Confidently Following Christ: An Apologia on the Divinity of Christ with Application to the New Evangelization Part I

The audience I often find myself in is a prosperous Catholic parish, diocese, or Catholic private school in the United States. My opinion of this demographic group is based upon more than thirty years of catechetical experience in four dioceses. These locations vary from Campus Ministry at College Station, TX, to La Jolla, CA then Washington D.C. and finally in San Antonio, TX. Though the people in each location have unique characteristics, all share common elements of material sufficiency and a high level of education. What I have found disturbing is their poor understanding of the doctrine of Christ’s divinity. Disregard of this doctrine is a primary reason for people to not attend Mass regularly or not follow the Church’s teachings in a wide variety of matters. In this apologia, I will present that Christ is the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, it is reasonable to trust Him, and therefore one should confidently commit to follow Him.

There are some presuppositions that need to be clearly stated in regards to the targeted audience so that an appropriate response can be given. The first presupposition is most of these Catholics have a religious sense of God. “Most people today still admit in some form or other that there is probably such a things as a ‘supreme being.’”[1] Cardinal Ratzinger’s quote shows that the notion of a divine being is a universal experience.

The second presupposition is these individuals acknowledge the Paternity of God, which is commensurate with most of humanity. Whether one looks to the ancient pagan philosophers of Greece or to the indigenous peoples of North America, both cultures acknowledged a being greater than themselves who guides earthly affairs. “Many religions invoke God as Father. The deity is often considered the father of gods and men.”[2]

The third presupposition is a rudimentary understanding of God’s creation of man. In the Judeo Christian understanding of creation, God created man with free will so as to enter into relationship with Him. However, when man sinned in the Garden of Eden by freely contradicting the command of God, His relationship with the Divinity was severed. “The beginning of sin and man’s fall was due to a lie of the tempter who induced doubt of God’s word, kindness and faithfulness.”[3] Not willing to leave man to the full measure of this choice, God became incarnated in the person of Christ.

Catechesis on Communion of Persons Within the Trinity

The fourth presupposition is Catholics do not consider the eternal consequences of sin and the necessity of a Savior. With a comfortable lifestyle and a high level of education, Catholics do not concern themselves with thinking about God in a more nuanced manner. Often their level of theological education is rudimentary. Catechesis must turn to the communion of persons in regards to the Trinity and the necessity of salvation by way of the Cross. The Paschal Mystery will speak to the hearer’s heart about the love which all men desire. The new evangelization is more than a listing of doctrinal truths. It must also point to the inner life of God. “Jesus revealed that God is Father in an unheard of sense: he is Father not only in being Creator, he is eternally Father in relation to his only Son who is Son only in relation to his Father.”[4] Christ bore the price of man’s disobedience in a manner that would not only show forth his power as God but also His love as Savior. “St. Thomas can therefore state that the first reason indicating the appropriateness of human liberation through the passion and death of Christ is that ‘in this way man knows how much God loves him and man on his part is induced to love him in return, in this love consists the perfection of human salvation.’”[5] During his earthly ministry, Christ at various times asserted his divinity. A clear statement by Jesus in John 10:30 affirms “I and the Father are one.” Rising from the dead confirmed His claim of divinity while on earth. Dying a most ignoble death shows forth Christ’s love. However, love cannot be compelled, free will is necessary on the part of both God and man. Man freely sinned in the garden and man can freely love through the grace of Christ by the working of the Holy Spirit.

“The eternal origin of the Holy Spirit is revealed in his mission through time. The Spirit is sent to the apostles and to the Church both by the Father in the name of the Son, and by the Son in person, once he returned to the Father. The sending of the person of the Spirit after Jesus’ glorification reveals in its fullness the mystery of the Holy Trinity.”[6] The Church is formed and guided by the Holy Spirit. As the soul is to a natural body, so too is the Holy Spirit to the mystical body of Christ. The mystical body of Christ and the Church are one as Saul discovered in Acts 9:4.

The fifth presupposition is Catholics do not comprehend the reality of the Church. To them, church is something to be done, a check box to be ticked off rather than an ongoing embrace with Jesus. “The Church wishes to serve this single end that each person may be able to find Christ, in order that Christ may walk with each person.”[7] John Paul clearly states the Church’s unique mission is to provide an authentic encounter with Christ, who is both divine and man. Joseph Ratzinger, reflecting on Irenaeus, “The true Gospel is the one imparted by the Bishops, who received it in an uninterrupted line from the Apostles.”[8] Handing on the Gospel, in an unbroken line of teaching, and inspired by the Holy Spirit, is the firm foundation for belief. However, belief is often difficult.

            [1] Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Introduction to Christianity. (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004) 145.

            [2] Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd ed. Washington, DC; United States Catholic Conference (1997)§238.

            [3] Ibid, §215.

            [4] Ibid §240.

            [5] John Paul II, Jesus, Son and Savior: A Catechesis on The Creed (Boston: St. Paul Books Media, 1996) 442.

            [6] Catechism of the Catholic Church §244.

            [7] John Paul II, Redemptor Hominis (Boston: St. Paul Books & Media, 1979) 25.

            [8] Benedict XVI, Church Fathers: From Clement of Rome to Augustine (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2008) 23.

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