May my exploration of faith be a blessing to others.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Cathechism: Prologue I.1 To Know and Love God

Part 2 in my continuing exploration of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd edition

I. The Life of Man--To Know and Love God
1. God, infinitely perfect and blessed in himself, in a plan of sheer goodness freely created man to make him share in his own blessed life. For this reason, at every time and in every place, God draws close to man. He calls man to seek him, to know him, to love him with all his strength. He calls together all men, scattered and divided by sin, into the unity of his family, the Church. To accomplish this, when the fullness of time had come, God sent his son as Redeemer and Savior. In his Son and through him, he invites men to become, in the Holy Spirit, his adopted children and thus heirs of his blessed life.

The Creation of Adam, from the Sistine Chapel, by Michelangelo
via Wikipedia Commons
As most Christians know, in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth, and the night and the day, and the birds and the fishes, and all the creatures. And, then he created man (which in our modern understanding means "humans," not just dudes). This is how the Bible starts--at the very beginning, which isn't "the" beginning at all since God is infinite and is always existing. This is merely the beginning of us humans. God created man the Catechism says out of "sheer goodness." Of all of his creations, man is the only with free will, and this enables us to choose to love God or not.

In trying to answer the question, "Why did God create man?", it would be easy to anthropomorphize him. Genesis says that God created us in his own image, and we intend to interpret that in a fairly literal sense. More specifically, we translate this statement with transitive powers: if man is like God then God is like man. Most Western religions even depict God looking like a human, albeit a generally older, wiser man (of course!) That makes it even easier to assign human emotions and motivations to Him. In different parts of scripture, He is characterized as jealous, angry, loving, compassionate, peaceful, faithful, gracious, merciful, wrathful, etc. etc. (Frankly, putting all of these adjectives together makes me think of the characteristics assigned to the pantheon of Greek and Roman gods or of other polytheistic religions.)

From there it is easy to suppose that God made man from some need to be loved or worshiped by someone who had a choice rather than just the angels. In this part of the Prologue, we see that God wants us to be close to him and to be unified with each other. Every Catholic question-and-answer site recites that man is intended to "know, love and serve" God. This answer leaves me feeling like a young child when I drove my parents crazy asking, "Why? Why? Why?" I accept that I am supposed to know, love and serve God. I really believe that is a given. But WHY does he want us to know, love and serve him? Through all of my searching and inquiries, there always seems to be another "why." We are always thirsty for the truth behind the truth. We always believe there is more to the story. But, just as our parents often ran out of responses to our incessant questioning, maybe the best answer for now is simply, "because."

I am made in the image of God, but I don't think that means I look like him. I cannot fully comprehend the nature of God and perhaps it is also equally as difficult to understand the nature of man. I have sometimes wondered if the way we are like God is that we exist in "three persons" too: mind, heart and soul--or as in the Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

The fact that the Trinity is also referenced right here in the beginning of the Catechism makes that wonder even stronger. These three are united; God longs for us to be united with each other and in him. Many religions and philosophers throughout the ages and across cultures have some kind of unity at the core of their beliefs: we are all one. Sometimes these theories of one-ness include not just humanity and deities but animals, plants, minerals and the entire cosmos.

This first statement of the Catechism calls our attention to our need to be reconciled to God and with God. It is the central tenet of our faith. We may always have a surface-level understanding of God and his desires for us, but we must strive always to know, love and serve him. Perhaps even as we transition from this physical world, we may not know all of the whys, but I must trust God enough to let the answer be, "because."

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