Fr. Sweet and I after his ordination
A friend of mine from HS was talking to me about a mutual friend of ours who was blessed to be given the vocation of priesthood a few years back.
Every now and again he'll come up in conversation, and without fail, I refer to him as "Father Sweet" (replacing "Sweet" with his actual name, mind you).
Our mutual friend, however, consistently refers to this priest by his high school nickname.
I understand that due to our high school relationships, it's assumed that we continue to utilize the same familiarity we've espoused in the past. Fr. Sweet, I think, expects that, too, since on two separate occasions (when he and I spoke in prep for my wedding), he laughed off my attempts to call him "Deacon" (he was transitory at that point).
For this reason, I've never questioned our mutual high school friends when they've called Father Sweet by his first name / nickname. I, however, cannot bring myself to do that. I don't expect others to follow suit, but I was pretty surprised when our mutual friend came down kinda hard on me for "insisting on calling him 'Father' when he is the same as the rest of us except he has a collar around his neck."
Color me stupified. My view is this:
Jesus called Simon to become a disciple. He spent a couple years forming him, teaching him, and revealing to him the Truths of God's plan for salvation. Upon testing Simon with the question of "Who do YOU say that I am?" Simon was found to be inspired with the wisdom of the Holy Spirit. This inspiration was a sign from God the Father that Simon was ready to be christened with the name of Peter... "Cephas" (which means "rock") in Greek. Interestingly, this same word translates to "firstborn" in Aramaic.
Thus, Peter became the first-born Christian... the first to declare Jesus' Divinity through His Sonship of the One, True God. Already christened with the Holy Spirit (signified by his Divine knowledge), Christ took it a step further and christened Simon (meaning "reed") with the dignified name of "Peter," the rock upon which Christianity would be built.
Name changes throughout the Bible are significant. Name changes signify not a physical alteration, but a spiritual one. God changes a person by marking their souls with His Promise. For Abram (who became Abraham) it was the promise of a family (not just physical, but spiritual). For Jacob (who became Israel) it was the promise of a nation. For Saul (who became Paul) it was the promise of salvation and a share in the kingship of Christ.
With the importance that God places on names, I sorta feel as though I, too, should pay attention when God, Himself, deems a person worthy of a name change. Priests, in my eyes, fall into this category.
Priests are called, just like St. Peter, to be marked by the Holy Spirit. They are marked as representatives of Christ. They are called to shepherd God's people back to Heaven. As such, upon ordination, they receive the title of "Father."
That title is GOD-GIVEN. He was blessed to be called by God to be a "Father" to His people. Far be it from me to call Father Sweet by any other name. It isn't just my respect for him that solicits my "formality." It's actually my familiarity with and respect for God that solicits the "Father."
It's not just my high school priest friend that seems to get this treatment anymore. I know of several people who think nothing of calling priests by their first name (sans title). I admit that it's always unsettling to me, but I've never said anything one way or another about it to those who do it because I do not know their relationship with the priest in question. Who knows? Maybe the particular priest WISHES to be called by his first name. I don't know, thus, I don't cast judgement.
However, I was very surprised to have judgement cast upon me. Even after explaining my stance, this person thought I was just being "stupid."
Eh, I'll take "stupid" over "disrespectful" any day of the week.
A priest isn't just "us with a collar." A priest is marked soul-deep in a way that none of us can imagine. They are set apart from us. They are fundamentally different. They are endowed with the power of God, Himself. Thus, I willingly - JOYFULLY - acknowledge that grace with the humble term "Father."
No amount of name-calling, scorn or ridicule will change my mind.
Even this one - dearest to me above all - gets "Father." And he's been family since before his deaconate!
***WARNING: Some images will offend folks. I apologize in advance. Also, my views are STRICTLY my opinions and might not perfectly reflect those of Judaism / Catholicism - I'm still working on that. I admit that this particular topic is a little hazy for me, and I welcome anyone who wishes to comment or redirect my read on it. Just trying to get a conversation going - not supporting or condemning one way or the other. Thanks!!!***
So an interesting comment popped up on my Newsfeed this morning. A young woman expressed exasperation at a Jehovah's Witness who basically condemned her to hell for her tattoos.
I jumped the gun a bit (having been "condemned" myself, this morning - I was on an indignant roll) and responded that tattooing was, in fact, in the Bible, and tattooing happens to be part of MANY religious practices all over the world.
Just because Mr. Door-Preacher interprets the Bible as a condemnation of everyone's soul does not, in fact, mean that the rest of the world does. It also most certainly doesn't mean that God does.
Anywho, I figured this would be a good topic to bring up since so many people seem to be confused about the "sin-potential" of tattooing and what the Bible actually says about it. I am, a bit, too, so open dialogue is always a plus.
Disclaimer: I've always wanted a tattoo. I've never gotten one, but I've always been intrigued by some of the more beautiful body art I've seen. Some artwork truly is beautiful, and I admit wanting a piece of the action for myself.
That being said, I've always refrained because of the stigma attached to them. I never - EVER - wanted my kids to utilize my tattoos as a means for their own questionable activities. Ha ha. I also never wanted to give them reason to think poorly of me (as I'm sure I can handle that on my own without the aid of taboos).
Anyway, my desire for tattooing is what led me to research the Biblical history of tattoos. I figured if I ever did get one, I'd want to make sure it was permissible so I'd have evidence to back myself up when folks would inevitably start raining hellfire on me.
So if you're wondering why I'd ever know any of this, my own selfishness is why. Ha!
So - onwards with the discussion!
First things first. What does the Bible actually have to say about tattoos?
Leviticus 19:28: "Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the Lord."
This is typically the number one quote used by those who want to condemn tattooed folks to hell. However, this is like using a microscope to view a sunset.
When you only see a tiny part of the picture, you neglect to realize that there's a whole lot more to see. Until you remove the microscope and view the image in its fullness, you can't claim to pass judgement on the various colors, silhouettes, and cloud layers that work in tandem to create that sunset.
So, let's zoom out a bit and put some context to that particular quote.
Leviticus 19:26-31 deals with temple laws. You see, now that the Jews had to rely on Levitical priests to sacrifice and commune with God (instead of all the male heads of households before the Golden Calf incident), they were forced to create a gathering space in which these Levites could carry out the work of God. In developing their religious culture to match the punishment doled out by Divine Justice, a temple needed to be constructed which would serve as a central place for worship / sacrifice. This was the first time in Jewish history that they'd need a temple just like all the other pagan religions that were being practiced.
Because of this, God foresaw the very real possibility of the Israelites slipping back into their "Let's do what everyone else is doing!" habits. As such, He made provisions in the Law to ensure that His people would not be led astray by pagan customs.
The prohibitions in Lev 19: 26-31 ALL deal with prohibitions against pagan practices. God didn't want His people to slip into the idolatry of the surrounding nations because they were supposed to be set apart. Israel was MEANT to stand-out as different because their example of holiness (if practiced accordingly) would attract the pagan nations away from their sinfulness and towards God.
So, now that we know that, we need to figure out exactly what that aforementioned verse 28 really stated.
Leviticus 19:28: "Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the Lord."
Alrighty - so understanding that these are based on the pagan religious practices of their respective temples, God is specifically saying, "Don't make yourselves LOOK like pagans."
It was typical of pagans to mutilate themselves as part of the grieving process. Also, the tattoos of some pagan cultures wasn't the colorful ink we think of when we hear the word tattoo. That sort of tattoo was reserved for the wealthy because they could afford ink and such. Others, however, had their skin seared in a pattern that became raised as the skin healed into a scar. It would've looked something like this:
I tried to make this small so as not to gross anyone out. Sorry if that didn't work.
So that's where the prohibition against tattoos originally came from. HOWEVER, there's an interesting line in Ezekiel that clouds the issue a bit.
"And the LORD said unto him, Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof." (Ez. 9:4)
Hey now wait a minute! I thought God doesn't want us tattooing ourselves!
Well, before you bust out your needles, again, let's pull away from the microscope and view the panoramic shot in full.
God was commanding the prophet to go through the Holy Land and mark those who are innocent of sin against the Lord. Those without this special marking upon their forehead were punished by Divine Justice. Those marked with the sign of "taw" (a letter of the Hebrew alphabet meaning "truth") escaped the wrath of God.
***Interestingly, this letter is translated to "T" using our alphabet... a symbol of the Cross of Christ. Another interesting thing that makes me giddy is that the Arabic version of the Hebrew taw is what looks to be a smilie face. Ha ha!***
Anyway, God's not talking about marking folks with tattoos. He just wanted to make sure His harbinger of justice could easily discern who needed to be slain and who didn't. So it's not like this was a permanent mark. Not to make light of a truly horrible situation, but my guess is the man with the linen cloth had something akin to a Sharpie. The mark definitely stood out, but it could be scrubbed away after a period of time (that period lasting through the close of slaughter).
Credit: Catholic Caveman
Whew! Now that we covered all of that, we can get into the nitty gritty.
Are tattoos allowed, or aren't they?
According to most Jewish scholars, the answer is "No." Thus, if the Jews held that tattoos are a no-no, Christians would hold the same principle to be true (expounded upon in many of the epistles with the theme of our bodies being Temples of the Spirit).
However, does that mean to get one would be a sure-ticket to hell?
No. To my knowledge there's only one sin that is a sure-ticket to hell, and that's the sin against the Holy Spirit (refusing to trust that His Mercy is greater than your guilt). Granted, I don't claim to know the Mind of the Lord, but there's a difference between getting a tattoo of Zeus on your arm in the hopes that it brings you power and getting a tattoo of a butterfly after surviving breast cancer, ya know?
Plus, with these particular "little laws" of Leviticus, they really do have a substantial amount of social influence. As such, we need to understand that times have changed and these principles (not dogmatic in nature) are free to be interpreted differently at different times (which is why Jewish women pierce their ears even though that's technically forbidden in the same verse that forbids tattooing).
So is tattooing going to send you straight to hell? No. Could it possibly open the door to idolatrous actions that have you sliding down the slippery slope? Definitely - but so could that bag of Funions I'm currently eying. If I pop that baby open, I'm likely to go all sorts of gluttonous.
We are tasked with moderation and keeping our consciences clear before the Lord. He gave us a body with which to love and praise Him with. If you'd like to show Him honor by keeping a tattoo of His Mother over your heart, I certainly won't be condemning you for it. If you wish to praise Him by tattooing His Word on your hand so you keep it ever in-mind, far be it from me to prepare a seat in hell for you.
However, I can't see myself getting one simply because I don't feel doing those things would be beneficial to my spiritual life. I also tend to play it safe when it comes to Scripture. Ha ha ha.
Moral of the story: You cannot condemn a person for getting a tattoo. Unless your name is Jesus Christ, Son of the Most High God, keep your mouth shut in judgement of another's soul. When in doubt, just offer a prayer to the Lord for their purity of heart.
So, anyone else have thoughts on this?
***Large uptick in visitors after dinner. Please let me know who is directing traffic my way. Thanks! Also, please keep the language clean and the discourse civil. I don't want to be deleting / editing commentary all night.***
Why do you know so much about the Jews? Did you convert from Judaism?
The answer to this is simple - yet extremely important.
I did not convert from Judaism. Rather, I was blessed to be born into the faith that FULFILLS Judaism.
You see, Judaism and Catholicism are two sides of the same coin. You cannot have one side without the other.
In the Old Testament, God unfolds His plans for humanity. We were created by Him to be part of His family. Much like parents long for children to love and be loved by, God desired a family to love and be loved by. Humanity was the crowning answer to His Love.
God =/= Zeus!!!
The Old Testament gives us our history - our FAMILY history. We come to understand God as Father through its books. Once we understand God as Father, we cannot help but understand the whole of humanity as our brothers and sisters.
Most people view the God of the Old Testament as an angry Zeus-like figure (hurling fireballs at cities or smiting folks for laughs). However, when you really sit down and read through the pages of the OT, you come to learn that far from being an irate and venomous bully, God is a loving, patient Father who repeatedly sets his wayward children back on the path towards their inheritance with Him in Heaven.
Israel, being His "firstborn" (in that the Jews are who He revealed Himself as Father to before any other nation), tended to get the brunt of the "tough love" in an effort to prepare them to act as "big brother" to the other nations who would come to know the Father through them.
However, no one was going to learn about God the Father if the Israelites weren't acting in accordance with God's Will. This is why God punished the Israelites each time they broke their end of the Covenant. God was trying to uphold them as the model of what humanity was supposed to be, but they kept rejecting His Way in lieu of the debauchery that served as the way for their brother nations.
Thus the need for God to constantly step in to remind them, "Hey, Israel... you're supposed to be My Firstborn - My High Priest. You're supposed to be leading people to me through your holy example, not hopping aboard the Sin-Train with them on the way to perdition!"
And if you note His method of punishment, each completely fits the crime. Nothing more, nothing less. Divine Justice is merciful like that. :)
So fast-forward through the centuries. God is always making promises to Israel, reminding them that they've been called to be the gate of graces for the whole of humanity. Through their nation, salvation would be granted to the world in the form of the Messiah. One day, a Christ would come who would fulfill ALL the promises God made to His people in the Old Testament.
The New Testament tells the story of the promised Messiah - a Man called Jesus.
The New Testament is not the foundation for Catholicism... it is the FLOWERING of Judasim (which, in fact, is the foundation of Catholicism).
Look upon the whole of our theology as a tree. The seed was planted by God, Himself, through His covenant with Adam. He nurtured this tree, allowing the roots to take shape through Abraham. The trunk of Israel grew strong, eventually supporting the flowering branches of Christianity. Catholicism, however, is the FRUIT of the tree.
Judaism is the heart of Christianity
We have been blessed to understand that Christ fulfilled the promises made in the Old Testament. We have been blessed to see that Christ has offered salvation through the new and everlasting Church He set upon the rock of St. Peter. And yes, this salvation (as promised) came through Israel. Jesus was a Jew, and the first Christians were Jews. The evangelists were Jewish. The crux of our heritage was found in Jerusalem (where Christ preached and eventually offered Himself as Sacrifice, obtaining our salvation).
So while I'm not exactly Jewish, I am a sister to the Jews. If not for their millenia of working the theological fields, if not for their many centuries of trying to follow the Will of God, I would not have my Catholicism. I am indebted to the firstborn of God!
Thus, upon my "coming back" to the faith, I made a real attempt to delve into Judaic theology. Only in understanding the Jewish religion can I ever hope to understand my own.
So I hope that answers the question. And as a personal note (because I know you're not Catholic, but some version of Protestant - my apologies for forgetting which), this is true of your faith as well. Christianity stems from Judaism. It's why all Christians keep the Old Testament as well as the New. So understanding Judaism would be beneficial to you just as much (if not more so!).
In light of the last "But What About," a friend asked:
Why DID God constantly demand animal sacrifices in the OT? He's always asking for burnt offerings around the clock. That never sat well with me. It doesn't make sense. I don't see God wanting me to go out back and kill a bunch of His creatures. Why did He demand it back then?
What a great question!!! It has a logical answer, as well, I promise.
For one, let me start by saying that God loves His Creation. He loves the creepy crawly spider, the gross and slimy eel, and yes, He even loves the sheep, goats and bulls that He demanded Israel hand over day after day, night after night.
Why, then, would He wish them to be slaughtered in such droves in a seemingly barbaric fashion? You don't thoughtlessly slaughter cute, cuddly creatures simply to make yummy-smelling smoke that somehow glorifies God, right?
Right. Sort of.
You see, God never demanded animal slaughter from the Israelites as a people until they got sucked into the social constructs of Egypt. While they were slaving away under Pharoah for 400 years, they picked up some nasty habits from their overlords - chief among them the worship of cattle as gods.
God, having made a covenant with the Israelites that He would be their God and they would be His people, didn't take too kindly to His family suddenly forgetting about Him in lieu of thoughtless beasts. Thus, in order to remind them that these animals were not, in fact, worthy of adoration, God demanded that the Jews prove their loyalty (not to Him, but to themselves) by burning the objects of their idolatry.
Did God WANT to hurt the cattle? Of course not. Did He want to see them slaughtered and burned? No. However, God understood that in order for His wayward family to make a clean break with the unholy practices of the Egyptians, they'd need to rebel against the ingrained customs that had caused them to turn from His Love.
Basically, God was asking a drug addict to flush his stash down the toilet to prove he was really through with meth.
And at first, the Israelites said, "Sure, God, we'll totally do this! No problem!"
They offered the requested sacrifices (which were, unsurprisingly, the same animals most revered by the Egyptians) amidst joy and celebration. Why? Because God had just rescued them from Pharoah. In their joy and feelings of euphoria, they probably thought they could do anything God requested of them at that point.
Unfortunately, their break from Egyptian tradition was short-lived.
While Moses was up on Mt. Sinai receiving the 10 Commandments from God, the restless Israelites decided they wanted to throw a party. With 400 years of Egyptian partying under their belts, they knew they couldn't have a proper party without erecting a ginormous golden statue of Apis (yes, that's an Egyptian god). So what did these Israelites do? They collected as much gold as they could and crafted it into a big old idol.
Apparently God's favorite meth-head was at it again.
And to make matters worse, the Israelites attempted to cover up their sin of idolatry by proclaiming that the Calf of Apis was really just a representation of the God of Israel. Any and all resemblance of this idol to the idol they just swore never to worship again was PURELY coincidental.
And just like you don't buy that, God didn't, either.
So in order to ensure they broke up with idolatry for good, He commanded them to burn (day AND night) the objects of their folly. This sacrifice was not to promote animal cruelty, but to remind the Israelites that animal worship was a rupture to their covenant with God.
And none of the animal was wasted through sacrifice. After the Levites offered the sacrifice in accordance with the Law (which is the slaughter of these animals in as painless a way as possible), the carcass was distributed back for the purpose of utilizing it practically (meat for food, hide for clothing / tents, etc).
So yes, animal sacrifice was demanded by God in the Old Testament. However, it wasn't demanded because God enjoys inflicting pain upon animals. It was demanded because God needed to correct the erroneous idolatry of His children.
This entire entry stems from a thread regarding the "creation of evil" and free will. I wanted to post it here as well because I think it's a great conversation!
God grants us Free Will
God is the Supreme Author of creation... all things visible and invisible. Our creed states as much. However, does this mean He created evil as well?
My answer is no. Evil is not a thing to be created. It is a choice. One cannot "create" love, one can only choose it, right?
The same holds true for evil. One cannot "create" evil. One can only choose it. God, being Supremely wise, holy and loving, has the capacity for evil.
However (and this is a big however), being that He is Supremely wise, holy and loving, He eternally CHOOSES goodness. He eternally chooses love. THIS is the gift of Free Will that He imparted to us. If God doesn't have the capacity for evil, then God is not all-powerful. God wouldn't 'need' free will because He'd be incapable of evil. However, God IS all-powerful. The difference between Him and the rest of us, however, is that He's always chosen goodness and love over evil and hatred. Thus, God must have free will if He was able to grant it to us as a gift.
So, keeping His Perfect Example of free will in mind, let's move on.
God created the angels before humanity. Angels are purely spiritual beings that were also granted the grace of free will. We are taught through tradition that one third of these angels utilized their free will in opposition to the Divine Will of God (His Divine Will being Supreme Goodness). As a result, these angels were cast away from His Divine Presence (since to be united to God is to be united with His Will - which is Love above all else).
God did not cast them aside in judgement. They chose to dislodge themselves from His Goodness through pride. As a result, God, in His Goodness, created a place for them separate from the other angels who chose Goodness. Basically, He put the "bad kids" in the corner so they didn't disrupt the rest of the class. Those who wanted to continue to grow in love and understanding of God could remain with Him in Heaven.
Then God deemed it time for the physical realm to spring forth. After setting things into motion, He chose to bestow upon humanity the same gift given to the angels - free will. However, humans are intrinsically different from angels. Angels are purely spiritual beings. Humans are the union of body and soul (which is why Catholics believe in the "resurrection of the dead"). As such, our free will is going to be utilized differently from that of the angels (though with the same premise... freely choosing good over evil).
Eden was a physical realm that was in perfect union with the Will of God - Adam and Eve included. Genesis states as much when it writes of Adam "walking blameless before God." Adam's will was united to that of God's Divine Will, and there was peace. Eve, too, lived in union with God's Will. Until, that is, she meets up with a pesky little snake.
As we all remember from our elementary days, the Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge were located in the center of Eden. The Tree of Knowledge, when we trace it back to it's Jewish roots, was known as the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. This is an important distinction because Jewish tradition understands this Tree to be the mixture of good and evil. Until humanity (through Adam and Eve) ingested this fruit (thus introducing the conflict of evil), good was humanity's nature. Evil was something altogether separate that had no place in the nature of humanity. We simply understood and trusted that God knew best, and we willingly went along with the plans He set forth because we naturally understood Him to have our best interests at heart.
That changed due to the 1st sin (which was Pride, not disobedience). When the serpent suggested to Eve that she could gain the knowledge that God had and begin making her OWN plans that would be even better than those of God, she was feeling the temptation of pride. When she acted out in eating the fruit, it was not disobedience that goaded her... it was her own pride. Her mistaken belief that she could somehow gain wisdom above God's. That given the chance, her will could rival that of God's. Sound familiar? It was the very same sin that Lucifer introduced to the other angels. It was the very sin that caused their downfall as well.
This was the first time humanity said "No" to the Divine Will. The second time was when Adam came along and accepted Eve's sin into the family line. In allowing himself (as head of creation) to sully humanity by not only accepting this sin, but taking part in it, Adam solidified our downfall. Now that both of our parents (Adam and Eve) have sullied themselves with the stain of sin, all subsequent generations would feel the smudge on our natures. This is original sin. It's not an actual "sin" that newborns are held accountable for. It's the tendency towards sin that we have inherited from our ancestors. Much like the child of an alcoholic is more likely to become an alcoholic himself, the children of sinners are more likely to sin. We are children of Adam and Eve. The tendency has been passed from generation to generation, and with the exception of Our Lady, all of humanity has been marred by the stain of this original "No" to Divine Will... this original misuse of free will.
Out of love, God sentenced us to a physical death so that we might once more reunite ourselves to His Will. Since humanity had marred its nature through sin, God rightly passed judgement on us, deeming us unfit to reside in Eden as that was a place of peace and unity with God's Will. Humanity, having now turned from God's Will, would be forced to work their way back to their original Divine Inheritance. Free will, having been gifted at our time of creation, was not taken away. Instead, as punishment for misusing this gift to alter our purely good nature, we would need to learn to properly use this gift for love.
That is what our lives on Earth are all about. We are learning to love. We are learning to consistently choose good over evil. We are learning to trust the Will of God and allow ourselves to take part in His plans for Divine Providence. THAT is the meaning of our earthly lives.
Upon death, we are judged on how well we learned this lesson. Did we consistently strive to love others? Did we consistently choose good over evil? Did we trust in the Will of God to move our lives in the direction necessary to once more gain eternal happiness?
If the answer is a resounding "Yes," we gain entrance to Heaven. If the answer is "Eh, it was a hell of a struggle, and I've got a ways to go, but I at least learned that Your Will is right" we gain entrance to Purgatory with the promise of Heaven. Finally, if the answer is, "No, this is all bull, God, you're just a big bully" we cast ourselves into Hell.
And yes, I said we cast ourselves. Much as those original fallen angels had.
At judgement, we see our own lives in the Light of Divine Truth. We see our souls as God sees them, and in the face of this Truth, we cannot help but understand our successes and failings. We, ourselves, pass sentence before the Throne of God (before which no sin or dishonesty can stand). We accept whatever "reward" we are given because at that moment, we cannot help but understand God to be Supreme Justice. Thus, our soul either joyfully enters Heaven (where our free will exists, but has been perfected so that it is united always to the Will of God), willingly enters Purgatory (with the understanding that our free will can be cleansed through the fires of God's Love in order for us to prepare for Heaven), or willingly seeks Hell as the only respite from ourselves away from the burning Justice of God's Truth.
Christ as Judge
God is mercifully patient, this is true. However, He is Divine Justice as well, and this Justice is not simply meant to punish - it is meant to protect and nurture those who wish to remain true to His Divine Will.
In His Mercy, God grants us enough trials and experiences through our lives in order for us to properly learn Love. This was revealed by Saint Michael to someone whose name escapes me.
St. Michael the Archangel revealed that every person on earth is given exactly what he or she needs to learn how to live by God's Will. It is up to us to heed these lessons. They don't continue in Heaven because at that point, all free will ceases to formulate through one's own accord. It is either solidified with access to Heaven, becoming engulfed in the Divine Will, forged through Divine Love in the embers of Purgatory, or left to fester with no hope of respite in the bowels of Hell. Our actions on earth determine which area our free will goes for a make-over (if one is necessary) after earthly death.
A recent comment from a friend of mine has led me to this entry. He chooses to use a feminine pronoun for God. That's well and good. Considering his reasoning, it makes sense. God is tender, compassionate and merciful, and he feels as though these attributes have a feminine ring to them. Plus, considering that pronouns do little justice to the all-encompassing Spirit that is God, why not give some air-time to an under-utilized pronoun such as "she."
That's fair. I'm not writing this to alter his opinion on the matter. I thought it an interesting topic to delve into, so here I go!
Why do I choose to use "He" when referencing God?
For one, Christ is male. He (and all His Jewish ancestors before Him) referred to God using masculine words, and all parables which describe God use male persons as corresponding symbols: father, bridegroom, rabbi, king, judge.
Why might that be? After all, in Genesis, it does say God made humans "male and female" after His own image, right? Does that mean God is a hermaphrodite?
Not so much.
We humans tend to think of everything on a physical realm because we're physical beings. However, we're also spiritual beings, having been gifted souls that are intrinsically united to our bodies. Our souls contain the neshama of God. THAT is the the part of God that makes us "like unto Him." That's the part that separates us from the rest of creation.
Since God's neshama is neither male nor female (it is simply a gift of His Being - specifically His Wisdom and Power to understand and choose good over evil), that phrase in Genesis isn't referring to a physical likeness of God. It's referring to a spiritual likeness in which humans are granted a very specific dignity.
The best way of explaining this that I've seen comes from the Catholic Patriot. He wrote:
- Rather, our understanding and use of the words Him, He, His and Father, are mere shadows as to the fullness of what these words convey when applied to the Divine Nature. Perhaps the best analogy for this can described in terms of Plato's "forms", where for everything that exists on earth, the perfection of what that thing is exists in some other plane. The words we use here are mere shadows of what is meant when expressed by the Holy Spirit through the inspired authors of the Scriptures. These authors are bound by the limited nature of words which can never express the reality of God. So, if our father has miserably failed to live up to the ideal of what a "father" is supposed to be in the eyes of God who personifies Father in its ideal, what has that to do with the English language?
I might not agree with all that Catholic Patriot has to say on this subject, but I think the above succinctly captures my thoughts in a better way than I could. :)Try as we might to label God, we can't do Him justice because our minds are simply not equipped with handling it. However, we've been given little glimpses here and there of what our God deems Himself to be, so far be it from me to go against the examples He laid forth through that of His Son - and His Son's reciprocal teachings of His "Father." In a nutshell, that is why I choose masculine pronouns.I mean, there's also things like the Blessed Mother being daughter, spouse and mother of God as well, but that's another conversation for another time. :)
So this question came up both in my CCD class and in an open forum for adults last week.
I wasn't surprised to see it in my CCD class. They're sixth grades. However, I was surprised that it cropped up in the forum from a well-versed Catholic adult!
So I figured I'd share my answer here since it's a more prevalent question than I'd realized.
We technically have the Romans to thank for the title of "Good Friday."
See, back when the St. Paul started preaching the "good news" of Jesus Christ, there was another word you might be familiar with in constant use... "gospel."
Before us Christians usurped it as our own, the word "gospel" had a very specific connotation. Since Rome enjoyed conquering every community known to man, they were frequently in far-off places fighting a variety of different people. As a result, they needed fast couriers to let the various generals (and Caesar) know if they were winning or needed backup.
When these couriers skitted back to the capital with news of a victory, they called it the "euangelion" (which is actually the Greek word for evangelization or "bringing good news"). The good news was victory for the people. Oddly enough, it also referenced the official laws and privileges that these new Roman citizens could be assured of if they played nice and followed Roman authority. That, in turn, was the actual "gospel."
So apply this knowledge to what our Christian gospel actually is. St. Paul describes it best as the death and resurrection of Jesus. From the Throne of the Cross, Christ defeated the enemy and assured salvation for those who would accept His Authority. It makes perfect sense, then, why we would consider that first Good Friday to be "Good." It was the true trumpet of humanity's "gospel." That act secured for us victory in addition to the privileges that come with being a child of God.
As the years went on, this word was picked up and converted into "Godspel." It was a Germanic combination of "God / good" and "story / message." That's why most of us today understand the word to mean "Good News." Originally, however, it meant an entire group of people were welcomed into the fold with privileges and rewards so long as they agreed to abide by the authority of the one who conquered their territory.
In other words, Jesus came to earth, conquered it through His Passion, Death and Resurrection, and gained for us the inheritance of eternal life so long as we submit to His Will (which is nothing more than loving one another as He, Himself, has loved).
Christ is our Sacrificial Lamb
During class last night, one of my students asked for a deeper explanation of why we use the term "Blood of the Lamb" when referring to the Eucharist.
Over the last few weeks, we've taken the story of Moses' Passover and applied it to the Passover / Last Supper of Christ. This is a very involved topic for adults let alone my sixth graders, but since they're a determined and bright bunch, I gave it a whirl.
I reminded them of the original Passover (that's still celebrated by Jews today). The Israelites had spent many years as slaves in Egypt, longing for God to rescue them from their suffering. God, in His Mercy, sent a final message to the Pharaoh in the form of the Angel of Death. In order to shelter His people from the Angel of Death, God commanded Moses to tell the Israelites to "take some of [the lamb's] blood and apply it to the two doorposts and the lintel of every house in which they partake of the lamb." (Exodus 12:7)
Moses had them use hyssop branches which they'd dip into the lamb blood and mark their doors. It looked something like this:
God promised the Israelites: "The blood will mark the houses where you are. Seeing the blood, I will pass over you; thus, when I strike the land of Egypt, no destructive blow will come upon you." (Exodus 12:13)
Thus, the blood of the lamb was a sign of God's Mercy towards the Israelites. Instead of striking out at them in judgement, God only struck out at the Egyptians who were not protected by this symbol of His Mercy.
Fast forward to the Last Supper, the feast of Passover in which the sacrificial lamb is offered up and its blood placed around the door frames of the Jews. Jesus not only fulfilled the request of God the Father by remembering the Passover through this act of sacrificing a lamb... Jesus established the "new and everlasting covenant" which was - for the very first time - all encompassing. No longer was this a mere covenant between God and the Israelites. This was a covenant between God and the whole of humanity, and Jesus offered HIMSELF as the Lamb.
When Jesus said "This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed on behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins" (Matt 26:28), He was accepting the role of the lamb. He, the Unblemished Innocent, was freely giving His Life so that those who partook of It would be cleansed of their sin, thus GAINING life. As such, His Blood - the seal of the New Covenant - became proof of God's Mercy.
God the Father's foreshadowing through Moses is completed through the Sacrifice of Christ at the Last Supper. Jesus truly shed His Blood in order to cover us, shielding us from the just punishments of God, just as the blood of the lamb over the doorposts shielded the Jews from the Angel of Death.
I then called to mind the words during the Mass, "Happy are those who are called to His Supper." We're specifically talking about the Eucharist... Christ's final, everlasting Passover meal in which He is the Paschal Lamb!
We are happy because we understand we accept Christ's Blood, fully present along with His Body, Soul and Divinity at Eucharist. We renew our covenant with God, re-pledging ourselves to follow His Will as He blesses us with the mark of Mercy - His Son. Our spiritual wounds healed, and our soul cleansed through His Presence, we are once more reunited to God through this most sacred, merciful mystery.
I sincerely hope they partake of the Eucharist with this in mind going forward!
Oh, and as an added bonus, the hyssop branches that were used by the Israelites during that first (and subsequent) Passovers were the same "reeds" used to offer Christ the gall as He hung upon the Cross. God is certainly a stickler for the details. :)
Okay, once again, God placed some breadcrumbs for me to follow these last couple weeks, and I absent-mindedly popped them into my mouth one-by-one, never even realizing I was being set up for a cool perspective that I could meditate on for a while.
A blogger I follow, Devin Rose, recently posted this entry regarding the Jewish lore regarding the Eastern Gate that I found particularly interesting. I'd never heard of this particular prophesy, so I dutifully followed his links and read the article written by Dr. Reagan. I immediately went back to Devin's page with a flurry of thoughts:Jesus, Himself, was (and is) the new Temple. When His Heart was pierced by the lance, couldn’t that be seen as the “opening of the Eastern Gate”? After all, through this final wound, His Precious Blood and water flowed forth (which we now recognize as His Divine Mercy through Saint Faustina). This would explain the other quotes from the article (which, BTW, mostly consist of OT prophecy). Jesus did, in fact, walk on the Mount of Olives. He now dwells with us forever through His Eucharist. And for as much as folks don’t like to picture His Passion as glorious, He gained for us salvation upon that gruesome Cross. His Death and subsequent Resurrection are about as glorious as it gets.However, as I was thinking more on this over the next few days, I randomly came across this blog entry from Shameless Popery while I was looking for images of Jesus as the New Temple. Don't you know my line of thinking followed his, and he took it about 100 light years further than I!He also brings up the possibility of the Blessed Mother being the Eastern Gate, which would make more sense than my idea that it might be Christ's Sacred Heart. After all, the Blessed Mother's womb certainly fits the bill! :)So yeah - how wonderful that all these little things lined up to create a much fuller picture of Salvation History and God's promises fulfilled!
Moses accepting the Word of God
So I was prepping for next week's lesson on the Exodus. I came across the following excerpt from Exodus 24:9-11:"Moses then went up with Aaron, Nadab, Abihu and seventy elders of Israel, and they beheld the God of Israel... yet He did not lay a hand on these chosen Israelites. They saw God, and they ate and drank."Basically, this portion of the story occurs after Moses delivers the Word of God to the Israelites. In "one voice" they consent to the Mosaic covenant linking them as a people to God. They follow the prescribed sacrificial offerings which solidifies them as a family through the physical symbol of blood. Then, Moses and the elders take part in the spiritual sign of family as they partake in a Heavenly feast in which they "saw God" and yet remained unharmed (important point because Jews believed that to see God was automatic death). God did not "lay a hand on these chosen Israelites" because they were now His family. They feasted together in the Presence of God which fully solidified their covenant with him.Now, it took me a bit for this quote to register, so bear with me.Since my class has been going over covenant history (we've gone through Edenic, Adamic, Noahic and mostly Mosaic), I was really trying to take them a bit more in-depth with the Mosaic covenant because of the 1st Reading for this coming weekend (Ten Commandments). However, as I was putting together my lesson plan, I copied and pasted the "review" from last week (which consisted of Adoration since I had reminded them about why we'd be taking part in it during Lent). Here's where things get entertaining.As I got midway through my lesson plan, having just highlighted Adoration for myself through the review, I started putting pieces together."Hey wait a minute! The Eucharist is the ratification of the New and Everlasting Covenant which fulfills the promises made throughout Salvation History! Not only do we feast WITH God, we feast on HIS FULL PRESENCE - Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. So just as the Jews were able to "see God," we, too, are given this privilege and grace through our own spiritual feast (made visible through the physical sharing of the Eucharist). Gotta love when things come full circle.And then when I was looking up images to use for this entry, I came across the one you see at the top with Moses kneeling down to accept the Ten Commandments from God the Father. I had another little light bulb go off over my head. Moses was kinda receiving a precursor to the Eucharist. After all, what is the Word of God other than Jesus Christ, Himself?Okay, I now have the cheesiest grin on my face. It's like all these little pieces are coming together and I can't help but shake my head in wonder. God is such an incredible Author. His foreshadowing simply cannot be outdone!