VOICE FROM THE SOUTH
By FR. EMETERIO BARCELON, SJ
This morning I woke up with basics and limits in mind. As they say: You can bring a cow to water but you cannot make it drink. The cow must want to drink by itself. Then my thoughts moved to appeals to adversaries. What would make them agree with me? I can appeal to their sense of fairness, to their objectives for the common good, to their fear of hunger and poverty, to their desire for health, prosperity, and happiness.
In philosophy all things can be reduced to the four pillars: namely, existence or being, truth, goodness, and beauty.
These are the basics of philosophy. God’s name in these terms is “I am who am,” because He is this source of existence or being. He shares this attribute of being or existence with us His creatures. All creatures can exist
only because they share in the existence of Him who is the source of all being. Then there is what is true and what is good. Evil is just the absence of “the good.” Finally there is beauty which arranges the proportions of the true and the good.
We Christians are monotheists just like the Jews and the Muslims. In contrast there are those who do not believe in God, the atheists, and the polytheists who believe in many gods. A former student who was a Muslim once asked me if the Christians are truly monotheists because they believe in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit as three persons in one God. This is the mystery of the Holy Trinity. He is one God. There are other mysteries in Christianity.
One mystery that Islam does not accept is that Jesus is both God and man. For them Jesus is a prophet but not God.
There are many holy and honorable Christians as well as many honourable and good Muslims. But there are a number of beliefs that are different between Islam and Christianity. For Islam, their God is Allah. He is all will and can be arbitrary. For Christians, their God is Abba who is not only all-powerful will but also a Father. He is the omnipotent source of existence but at the same time a father who loves his creatures. This is the big difference between Islam and Christianity in the way they think of God. In Islam God is an all-powerful will who can be arbitrary. In Christianity, God is at the same time all -powerful and an all-loving Father.
There are other mysteries of the Christian faith for which we only have partial knowledge here on earth but will have full knowledge in heaven. Among the mysteries we believe in are: the Immaculate Conception of Mary, the virgin birth, and the Holy Eucharist. In the Eucharist there is a daily encounter with this mystery. When the priest pronounces the words of Consecration we believe that the bread becomes the Body of Christ and the wine becomes the Blood of Christ. In this mystery the sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross is commemorated and offered again to the Father. It is the continuation of the sacrifice of Calvary and Jesus’ way of staying with us for the ages.
A little over 500 years ago there were no Protestants, nor Mormons, nor Iglesias, nor Born Agains, nor Evangelicals,
nor many other sects. There are over 320,000 Protestant sects now because there is among them no authority to define what Jesus wanted. Many of them broke off from the Catholic Church because of abuses of the Catholic clergy.
And there will be many more abuses in the future. Jesus did not guarantee probity. He chose only twelve yet one betrayed Him, another denied Him three times, almost all of them abandoned him on Calvary but most of them were willing to die for Him and did die for Him. What He guaranteed was an Authority that will give the correct interpretation when officially talking of matters of faith and morals.
There are now 266 popes in unbroken succession from the time of Peter. Some of them turned out bad and scandalous but when they talked ex cathedra, they were guaranteed to be without error. One of the marks of the true Church is that it has survived all these years in spite of the abuses and sins of the people in charge.
To what basics do we appeal for cooperation? We appeal of course to their belief in God, to goodness and truth. We appeal for the common good. We appeal for fairness. We work against ignorance and sin. We work against ill health, poverty, and despair. We look forward to a life of joy and happiness here on earth and in the world to come. We do what we can for ourselves. Our influence on others has limits. Just as we can bring the cow to water but it has to be the cow who will decide if it wants to drink.