Faith seeking understanding
By Fr. Jerry Pokorsky ( bio - articles - email ) | Jun 08, 2020
The Trinitarian dogma is the foundational mystery of our faith, revealed over time, from Genesis to Pentecost. With every Sign of the Cross, we reaffirm not only our belief in the Trinity. We renew our faith in the totality of Revelation. The Father is Creator (Genesis), and the Son is Redeemer (the Gospels). After the Cross and Resurrection, the Son returns to the Father in the Ascension. God sends the Holy Spirit upon us for our sanctification and salvation. God is three Persons in One.
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Theology is faith seeking understanding of God. The believer assents to the whole mystery of Christ in its entirety: “I know that my Redeemer lives.” (Job 19:1) “…no one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit.” (1 Cor. 12:3) This act of assent acknowledges that the Holy Spirit speaks infallibly through the Church. The converts on the day of Pentecost realized, inexplicably, that the Apostles were speaking the definitive truth, and in a way they’d never heard before.
As we grow in faith, it is normal to become more inquisitive. Just as Mary asked the angel with humility, “How can this be, since I have no husband?” (Luke 1:34), with faith and openness to the truth, we may ask for a deeper understanding of the spiritual treasure chest that is Revelation.
Legitimate Church authorities receive the Deposit of Faith as the living word of God. Over centuries, clergy and theologians organize and propose God’s revelation for our response in faith. Like good teachers, within the limits of language, they package it for proclamation.
The authoritative prestige of the Church and the hierarchy flows from these words of Jesus: “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it.” (Mt. 16:18) Peter and the Apostles carry on the teaching and work of Jesus as the first bishops of the Church, presenting to us the Deposit of the Faith.
The fact of the Resurrection of Jesus, also reported in the Scriptures, testifies to the truth of his words and deeds. Further, the blood of the martyrs in the early Church witnesses to the Crucifixion and Resurrection. Does this testimony exhaust the reasons that support our faith? By no means. Consider the evidence of nature: a sunrise, a glorious sunset, an intricately delicate rose, and rolling fields of golden grain. We did not create such breathtaking beauty. Who created the world? We exist. Who created us? The grand poetry of Genesis affirms what we readily conclude as we observe our surroundings: God creates, and creation is good.
The Psalms likewise remind us of the glory of God in creation. “The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.” (Psalm 19:1) Hence throughout the Old Testament the sacred writers repeatedly invoke the beauty of nature as evidence of God’s majesty, his generosity and love, and a reason to worship Him in gratitude, or fear the grandeur of his might.
The integrity of God’s law also adds to the body of evidence supporting our faith in Scriptures. Most of us would agree we are happier when people worship God, and when they don’t lie, cheat, steal, kill, and sleep with our spouses. Alas, when we disregard the Commandments, our disobedience quickly undermines families and cultures. Try as we might, we cannot improve by adding to, or subtracting from, the precepts of the Ten Commandments. “The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple….” (Psalm 19:7) God’s law is reasonable and good and lends natural credibility to the Scriptures.
In the Gospels, Jesus affirms the overall integrity of revelation: “Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfil them.” (Mt. 5:17) But by fulfilling the Law, Jesus announces a new dispensation of grace by which he will accomplish Himself what was impossible for sinful man before. “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that every one who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Mt. 5:27-28) Living the Law of Christ is not only a rigorous challenge but one that is impossible for all but saints (and few of them) to meet.
Despite the rigor, fulfillment in Christ retains a human appeal: the Golden Rule, the command to forgive our enemies, and the teaching that there is no greater love than to give up our lives for our friends. The revelation of God’s law, as fulfilled by Jesus, provides additional evidence of the reasonableness and coherence—and divinity—of biblical teaching.
In the Gospels, the very words of Jesus are mysteriously appealing, impressive, and convincing. When He teaches us to render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s, He not only marvelously outwits his opponents, He establishes a reasonable first principle of social justice. Without mentioning God in the Parable of the Prodigal Son, Jesus establishes forgiveness as a noble human endeavor (to the chagrin of the brother). Indeed, in every Gospel account, Jesus reveals Himself as the master of the moment. A literary giant with the genius of Shakespeare could not improve on the words of the Savior. His every word is divine.
God’s gradual self-revelation concludes with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. The beauty of creation, the goodness of God’s law, and the truth of the teachings of Jesus buttress our faith in the authority of Scriptures. But this certainty of faith—rooted in revelation and reason—requires a lifetime of prayer, study, inquisitiveness, with a continuing desire to hold fast to the truth.
Every person and every generation faces a “crisis of truth.” With God’s grace, if we search Scriptures and Church teaching with good will, our faith will be enriched by the overflowing abundance of God’s beauty, goodness, and truth.
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