WHO IS GOD?
Before we even begin, the format of the Penny Catechism, which we will amplify with the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, it is as well to ask who is God, what is God, and can we know him?
1. God is eternal. What does that mean? Simply this; that he has no beginning and no end. We however have a beginning, but no end. We are immortal but not eternal.
2. How do we understand God’s eternity? Eternity is not an endless succession of events. There never was a time when God was not. Msgr. Gilbey uses a very good understanding of God’s eternity and time. God is the point in the centre of the circle and time the circumference. He sees all time present in the present. God is and that is that. That also is very Biblical. God says to Moses “I AM WHO AM”. Another understanding of God and time is the following: God is like someone who is sitting on a high hill or mountain and sees an army marching across the plain beneath him. He sees the whole thing at once. The army is time. That story I was told when I was doing my catechism classes with the Jesuits when I was about the age of 10 or 11.
God’s Being and ours
God’s being is so to speak the real being; ours is contingent being, or better understood as dependent being. The real being is God’s and he allows us to participate in his being. We could simply cease to exist if God so willed it. A good analogy would be that if electricity ceased, not only would all our electrically operated appliances cease to operate, they would cease to exist. So the Television when deprived of electricity would not only not receive the transmission, but would cease to be. Another illustration would be that If the electricity fails for a life support machine, then not only does the patient die, but he or she ceases to exist.
Can we know God from the use of our reason?
We can know that there is a God from looking at Creation, (This is what Vatican I taught) and as I have said, by using our reason and understanding we realise that we are dependent beings. Maria in the Sound of Music sings a song which has always had a profound effect on me in the following utterance:
“Nothing comes from nothing, nothing ever could, but somewhere in my youth and childhood, I must have done something good.” However we cannot know anything more about God than this, without the aid of Divine Revelation.
God The Creator
Question 1. Who made me?
Answer. God made me. This is the classic answer that everyone over 60 knows, but anyone under 55 is unlikely to know the answer, as catechetics after 1965 began to take a nose dive. Now we make things out of something. God makes his whole Creation and each individual out of nothing. We cannot afford to forget that. So to some extent Maria is uttering what looks like heresy. God however brings things out of nothing.
In a world which is depressingly anthropocentric, and this has had its effect on the Church, we must simply state that God makes man, not because he needs him, but because he makes him, because he, Almighty God, creates out of the abundance of his love. So all talk of rights is futile and useless. All rights were lost with the Fall, but God who is always faithful, sent his only Son to save us.
Q. 2. Why did God make me?
A. God made me to know him, love him and serve him in this world, and to be happy with him forever in the next.
This answer does not sit well with The American Constitution where man has a right to happiness. This is patent nonsense, and someone like Jefferson should have realized it was contradictory to the situation of his slaves. Were they free and did they have a right to happiness. No! The World is fallen and is the domain of the Devil. Our Faith teaches us that though God made everything good, Lucifer’s disobedience meant that many of the angels fell. it would seem about a third fell. With Adam’s disobedience sin entered the World. Since then Satan has tempted man to do the most terrible things, so much that almost the entire human race was wiped out at the Flood. So often what is perceived as having a good time is not, namely sexual immorality, drinking, and drug taking, and fighting.
We have therefore to learn to know God by prayer, and reading scripture and spiritual books, which helps us to know Our Lord more and more perfectly. It also requires us to learn about what the Church has to say about God, which one will find in the Modern Catechism of the Catholic Church, and so to imitate Christ, who came not to be served, but to serve. To know about God we must constantly meditate on the life of Christ, especially in his Passion. We serve him by worship, and by loving our neighbour as Christ did. We cannot do this without the power of the Holy Spirit, and the intercession of Our Lady and all the saints. This loving God and serving him in this World will cause us both great joy and great pain and suffering just as it did in the life of Christ who loved his Father perfectly and his neighbour perfectly. If it cost Christ the Cross, it will cost us too, but he will help us to carry it. Oddly Christ changes place with Simon of Cyrene as he helps us carry our Cross. We in turn must be Simon for all those who need our help and love.
The Importance Of Saving One’s Soul
Much nonsense is talked about people’s bodies these days, and so it is good to really understand articles 4 to 8 of the Catechism which deal with the prime importance of the soul.
Q.3 To whose image and likeness did God make you?
A. God made me to his own image and likeness.
The sheer profundity and magnificence of this belief should take our breath away. We are so used to ourselves, our failures, and our sins, that the vision of us being made in the image of God, who is ineffable love, incomparable goodness, and inconceivable mercy should shock us into reality, but sin does impair our spiritual vision. Ironically in the utterly sensual world that is Western Society, where health is almost a religion, one incessantly hears about spirituality. This is only a modern form of Manichaeism where the majority can live very sensual lives, and the minority very ascetic ones, except now people try to do both, and end up going mad in the process. The New Age displays Manichean tendencies.
Q. 4 Is this likeness to God in your body, or in your soul?
A. This likeness to God is chiefly in my soul. God is Spirit and Truth, and our soul is spirit, and as A. 5 points out it is immortal. However it is not eternal like God, who has no beginning and no end and simply IS. Immortality means that we will go on forever either in Heavenly bliss of Hellish anguish as the soul cannot die as A. 6 points out.
Q. 7 Of which must you take more care, of your body or of your soul?
A. I must take more care of my soul; for Christ has said ‘What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and suffers the loss of his own soul.’ (Matthew 16:26) This is really the nub of things, and something that shows up the problem between the spirit and the flesh. The flesh always wants to be satisfied and more than that it wants to be satiated. The concupiscence that we suffer from always wants to know more, do more, and go where there is danger and excitement. The flesh always wants to be satisfied, there is always a tendency to greed, to wanting to be well thought of, to get on with others, to belong to a group. The young today suffer from what is called peer pressure. Older generations were guided by fear of what their parents would think. With the wholesale rebellion against the 4th Commandment much in our society has collapsed. “My needs are what matters, and everything else takes second place.” is really the raison d’etre. We find parents of the middle classes throughout the Anglophone world pandering, in their different ways to their childrens needs, and no doubt the working classes do, but in a different way, and for different reasons. The vision is materialistic, and here the teachers of the children and their parents are the Media, especially the advertising world. The message given out by modern society is definitely a mixed one. Eat delicious foods or junk foods, but diet excessively! Do lots of sports, but also take drugs! Have lots of sex! But don’t have children, and you can have a healthy sex-life, but it would appear that the one thing that it is not, is healthy. The healthy and happy thing is to marry and have lots of children, but no-one thinks of doing anything so natural. After all taking contraceptives makes the sexual act anything but natural, as the natural outcome of sex should be children. Not surprising promiscuous sex is sending the young, and the not so young mad. I heard of a priest who, over thirty years ago, when you still had large mental hospitals in Britain, asking what was wrong with all the young women in a particular ward. The sister said “Sex”. The girls had had too much promiscuous sex, and it had sent them mad. This is hardly surprising, as the profundity of the sexual act is so important that it cannot take place outside marriage without great harm to the person, firstly on a spiritual level, then on the psychological level, and finally on the health level. It might also be the gateway for demonic possession. Finally the worst thing is that the souls of such men and women are plunged into mortal sin.
The simple life that Christ, Our Lady, and St. Joseph lived, is the life that we are all called to live. One can be pretty certain that the early wealthy followers of Christ such as Joseph of Arimathea, Joanna, the wife of Chuza, and Manaen, who was brought up at Herod’s court, would have lived a simple life style after their conversions. We must be careful of luxury which can even invade the modest household on occasion, and also the communities of religious. Supermarkets and shopping malls are a witness to this.
Q. 8 in the Catechism is of the greatest importance and can be somewhat eclipsed by the profundity of 9,10,11, and 12, which follow on from it.
Q. 8 asks, What must I do to save my soul?
A. To save my soul I must worship God by Faith, Hope and Charity; that is, I must believe in him, I must hope in him, and I must love him with my whole heart.
We do not save our souls by going to different retreat centres, healing weekends, and the whole dubious array of spiritual self help courses on meditation, counselling and prayer workshops. These will be useless if we do not have real Faith, real Hope and real Charity. We have to give ourselves totally and wholly to God, whatever the cost. The way to look at salvation is to look at such simple souls as St. Juan Diego, St Margaret Clitherow. St. Bernadette, the children at Fatima, Blessed Franz Jaegerstetter, Blessed Marcel Callo, Blessed Laura Vicuna, St. Phillip Howard, and St. Gianna Molla to name but a few. Throughout these talks I hope to illustrate the Faith through the lives of the saints, who are icons of Christ, and ways to Him.