Sermon 24, Religion of the Day).

Q. In the Vatican II document Gaudium et Spes, n. 24, it says that man is “the only creature on earth which God willed for itself.” Please expound on this statement. What does it mean? — R.M.V., North Carolina.
A. The Catechism says that “man occupies a unique place in creation” because he is made in the image of God, and “God established him in his friendship” (n. 355). Of all visible creatures, the Catechism continues, “only man is ‘able to know and love his creator’ [GS 12 § 3]. He is ‘the only creature on earth that God has willed for its own sake’ [GS 24 § 3], and he alone is called to share, by knowledge and love, in God’s own life. It was for this end that he was created, and this is the fundamental reason for his dignity” (n. 356).
The Catechism (n. 358) quotes St. John Chrysostom about man’s special place in God’s creation:
“What is it that is about to be created, that enjoys such honor? It is man — that great and wonderful living creature, more precious in the eyes of God than all other creatures! For him the heavens and the earth, the sea and all the rest of creation exist. God attached so much importance to his salvation that he did not spare his own Son for the sake of man. Nor does he ever cease to work, trying every possible means, until he has raised man up to himself and made him sit at his right hand.”

Q. In reading the Old Testament, I have a hard time comprehending the harsh punishments that God inflicted on the enemies of Israel, for example, drowning everyone except Noah and his family in the Flood, killing the oldest child in every house in Egypt, wiping out the city of Jericho, destroying entire tribes and peoples. That doesn’t sound like a God of love, or like Jesus in the New Testament. Can you explain this dilemma? – M.E.W., Massachusetts.
A. First of all, the God of the Old Testament is not different from the God of the New Testament; they are the same God. As Dr. Peter Kreeft has written:
“The opposition between nice Jesus and nasty Jehovah denies the very essence of Christianity: Christ’s identity as the Son of God. Let’s remember our theology and our biology: like Father, like Son. But is not God a lover rather than a warrior? No, God is a lover who is a warrior. . . . In fact, every page of the Bible bristles with spears, from Gen. 3 through Rev. 20. The road from Paradise Lost to Paradise Regained is soaked with blood. At the very center of the story is a cross, a symbol of conflict if there ever was one. The theme of spiritual warfare is never absent in Scripture, and never absent in the life and writings of a single saint.”
As for the extermination of tribes and nations in the Old Testament, Fathers Leslie Rumble and Charles Carty wrote in volume three of Radio Replies:
“The Jews had God Himself as their Supreme Ruler, even as regards their earthly welfare. Those who abandoned God for idolatry were guilty of treason, and punitive measures were justified. Also, they were giving themselves up to all manner of wickedness and immorality, and did not deserve to retain a life they were so abusing. God, therefore, the Supreme Author of life and death, decreed their extinction, but only after they had been afforded an opportunity to repent and return to Him. Those who refused to repent were to be put to death, and no tie of friendship was to hinder the execution of justice. . . .
“God is the Author of life, and we have no right to live longer than He wills. He who makes a thing has the right to unmake it, if it does not fulfill the purpose for which He made it. God has no obligation to keep rebellious men in existence, and He can appoint any given means of removing them from this world; above all, when it is supremely necessary to impress the gravity of man’s obligations upon others” (pp. 33-34).
In the words of the Catechism, God is “the Lord of the universe, whose order he established and which remains wholly subject to him and at his disposal. He is master of history, governing hearts and events in keeping with his will” (n. 269).
However, we must distinguish between God’s positive will, whereby He makes something happen, such as the Flood in the time of Noah, the destruction of Jericho in the time of Joshua, or the Resurrection of Jesus, and His permissive will, whereby He allows events to take place, even bad events, such as the Death of His Son on the Cross, so that He can bring good out of them.
There is evil in the world because of original sin. Is God responsible for evil? No. He created our first parents and gave them, and us, free will, which allowed them, and us, to make disordered choices. Adam and Eve were created in a state of original holiness and justice, but at the instigation of Satan they rebelled against their Creator and started a chain reaction of sin and evil that will persist until the end of time. That’s the bad news. The good news is that God did not turn away from sinful humanity, but sent His only Son to die for our sins and to overcome evil.
Some understanding of the mystery of evil can be found in a book by Mark Giszczak entitled Light on the Dark Passages of Scripture, which is published by Our Sunday Visitor. We highly recommend this book for addressing many of the difficult-to-understand passages in the Bible and offer the following excerpt as an example of the book’s value:
“Of course, we could write a thousand books about suffering and evil, but the principles for understanding all the complex arguments that philosophers, theologians, and others make boil down to a few simple concepts. God is all-good and all-powerful. Evil is a privation of good. No one is righteous. All are born under sin and are therefore subject to death. God does bring justice, but we might have to wait until the end of time for all the loose ends to be tied together. In fact, God walks with us on the path of suffering, suffers on our behalf, and fights on our side against the evil in the world.
“Deep down we know the unjust and terrible sufferings so many people undergo are simply not right. There’s no way to stare a suffering person in the face and simply explain away his or her troubles. But we can trust that when he returns, God will judge everyone everywhere and undo the wrongs and injustices of this world. Someday, ‘he will wipe away every tear’ (Rev. 21:4), and our hearts will finally rest in the victory of God’s justice” (p. 110).
We sometimes wonder how much longer God, who so harshly punished sin in the past, will put up with the wickedness and immorality that is so rampant today. Perhaps we have been spared thus far because, as St. Paul said, “Where sin increased, grace overflowed all the more” (Romans 5:20).

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How refreshingly "common sense" this statement is. Finally, a Catholic Bisho (Cardinal) who understands the principle of subsidiarity, as properly applied, and affirms the truth that difference is not a problem, but a gift.

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“"Poland can tell Europe that each nation was created by God to be placed in a particular place, with its culture, its traditions, its history. ...

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Our Catholic Faith (Section B of print edition)

Catholic Replies

Editor’s Note: In his weekly Bulletin at the Church of St. Michael in New York City, Fr. George Rutler listed some of the false predictions of the climate alarmists and noted their refusal ever to admit being wrong: “Inevitably, the list of mistaken predictions keeps growing. We may remember being told in the 1960s that, within twenty years, overpopulation would…Continue Reading

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Catholic Replies

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