Monday, February 18, 2013

Too Smart For The Church?

There are many traps, dangers, and pitfalls that we as Christians must face in our daily lives. Events happen to us that are often out of our control. Sickness, accidents, natural catastrophes, even financial difficulties or hardship are often beyond our control, or not due to a self-inflicted cause. Yet, there is one trap that we must be on guard for, and that we must not allow ourselves to fall into our spiritual growth. That trap is, when we begin to think that we have all the answers regarding our faith, and that there is nothing more that we can learn.

We have all seen those individuals or groups of individuals, who think that there is nothing more for them to learn about our faith, that they have grown spiritually as far as it is humanly possible for them to grow. These self-assured people think nothing more can be acquired by them from the study of Holy Scripture, the writings of the Saints, nor from the instruction and guidance of the Church. We have even seen some proclaim themselves the only “true Christians”, the only “true Catholics”. They have fooled themselves into thinking that they have all the answers, that they have all the truth, and that anything other than what they know, what they believe is inherently wrong or ill conceived. As a very holy priest I know says, “some think themselves more Catholic than the Church”.

We should remember, that there is always something new for us to learn. It is not from our own understanding, our own intelligence that we learn, but, what we learn is what is revealed to us through Holy Scripture, the writings of the Saints, and from the Church by the actions and teaching of the Holy Spirit. No one man or woman has had all revealed to him or her by the Holy Spirit, but, each has had some revealed unto them by the Holy Spirit.

Now we all know that the fullness of revelation is in Christ,and He has revealed all. Yet there are aspects of the Faith, and of God that we do not fully understand or comprehend, because as a creation of God we are limited as to our ability to comprehend and understand God. For God is infinite, He cannot be contained or limited by space or time, we on the other hand, are finite, confined by both space and time. In Romans 11:33-35 we are told, “O the depth of the riches of the wisdom and of the knowledge of God! How incomprehensible are his judgments, and how unsearchable his ways! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? Or who hath been his counselor? Or who hath first given to him, and recompense shall be made him?”

Further, there are aspects of God and the Faith He has given us, that have been revealed to us, but, because of our limits, we do not fully grasp those aspects. These are what we call the Mysteries of Faith. In “The Pocket Catholic Dictionary” by Father John A. Hardon, S.J., we are given this explanation for mystery, “a divinely revealed truth whose very possibility cannot be rationally conceived before it is revealed and, after revelation, whose inner essence cannot be fully understood by the finite mind. The incomprehensibility of revealed mysteries derives from the fact that they are manifestations of God, who is infinite and therefore beyond the complete grasp of a created intellect. Nevertheless, though incomprehensible, mysteries are intelligible. One of the primary duties of a believer is, through prayer, study, and experience, to grow in faith, i.e., to develop an understanding of what God has revealed”.

That last sentence within that definition is by far the most important instruction to all believers “the primary duties of a believer is, through prayer, study, and experience, to grow in faith,” and to “develop an understanding of what God has revealed”. We should therefore always strive to learn and grow in our faith and belief, and we should always remember that when we pray, when we study, and when we experience growth in our faith, it is because God, through the Holy Spirit has been our teacher, our instructor.

If we fall into the snare set for us by the enemy, into the wrong thinking that we can grow no more, that we have learned all there is to know of God, then we endanger ourselves, we endanger our faith, and we endanger those around us and their faith as well. Many is the man or woman who have followed the teachings of one who gives the appearance and assurance of having found all the truth and been led astray into the errors of heresy, apostasy, and schism. When we think there is nothing more to be revealed to us, through scripture, the Saints, or through the Church, then we are in effect saying that God through the Holy Spirit cannot teach us or guide us, as we need no teaching or guidance from Him who has all Knowledge.

Now we all know that when Saint Paul was known as Saul of Tarsus, that he was a Pharisee, and that he himself had been trained in the Law of Moses. He had been a great persecutor of Christians, and was converted by Christ Himself on the road to Damascus. Yet, Paul who was an intelligent and well educated man, had to be instructed on the “Way” by Peter. Of Paul's instruction after his conversion we read in Galatians 1:17-18, “Neither went I to Jerusalem, to the apostles who were before me: but I went into Arabia, and again I returned to Damascus. Then, after three years, I went to Jerusalem, to see Peter, and I tarried with him fifteen days.”

We know that when Peter and John were brought before the Sanhedrin, and when they gave testimony to the Sanhedrin regarding Christ, we realize that they were taught and led by the Holy Spirit, as Acts 4:13 says, “Now seeing the constancy of Peter and of John, understanding that they were illiterate and ignorant men, they wondered; and they knew them that they had been with Jesus”.

Do not allow yourself to be led astray into thinking that you know all there is to know of God and His Son. We are all always learning. Something may be revealed to you, that I have not yet understood. As well, something may be revealed to me, that you have not yet understood. There are things that have been revealed to the Church, and things yet to be revealed to the Church by the Holy Spirit for the knowledge and understanding of all. We dare not think, we dare not believe that we have reached the pinnacle of spiritual maturity, for there is still much growing we must all do. The Holy Spirit is not stagnant, the Holy Spirit is always moving, always teaching, always enlightening.

The seed of faith is planted in our hearts. Do we water and feed that seed, or do we let it wither and die? Do we let it grow a little, and then turn all attention from it, allowing it to grow for awhile, then wither before it can bear fruit? Do we allow it to grow, then let our pride fill us up with our falsely perceived “perfect knowledge”, and kill that faith after only a little fruit was born from it? Would you who are parents want your child to be raised with no instruction, no correction, no guidance, no discipline? No? Then why do you think God would want His children to do so?

Some who are parents of teenagers get exasperated, when those teenagers try to grow up too fast, and begin to think they know more about what is best for them than their parents do. What I like to call the “13 going on 30 Syndrome”. That is the same thing that happens to us, when we begin to think that we know more about faith and God than the Church, or anyone can teach us. We know what is better for us than they do. Well, we don't. The bottom line is, no matter where you, I, or anyone else is on our path of Faith, we are still immature children that should always seek, always search for, that truth, that maturity, that is God.

Copyright © 2006 - 2013 Steve Smith. All rights reserved.

Some quotations below to reflect on:

"The Word of God is in your heart. The Word digs in this soil so that the spring may gush out."--Origen

"You are reading? No. Your betrothed is talking to you. It is your betrothed, that is, Christ, who is united with you. He tears you away from the solitude of the desert and brings you into his home, saying to you, "Enter into the joy of your Master."--Saint Jerome

"If one carefully reads the Scriptures, he will find there the word on the subject of Christ -- de Christo sermonem -- and the prefiguration of the new calling. He is indeed the hidden treasure in the field -- the field in fact is the world -- but in truth, the hidden treasure in the Scriptures is Christ. Because he is designed by types and words that humanly are not possible to understand before the accomplishment of all things, that is, Christ's parousia (coming)." -- Saint Irenaeus of Lyons

You recall that one and the same Word of God extends throughout Scripture, that it is one and the same Utterance that resounds in the mouths of all the sacred writers, since he who was in the beginning God with God has no need of separate syllables; for he is not subject to time.” -- Saint Augustine of Hippo

The Scriptures are in fact, in any passage you care to choose, singing of Christ, provided we have ears that are capable of picking out the tune. The Lord opened the minds of the Apostles so that they understood the Scriptures. That he will open our minds too is our prayer.” --Saint Augustine of Hippo

"Anyone who wants to be always united to God must pray often and read the Bible often. For in prayer it is we who are speaking to God, but in the readings it is God speaking to us.”--Saint Isidore of Seville

"Let us study while we are on earth that Reality which will stay in our minds also when we are in heaven".--Saint Jerome


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