Thursday, September 27, 2012
Letter to a Seeker
By Susan Fox
(I was recently identified online as a superstitious fool for putting blessed salt over my doors, and the practice was compared to that of a Navajo Shaman. I don't mind the attack, but I thought you would enjoy my response.)
To Jesuitical graduate of Boston College
It seems from your comments you really don't accept the validity of the four Gospels. So let's play science fiction. I ask you to imagine a world in which there is one true living God, who is pure love. And he creates a world out of love. He creates spiritual beings, some fall, some remain faithful to him, and he creates a human race. The first parents of the human race sin and lose their status as friends of this God.
Now this God forms a people -- let's call them Israelites or Jews -- they are just a little tribe wandering in the desert, but he decides he wants to work with this tribe exclusively because this God delights to work with nothing. We call them the chosen people. Throughout hundreds of years of history he works with this tribe, performs incredible miracles, sends them prophets, teaches them right from wrong, gives them a huge land to settle against incredible odds. He promises their ancestor -- let's call him Abraham -- that he will make his descendants as numerous as the stars! While all the other peoples of the time disappear from the face of the earth the Jews are still a cohesive race thousands of years later. In fact, this God made the Jews as numerous as the stars in the sky -- just like he promised. The other peoples of the time had their own gods, but we do not remember the names of those gods, nothing about them or their peoples unless they show up in a movie or a comic book.
But the God of the Jews is still worshipped several thousand years after His first self-revelation to Abraham wandering in the desert. This is a clue that this God actually exists and affects events in this world. I mean what are the odds that some nobody in the desert thousands of years ago would predict his God would make his descendants as numerous as the stars and then have it come true!
Dropping out of the fictional script for a minute, I get chills when I see the Jews in my neighborhood walking to Synagogue on Saturday. Same people, same beliefs, a living witness that The God who spoke to the man Abraham exists. He’s not a figment of Abraham’s imagination, nor a figment of my imagination. But I haven’t seen any ancient Macedonians going to Church. Nope. No Babylonians building towers either. Never met a guy from Media, Parthia. The Hittites as a cohesive group disappeared from the face of the earth in 8th Century BC. Haven’t met any of them. Wouldn’t recall them at all except they are mentioned in the Bible. But Jews, another ancient people, I have met in the dentist’s office.
And the Jews kept a record of their dealings with God. Now if you thought God was talking to you, wouldn’t you keep good records, faithful records, records that so often are confirmed by archaeological evidence?
The Jews watched God work with them and they concluded nothing happens accidentally, everything is gifted providentially. So the events of their lives told them what their God was like, what He liked to do. And God’s viewpoint was so different than man’s. We really have a hard time grasping it. “Love your enemies?” (hinted at the in Old Testament and made manifest in the New.) Come on who could invent that stuff. They must have been smoking something. The Jews' record of history told them their God cared for them, and if they trusted in Him, they would prosper. When they forgot him and worshipped other gods, they did not prosper. It is a factual historical record that they were carried off by the barbarians numerous times because they failed to be faithful to the One True God.
Finally, God showed why he picked the Jews in the first place. It wasn’t because they were better than the rest of the human race. No, he planned to send His only Son to become one of them, to be born a Jew. The Jews were prepared over thousands of years by God Himself to receive Jesus as their Messiah, to recognize him when he arrived. That little Jewish virgin in Nazareth would not have known what to say or do when an angel appeared to her. When he told her she would be the mother of God, she would have had no context in which to respond -- if her own people had not kept a faithful record of God’s dealings with them. And that record included a prophecy – one that was completely fulfilled: “The Virgin shall be with Child.”
It was foretold again that God’s Son would suffer and die so that mankind might be reconciled to God. Scripture is God’s self-revelation. It is a record of how God slowly revealed himself to man and then sent his only Son to speak for Him.
Well the rest of the story is the Son dies for all mankind, not just Jews, and as a result we can share a restored friendship with this God, who truthfully told Abraham his descendants would be as numerous as the stars. This Son, who had all the power of God Himself because as He explained, He and the Father are One, this Son took a group of fishermen and tax collectors --- very low on the totem pole at the time of Christ – and made them his disciples. He taught them right from wrong. He worked miracles. He forgave sins. (Some Jews crucified him for it because they knew only God can forgive sins.) But this Son was God, so he did not act wrongly. Jesus chose these low-caste men as his disciples because like his Father in heaven, He delighted to work with nothing. This is a historical record. Nothing contradicts this happened.
Now Mohammed never healed anybody. Buddha wasn’t resurrected from the dead because we have his teeth. Hindus don’t respect low-caste people. They regard them as lower than cattle. The evil gods of the Aztecs who killed hundreds of thousands of people in one week -- they never performed one true miracle. Maybe parlor tricks like the magicians of the ancient Pharaoh whom Moses confronted. But there is no record of even that!
Jesus went on to make his apostles into priests. “Whoever’s sins you forgive shall be forgiven.” This is a real divine power. Only God can forgive sins!
“You are Peter and upon this rock I will build my church.” Christ was so literal that Peter’s bones are under the altar where the Pope says Mass in Rome. But Christ also gave Peter the keys to the kingdom.
And as revealed in the Book of Acts, all this power given to the apostles was handed down to the next generation and the next because Jesus, who was God, said He would be with the Church until the end of time. So every Catholic priest today was ordained by a bishop who was ordained by a bishop who was ordained by one of the 12 apostles. Christ’s power is handed down to the priests in each succeeding generation. Now when Jesus Christ, true God and true man, took mud and rubbed it on the blind man’s eyes, he wasn’t superstitious. He had the power to heal and He chose to do it through humble things like dirt, spit and water. We need physical signs. Jesus could have made lightening come out of his hands and healed the blind man that way, but he chose to work with dirt, spit and water.
He is no way to be compared to an Indian shaman and Kachina dolls! The Catholic priest is another Christ. He has the power to expel demons. He can heal with God’s own power in the Sacrament of the Sick; he can forgive sins, a power given to him by Jesus Christ Himself. He can explain God’s Word, God’s own self revelation to mankind. He can change lowly bread and lowly wine into the Body Blood Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ. When this ordinary man with supernatural powers, blesses salt, Christ Himself blesses the salt. The power in the lowly salt is not my superstitious belief. The power in the lowly blessed salt is God’s power. God didn’t give this power to the Church because he thought we were all so special. He gave it to us because He delights to work with nothing. Now if I didn’t understand this, and I thought the salt itself had power, I would be a superstitious fool.
Navajo healing ceremonies have no self-revelation by God that is clearly and historically recognized by a large portion of humanity. There are no Navajo prophesies going back thousands of years that any fool could see came true. In fact if you examine every other major religion in the world, you do not find any recognizable signs of the religion’s validity. You find man’s fertile imagination at work or worse a demon’s involvement.
Since you were Jesuit educated you probably know that a Gnostic rejects God’s revealed truth in the Scripture and the oral Tradition of the Church. The Gnostic instead looks for secret knowledge. They do hunger for Truth, but truth on their terms. And the punishment God has given to the Gnostic is they never find the Truth -- unless they stop searching and turn to God Himself.
Jesus said, “I AM THE TRUTH.” There is no substitute.