Tag Archives: Theology

Prophecy From a Catholic Perspective (27) – Jesus Realized in the Old Testament

Standard

Continuing through the Catechism of the Catholic Church as it relates to prophecy:

The following sections from the Catechism do not need much additional comment with respect to their prophetic nature, because it refers to events already past. This addresses the community between the Christ and the Spirit, and how God’s promises can be traced in the Old Testament and realized in the Messiah, Jesus. I will present them here as part of the walk through the Catechism, but will reserve additional comments for later. “Phase 2” of my approach to looking at prophecy will be to understand those prophecies that have already seen fulfillment, in whole or in part. That will follow the walk through the Catechism.

702 From the beginning until “the fullness of time,” The joint mission of the Father’s Word and Spirit remains hidden, but it is at work. God’s Spirit prepares for the time of the Messiah. Neither is fully revealed but both are already promised, to be watched for and welcomed at their manifestation. So, for this reason, when the Church reads the Old Testament, she searches there for what the Spirit, “who has spoken through the prophets,” wants to tell us about Christ.

702 From the beginning until “the fullness of time,” The joint mission of the Father’s Word and Spirit remains hidden, but it is at work. God’s Spirit prepares for the time of the Messiah. Neither is fully revealed but both are already promised, to be watched for and welcomed at their manifestation. So, for this reason, when the Church reads the Old Testament, she searches there for what the Spirit, “who has spoken through the prophets,” wants to tell us about Christ.

By “prophets” the faith of the Church here understands all whom the Holy Spirit inspired in the composition of the sacred books, both of the Old and the New Testaments. Jewish tradition distinguishes first the Law (the five first books or Pentateuch), then the Prophets (our historical and prophetic books) and finally the Writings (especially the wisdom literature, in particular the Psalms).

705 Disfigured by sin and death, man remains “in the image of God,” in the image of the Son, but is deprived “of the glory of God,” of his “likeness.” the promise made to Abraham inaugurates the economy of salvation, at the culmination of which the Son himself will assume that “image” and restore it in the Father’s “likeness” by giving it again its Glory, the Spirit who is “the giver of life.”

706 Against all human hope, God promises descendants to Abraham, as the fruit of faith and of the power of the Holy Spirit. In Abraham’s progeny all the nations of the earth will be blessed. This progeny will be Christ himself, in whom the outpouring of the Holy Spirit will “gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.” God commits himself by his own solemn oath to giving his beloved Son and “the promised Holy Spirit . . . [who is] the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it.”

707 Theophanies (manifestations of God) light up the way of the promise, from the patriarchs to Moses and from Joshua to the visions that inaugurated the missions of the great prophets. Christian tradition has always recognized that God’s Word allowed himself to be seen and heard in these theophanies, in which the cloud of the Holy Spirit both revealed him and concealed him in its shadow.

708 This divine pedagogy appears especially in the gift of the Law. God gave the letter of the Law as a “pedagogue” to lead his people towards Christ. But the Law’s powerlessness to save man deprived of the divine “likeness,” along with the growing awareness of sin that it imparts, enkindles a desire for the Holy Spirit. The lamentations of the Psalms bear witness to this.

710 The forgetting of the Law and the infidelity to the covenant end in death: it is the Exile, apparently the failure of the promises, which is in fact the mysterious fidelity of the Savior God and the beginning of a promised restoration, but according to the Spirit. The People of God had to suffer this purification. In God’s plan, the Exile already stands in the shadow of the Cross, and the Remnant of the poor that returns from the Exile is one of the most transparent prefigurations of the Church.

711 “Behold, I am doing a new thing.” Two prophetic lines were to develop, one leading to the expectation of the Messiah, the other pointing to the announcement of a new Spirit. They converge in the small Remnant, the people of the poor, who await in hope the “consolation of Israel” and “the redemption of Jerusalem.”

Advertisements

Prophecy From a Catholic Perspective (26) – Clouds

Standard

Continuing through the Catechism of the Catholic Church as it relates to prophecy:

697 [Symbols of the Holy Spirit] Cloud and light. These two images occur together in the manifestations of the Holy Spirit. In the theophanies of the Old Testament, the cloud, now obscure, now luminous, reveals the living and saving God, while veiling the transcendence of his glory – with Moses on Mount Sinai, at the tent of meeting, and during the wandering in the desert, and with Solomon at the dedication of the Temple. In the Holy Spirit, Christ fulfills these figures. The Spirit comes upon the Virgin Mary and “overshadows” her, so that she might conceive and give birth to Jesus. On the mountain of Transfiguration, the Spirit in the “cloud came and overshadowed” Jesus, Moses and Elijah, Peter, James and John, and “a voice came out of the cloud, saying, ‘This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!'” Finally, the cloud took Jesus out of the sight of the disciples on the day of his ascension and will reveal him as Son of man in glory on the day of his final coming.

We are told that Jesus will return as He ascended, and the imagery of a Cloud is present in the account of the Ascension. The imagery of a cloud is also present in Revelation at mention of the Lord’s glorious appearance.

Prophecy From a Catholic Perspective (25) – From Father, to Son, to Holy Spirit. God’s Progressive Revelation of Himself.

Standard

Continuing through the Catechism of the Catholic Church as it relates to prophecy:

684 Through his grace, the Holy Spirit is the first to awaken faith in us and to communicate to us the new life, which is to “know the Father and the one whom he has sent, Jesus Christ.” But the Spirit is the last of the persons of the Holy Trinity to be revealed. St. Gregory of Nazianzus, the Theologian, explains this progression in terms of the pedagogy of divine “condescension”:

The Old Testament proclaimed the Father clearly, but the Son more obscurely. the New Testament revealed the Son and gave us a glimpse of the divinity of the Spirit. Now the Spirit dwells among us and grants us a clearer vision of himself. It was not prudent, when the divinity of the Father had not yet been confessed, to proclaim the Son openly and, when the divinity of the Son was not yet admitted, to add the Holy Spirit as an extra burden, to speak somewhat daringly…. By advancing and progressing “from glory to glory,” the light of the Trinity will shine in ever more brilliant rays.

686 The Holy Spirit is at work with the Father and the Son from the beginning to the completion of the plan for our salvation. But in these “end times,” ushered in by the Son’s redeeming Incarnation, the Spirit is revealed and given, recognized and welcomed as a person. Now can this divine plan, accomplished in Christ, the firstborn and head of the new creation, be embodied in mankind by the outpouring of the Spirit: as the Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.

The catechism points out that the Father was revealed explicitly in the Old Testament, whereas the Son was made known, but only truly understood within the context of the New Testament. Likewise, the Son’s divinity in the New Testament is made explicitly, whereas the Holy Spirit as a divine Person was something that was understood only with the passage of time and rigorous theological study and understanding. This progression shouldn’t make us uncomfortable. The spiritual often mirrors the physical. When we are born, we cannot care for ourselves at all. We creep, then we crawl, then we stand, then we walk, and finally we run. We progress, and yet we are no more human as adults as we were in our infancy.

Divine revelation sometimes takes time for its full impact and meaning to be understood.

It is evident here that, just as the Son ushered in the “end time” and displayed His critical part of salvation history, that the Holy Spirit likewise is called upon to have a crucial role in the wake of Christ’s Ascension. “I must decrease, that He must increase…” The Holy Spirit is now the dominant presence to us, and yet we so often “forget” this Person of the Trinity. The Holy Spirit is what stirs the faith in our hearts, is what gives us the ability to proclaim the name of Jesus as Savior. The Holy Spirit guides the Church and will be here until the end. The Divine Plan, in a way, is a plan in three stages, with each member of the Trinity playing the dominant role in each stage.

Prophecy From a Catholic Perspective (24) – The Last Day

Standard

Continuing through the Catechism of the Catholic Church as it relates to prophecy:

678 Following in the steps of the prophets and John the Baptist, Jesus announced the judgment of the Last Day in his preaching. Then will the conduct of each one and the secrets of hearts be brought to light. Then will the culpable unbelief that counted the offer of God’s grace as nothing be condemned. Our attitude to our neighbor will disclose acceptance or refusal of grace and divine love. On the Last Day Jesus will say: “Truly I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.”

679 Christ is Lord of eternal life. Full right to pass definitive judgment on the works and hearts of men belongs to him as redeemer of the world. He “acquired” this right by his cross. The Father has given “all judgment to the Son”. Yet the Son did not come to judge, but to save and to give the life he has in himself. By rejecting grace in this life, one already judges oneself, receives according to one’s works, and can even condemn oneself for all eternity by rejecting the Spirit of love.

The most sobering prospect regarding the prophetic passages pertaining to our future is not in the temporal trials and tribulations the Church will pass through. It is not the prospects of individual discomfort or persecutions. It is not our own death. It is the fact that there will be, with certainty, a Last Judgment that we all must face, and that some will have chosen through their own culpable decisions and actions to disregard the free gift of grace and salvation for which we all were intended. Jesus as Judge derives no pleasure from pronouncing anyone as condemned, but He must judge accordingly. True justice is not in accordance with the idea that nobody should be condemned if their actions warrant it. We certainly desire that all men be saved, but we also know from Scripture itself that this is simply not reality.

It is often easy to think that we know who the people are around us that will suffer this eternal fate, but we must remember that this is a judgment restricted only to Jesus. Indications for one destination or the other aside, we cannot know with certainty the fate of anyone, short of official Canonization. The Church, however, makes no official judgments of eternal damnation.

There is an immediate and personal judgment we all face upon our death. But that is different from this Last Judgment. Note the importance highlighted here of treatment of our neighbor. It is one thing to say you have faith and to go to church and read the Bible. But if our treatment of others is without mercy and compassion and aid, we are lost. Jesus said as much.

Prophecy From a Catholic Perspective (23) – What’s in (Anti-Christ) and What’s Not (Millenarianism and Progressive Ascendancy – That’s a mouthful…)

Standard

Continuing through the Catechism of the Catholic Church as it relates to prophecy:

675 Before Christ’s second coming the Church must pass through a final trial that will shake the faith of many believers. The persecution that accompanies her pilgrimage on earth will unveil the “mystery of iniquity” in the form of a religious deception offering men an apparent solution to their problems at the price of apostasy from the truth. The supreme religious deception is that of the Antichrist, a pseudo-messianism by which man glorifies himself in place of God and of his Messiah come in the flesh.

676 The Antichrist’s deception already begins to take shape in the world every time the claim is made to realize within history that messianic hope which can only be realized beyond history through the eschatological judgement. The Church has rejected even modified forms of this falsification of the kingdom to come under the name of millenarianism, especially the “intrinsically perverse” political form of a secular messianism.

677 The Church will enter the glory of the kingdom only through this final Passover, when she will follow her Lord in his death and Resurrection. The kingdom will be fulfilled, then, not by a historic triumph of the Church through a progressive ascendancy, but only by God’s victory over the final unleashing of evil, which will cause his Bride to come down from heaven. God’s triumph over the revolt of evil will take the form of the Last Judgement after the final cosmic upheaval of this passing world.

The Church also informs us through the Catechism that the Church must pass through a tremendous ordeal prior to the return of Christ. It will be more than a physical ordeal, it will be a spiritual one. It is likely that this will be the ultimate attack by Satan, using every means possible. It is interesting that the problems in the Catholic Church over the course of time have shaken the faith of many. We now see tens of thousands of Christian denominations, and many Christians claiming no denomination at all. We have many commonalities and share many key beliefs and embrace them as fellow Christians. But the disunity is surely a purposeful attack, so as to confuse many (“If they can’t even get straight what to believe, why should I believe anything?”). Divide and conquer. Jesus prayed that we all be one when in the garden, and for good reason.

Of course, I am Catholic and feel strongly about the truth of my faith (unapologetic commentary, remember?) In this way, I’m surely biased. But in fact, it seems clear to me that the object of the most furious assaults by Satan must be the thing he fears most. Bad people become priests and bishops. Bad things happen because of this. heretical teachings can make their way into seminaries and to the pulpit. The very unfortunate abuse crisis is an all too stark reminder of the presence of evil that can worm its way into the holiest of institutions. Catholics are often not enthusiastic about their faith and live accordingly, causing scandal to those who are looking for positive examples of Christian behavior within the Catholic Church. None of these things are the fault of Truth, Doctrine and Magesterial teachings. These are the failings of men, at the urging of the oppressor, who wants nothing more than to see others break away or lose faith because of the failings of men.

All apostasy is in the spirit of Antichrist, but the most perverse of these is when societies and all men begin to look at themselves and/or their governments as Messianic. Making the state or self God is the worst affront to the true God. This will infiltrate all society to levels previously unconsidered, and will affect the Church as well.

The Magesterial teachings of the Church stop short of declaring the advent of a single man as Anti-Christ, focusing instead on the spirit of Anti-Christ which is really all the actions of Lucifer throughout all history. The spirit of Anti-Christ becomes ever more pervasive and leads us to worship ourselves more and more. Early Church teachers do speak to the ultimate culmination of this spirit in one man, and we’ll eventually speak to that. But the Catechism doesn’t quite go there. The fact that the Catechism doesn’t go there only means that it hasn’t felt the need to address the issue, or that it is something that can be legitimately debated. Absence is not a suggestion that the idea that there will be an individual who manifests himself as “the” Anti-Christ is erroneous.

It should also be noted here that the Church does not accept as valid the teaching of a literal Millenarianism. Thus, it is not accepted that Christ will return and reign over a perfect Kingdom for 1000 years, and then it all ends. There are many thoughts on the possibilities of a time of peace after an initial chastisement, in which a greater perfection of the kingdom reigns for a long time (1000 years is looked at as symbolic of a long period) with Christ reigning as He does today – through the Church – that is acceptable. However, this would precede the Second Coming, not occur after it. Others view the 1000 years as the reign of the Church even in its imperfection since the Ascension of Christ. We’ll look at the possibilities at a later time. The main problem with a milleniarianism philosophy is that it requires an “early” return of Jesus before the end of time, and that there are still battles between good and evil yet to be waged after His return.

Finally on these points, it is taught to us that the unfolding plan of God isn’t brought about by an idea of continued progressive ascendancy into perfection. It was previously mentioned in a previous post that there seems to be ebbs and flows in history where persecution leads to a greater state of perfection, but then we ultimately lapse and fall back into the need for chastisement. While there is progression here, in that the seeds of chastisement lead to responses that prove more salvific than before, the state of perfection can never be achieved through our work here. The final persecutions and tribulations only lead to the final perfection through God’s direct intervention and victory in the matter.

We certainly attempt to be as perfect as possible, and we attempt to evangelize to all, and we hope for everyone’s salvation. But perfection for us is unattainable apart from God. Thus, the idea of a progressive process of Messianic fulfillment in the unfolding of world events is specifically condemned as erroneous.

Prophecy From a Catholic Perspective (22) – Israel’s Embracing of Jesus as a Harbinger for His Return

Standard

Continuing through the Catechism of the Catholic Church as it relates to prophecy:

673 Since the Ascension Christ’s coming in glory has been imminent, even though “it is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has fixed by his own authority.” This eschatological coming could be accomplished at any moment, even if both it and the final trial that will precede it are “delayed”.

The Second Coming of Christ is a very real event that we believe in. We fully expect the prophecies of the Old Testament prophets who foresaw the perfect Messianic kingdom to be fulfilled. While, as Christians, we believe the Messiah has already come in Jesus, we understand that there is yet more perfection to come, and this will happen when Christ returns. We consider this an imminent prophecy, in that it is sure to come and that we are in the Last Days. But to God, a day is as a thousand years and a thousand years is as a day. So “imminent” in God’s time is not as seemingly urgent as when us mortals suggest that something is “imminent.”

674 The glorious Messiah’s coming is suspended at every moment of history until his recognition by “all Israel”, for “a hardening has come upon part of Israel” in their “unbelief” toward Jesus. St. Peter says to the Jews of Jerusalem after Pentecost: “Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the time for establishing all that God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old.” St. Paul echoes him: “For if their rejection means the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead?” The “full inclusion” of the Jews in the Messiah’s salvation, in the wake of “the full number of the Gentiles”, will enable the People of God to achieve “the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ”, in which “God may be all in all”.

The Catholic Church is not known for getting caught up in the End Times game. Seldom will you hear preaching from the pulpit about the end of the world. To the extent it has occurred, it’s been in reaction to some popular notions in recent years that have caused Catholics to wonder about what the heck is going on in the world. The Left Behind series, as entertaining as the books are (and I read them all), are filled with theological suggestions and conclusions that simply are out of step with Catholic doctrinal positions. But enough Catholics did not understand this, and thus certain responses were needed from our Pastors and Bishops to clarify matters.

The reason why the “end times” is not a focus of Priests at the pulpit is because the Church has very few dogmatic positions on the details of end time events. There are grand general doctrinal positions which, quite honestly, outweigh the details infinitely in their importance. That Christ will come again, and that we need to be ready to meet Him is the most important thing. But that is true whether we meet Jesus at His Second Coming or through natural death. And we profess this eschatological belief two different times in the Mass, so it is not as if we ignore the anticipation of this event. The problem with speaking to end-time events is that there are such widely varying interpretations of what the details might be that if one is not careful, much speculation and outright fear can be introduced that is neither prudent nor is it necessary. It is best to study the topic cautiously and without a favoritism to the more spectacular and wild aspects of what may happen. It is much more important to focus on the spiritual message of hope and the realistic presentation of the presence of evil fighting good, and what that means to us in our own lives. It is for this very reason that my own presentation of Prophecy (which will at some point get into some more of the remarkable private revelations) is done so as to begin with the Catechism. In all our discussion on this subject, remaining grounded in the hope of it all and rooted in Church teaching are paramount.

Having said all that, there are a few things that the Church has committed to presenting in the Catechetical teachings, and it would be worth the while to occasionally hear these things as well. There is something to be said for a better understanding of the times are in, or may be in someday, and the harbingers of events that are known to us.

The above entry from the Catechism presents an important eschatological detail in Salvation history. Israel is still a very integral part of God’s plan. It is clear here that Jesus’ return is delayed until a full acceptance of Jesus as the Messiah by the Jewish people. Further, this acceptance is “in the wake” of the fullness of the gospel being preached to the Gentiles. So, when God has considered the evangelization of the world to be complete, then at that point will we see the final acceptance by Jews. It began with them, and it will end with them. (Alpha and Omega symbology?)

God is truly remarkable, in that He forgets nobody. The Jews’ acceptance of their Savior may be delayed, but they will come around to the reality of Jesus as Messiah, and will surely play an important part in the perfection of the kingdom.

Prophecy From a Catholic Perspective (21) – The Clock has read “The Last Hour” for Some Time Now

Standard

Continuing through the Catechism of the Catholic Church as it relates to prophecy:

669 As Lord, Christ is also head of the Church, which is his Body. Taken up to heaven and glorified after he had thus fully accomplished his mission, Christ dwells on earth in his Church. The redemption is the source of the authority that Christ, by virtue of the Holy Spirit, exercises over the Church. “The kingdom of Christ (is) already present in mystery”, “on earth, the seed and the beginning of the kingdom”.

We previously discussed the fact that the Kingdom is already present, though not in perfection and not in isolation from the “weeds” of evil. This is a reinforcement of that.

670 Since the Ascension God’s plan has entered into its fulfillment. We are already at “the last hour”. “Already the final age of the world is with us, and the renewal of the world is irrevocably under way; it is even now anticipated in a certain real way, for the Church on earth is endowed already with a sanctity that is real but imperfect.” Christ’s kingdom already manifests its presence through the miraculous signs that attend its proclamation by the Church.

The Last Hour started with Christ’s crucifixion. All that has occurred since then is an offshoot of that: to not only bring salvation to the world through the His salvific act on the cross, but to spread the Good News of salvation until the fullness of time. The prophecies in the Bible are often read as if they relate only to a very specific time preceding the end of the world or age. It is true that there are specifics that can be properly viewed as relating to those final events, but more often these are messages for the entire post-Ascension age up to the final end of the age.

671 Though already present in his Church, Christ’s reign is nevertheless yet to be fulfilled “with power and great glory” by the King’s return to earth. This reign is still under attack by the evil powers, even though they have been defeated definitively by Christ’s Passover. Until everything is subject to him, “until there be realized new heavens and a new earth in which justice dwells, the pilgrim Church, in her sacraments and institutions, which belong to this present age, carries the mark of this world which will pass, and she herself takes her place among the creatures which groan and travail yet and await the revelation of the sons of God.” That is why Christians pray, above all in the Eucharist, to hasten Christ’s return by saying to him: Maranatha! “Our Lord, come!”

672 Before his Ascension Christ affirmed that the hour had not yet come for the glorious establishment of the messianic kingdom awaited by Israel which, according to the prophets, was to bring all men the definitive order of justice, love and peace. According to the Lord, the present time is the time of the Spirit and of witness, but also a time still marked by “distress” and the trial of evil which does not spare the Church and ushers in the struggles of the last days. It is a time of waiting and watching.

The Catechism invokes wonderful imagery of the Church as a living member of Creation. Because of the “mark of this world” which is sin, all living creatures bear the burdens of this world. There is suffering, there is persecution, and there is death. On a spiritual level, there is temptation and sin. Christians fall short of the glory of God in this world by succumbing to sin. If one looks at the history of the Church, the same can be said of that institution. The fact that there have been actions of certain members of the church that are regrettable does not negate what it is. At the base of it all are the teachings that are protected by the Holy Spirit, whatever perilous path that has been taken along the way.