Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Pope Benedict XVI, A Saint?

Someone at Catholic Answers asked this question: do you think there is a possibility of Benedict being canonized some day?

Well, I'm sure Benedict himself is striving for sanctity, and therefore is saintly.

He himself said: "The saints are the true reformers. Only from the saints, only from God does true revolution come, the definitive way to change the world."

Since he wants to change the world, he is trying to be saint; and if he is trying to be a saint, God will grant what he asks for.

I heard from somebody that a German Cardinal quipped about Ratzinger: he has the intellect of 20 theologians and the simplicity of a child who just had his first communion. Well, if holiness demands both knowing God well and loving God as a child, then Pope Benedict must be holy! :)

If you remember his program of governance when he was installed as Pope, he said that it is about "listening to God" and "doing his will". What is that if not sanctity?

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Do you think Jesus really lived, died and came back to life? Why?

I was asked this question and I submitted this answer. The asker came back happy and thanked me for it. So am sharing my reply to more people.

As for his existence and death, these three things agree:

  • Eye witness accounts of gospel writers (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John),
  • Credible and famous historians whom we trust with other data about the ancient world confirmed these accounts (Pliny the Younger is a Roman historian and governor; Flavius Josephus is a Jewish historian who became a member of the Roman aristocracy; Tacitus was a senator and historian of the Empire),
  • Archaeological data including the latest findings confirm all the above (actual locations of Calvary and the Sepulchre among other things). If only one archaeological finding confirmed the existence of Troy, once thought to be a myth, what more the abundance of Christian archaeological sites?

As for his actual death, we can add to the above the fact that his executioners were Roman soldiers. They were the best soldiers of antiquity who knew the business of killing.

As for his actual rising from the dead, we can add the daring and boldness of those who preached about the Resurrection, and about seeing him alive. (The gospel reports 500 who saw him after death).

If they were creating a myth or had certain doubts, the great number of Christian martyrs would not have died for their belief-- for what they saw.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Why doesn't God make himself visible?

Again and again, this question arises: Why can't God just show himself, directly manage our affairs, then we will believe him and follow him? Frankly, I've thought about that myself so many times. It seems to be a frequent question, among many other people.

It's a question John Paul II and Benedict had to address a number of times.

John Paul II remarked that this type of questioning is only of recent vintage. For many centuries, it was obvious that God is God -- an infinite Mystery. And we are mere creatures -- limited, and really nothing in front of the Maker of the 120 billion galaxies in the "observable universe."

In fact John Paul said, God "has gone as far as possible" in showing himself: he became one of us, his creatures. He became man. "He could go no further. In a certain sense he has gone too far!" Proof of the above is the complaint of the Jews and the Moslems against Christianity. God is God, they say. He should keep his distance!

Benedict had his own chance to deal with this issue, when a kid was astonished when his teacher told him Jesus is present in the Eucharist: I can't see him!

What do you think was Benedict's reply? Well, he talked about electricity! "There are many things that we do not see but they exist and are essential. For example: we do not see our reason, yet we have reason. We do not see ... an electric current, for example, yet we see that it exists; we see this microphone, that it is working, and we see lights. Therefore, we do not see the very deepest things, those that really sustain life and the world, but we can see and feel their effects."

In God is Love, Benedict insisted that God has made himself visible --in Jesus.

He even said that God is "visible in a number of ways." What are these ways? Of course, he mentions Jesus' appearances in the bible, and also his visibility in people who "reflect his presence."

Then he says God is visible through the words in the Bible, through the sacraments (water of baptism, the forgiveness of the priest in confession, for example), and especially through the Eucharist, the white bread we see lifted up during Mass.

For me, that white bread is God-Love who is making himself visible today. If you see God from this perspective -- from an idea that the essence of God is self-sacrificing Love rather than power-tripping Omnipotence -- then it makes sense that he is visible as a piece of bread, available as supreme food for people he loves.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

How can I be holy if I am so weak and full of mistakes?

You and I, as everybody else, are called to holiness.

This is an established fact in Catholic doctrine. Now the question is: How can I be a saint, even commanded to be holy, if I am so weak and full of mistakes?

Benedict XVI answered this in 2002, on the 100th anniversary of St. Josemaria's birth. Still a cardinal, Ratzinger said that it was precisely Escriva who corrected the mistaken notion that holiness is "reserved for some extraordinary people" who are "completely different from ordinary sinners like us."

"To be holy," stated Cardinal Ratzinger, "does not mean being superior to others; the saint can be very weak, with many mistakes in his life. Holiness is this profound contact with God, becoming a friend of God: it is letting the Other work, the Only One who can really make the world both good and happy."

If you examine the first homily in St. Josemaria's first collection of homilies, Christ is Passing By, the founder of Opus Dei comments on the "encouraging" fact that the first people whom Jesus called to holiness "were nothing to boast about." The Twelve Apostles weren't educated. They weren't even bright. They weren't even simple or open. They had little faith. Then they faced obstacles that well up in the heart of all men: selfishness, lust, greed.

With so much weakness and real obstacles, how can we be holy?

It's interesting to note that St. Josemaria spends two entire sections in this homily to discuss a key point which Ratzinger summarized as letting the Other work. The over-arching principle for holiness, according to St. Josemaria is God's mercy: "It is under the 'umbrella' of God's mercy," he says, "that Christian existence should develop." Thus he urged us "to implore divine mercy," and to pray: "O my God, I trust in you."

Opus Dei's emphasis on the universal call to holiness, an integral part of Catholic teaching, hinges on the mercy of God who has the intent and the power to sanctify us.

Only God can make us holy. Because he, the Infinite Good, is the only source of goodness. The Only One, says Benedict XVI, who can really make the world both good and happy.

Thus, we poor creatures, full of mistakes and weaknesses, can only bank on his goodness, his Mercy.

It is then logical that God, after bringing about a world-wide awareness of the universal call to holiness, brought about a new world-wide devotion to the Divine Mercy. This is now a devotion officially endorsed by the whole Church, even established as a liturgical date on the Second Sunday of Easter!

Through the diaries of St. Faustina Helena Kowalska, we learn to plead to God:
Jesus, I trust in you.

Eternal Father, I offer You the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Your dearly beloved Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world; for the sake of His sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.
Through Opus Dei, we learn of the Catholic insistence on "frequent confession", of going to the sacrament of Divine Mercy, to receive God's help and direction.

We learn that it is through spending time in prayer at specific moments of the day, that we speak to God as to a friend, that we allow God to work. By finding time for God in prayer and living in God's presence in all the ordinary situations of each day, we then can convert our work and daily life into prayer. That's sanctity: when we are in God, and God in us all day long. When we work for God, and God works through us to reach others. When we become his instruments, despite all our weaknesses and mistakes. When we allow God to work our self-transformation, and the transformation of the world. Sanctity is God's work.

"Truly we are all capable, we are all called to open ourselves up to this friendship with God," said Benedict XVI, "to not leave the hands of God, to not neglect to turn and return to the Lord, speaking with him as if speaking with a friend, knowing well that the Lord really is a true friend of everyone, including those who cannot do great things by themselves."

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Jesus of Nazareth: the key question

What is the key point in Benedict's new book, Jesus of Nazareth, 1.5 million copies of which have been sold after only a month?

He answers it himself in the front and back flap of the book:

The great question that will be with us throughout this entire book: What did Jesus actually bring, if not world peace, universal prosperity, and a better world? The answer is very simple: God. He has brought God. ....

He has brought God, and now we know his face, now we can call upon him. Now we know the path that we human beings have to take in this world. Jesus has brought God and with God the truth about our origin and destiny: faith, hope, and love.

I'm more than half-way through the book. And yes, that is the key message. Everything revolves around God.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Benedict XVI now the leading German thinker

Benedict XVI is now considered the leading German thinker, surpassing secularist thinkers such as Gunther Grass and Jurgen Habermas. That's a possible sign that we might be heading towards a turn-around.

Consider: world behavior depends on the mindset crafted by influential thinkers. Just remember Marx and the influence of communism throughout the world. Just remember Freud and how the sexual revolution turned things upside down. Just remember Luther whose individualistic interpretation of religion has brought in the modern way of thinking. And what is the common denominator of these three? Not only had they had lasting world influence, they all belong to the great thinking race-- the Germanic tribe.

If Benedict can turn around the Germans, he can turn around the rest of the western world, and with it the rest of the world.

John Paul II was the Pope who slayed the Godless East. Benedict XVI is meant to slay the greater dragon -- the crassly materialistic and secularistic West.

Let's pray for this.

[For sources on Benedict's XVI rise to number one influential thinker in Germany, see: http://p072.ezboard.com/ftheratzingerforumfrm21.showMessageRange?topicID=315.topic&start=61&stop=71

I also saw this news in Spanish newspaper, ABC, in its May story on Jesus of Nazareth. ]