In the outpouring of God's infinite overflowing love, He created the angels and men in His own image and likeness. This not only means they will live forever with an immortal soul, but also that they are endowed with understanding and free will. In other words, with these two gifts, they have the ability to comprehend and the choice to accept and cooperate with or reject God's love and graces. Thus, by this gift of our free will, or rather tremendous (fearful) responsibility, each one of us is given the opportunity to choose our destiny of eternal happiness or eternal pain.
I.2: The Fall of Man
Although our first human parents, Adam and Eve, were given many wonderful gifts and privileges, they did not remain faithful to God and His commandment (Gen 3:6). Since their gifts and wonderful privileges were purely gratuitous favors, there was no injustice done when, upon their fall, they were deprived of them. As the whole human race is descended from Adam and Eve, we all enter the world deprived of the gifts, most especially sanctifying grace, which we would have inherited if they had remained faithful.
I.3: The Incarnation and Redemption
But God did not abandon mankind. After promising them a Redeemer (Gen 3:15), He continued to guide them and communicate with them through His prophets and other holy men. Finally, in the fullness of time, out of love and mercy, God the Father sent His only begotten Son. It was not enough that He should leave His home in heaven and stoop to take up our human nature. It was not enough that He should have spent thirty-three wearisome years on this earth, toiling and suffering in order not only to give us the means to divine life, but to show us how to live that life after the example of His own Son. No, all this was yet not enough. It was not enough that He should die the ignominious death of the Cross to open the gates of paradise and offer to mankind once more the first loving invitation of the Father, which was rejected by our first parents, namely, to enter on the highway of love which leads to the eternal bliss of the vision and possession of Him.
I.4: Christ's Bride Sent to Be Our Guide
His infinite love still impelled Him to send us His Bride, Our Holy Mother the Church, that you and I, at this moment, hundreds of years after His sojourn on earth might have a visible, infallible, and unchanging Guide to lead us on the way He had pointed out. That you and I today with the faithful of the nineteen hundred and some odd years that have passed, and those of the tomorrows to come, should know the ministrations of this wonderful and divinely ingenious Mother of ours.
She orders the holy household of her ministers beginning with the visible head, the pope, in descending degrees of variety. She takes care that the spreading network of her saving channels reaches all of us, her children, with a marvelous efficiency, and teaches us His very own doctrine by her living voice. Every year of her life she completes that golden circle of truths which make up the Drama of Divine Love; directing our halting and sometimes childishly willful footsteps, by the hand of her government, along the straight and narrow path of His virtues and commandments, and having our thirsting souls to drink of the waters of His living grace.
I.5: The Church, Full of Grace and Truth
Thus, Christ did not leave us orphans with only a memory of Him and His works. He left us His Church; an identifiable Church that is one, holy, catholic, and apostolic and also divinely endowed with the three attributes (or charisms) of authority, infallibility, and indefectibility along with many other lesser charisms from the Holy Spirit. If Christ would give us no more, we could easily make it to His heavenly kingdom of eternal bliss if we would merely reach out and take advantage of our motherly infallible guide filled with Christ's precious truths and graces.
I.6: Admonishment From God Through the Church
But just like the Jews of the Old Testament who frequently slipped away from doing God's will expressed by His commandments or like a prudently raised child who often disobeys his generous and God-loving parents, so too, the Christians of the New Testament frequently did not and still do not do as they should even though God's will has been clearly spelled out by the Church and ample graces are openly and freely available through the Church especially in the seven sacraments.
In mercy and love, God sent Prophets and Judges to the Jews to jolt them back to Him. Good parents lovingly admonish their child. So too, God the Holy Spirit inspires the Church, normally through the ecclesiastical body of the bishops, with the Pope as their head, to lovingly admonish straying Christians. The Church fulfils this important task of guidance at all levels of her divinely formed structure from the Pope down to the parish priest using a whole array of methods including encyclicals, ecclesiastical pronouncements as well as the Sunday sermons by the parish priest.
I.7: Private Revelation - A Charism of the Church
A more rare method by which the Holy Spirit communicates to the Mystical Body of Christ for a particular situation at a given time in history to guide our conduct is by the charism of prophesy or better know as private revelation.
Private revelations are not the foundation upon which the Church rests but rather an extra charism of the Church bestowed on the faithful through God's generosity and mercy. It is the Church which approves them (or condemns then) and it is in her that revelations find their aim and fruit, that being, the edification of souls.
This work follows the brief advise of St. Paul to the Thessalonians (5:19-29). The first part (chapters 1-3), which aims at the acceptance of the fact of revelations, follows St. Paul's precept "Extinguish not the Spirit. Despise not prophecies." The second part (chapters 4-6), which deals with the discernment of revelations and the qualifications of the Catholic Church, is an explanation of the continuation of our text: "but prove all things!" The third part (chapter 7) corresponds entirely with the final Pauline advice: "prudently hold fast that which is good." This deals with the finality and the fruit of these divine communications. Thus our study is presented as a theological interpretation of the scriptural data in regard to particular revelations which, moreover, have often been advanced by the Fathers and by theologians.
Also included in this work is a brief discussion about the necessity of obedience to lawful superiors, prudent and imprudent attitude toward private revelation, and the dynamics of community with a look at constructive and destructive cults.
Tuesday, April 1, 2008