Second Session of Robert Barron's Catholicism Project

So we have now come to the third week in our journey with Fr. Robert Barron. Last week, I provided a synopsis of where we had got to as follows:


Dear Friends
Many thanks for joining us at the Catholicism Project last Wednesday. I do so hope you found the evening enjoyable.
Last week's session Amazed and Afraid: The Revelation of God Become Man really centred on the Incarnation, the truth that Jesus Christ is the door by which man can be restored to right relationship with God. Fr. Barron explained this using the words of G.K. Chesterton "that sacred jest upon which the whole of Christianity doth rest". The uniqueness of Jesus comes across plainly in the Gospels. Fr. Barron concentrated on Mk 10:32—"And they were on the road going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them; and they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid" we were asked why the amazement? Why the fear? In the Old Testament, this 'Fear of the Lord' is referred to often as 'the beginning of wisdom (see Prov 1:7 for example) and in Hebrew it is Tabin Adonai. This means more the awareness that we are held in being by the divine consciousness...We cling to existence by the will of God who holds all things in existence. It is this fear which points to the unique nature of Jesus Christ as portrayed in the Gospels; not a mere teacher or human leader, but because He is God.
Perhaps the most beautiful exposition of the Incarnation is found in John 1, where we are told about the Word of God which was in the beginning with God. Unlike other religious leaders like Buddha or Mohammed and Confucius, Jesus claims to be God, identifying Himself as the Torah, the Law of God among the people. He says He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life (Jn 14:6). He asks His disciples who they and others say He is (Matt 16:13) and this is the question He asks each one of us. He is either God or a bad man—a liar or a lunatic.
Fr. Barron then went on to look at the early kerygma, a Greek word which means the oral preaching of the Gospel. As early as twenty years after Jesus' death, the great Christ-hymn of the Letter to the Phillipians (cf. Phil 2:6-11) offers us a fully developed Christology stating that Jesus is equal to God, but emptied Himself, became man, and humbled himself to die on the Cross, and that to Him now belongs the worship of all creation, the adoration that God, through the Prophet Isaiah, said was due to Him alone (cf. Is 45:23).
The earliest professions of faith in the apostolic Church are Christological and expressed in concise formulas: 'Jesus us the Christ' (cf Acts 2:36; 10:36; Col 2:6); 'Jesus us the Lord' (1 Cor 12:3; Rom 10:9; cf Acts 2:36; Phil 2:11); 'Jesus is the Son of God' (cf Acts 9:20; 13:33; Rom 1:4; Heb 4:14). Soon it received a more ample development in which the Christ-event, the central event of salvation history, is progressively elaborated upon (1 Cor 15:3-4; Phil 2:6-11; 1 Tom 3:16). A further development in the life of the apostolic Church is the introduction of a Trinitarian profession of faith. This is a natural evolution, not some orchestrated decision passed at council by means of assassination or coercion of any sort (if one studies the process and development it takes place universally), for the Trinitarian confession was latent in the Christological (cf. Acts 2:33) and implied in the early Kerygma (cf. Acts 2:14-39; 3:12-26; 4:8-12; 5:29-32; 10:34-43; 13:16-41). The Trinitarian profession of faith in the New Testament is best witnessed to by Matthew 28:19-20 and 2 Cor 13:13; it corresponds to the Trinitarian teaching of the Apostles (cf. Ephesians 1:3-14).
So, to sum up, the Trinitarian expression of faith was implied in the first preaching and is evident throughout the Old Testament.
This Wednesday, the presentation is titled: Happy Are We: The Teachings of Jesus. We will be looking at what is astounding and different in Jesus' teaching, what makes Him different to the plethora of gurus, teachers and leaders. Today there is a trend to homogenise Jesus, to water down His radical message and make Him seem like just one guide among many. This thesis, Pope Benedict XVI made clear, is "in profound conflict with the Christian faith" (CDF: Dominus Iesus). Building on what we have learned in the last episode, we will see that Jesus cannot be known by picking and choosing whatever facts, actions, or words might be appealing while ignoring everything else. Jesus is the Incarnate Word of God. And precisely as the Word made flesh (Jn 1:1-3), He came, "full of grace and truth," to speak to man with words of grace and truth (Jn 1:14). He came to share the greatest spiritual teaching and most transforming moral wisdom. This wisdom was so radical and recognisable that many Scripture Scholars think that His sayings were already being recounted and remembered even before Jesus' crucifixion. It was appreciated immediately and recognised as something special. Many of those who followed Jesus were curious about His miracles, but they were also attracted to his words; He amazed the people as much with His words as with His healings. After Jesus' first public statement in the synagogue, St. Luke recounts, "And all spoke well of Him, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of His mouth..." (Luke 4:22).

We will then consider Jesus' great discourse, the Sermon on the Mount which expresses the heart of the New Law, which is the perfection here on earth of the divine law, natural and revealed. It is the work of Christ and is expressed particularly in the Sermon on the Mount" (cf. CCC 1965).
In preparation for this week, you might want to read through the Sermon on the Mount in your Bible. You can find this is Luke 6, and in Matthew 5,6 and 7.
You might not know that the Catechism of the Catholic Church is available on line at the Vatican website here: http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/_INDEX.HTM You might also find my blog interesting, where I post on a variety of topical and theological topics: http://marklambert.blogspot.co.uk I also write a weekly post on the readings at Sunday Mass.

This was a great session and everyone seemed to really enjoy it. It was about "The Path to Joy" and spoke to the wonderful teachings of our Lord, which we often listen to with apathy in the Gospel, perhaps we have become over-familiar with what He said. I think everyone would agree that Fr. Barron's exposition provided new insight and showed how extraordinary and exciting the Good News of Jesus Christ still is today. It changes lives—both for others as we live out the teachings of Christ—and our own as we live our own lives in accordance with our God-given freedom; this is true freedom, not merely a the radically arbitrary license to do just what you want and to have their own way at all times. For this is living in a lie, for by his very nature man is part of a shared existence and his freedom is shared freedom. His very nature contains direction and norm, and becoming inwardly one with this direction and norm is what freedom is all about. Thus the true freedom offered by Christ is a freedom for excellence. An opportunity to live our lives in complete harmony with our created reality and thus find true happiness regardless of the trouble we face during our time on this planet.

In the first lesson we discovered the extraordinary reality of the person of Jesus, a real historical person, someone who inspired 'shock and awe' in those who followed him, someone who performed incredible miracles to the extent that the people recognised that God moved amongst them, someone who never wrote a word down, and yet has changed the world through His influence and teachings in a more profound way than any who have come before or since; someone who Islam's prophet could only echo and repeat. Someone who spoke with authority such that He claimed to be God, and people followed Him in their thousands, today in their billions. Someone who united the world more completely than anyone or anything else...Ever.

In the second lesson we started by considering the way in which so many have taken what Jesus said and removed it from its cultural and historical context, detaching Him from His theological context, and placing Him into whatever subjective context might appeal to those looking for a Christ without a Cross. But Jesus is not simply one guide among many, Jesus is God, the complete revelation of the divine with us.

We learnt about the Sermon on the Mount, which can be found in the Gospel of Matthew chapters 5, 6 and 7 and in a shorter form, in the Gospel of Luke chapter 6, where Jesus teaches the Beatitudes. This expresses the heart of the New Law, or New Covenant made in Jesus' blood. This New law is the perfection here on earth of the divine law, natural and revealed (CCC 1965). The Law of the Gospel fulfills the commandments of the Law. The Lord's Sermon on the Mount, far from abolishing or devaluing the moral prescriptions of the Old Law, releases their hidden potential and has new demands arise from them: it reveals their entire divine and human truth. It does not add new external precepts, but proceeds to reform the heart, the root of human acts, where man chooses between the pure and the impure, where faith, hope, and charity are formed and with them the other virtues. The Gospel thus brings the Law to its fullness through imitation of the perfection of the heavenly Father, through forgiveness of enemies and prayer for persecutors, in emulation of the divine generosity. (CCC 1968).

If nothing else, this should have given us all some insight into the intimate and necessary connection between the Old and the New Testaments. Jesus gives His sermon on a mountaintop, where, throughout the Old Testament, God is encountered and where He reveals something about Himself, His Law, and His plan for us. The most prominent example of this was probably Moses receiving the Ten Commandments on the top of Mount Sinai. Jesus, in going up on the mountain (cf. Matthew 5:1), presents Himself as the New Moses as was prophesied in Deuteronomy 18:18 and the giver of a new and perfect law. The Pope puts it this way:
"Jesus sits on the cathedra of Moses, but He does so not after the manner of teachers who are trained for the job in a school; He sits there as the greater Moses, who broadens the Covenant to include all nations" (Ratzinger, J., Jesus of Nazareth, p. 66).
The mount of the beatitudes then is the new and definitive Sinai.

The Mount of the Beatitudes in Galilee.
Evocative of the Church that would take His teachings to the very ends of the earth, Jesus sits on that new Sinai and the first word He says is "happy", or "blessed" (mikarios in the Greek), but he doesn't mean "having a good time" as the word might suggest to modern ears, He means spiritual and moral happiness rather than merely emotional or pleasurable. We speak of the Saints in heaven's happiness as beatitude based on the reality of their happiness: they are with God; the source of all happiness. They are enjoying His beatific vision. This happiness then flows from the life of God, by honestly acknowledging who we are and seeing what we really need: God. As Saint Augustine wrote:

You are great, O Lord, and greatly to be praised: great is your power and your wisdom is without measure. And man, so small a part of your creation, wants to praise you: this man, though clothed with mortality and bearing the evidence of sin and the proof that you withstand the proud. Despite everything, man, though but a small a part of your creation, wants to praise you. You yourself encourage him to delight in your praise, for you have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you. (CCC 30).
What Saint Augustine is saying is that we have a God shaped hole—nothing short of God will fill up the infinite longing within us because of how we are made; hylomorphic—body—soul—composite beings with a spiritual soul, the "seed of eternity we bear in ourselves, irreducible to the merely material" (GS 18).

God, who is love and from whom all love flows, wills the good of the other. Love is living for the other. To have God, then, is to have one's life completely shaped by love and suffused with love—to become love. "He who does not love," wrote St. John, "does not know God; for God is love" (1 John 4:8). Having received the gift of divine life, we must give it to others as a gift: "Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another" (1 John 4:11). This is the glorious paradox of grace: in sharing God's life and love with others, we grow in that very life and love.

This week, we come to consider The Ineffable Mystery of God: That Than Which Nothing Greater Can be Thought. We will consider God's name YHWH (Exodus 3:14) and how it reveals something of who and what He is. You can read a bit about this at CCC 206 & 213.

We will consider the arguments for God's existence and look at the only serious argument for God's not existing: the problem of evil (which I talk about a bit here). We will also look at the Trinity, the centre and focus of theology and the central mystery of the Christian faith (CCC 261) and the meaning of it all. So nothing too deep then??!! Good luck, and I look forward to seeing you all tomorrow night.




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