January 30, 2013

Coming To Know God

Catechism Paragraphs 26 – 73

Section One:  “I Believe”
“The desire for God is written in the human heart, because man is created by God and for God; and God never ceases to draw man to himself.  Only in God will he find the truth and happiness he never stops searching for.  27   Man occupies a unique place in creation: (I) he is ‘in the image of God’ (II) in his own nature he unites the spiritual and material worlds; (III) he is created ‘male and female;’ (IV) God established him in his friendship.  355   But this search for God demands of man every effort of intellect, a sound will, ‘an upright heart,’ as well as the witness of others who teach him to seek God.”  30   (The bold print is, IMO, a very important teaching of the Catholic Church.  We are all responsible to each other.) 

“Why do we seek God? God has placed in our hearts a longing to seek and find him.  St. Augustine says, ‘You have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.’  We call this longing for God è Religion.  A person is not completely himself until he has found God.”  YOUCAT Q 3     

Ways of Coming to Know God:   “Created in God’s image and called to know and love him, the person who seeks God discovers certain ways of coming to know him.  These ‘ways’ of approaching God from creation have a twofold point of departure:  the physical world and the human person.  31   The World:  starting from movement, becoming, contingency, and the world’s order and beauty, one can come to a knowledge of God as the origin and the end of the universe.  ‘Ever since the creation of the world his invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made. (Rom 1:19-20)  32   The Human Person:  With his openness to truth and beauty, his sense of moral goodness, his freedom and the voice of his conscience, with his longings for the infinite and for happiness, man questions himself about God’s existence.  The soul, the ‘seed of eternity we bear in ourselves, irreducible to the merely material,’ can have its origin only in God.  33   Man’s faculties make him capable of coming to a knowledge of the existence of a personal God.  But for man to be able to enter into a real intimacy with him, God willed both to reveal himself to man and to give him the grace of being able to welcome this revelation in faith.  The proofs of God’s existence, however, can predispose one to faith and help one to see that faith is not opposed to reason.”  35

“Why do people deny that God exists, if they can know him by reason?  To know the invisible God is a great challenge for the human mind.  Many are scared off by it.  Another reason why some to not want to know God is because they would then have to change their life.  Anyone who says that the question about God is meaningless because it cannot be answered is making things too easy for himself.  YOUCAT Q 5

 The Knowledge of God According to the Church:  Man stands in need of being enlightened by God’s revelation, not only about those things that exceed his understanding, but also ‘about those religious and moral truths which of themselves are not beyond the grasp of human reason, so that even in the present condition of the human race, they can be known by all men with ease, with firm certainty and with no admixture of error.”  38 

How Can We Speak About God?   “In defending the ability of human reason to know God, the Church is expressing her confidence in the possibility of speaking about him to all men and with all men, and therefore of dialogue with other religions, with philosophy and science, as well as with unbelievers and atheists.  39   All creatures bear a certain resemblance to God, most especially man, created in the image and likeness of God.  The manifold perfections of creatures – their truth, their goodness, their beauty – all reflect the infinite perfection of God.  41   God transcends all creatures.  We must therefore continually purify our language in it that is limited, image-bound or imperfect, if we are not to confuse our image of God – ‘the inexpressible, the incomprehensible, the invisible, the ungraspable’ – with our human representations.”  42

“By natural reason man can know God with certainty, on the basis of his works.  But there is another order of knowledge, which man cannot possible arrive at by his own powers:  the order of divine Revelation.  Through an utterly free decision, God has revealed himself and given himself to man.  This he does by revealing the mystery, his plan of loving goodness, formed from all eternity in Christ, for the benefit of all men.  50   God, who ‘dwells in unapproachable light,’ wants to communicate his own divine life to the men he freely created, in order to adopt them as his sons in his only-begotten Son.  By revealing himself God wishes to make them capable of responding to him, and of knowing him, and of loving him far beyond their own natural capacity.  52   The divine plan of Revelation involves a specific divine pedagogy:  God communicates himself to man gradually (in history).  He prepares him to welcome by stages the supernatural Revelation that is to culminate in the person and mission of the incarnate Word, Jesus Christ.”  53  

Stages of Revelation:  “Wishing to open up the way to heavenly salvation, he manifested himself to our first parents from the very beginning.  He invited them to intimate communion with himself and clothed them with resplendent grace and justice.  54  This revelation was not broken off by our first parents’ sin.  ‘After the fall, (God) buoyed them up with the hope of salvation, by promising redemption; and he has never ceased to show his solicitude for the human race. (cf Gen 3:15, Rom 2:6-7).  55    In order to gather together a scattered humanity God calls Abram from his country, his kindred, and his father’s house, and makes him Abraham, that is, ‘the father of a multitude of nations.’  ‘In you all the nations of the earth shall be blessed.’  59   The people descended from Abraham would be the trustees of the promise made to the patriarchs, the chosen people, called to prepare for that day when God would gather all his children into the unity of the Church.  (Rom 11:28, Jn 11:52) 60   After the patriarchs, God formed Israel as his people by the freeing them from slavery in Egypt.  He established with them the covenant of Mount Sinai and, through Moses, gave them his law so that they would recognize him and serve him as the one living and true God.  62   Through the prophets, God forms his people in the hope of salvation, in the expectation of a new and everlasting Covenant intended for all, to be written on their hearts.  (Isa 2:2-4, Jer 31:31-4)” 64  

“Why did God have to show himself in order for us to be able to know what he is like?  Man can know by reason that God exists, but not what God is really like.  God did not have to reveal himself to us.  But he did it – out of love.  Just as in human love one can know something about the beloved person only if he opens his heart to us, so too we know something about God’s inmost thoughts only because the eternal and mysterious God has opened himself to us out of love. “  YOUCAT Q 8

“In many and various ways God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son (Heb 1:1-2).  St John of the Cross, among others, commented strikingly on Hebrews 1:1-2:  ‘In giving us his Son, his only Word, he spoke everything to us at once in this sole Word – and he has no more to say … because what he spoke before to the prophets in parts, he has now spoken all at once by giving us the All Who is His Son.  Any person questioning God or desiring some vision or revelation would be guilty not only of foolish behavior but also of offending him, by not fixing his eyes entirely upon Christ and by living with the desire for some other novelty.’  65   The Christian economy, therefore, since it is the new and definitive Covenant, will never pass away; and no new public revelation is to be expected before the glorious manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Yet even if Revelation is already complete, it has not been made completely explicit; it remains for Christian faith gradually to grasp its full significance over the course of the centuries.  (This is where the teaching authority of the Church comes in.) 66       

Next week will be paragraphs 74 – 141, covering The Apostolic Tradition and its relationship to Sacred Scripture. 

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