More on “the Gospel”: A reply to Kate

Kate has posted a reply on her blog to my post on the Gospel. I tried to respond on her blog, but blogspot limits the length of comments, so I am putting up my reply here.

Kate wrote:

I’m not sure that I’ve entirely understood the nuances of what he is saying, but if I’ve interpreted his post correctly he seems to be reflecting the contemporary ambivalence about a focus on individual salvation (viz going to heaven), and advocating instead a focus on transforming ourselves and this world here and now.

No, this wasn’t the point of my post at all, Kate. Either I have been very poor at communicating my thoughts (which is quite probable – you are not the only reader who has failed to grasp my point), or there must be some difficulty on your end. I have been rather tempted to see the whole discussion according to the analogy of the Copernican revolution, but I think a fairer analogy would taken from popular thought on the Middle Ages. Brought up on the Edward Gibbon view of the decline of civilization with the fall of Rome, the idea of the Middle Ages as “the Dark Ages” is a very hard one to shift from popular mythology, no matter how much hard work one does on the historical facts.

What I am trying to suggest is that, for the sake of the revitalisation of the Church’s evangelising mission – the “New Evangelisation” in other words – we will benefit from a thorough-going investigation into the depth of meaning in the word “Gospel”. This investigation would take in the whole breadth of the use of the word in Christian tradition, but it must necessarily start with a right understanding of the use of the word in Scripture itself. This is not some “protestant left over” of my Lutheran days. Becoming a Catholic has actually freed me from the strictures of the limited view of “the Gospel” I had as a protestant. It is, rather, the simple methodological fact that a study of historical origins in the disciplines of both language and theology shines a great light upon the root meaning of both words and doctrines.

To use another analogy: in writing a biography of a person of great significance, the study of that persons childhood and family background will give us insight into that person’s later character and into the reasons why he acted in this way rather than that way. It will not, of course, tell us everything about the mature career of the person, and formative events and influences along the way must be taken into account as well, but a book which dealt only with the mature man, and not with the origins and formative years, might well misconstrue important aspects of the person’s life and work.

In actual fact, I was originally motivated to the whole question of “what is the Gospel?”, not by theologies which saw it in terms of “individual salvation viz. going to heaven”, but in terms of “love one another as I have loved you”. It was spurred on by the debate in the Melbourne Town Hall about whether “the Catholic Church is a force for good in the world”, in which the primary aspect of the Church’s mission was held up as “doing good” or “social justice”. Social justice is an important part of the Church’s mission, but I am sure you will agree with me that it is not the be all and end all of the Church’s mission.

Yet I was also aware that the success of the “Social Gospel” picture has something to do with the fact that it answers many modern western Christians’ true eschatological hopes, if I may put it that way. When Jesus first proclaimed the Gospel, and when Paul et al. took it to the Gentiles, it was a message that made sense and had a strong appeal, because it gave a credible answer to a question that they were asking. My concern is that if we, on the other hand, preach a gospel focused on “going to heaven when you die”, we might in fact be preaching an answer to a question that no-one is asking. This, it seems to me, is part of the reason why the appeal of the Gospel is so weak in today’s Western context.

So I am not really asking the old “liberal” vs “conservative” question. In a way, I see both alternatives readings of “the Gospel” to suffer from the problem of the biography that ignores the question of origins. My real question is: by studying the historical origins of “the Gospel” – not discounting the future “career” of this term – can we grasp a new and revitalised way of proclaiming the Gospel for today, one in which the Gospel has defined shape and a sharp point on the end? It is my contention that if we do, we will find an understanding of the Gospel that is neither the “Social Gospel” nor the “Go to heaven when we die” Gospel, but something far richer, and, frankly, more exciting. In other words, true “Good News”!

+ + + + +

Update: In the combox below, Kate asked a question and I wrote a reply which should be, I think, a part of this post, although it is a terribly long post to start with…]

Kate says:
January 7, 2012 at 12:27 pm (Edit)
I’ve put the substance of this comment on my own blog as well, but are you saying then, that we need to construct something that is meangingful to people now which implies that the Gospel is not ‘just’ about salvation, but not just a social Gospel either? So what precisely is it that you are advocating? Sorry, more words is not really clarifying it for me!

Okay, and here we are at the heart of the matter.

I am certainly not saying that the Gospel is about anything other than “salvation”. Everything in the Scriptures and in Tradition make it quite clear that the Gospel, the Good News, is good news about liberation from a terrible bondage that is being personally and corporately experienced. That is precisely why it is “Good News”, and, wherever it is preached, it is received gladly by those who hear it. The question is: salvation from what? Liberation from what?

As a side example, take what is classically known as “Liberation Theology”. It was remarkably successful precisely because it refigured “the Gospel” in terms that were directly applicable to the people of South America and other oppressive states. Like Luther’s theology of justification, it spoke to the felt needs of the people AND was expressed in the shape of “the Gospel” as they had known it. The question was – with Liberation Theology as with Luther’s doctrine of Justification – was it the authentic Gospel, the “authentic good news”? Did it address the true bondage at the source of the “felt” bondage?

So, a double whammy in this question: When we preach the Gospel, does it:

a) connect with the “felt bondage” from which hearer yearns for liberation?
b) maintain the “true bondage” from which the hearer actually needs liberation?

Two Scriptural elements here in this reflection.

The first is the fact that Jesus performed signs to denote his authority to declare the “Good News” of the coming of God’s Kingdom: exorcism and healings. When John the Baptist sent messengers to Jesus (Matthew 11) to ask him if he was “the one who is to come”, Jesus sent back the message: “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor.” This reflects well the reading from Isaiah which Jesus read in the Synagogue in Nazareth (Luke 4). It also shows that for all these, there was a specific “felt bondage” from which Jesus was giving “salvation”: for the blind, sight; for the deaf, hearing; for the lame, walking; etc. This was Good News because it was personal liberation, personal salvation, from a true “felt bondage”.

Secondly, as the story about the healing of the paralytic man (Mark 2) shows, Jesus perceived that a greater “true bondage” which was being experienced by Israel as a whole, corporately, namely, the bondage to the Strong Man (against whom Jesus was the Stronger Man, cf. Mark 3:27). That “strong man” was Satan, and the sign that Satan’s bondage (experienced personally as sickness or demon possession, but experienced corporately in the dire straits of Israel as a whole in the 1st Century) was being defeated in the victory that Jesus was accomplishing. This was the true “good news”, and the “forgiveness of sins” (done precisely by Jesus on his own authority) was the true sign of the this true liberation.

So, my question is this: How do we proclaim the Gospel – which is the “Good News” that Jesus is liberating/saving us from bondage to the true usurper, Satan – to our world today in a way that it will be heard?

1) There has to be a connection with the “felt bondage” that touches people’s real lives. What are those bondages? How does the Gospel which the Church proclaims address these?
2) How does the Church show, by freeing people from this bondage, the much deeper “true bondage” from which they and our world as a whole, desparately need “salvation”, deliverance, liberation?

The problem with Liberation Theology was that it addressed the “felt bondage”, but left the Gospel there. It was so “this world” (to pick up your earlier reference to Jesus’ dialogue with Pilate) that it forgot the greater, cosmic bondage (the word used in Greek by Jesus for “world” is “kosmos”) in which the whole world is imprisoned and from which the whole world needs “salvation”. I propose that the “Social Justice Gospel” suffers from the same problem. It is popular, because it is easily understood and enthusiastically embraced: it matches the “felt bondages” of people in their personal lives in this world. Luther’s “doctrine of justification by faith” was popular for much the same reason, despite the spiritual and theological way in which it was phrased and absolutely contrary to his original hopes (there is some evidence that he himself was disappointed by this at the end of his life’s work). It addressed many of his contemporaries (in particular, political leaders like kings and princes, and peasants – cf. the 1525 Peasants Rebellion) “felt bondage” under the institution of the Church. It offered them liberation from the Church’s authority, and was therefore heard as “Good News”.

All along, the real oppressor of humankind is Satan, the Strong Man, and his cronies, sin and death. Those who have “eyes to see”, as Jesus would say, can see this, but those are few. We look at our society, and all the solutions that journalists of both the Right and the Left propose, and we see what they cannot see: that the real bondage from which we need “salvation” are the powers of Satan.

It seems to me that the solution is not a more energetic preaching of the “Good News” as the offer of a blissful afterlife. True salvation – true liberation (as Joseph Ratzinger wrote many times before becoming Pope and many times since) – from the powers of evil will only be found in, as you put it, the decision to serve God first and last. In Jesus Christ, his whole person and his paschal mystery, God has opened the doorway into a new existence, “the Kingdom of God”, in which not only the “true bondage” but also the “felt bondages” will be finally overcome. The best description of this in the New Testament is in Revelation 21. The In the New Jerusalem (which incidentally, comes DOWN from heaven to earth, not the other way around) “God will dwell with his people…and he will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death will be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away”.

Thus the final “salvation” will address both the “felt” and “true bondage” of God’s people. This is the kind of “salvation” we need to be proclaiming as “Good News” if it is to be heard today with the same power that it has been heard in former years. This, I would argue, should be the aim of the “New Evangelisation”.

About Schütz

I am Catholic, married to Cathy, father of Maddy & Mia. Since 2002, I have been the Executive Officer of the Ecumenical & Interfaith Commission of the Archdiocese of Melbourne. I was once a Lutheran pastor, but a "year of grace" and soul-searching led me into the Catholic Church. It was a bumpy ride, but with the support of my (still Lutheran) wife, I was finally confirmed on June 16, 2003.
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57 Responses to More on “the Gospel”: A reply to Kate

  1. Kate says:

    I’ve put the substance of this comment on my own blog as well, but are you saying then, that we need to construct something that is meangingful to people now which implies that the Gospel is not ‘just’ about salvation, but not just a social Gospel either?

    So what precisely is it that you are advocating?

    Sorry, more words is not really clarifying it for me!

    • Schütz says:

      Are you saying then, that we need to construct something that is meangingful to people now which implies that the Gospel is not ‘just’ about salvation, but not just a social Gospel either?

      Okay, and here we are at the heart of the matter.

      I am certainly not saying that the Gospel is about anything other than “salvation”. Everything in the Scriptures and in Tradition make it quite clear that the Gospel, the Good News, is good news about liberation from a terrible bondage that is being personally and corporately experienced. That is precisely why it is “Good News”, and, wherever it is preached, it is received gladly by those who hear it. The question is: salvation from what? Liberation from what?

      As a side example, take what is classically known as “Liberation Theology”. It was remarkably successful precisely because it refigured “the Gospel” in terms that were directly applicable to the people of South America and other oppressive states. Like Luther’s theology of justification, it spoke to the felt needs of the people AND was expressed in the shape of “the Gospel” as they had known it. The question was – with Liberation Theology as with Luther’s doctrine of Justification – was it the authentic Gospel, the “authentic good news”? Did it address the true bondage at the source of the “felt” bondage?

      So, a double whammy in this question: When we preach the Gospel, does it:

      a) connect with the “felt bondage” from which hearer yearns for liberation?
      b) maintain the “true bondage” from which the hearer actually needs liberation?

      Two Scriptural elements here in this reflection.

      The first is the fact that Jesus performed signs to denote his authority to declare the “Good News” of the coming of God’s Kingdom: exorcism and healings. When John the Baptist sent messengers to Jesus (Matthew 11) to ask him if he was “the one who is to come”, Jesus sent back the message: “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor.” This reflects well the reading from Isaiah which Jesus read in the Synagogue in Nazareth (Luke 4). It also shows that for all these, there was a specific “felt bondage” from which Jesus was giving “salvation”: for the blind, sight; for the deaf, hearing; for the lame, walking; etc. This was Good News because it was personal liberation, personal salvation, from a true “felt bondage”.

      Secondly, as the story about the healing of the paralytic man (Mark 2) shows, Jesus perceived that a greater “true bondage” which was being experienced by Israel as a whole, corporately, namely, the bondage to the Strong Man (against whom Jesus was the Stronger Man, cf. Mark 3:27). That “strong man” was Satan, and the sign that Satan’s bondage (experienced personally as sickness or demon possession, but experienced corporately in the dire straits of Israel as a whole in the 1st Century) was being defeated in the victory that Jesus was accomplishing. This was the true “good news”, and the “forgiveness of sins” (done precisely by Jesus on his own authority) was the true sign of the this true liberation.

      So, my question is this: How do we proclaim the Gospel – which is the “Good News” that Jesus is liberating/saving us from bondage to the true usurper, Satan – to our world today in a way that it will be heard?

      1) There has to be a connection with the “felt bondage” that touches people’s real lives. What are those bondages? How does the Gospel which the Church proclaims address these?
      2) How does the Church show, by freeing people from this bondage, the much deeper “true bondage” from which they and our world as a whole, desparately need “salvation”, deliverance, liberation?

      The problem with Liberation Theology was that it addressed the “felt bondage”, but left the Gospel there. It was so “this world” (to pick up your earlier reference to Jesus’ dialogue with Pilate) that it forgot the greater, cosmic bondage (the word used in Greek by Jesus for “world” is “kosmos”) in which the whole world is imprisoned and from which the whole world needs “salvation”. I propose that the “Social Justice Gospel” suffers from the same problem. It is popular, because it is easily understood and enthusiastically embraced: it matches the “felt bondages” of people in their personal lives in this world. Luther’s “doctrine of justification by faith” was popular for much the same reason, despite the spiritual and theological way in which it was phrased and absolutely contrary to his original hopes (there is some evidence that he himself was disappointed by this at the end of his life’s work). It addressed many of his contemporaries (in particular, political leaders like kings and princes, and peasants – cf. the 1525 Peasants Rebellion) “felt bondage” under the institution of the Church. It offered them liberation from the Church’s authority, and was therefore heard as “Good News”.

      All along, the real oppressor of humankind is Satan, the Strong Man, and his cronies, sin and death. Those who have “eyes to see”, as Jesus would say, can see this, but those are few. We look at our society, and all the solutions that journalists of both the Right and the Left propose, and we see what they cannot see: that the real bondage from which we need “salvation” are the powers of Satan.

      It seems to me that the solution is not a more energetic preaching of the “Good News” as the offer of a blissful afterlife. True salvation – true liberation (as Joseph Ratzinger wrote many times before becoming Pope and many times since) – from the powers of evil will only be found in, as you put it, the decision to serve God first and last. In Jesus Christ, his whole person and his paschal mystery, God has opened the doorway into a new existence, “the Kingdom of God”, in which not only the “true bondage” but also the “felt bondages” will be finally overcome. The best description of this in the New Testament is in Revelation 21. The In the New Jerusalem (which incidentally, comes DOWN from heaven to earth, not the other way around) “God will dwell with his people…and he will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death will be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away”.

      Thus the final “salvation” will address both the “felt” and “true bondage” of God’s people. This is the kind of “salvation” we need to be proclaiming as “Good News” if it is to be heard today with the same power that it has been heard in former years. This, I would argue, should be the aim of the “New Evangelisation”.

      • Joshua says:

        FINALLY I understand and agree wholeheartedly!

        Thanks, David.

        I recall somewhere the Lutheran line (and no less true for that) that Jesus delivers us from “sin, Satan, death, and hell” – Amen, be it so!

        • Schütz says:

          That’s right – usually “sin, death and the Devil” – BUT we need to remember that Luther’s contemporaries had a very real sense of those enemies as the root cause of their “felt-bondage”. The same cannot be said today, although they are no less the cause of our “true bondage” today than they ever have been.

    • Schütz says:

      One more example. I guess, Kate, that you would agree that if tomorrow, by some miracle, the state of the liturgy in the Australian Church was restored to all that it should be (including EF masses everywhere someone wanted one – no, better, a proper “Reform of the Reform” in which the good things of the EF and the OF were perfectly integrated in one rite), would you not experience that as in some sense “Good News” which “liberated” you, “saved” you, from your current bondage? Would it not be an authentic part of “the Gospel”? Answer, yes, and it would be an authentic sign of that salvation which is at the heart of the Gospel, here and now. But not the whole of it, of course. There would still be the greater “true salvation” that every person, our whole society and the whole of humankind requires: liberation from the bondage of Satan and the restoration of life with God in his Kingdom!

    • Schütz says:

      And that is, in a sense, the “now but the not yet” of the Gospel: we experience the liberation it brings to some degree now, yet the full accomplishment of that salvation is a “not yet” for which we still yearn!

  2. Juan says:

    Justice can be only applied to individuals, the concept “Social Justice” is meaningless. We will not be judged by the group we belong to, or by the society we are part of. Only our actions and the reasons that move us to them define us.

    Under coercion the action looses all value. I guess we all agree that forcing people into going to the church to achieve eternal salvation is useless, since if that action is not free and inspired in love to God, it does nothing for that purpose. So, if we agree that no coercion is useful for the highest possible aim, how can we justify its use in other fields…

    Gospel does not only show us the way to salvation, but also the way to a great and rich life. No alternative scale of values works better than the one Jesus gave us. That is the way we should offer our faith to the others, through example more than through words.
    It seems we have forgotten that God and Gospel made us free, not slaves at all. Freedom is essential for a meaningful life and a worth faith.

    The pursue or “Social Justice” in the actions of the Church I think that misleads gravely evangelization. That approach gives society entity of individuality, which does not have. And even worse, since it is put over the person, that according to the same Church, is the center of creation…
    This incongruence explains a lot of the problem. The way to a healthy society is the addition of healthy individuals, the opposite does not work, does not makes any sense. In the same way the Church is the addition of believers. The worse the parts, the worse the whole.
    If it was the opposite way, the perfection implicit in the Church, God’s creation, would guarantees us, parts of it, a right behavior and peaceful life. And if so, our wrongs would not add anything to the Church ever. Unfortunately, one of our obligations is working and studying to improve ourselves so we can improve the Church through our free and loving participation.

    Solidarity is obligation of the giver, never right of the receiver. We must promote it through love, freedom, joy, payer… Not through a communication of a living code we should follow because it is the right thing to do… (which is, but faith is a present we do not all receive in the same measure).

    Thank you for your work here. It is inspiring and helpful.

  3. Joshua says:

    This is excellent, David.

    I particularly like your explanation of how the effective preaching the Gospel both delivers us from our “felt bondage” (the subjective experience of evil and suffering, one could say, in the sense not merely of what one may subjectively feel, but may indeed objectively in this life endure) and from our “true bondage” (the objective truth of our fallen condition, whether or not this at first is subjectively experienced and recognized for what it is) – this helps very much in understanding why the Gospel of “getting to heaven” (objectively, a great idea!) doesn’t resonate in our dark age, while that “other gospel” of which St Paul warned us, whether it promote social justice or liberation theology, may well appeal to felt needs, but doesn’t bring us to realize our true needs.

    Again, excellent.

  4. Joshua says:

    I am reminded of the critique of Evangelical preaching/proselytism, in that it seeks first to convince us of our evil plight, being utterly depraved, the dupes of Satan, hell-bound, etc., and then proposes the “escape route” of making a personal commitment to Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour. Obviously there is truth enough in this to make it attractive, but it is a selective reading of the Gospel in the sense of heresy as an opinion magnified out of all proportion. It is an individualistic and simplistic Creed, neglecting the corporate dimension (why is there a church if there’s no need for it, seeing as it’s “just me and Jesus”), and grossly exaggerating both the magnitude of the Fall and the ease of salvation.

    • Alex Caughey says:

      Each, and everyone of us lives our life in relationship with other human beings with parents, siblings, extended family, friends, acquaintances, work colleagues and also with those who share our fellowship in The Christ – the church -enabling us to better serve, those who need our assistance as servants of The Saviour.

      Pentecost informs us that Our Father recognises the individualistic nature of human life with Holy Scripture recording not one tongue of fire, rather a tongue of fire sitting above each, and every person granting to each person gifts per the Holy Spirit’s intervention.

      And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a mighty wind coming, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them parted tongues as it were of fire, and it sat upon every one of them: And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they began to speak with divers tongues, according as the Holy Ghost gave them to speak. [Acts 2:2-4]

      Our personal loving relationship with The Saviour recognises that each human person is embraced by Our Father as His beloved child, in the same manner that the parable on The Prodigal Son teaches us that a loving father embraces each, and every one of his children with the same measure when we of our own will choose to return to his loving care, and protection that we better know the infinite love of Our Father.

      “What matters most is that you develop your personal relationship with God.” ~ Pope Benedict XVI, April 2008 in New York Address to the Youth

      “Our religion effectively establishes with God an authentic and living relationship” ~ (Evangelii Nuntiandi, 53) Pope Paul VI in his Apostolic Exhortation published in 1975

      “This conversion must be taken as an initial one, yet sufficient to make a man realize that he has been snatched away from sin and led into the mystery of God’s love, who called him to enter into a personal relationship with Him in Christ.” (Ad Gentes, 13) Second Vatican Council’s Decree on the Missionary Activity of the Church published in 1965

      “The Church as a whole and all her Pastors, like Christ, must set out to lead people out of the desert, towards the place of life, towards friendship with the Son of God, towards the One who gives us life, and life in abundance… There is nothing more beautiful than to be surprised by the Gospel, by the encounter with Christ. There is nothing more beautiful than to know Him and to speak to others of our friendship with Him… If we let Christ into our lives, we lose nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing of what makes life free, beautiful and great. No! Only in this friendship are the doors of life opened wide. Only in this friendship is the great potential of human existence truly revealed. Only in this friendship do we experience beauty and liberation” (Pope Benedict XVI, 24 April 2005).

      • Schütz says:

        Yes, Alex. So if “relationship with God” is the answer we proclaim, what is the question that is being asked by our hearers? In otherwords, what is the “felt-bondage” for which “the restoration of your relationship with God” is the Good News?

        • Alex Caughey says:

          David,

          Our life’s story is a series of experiences not a few of which prove to be unwise, even self destructive to where we recognise that we need to learn from those poor choices that there is a better way to living our life. Nevertheless, all our experiences are teaching lessons, and worth their value in providing us with a point of reference from where we can make better choices.

          I have never dwelt in the land of regrets for my past decisions, rather preferring to focus on learning that we build our life upon our learning lessons.

          Our Father is never separated from us by our actions, rather he continues to walk at our side, even in those periods when our choices are self serving.

  5. RJ says:

    David, I agree that the notion of salvation is much richer than is expressed merely by the phrase ‘getting to heaven’ – salvation embraces the individual and the corporate, this world and the eternal. It is ultimate liberation from bondage, redemption of the whole person. It is achieved in sharing in the love and life of the Holy Trinity, made present to us in the incarnate Son, crucified and risen.

    My dispute, if we’re talking about the new (or any) evangelization, is on the practical level. What best ‘appeals’ in the first instance to the average person we’re trying to reach? Granted, as a person grows in sanctity, ideas such as relationship with God and ‘being with Christ’ will increase in their appeal. But at the start, I think a person is typically a bit more self-centred, and we legitimately appeal to their self-interest (a rightful self-interest indeed, even though in the end it’s not the be-all and end-all).

    It’s easy to parody the attraction of a ‘blissful afterlife’ (perhaps conceived in terms of the more banal reports of ‘near death experiences’). However, my first question about someone who didn’t find it ‘relevant’ whether or not they were to experience ‘eternal bliss’ or ‘eternal torment’ after their death might be, ‘Does this person belong to the human species?’ Of course it’s relevant! Most people aren’t some strange kind of existentialist.

    It’s just that in our present cultural climate, numerous people no longer find the supernatural intellectually credible – attractive or not. Our difficult work is not in making heaven/salvation/the kingdom attractive – it’s in making it believable. And we have to work at making it believable, whether we talk about ‘getting to heaven’ or ‘ultimate liberation from bondage’. I could flesh out in a five-minute conversation with someone why these things are supremely attractive – supposing they were real. Convincing someone they’re real takes a lot more effort.

    Yes, we all want to be liberated from bondage. But does the average westerner feel a sense of bondage? And if they do, is it because of something (unemployment, cancer) that the Church can’t necessarily do much directly about anyway? (And in the first stage of evangelization, I would be inclined to avoid mentioning bondage to Satan.) However, every person who thinks about it must feel the bondage of inevitable death – and this is why achieving ‘a blissful afterlife’ and avoiding ‘eternal torment’, one would think, should almost always be a reasonably successful motivating factor – once it is actually believed to be real. We can flesh out the theological and spiritual profondities with them later.

    There’s nothing stopping us speaking (and thinking) on all or any these different levels, according to circumstance and person. But I’m in sympathy with those who sometimes focus their rhetoric, like a well-known first century popular preacher, on avoiding ‘the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth…the eternal fire…hell, where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched’; and, on the other hand, on possessing ‘the kingdom of heaven’, ‘inheriting the earth’, ‘being satisfied’, ‘being comforted’, having ‘a great reward in heaven’…in short – getting to heaven and avoiding hell. The salvation of souls.

    • Schütz says:

      Like you, RJ, “I would be inclined to avoid mentioning bondage to Satan”. In any case, they are likely to misunderstand what we are saying, since for them, Satan is the funnly little character in the red suit and horns with the pitchfork and tail. NOT the right image…

      But although the Church may not always be able to do something about the “felt-bondage” in people’s lives (and I would be surprised to find anyone in this life who did not have at least some sense of bondage to something, even if they find it hard to name), the Gospel should at least in someform address them at that point so that they can see Jesus Christ as the answer (in some sense) to their yearning for freedom. This may be by means of coming to see their “felt-bondage” as part of the larger picture of their “true-bondage”, eg. someone suffering from cancer may find in that bondage a doorway to understanding the deeper bondage to death. That’s a bit obvious, I admit, but it is something which on the one hand, the Church can’t stop (except by means of a miracle in answer to prayer, which is not out of the question), but on the other hand, the care that the Church (ie. Christians) can provide to someone suffering from cancer may answer other “felt-bondages” such as the bondage to fear, or the bondage to loneliness.

      • RJ says:

        David, I guess it’s a matter of emphasis. As I said, ‘There’s nothing stopping us speaking (and thinking) on all or any of these different levels, according to circumstance and person’, so I think we’re very much in agreement.

        All I’d add is that for me personally, the question of eternal destiny provides stronger motivations for persevering in faith and resisting temptation than some of these other motives, and I don’t know that my own psychology is so very different from the rest of the human race. My sense, then, is that it’s crucial in the end to lead everyone to the sharp awareness of the choice between heaven and hell that faces each one of us. It’s great when a church community can (for example) remove someone’s bondage to loneliness, and this might often be someone’s entry point to a deeper commitment of faith. Yet when it comes to the crunch, is someone going to resist severe temptation because of a concern that succumbing to it might somehow endanger their new-found parish friendships? The motive of heaven has a lot more resilience.

        I suppose one might attract someone to the idea of ‘heaven’ precisely because it will incorporate and fulfil our friendships formed here on earth. But to me the word ‘heaven’ already means / suggests / implies the sum total and synthesis of whatever various individual aspects of happiness and liberation we might think of, and so is suitably used to encapsulate them all.

        In the end, it’s not an either/or matter, but if shorthand terminology is going to be used at all, I don’t think Kate can be faulted for using terminology that highlighted the goal of heavenly happiness.

  6. Alex Caughey says:

    For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared before that we would walk in them. ~Ephesians 2:1-10

    We need to appreciate that it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me to paraphrase the words of Paul of Tarsus when I, of my own free will surrendered my life into the care of The Saviour. It is His Will that is being revealed in my life when I chose to follow the way of The Saviour.

    Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. ~John 8:32

  7. Kate says:

    RJ has pretty much captured what I would say in response ot David’s points.

    I would also note that my original post in this series was not on the content or methodology of the Gospel or how we go about the New Evangelization, but rather on how well positioned in the Church in Australia is to embark on it – and I’m going to take it as a win that we do now all agree that salvation might be the objective!

  8. Hannah says:

    “It’s just that in our present cultural climate, numerous people no longer find the supernatural intellectually credible ” And this RJ is part of the problem, we have tried like blazes to intellectualise , faith, belief, salvation, heaven, using language that we have and trying to express realities that have a different language than ours.
    “Gospel” has its standard understanding, but its layers are so much deeper and rightly as you said as a person grows in sanctity there is a new “knowing” and new understanding about Christ which only the eyes can show and see , the words enfleshed with this new love can show. We dont have to “strive” to make the Gospel attractive, believable, acceptable, if we believe it ourselves because where this is the case it shines through.
    Two years ago in Rome I attend a 1pm Mass in a beautiful little church, I found in my meanderings, offered in Italian but you know what I understand the presence of Jesus perfectly. this priest “shone” (I dont have another word for it) thoughout the whole Mass. I felt in the presence of a great mystery, something extraordinary. He brought the “Gospel” and Jesus alive and I have never forgotten it. I suppose I still look for it here in Australia where only another time about 16 years ago I had a similar experience. I long for that to be the normal but sadly it usually is not.
    The “Gosepl” through its many meanings beginning with “evangelisation” and going deeper finally illuminates those who wish to see and its not difficult to speak aboutthese things with those who cannot see especially teenagers, they want to see and hear and be loosened from their bondage but it has to be done byh those who actually believe what they are saying and not reading from a script or their own internal script.

    • RJ says:

      Deep sharing of the Gospel does happen when we ourselves are permeated by it so that it shines through – and no ‘strategy’ will ever replace grace and holiness.

      My main proviso concerns the ‘intellectualisation’ of faith. It’s sometimes rightly said we need to evangelize the ‘whole person’ – this is often directed against an exclusively intellectual presentation of the faith, and fair enough. But I think often enough the failure is in the opposite direction, and the intellectual is neglected – and that equally means that the ‘whole person’ isn’t being evangelized, since our intellect is also a God-given aspect of the person.

      I really don’t think it’s the case that in Australia we’ve been presenting the faith in a truly intellectual way these last fifty years and our audience has found it wanting. I think it’s nearer the truth to say that this intellectual aspect has hardly been undertaken at all in a way that could be described as adequate (compared to how it might have been done).

      America in recent decades has seen quite a lot of conversions to the faith, and many of these seem to have some substantial intellectual aspect involved.

      • Schütz says:

        The message of salvation (the Gospel) needs to be addressed at the point where the bondage is being felt in order for it to be received. Not a few people in the history of the Church ave experienced the Gospel as an “intellectual liberation” – St Justin Martyr would come to mind as one. St Josephine Bakhita (like many in the early church) experienced it as a literal release from physical slavery – although not immediately or directly. Is it too much to suggest that this can be a corporate experience also? I think East Timor could be said to have experienced the Gospel coporately as a release from “political bondage” (again, like St Josephine, not immediately or directly). The Gospel is addressed to the “whole person”, but initially it may have an appeal to one particular aspect of the person.

  9. Joshua says:

    Yes, sadly true: people just don’t find the supernatural believable any more.

    I find that people simply have no sense of bondage, no sense of entrapment by or even any great burden on account of committed sins; and, while they know intellectually that one day they shall die, they seem very unconcerned by it!

    A particularly Catholic affliction is the legacy of decades of prating on about how loving God is, to the exclusion of all else – people just expect God, if they pay Him any passing attention at all, to simply forgive and forget everything without limit, without even asking Him to do so, and so to admit everyone to heaven (no need of faith in God or of repentance for this), whatever that uninteresting destination may involve. This misguided catechesis has resulted in utter indifference, combined with a disinclination to follow the moral guidance of the Church rather than of the world. In regard to the latter, I recall my old parish priest saying with sadness how even his some of his committed altar servers, once they reached early manhood, simply took girlfriends and lived with them, and ceased coming to Mass.

    There is no sense of the heinousness of sin: people can regard murderers and other evildoers as “bad”, but there is no impression given that our own sins (which while not in the same league, can nonetheless be not merely venial) are of any consequence.

    Sad.

    • Juan says:

      I think the situation you describe is based upon two realities:

      1.-People usually do not use reason to decide, first they decide, later they justify. No congruence is needed, only some sentence that sounds well and fits with the purpose. And, as we know, there biggest deaf is the one that does not want to hear.

      2.-State has taken away responsibility from individuals. All is ruled and the law defines right and wrong. So as long as you do not break the law you have nothing to worry about.
      Politicians (and lobbies through them) are over the law, they make it with not a single limitation. They control the education system, the media, labour market… Normality is designed by interests, not by moral values at all.
      One huge mistake the Church commits, in my opinion, is not confronting openly this scheme. As a matter of fact the Church enters in the game and, by one side justifies the system (receiving public money for “social justice” -here the end justifies the meanings-), by other accepting laws in silence even when they go against it’s own teachings (Scholastics justified the existence of interest rates and perfectly defined how the banks have to work, the Church accepted the first part, is totally incongruent with the second one).

      So now days the Church is seen by many as part of the system, as any other lobby playing the same game. That way the offer of an alternative life is not seen, and the flaws in coherence between teachings and actions undermine the leading moral position the Church has. Hardly we will be able to break the behavior of the first point when we many times fall in the same mistake.

      Speaking loud and clear against abortion is right and necessary, but also is doing so about freedom, about the position of man in creation, about the submission of man to the Law -and not the opposite-. In these times probably the sin of omission through our silences and passiveness, through the acceptance of the status quo even when it is against our believes, is the first one we should worry about. May be it is more our failure to become light to others than their lack or abandonment or their faith…
      Even if it is not, we can and have much more to do about us than about others. To be path of salvation to all humanity is a responsibility we have on ourselves as part of the Church.

      *I know and feel I might not be in the same level of knowledge most of you are here, your vocation and dedication is greater than mine. So if you feel I am a little bit out of place, please accept my apologies and do not hesitate to let me know :)

      • Hannah says:

        Juan I wont hesitate to let you know.
        Abortion is the single most important issue of our day and all churches have failed in this. Abortion is the disgrace of our times. Abortion silence has led to all other moral issues and demands.
        Social justice issues affect those already born and permitted to be born. without this right social justice falls also by wayside.
        Let all the churches/synagogues/temples etc scream from their pulpets/lecterns etc. Life is non negotiable. Then we will begin to see things change for the better.

    • Hannah says:

      Sad perhaps is a good word. But Josh look what’s dished up to the young say on TV beginning from 6pm if not before. Look what’s served up movies (violence which becomes more sophisticated by the day)a drug culture war which seems to have been totally lost (children as young as 12 selling themselves for drugs and addic ted) a moral culture which has no respect for life. over 40 millions abortions per year. Of course the other “Life” issues become possible because we have lost the war on the most important and most fundamental gift/right “life” so until this is understood and reclaimed we can pontificate about rubrics about services but thats only for the few.Out there its different. We have lost all sense of honour and respect and this I believe because of abandonment by parents of children (work reasons) they(children) became secondary to houses, cars, hols, etc. Children abandoned to daycare centres (No criticism )just that children need mum and dad not strangers in their formative years. following daycare centres, school and after care services and children at times dont see their parents till late at night when they are ready for bed. So who teaches them about heavenly things? who teaches them right from wrong? who teaches them how to be moral and beautiful and caring human beings?
      You say Sad… indeed

      • Joshua says:

        So sad; so true.

      • Schütz says:

        I think I said something about the “true bondage”? You describe it so well here. But I disagree with Josh: I think most people have a real sense of bondange and desire for liberation, altho it remains vague and ill defined. Some how, through authentic “evangelisation” we need to bring Good News to these folk. And I think it begins with the “God question”.. .

  10. Hannah says:

    David I love the idea of the “God question” but I keep hearing/remembering the quote of Jesus “When the Son of Man returns will He find faith on earth?” and then I think about the OT Scripture about a time when Yahweh will turn the hearts of the fathers towards their children etc. (I dont remember where its from) and I hope for this time because from where i stand the G-d word holds no attraction to a massive humanity. 40-50 millions abortions pa says the G-d word holds no attraction. SS marraige demands says the G-d word holds no attraction. euthanasia demands says that the G-d word holds no attraction. and the list can go on and on.
    Is there a desire for the G-d word? the Gospel Word? perhaps there might still be the 10 people worthy so that the rest are not destroyed.

  11. Stephen K says:

    There is a tendency or a temptation for people to imagine that those who do not think like them must be either unthinking or blind etc. Education is an ambiguous benefit: it equips us with a set of notions, a jargon, and opens us to concepts we might not otherwise have thought. But it tends to make us feel or speak as if we were superior, or enlightened or whatever. And education is necessarily limited, no matter how many books we read – we can’t learn everything even from within our own culture and tradition (whatever that is) let alone from others.

    I think this is a trap, a pitfall, a delusion. It leads us into attitudes that are fraught with presumption and pride. Most of us succumb to it at some stage: we like high art, like opera – the bloke down the road who goes pig-hunting and watches the football is a philistine; we watch the ABC – the neighbours read the Tele, and so on. It’s just snobbery, plain and simple, for the most part.

    The same goes, I think, for discussions about others’ sin and blindness et al. How on earth do we know what sin is anyway, other than what we feel and recognise in our own private forum? For goodness’ sake, even if we form our own conscience by reference to a Catechism, it remains the fact that it is only our own conscience we can form! Only our sin that we can and must wrestle with, at least first and foremost!

    This question of what Jesus was on about, who he is/was, and what the Gospel consists in is a really important question, and like David, I don’t think that certain expressions, like “saving our souls/getting to heaven”, cut the mustard or mean terribly much to people today. But I don’t conclude from this that they are blind, ignorant, insensitive or sinful. Rather I conclude that the expression is void of meaning. One can jump and down all one likes, and say “it should be otherwise’, but who are we to judge this for others? Isn’t the essential, distinguishing mark of ‘faith’ the fact that it ultimately is unprovable, that it is not ‘common sense’ and depends on a personal, i.e. individual, unique act of trust?

    I am reading the passionate sincere and coherent posts of obviously committed Catholics here. But some of them seem to assume that what they assert is obvious (if only people weren’t so sinful and blind) or readily deducible (if only people weren’t so self-occupied or dumb). Though it may be understandable from the point of view that this is largely an exchange between co-religionists, I think this is a mistake. One’s faith ‘knowledge’, one’s faith assurance, one’s faith ‘clarity’ is something that makes sense only with people who have something identical or similar. It may be objectively true, but it is only subjectively certain in the context of the act of faith and not otherwise.

    My point is here, one simply must not presume this. I think it is a real obstacle to the challenge of presenting the Christian message, the ‘good news’. So many traditionalists unfortunately write and opine as if the solution to the “godlessness’ of the age was a quantitative one: more orthodox catechesis, more Latin Masses, more religious habits, more hell-fire sermonising etc. In other words, more of the same. (For fairness, I would add that many progressives write as if the solution was always to do something different. This problem is called mistaking the baby for the bathwater.)

    What is missing in this? In my view, it is the realisation – or acceptance – that we live in a world and society with different house-rules, different knowledge bases, different expectations, in other words – a different world. The over-arching difference may well be in the different and exponentially accelerated rate of change all around us. Communication technology is probably the most significant element, but transport modes and social structures also play their part. I have long grappled with the question whether it is truer to say we are just like our forebears 2000 years ago (or longer) or not. The answer is probably – like so many things! – yes and no. But we certainly operate in circumstances that have evolved and distinguish the 20th-21st century from the 12th, even the 16th centuries.

    This has to be taken into account, in my view. Thus, any talk of evangelisation, the Good News, cannot proceed realistically as if it were all a matter of just sending in more troops, a kind of ‘surge’, to borrow a contemporary term. David thinks Liberation theology was only part of an answer; some here obviously think it wasn’t an answer at all. Try telling that to the shanty-dwellers in Brazil. Dom Helder Camara, Leonardo Boff and Gutierrez stood for something. It may not have been to middle class conservative Western tastes, but it stands – for me at least – as an example of an endeavour to make the idea of liberation through Jesus meaningful and empowering. Liberation from sin, death and the devil can hardly be expected to be persuasive until there is liberation from the empty belly and mind-numbing poverty. Surely!

    So, what is the Gospel? What is the “Good News”? Is it possible for people to be empowered for good and unto a sense of relationship with the redeeming Word, even without every jot and tittle of the Catechism? What is of the essence here? What really is the key to “salvation” in every rich sense of the term? And who are we to insist on anything?!

    We have to ask these questions and be open to answers that may not come out of the style and expression of a 4th century or 12th century theologian. (Please note, I am not discounting either). Only then, dare I say it, will questions of methodology be answered.

    • Joshua says:

      Good points. While a “surge” would certainly help “hold the fort”, and prop up what’s left, I too wonder if it would not be just a defensive measure, when the evangelical imperative is to “go on the offensive” (so to speak!) and conquer the world for Christ, by converting all hearts to Him. And yet – how to do so, I have no idea.

      • RJ says:

        However, I wonder what the practical difference is between the ‘defensive’ and the ‘offensive’ here. When we’re presenting the faith (in whatever manner) to a given individual, are we in offensive or defensive mode? What does it mean? And is it really either/or?

        As to ‘conquering the world for Christ’, if evangelisation took place in Catholic schools in a substantial and ‘successful’ way, then at least we’d have a greatly increased ‘army’ to ‘surge’ out into the wider world, to carry on this metaphor.

        • Hannah says:

          RJ when I looked at Mother Theresa, Maximillian Kolbe, JPII, and others we can name, there was no offensive or deffensive mode of speaking about God used. You saw Jesus in them because they were filled with the Spirit . We could all be same but there is a spirit of ill will pervading society which refuses to allow the human person to see God clearly and this anti spirit grows more steadily daily.

  12. Hannah says:

    Stephen you have sat on so many fences that I’m now dizzy.
    Relevatism comes to mind.
    “How on earth do we know what sin is anyway,” (your words) Stephen this is the problem because in our “niceness” we have lost sight of what “sin” is. Stephen just as a reminder what sin is anyway from CCC 386. “Sin is present in human history; any attempt to ignore it or to give this dark reality other names would be futile. To try to understand what sin is, one must first recognize the profound relation of man to God for only in this relationship is the evil of sin unmasked in its true identity as humanity’s rejection of God and opposition to him, even as it continues to weigh heavy on human life and history” (end of quote)
    Stephen thats what I was trying to say in a previous post and I am sorry but I read reletavism in yours. The reality is that we as a society have seriously lost our sense of sin and because so we are seeing the fruit of this loss of sense of sin also because of this loss we are slowly losing the sense of grandeur that “man” was created for Ps 8.

    • Joshua says:

      The word is spelled “relativism”.

    • Stephen K says:

      Thank you, Hannah, for your comments. It’s wonderful to have these exchanges on David’s forum because I think we can advance truth and break down barriers.

      I honestly think it’s a misreading of my own comments to see them as relativistic. This word is used a lot but often wrongly. It properly means the view that there are no moral absolutes, and the practical effect of such a position is that there is no intrinsic good or evil, and in the crude may result in thinking there is no evil at all, except for harm done to me, here and now; in other words, naked and unleavened self-interest. How many people really think this?

      On the contrary, I have long pondered the meta-ethical problem, what is good and evil? What makes something right or wrong? I am not a scholar but in the course of my university and religious studies I’ve had the opportunity of reading various ethical theorists, and these include Augustine (his Confessions), Thomas Aquinas, Kant, and Singer, not to mention an acquaintanceship with several others. I consider few serious philosophers can be truly relativist, although outside a religious paradigm the answer may be more elusive. The conclusion I have come to is that each theory (natural law, teleology, deontology or consequentialism etc) tries to arrive at a workable and consistent rule for finding the absolute; and all are premissed on the notion that good and evil are not simply internal realities but reside outside in x or y action or series of actions. The difference between them lies in identifying and categorising the acts and their constituent elements. In some theories, intention or consequence may play a larger role than the way a situation’s end goal may be described. But they all seek to provide guidance.

      I do not consider myself a moral relativist; but I do think that, axiomatically, we always have limited knowledge, and that consequently we have to be cautious about how we categorise actions by others, especially since I suspect (I have not yet mastered the argument) that actions cannot be so readily boxed generically but admit of far greater species diversity than might appear on the surface.

      And then there is of course the question of culpability and the question of moral degree: even if a particular type of act distinguished by its consequence (say, for the sake of illustration, abortion) could be described generally as intrinsically evil, the question of the culpability of the agent and the comparative degree of evil, not only between individual acts of abortion but between this or that abortion and other acts identified as evil, remain live, complex and relevant issues. Some people may find moral analysis very simple and easy, others, and I am one of them, do not. As for sitting on a fence, have you ever considered that it is itself a deliberate, absolutist position, namely that it is necessary to ensure one has the best all-round view and maximisation of knowledge or that either side misses part of the picture? When I have seen all that I need to know I often jump down on one side or other. (And have you ever considered how hard and painful it is to sit on a fence? It is not for the pleasure-seeking or wilfully self-indulgent!)

      And then there is the question of sin. My question ‘how on earth do we know what sin is?’ had to be read with the corollary “other than what we recognise in our own private forum”. Sin has a particular and religious meaning: it is “an offense against God” (CCC.1850). I think my statement entirely consonant with this, because it is just theologically inappropriate – in my view – for us, fellow creatures, to judge the sin or offense to God. In Catholic theology (as I understand it) even the priest does not judge the confessing’s sin: it is Christ in whose persona he utters the words.

      I also think it is consistent with CCC 1849 which also describes sin as “an offense against reason, truth and right conscience”. My point was that sin is a matter for discernment of conscience, and the only conscience we have is our own. Thus sin is a reality between our self and God. How it exists between others and God is beyond our ken, I think.

      I don’t deny the fact that, living in society, we morally survey the actions of others and formulate policy on the basis of what we see as good and evil. And what I see as good and evil is what I think is universally good or evil and to be worked or argued for or against respectively. But the language of Sin is a minefield and the risk of having our legs blown off is very great.

      And that was the principle point I was trying to make. I thought that proceeding on the basis that one is surrounded by the Sins of others, the world-at-large, contains a danger of derailing an otherwise sincere intent to embrace the Gospel, not least by prioritising the sins of others before one’s own.

      No, don’t worry, I haven’t lost a sense of sin but primarily it’s my own.

      • Hannah says:

        Wow Stephen, you are a retired person that I can see.
        the rest I cannot answer as there are people I need to attend to. but I understand we may never judge another person, but we can judge sin otherwise again we get back to the word relativism (think I spelled it right this time)

      • Schütz says:

        Would you find it better, Stephen, if we were to speak less about how much “other people sin” and did more to expose the fact that the whole of our society is captive to a power which is, at its root, evil? For that power, I use the biblical word “Satan”, but I know that doesn’t have the right effect today either (the little devil with the horns and pitchfork is NOT what we are talking about here…). At least the ancient world knew when someone was “possessed”. We fail to see how the whole of our society is under this captivity. “Like an usurped town to another due”, as Donne put it.

        • Hannah says:

          David we can see it, but not enough see it and its too hard for the too few to break the bonds of that ugly thing which is binding and holding society in its grip.
          Contraception, abortion, euthansia, ss marriage, cloning. All “life” issues. or issues where God and “man/woman” co operate. These have become poisoned and distorted and these need fixing without attending to these all other social justice issue matter little. In the above mentioned, all the beatitudes revilled all commandments broken. A paganism seems to have overtaken society where good is called evil and evil is now called good.
          We are afraid to say “satan” because it not cool and we are too academic and “intelligent” to think that there is a “Satan” Yet Jesus Himself says that he saw satan fall from the heavens, or maybe Jesus was also using euphemisms?

          • Schütz says:

            No, jesus knew what he was talking about, right enough. Interestingly, Wright deals in his “Jesus and the victory if God” with the passage to which you allude. He says that it is virtually an historical necessity that Jesus truly underwent what he perceived to be a personal confrontation with Satan (depicted by the evangelists in the Temptation narrative) and believed himself to have emerged the victor.

        • Stephen K says:

          Yes, David, I really do think it would be better, spiritually, for people in religious discourse to speak less about how much other people sin. I think it is toxic in its effects. I think it attacks the spirit necessary for embrace of the Gospel. I’m prepared, at first flush, to accept that describing society as captive to evil is on safer ground. It does not take rocket science to see how the seeds and fruits of unlove and destructiveness lie in every act and structure devised by mankind. In another post you alluded to several but they are many: wars, oppressions, lies, violence, self-adoration, murders, corruption and many more.

          I guess I’m suggesting that both our discourse and our approach on the practical ‘works’ plane needs to be grounded in the realisation that we ourselves are intricately part of the flawed weave of the sin (and sins) of the world. We have to avoid even the faintest whiff of self-congratulation, whether we pray 1000 Masses or feed the starving. This is how I understand the essential core of the Christian narrative of redemptive grace: I find more persuasive the testimony of the sinner, immersed in sin but conscious and hungry and open to the transformation by God.

  13. Alex Caughey says:

    Stephen K,

    So what is the good news, The Gospel?

    Is it a matter of identifying the frailties and shortcomings of others, and ignoring our own flaws in our haste to point the finger, believing that we can become a member of The Elect by observing the rules as laid down in The Catechism? Or, could The Gospel be a simple matter of following the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, promised to us by The Christ knowing that Our Redeemer lives?

    Before receiving The Eucharist we recite loudly, Lord I am not worthy……. here lies the dilemma for many, for without acknowledging our own need to be redeemed from our delusional belief that we are saved by law observance, we cannot benefit from the saving grace of Our Saviour who seeks out those who acknowledge our flaws, our culpability and of being absolutely needful of His inspiration and directions.

    The Word made flesh lives in all human kind and is our template, so to speak with our creator who merely invites us to follow Him in all matters.

    JP11 was emphatic when teaching us that there is no other way of being saved from our fallen condition than by entering into an intimate relationship, a friendship if we will with Our Saviour. This can only be achieved when we surrender our self entirely into the care of The Word, whispering to us from within our life, follow me.

    “Accordingly, the definitive aim of catechesis is to put people not only in touch but in communion, in intimacy, with Jesus Christ: only He can lead us to the love of the Father in the Spirit and make us share in the life of the Holy Trinity.” (Catechesi Tradendae, 5) Pope John Paul II in an Apostolic Exhortation published in 1979

    • Joshua says:

      Yes, that’s all true – but how to fire others with the love of God, when they seem so supremely uninterested?

      • Alex Caughey says:

        Joshua,

        When Mother Teresa arrived in Calcutta in 1948 from her convent in Loretto, Italy she had little or, no understanding why she was inspired to sacrifice the comforts of her life in Italy to minister to the poor, hungry, homeless and naked in India. She soon learnt when following the guidance of The Spirit, even which doors to knock to beg for donations. For The Saviour guides us, every step of our life in His tender, loving care.

        Mother Teresa’s example moved many Indian women to turn their lives over to God, by joining Mother Teresa’s campaign assisting many needful people who needed practical help.

        When we hear The Word speak to us of His love for us, He will show us the way and encourage us to weather the storms that will inevitably test our faith, in Him by reminding us that we also need saving from our easy willingness to believe that we are self entitled to sit at His banqueting table.

        • Hannah says:

          I have last week bought the DVD of Mother Theresa’story to time of the Nobel Peace Prize. It is eye opening, and tragic that billions are sent to the oon and other planets just because we can, and milions starve and sick and frail and no one to care.

          • Hannah says:

            oops meant “millions are spent on going to the moon and other planets” whilst millions of human beings starve and live in squalor.
            Told you about gnarled fingers and late nights for old eyes.

      • Hannah says:

        How do they see God? the next time they stand in sunshine and see shadow then they know they exist and if they exist its because God has maintained their existence. Remove the “breath” and there is no shadow.
        have a good day

    • Stephen K says:

      Alex, see my response to Hannah above.

    • Schütz says:

      Alex,

      Is it a matter of identifying the frailties and shortcomings of others, and ignoring our own flaws in our haste to point the finger, believing that we can become a member of The Elect by observing the rules as laid down in The Catechism? Or, could The Gospel be a simple matter of following the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, promised to us by The Christ knowing that Our Redeemer lives?

      Try this: Our world is captive to a power which is evil and destructive. This evil and destructive power manifests itself in personal acts of sin, but it can also be seen by the results: war (where the means of peace abound), starvation (where there is plenty of food), sickness (where there is plenty of medicine), poverty (where there is plenty of money) etc. But by the power of the Spirit, a future is being proclaimed in which there will be no more war, sickness, starvation, poverty etc. Becoming a member of the “elect” who will share in this future (and it is God’s intention that as many as possible should enter into this community) is by believing in this Good News and in the one who brings it to fruition: Jesus Christ.

  14. Christine says:

    We have to ask these questions and be open to answers that may not come out of the style and expression of a 4th century or 12th century theologian. (Please note, I am not discounting either). Only then, dare I say it, will questions of methodology be answered.

    Point taken, but I would submit that when Pilate asked “What is truth” that the question is still as valid today as it was when he asked it.

    It is by taking to heart the words of Jesus that in him I will “know the truth and the truth will set me free” that I have daily learned the answer to Pilate’s question and also realize that it is God who defines the good. It is frightening how many times I’ve heard people express that as long as they and everyone else lives a “good life” they will be assured of heaven.

    I also completely agree that there is an societal/ecclesial as well as individual dimension to this.

    Thank you for an excellent post, David.

  15. Mary H says:

    If I read this correctly, I think what we’re looking for is the “felt-bondage” that people in our current place and time feel, which the Gospel heals, and which we can then use to point to the true bondage to Satan that is its source.

    In other words, Jesus specifically heals the evident “felt-bondage” of the lame man brought to him through the roof, after pointing to the true bondage of sin, which the people of the time understood.

    So what is the “felt-bondage” of our time? I see two primary “felt-bondages”.
    1. Disbelief in the intrinsic value of the human person.
    Yes, the obvious sign of this is abortion and euthanasia, which of course we should fight, but those are signs of the problem, not the root. People truly do not believe that they are valuable just because they are human beings. And if a person believes his/her own value is contingent, how can they believe the value of someone else is intrinsic? This has nothing to do with feel-good theology or even self-esteem. Someone may have high esteem because they feel they have earned it or because they believe other people value them, but at heart, they don’t believe their value is intrinsic, just because they *exist*.
    2. Disbelief that the body is an essential part of the human person.
    People (at least in the west) have come to believe, in practice, that the body is no more than a physical container for the soul, or for the complete materialist, the brain. It’s just an object that we can and should manipulate however we see fit, not something that defines who we *are* as essentially as our soul / brain does. And of course, once you buy into that, you are vulnerable to the incredible pressure all around you as to what your body should look and act like. Various external influences try to convince you what your body should look like, you start to internalize what they say, it becomes part of what you think and feel, and since what you think and feel is the only definition of “you”, and your physical body is not an essential part of “you”, any amount of manipulation and mutilation is fine, limited only by technology and wealth.

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