Tag Archives: salvation

The Personality of Jesus 1

 

LG Sleiman

Latest revision: 8:30 pm, 24th January 2021.

The Lord’s personality is so multifaceted, so much deeper than the most profound depths, and rich with unexpected graces, virtues, and incomprehensible love.

The Lord is so much greater than our ordinary experience, so much greater as the Creator is above His creatures, that any present experience we have of Him seems only to be another stage disposing us for even greater knowledge.

How can we come to know the Lord when He is ineffable, mysterious, all powerful?

How can a mere mortal come to understand the God of creation?

When Job sought to understand the reason why God had allowed him to suffer so many losses, wounds, and tragedies, the Lord did not give him a direct response, but instead put a series of questions to Job:

“Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind and said: “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me.

“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements-surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone, when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?

“Or who shut in the sea with doors when it burst out from the womb, when I made clouds its garment and thick darkness its swaddling band, and prescribed limits for it and set bars and doors, and said, ‘Thus far shall you come, and no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stayed’?

“Have you commanded the morning since your days began, and caused the dawn to know its place, that it might take hold of the skirts of the earth, and the wicked be shaken out of it?

“Have you entered into the springs of the sea, or walked in the recesses of the deep? Have the gates of death been revealed to you, or have you seen the gates of deep darkness? Have you comprehended the expanse of the earth? Declare, if you know all this.

“Where is the way to the dwelling of light, and where is the place of darkness, that you may take it to its territory and that you may discern the paths to its home?” (Job 38: 1-13; 16-18; 19-20)

With these words the Lord indicates to Job, among other things, the infinite distance between the creature and the Creator–a distance that human strength alone cannot traverse.

But we need not fear, for Jesus taught us that He is able to overcome such an enormous distance:

“All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” (Matthew 11:27)

The Father sent His Son into the world in order that the Son may reveal the Father to whomever He chooses: “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.” (John 14:9)

But on the way to the perfect knowledge of the Lord we can already begin to know the Lord by degrees, already begin to discern certain attributes of His personality from the Scriptures.

Here we observe, for example, that the Lord’s personality is marked by profound spontaneity, depth, and originality. His character embodies so many contraries, such as justice and mercy, power and humility, gentleness and wisdom. His love is unconditional yet uncompromising.

Our Lord Jesus Christ was infinitely gentle, patient, and merciful with sinners, the weak and abandoned, the lowly and impoverished; yet He was very severe, exacting, and just with those considered great and knowledgeable, the leaders of the people, and the proud and arrogant.

Consider His words to the Pharisees who, after Christ had healed a blind and mute man, accused Him of being in league with the devil:

“You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” (Matthew 12:34)

When Jesus declared Himself “the light of the world” (John 8:12) the Pharisees, not believing in Him nor accepting His authority, argued with the Lord and justified themselves by claiming to be the children of God. To which Jesus responded:

“If God were your Father, you would love me: for I came forth and am come from God; for neither have I come of myself, but he sent me. Why do you not understand my speech? Even because you cannot hear my word. You are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father it is your will to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and stands not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks of his own: for he is a liar, and the father thereof.” (John 8:42-44)

While teaching in Jerusalem on the eve of His Sacred Passion, knowing what was about to befall Him, Jesus warned the chief priests and elders of the people:

“The kingdom of God shall be taken away from you, and given to a nation producing the fruits of it.” (Matthew 21:43)

A brief reading of the Gospels will show that there are many other instances in which Jesus was very exacting and very severe with His interlocutors.

On the other hand, we find that Jesus was infinitely compassionate, gentle and merciful with those who were weak, forsaken, oppressed, and bound by sin. Christ did not hesitate to dine with sinners, to rescue the woman caught in adultery, and to forgive the thief on the cross who had been a sinner all his life.

For Jesus did not come to “break a bruised reed or quench a smouldering wick.” (Matthew 12:20)

Regarding the whole world, the Scripture says: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

And for those who had lost their way, Jesus said: “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing.” (Luke 15:3-5)

Jesus is the Good Shepherd and He is tireless in seeking out His lost sheep.

Regarding those who work very hard and are weary, Jesus called: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

So we see that Jesus did not apply the same ‘measure’ to all persons, nor extend Himself to everyone in the same way, for He “knew all men”, and “he needed not that any one should bear witness concerning man.” (John 2:24,25)

He was infinitely gentle with some, and extremely strict with others. Why so? 

The Lord explains: “Every one to whom much is given, of him will much be required; and of him to whom men commit much they will demand the more.” (Luke 12:48)

Jesus wants to save everyone: the strong and the weak, the humble and the proud, the honest and the dishonest, the righteous and the unrighteous, the good and the evil, but He cannot apply the same “medicine” to all.

Each one needs only to open his or her heart to the Lord Jesus who must, as the all wise, all loving, and all powerful Son of God, administer the right medicine to each one, working tirelessly so that everyone might come to believe in Him, for faith in Christ is the door to eternal life. (John 20:31)

And so the words of the Scripture ring more and more true, the more we realise the ways of the Lord, and the heights and depths of His wisdom:

“With the loyal thou dost show thyself loyal; with the blameless man thou dost show thyself blameless; with the pure thou dost show thyself pure; and with the crooked thou dost show thyself perverse. For thou dost deliver a humble people; but the haughty eyes thou dost bring down.

“Yea, thou dost light my lamp; the Lord my God lightens my darkness. Yea, by thee I can crush a troop; and by my God I can leap over a wall. This God—his way is perfect; the promise of the Lord proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him.” (Psalm 18:25-30)

Open Letter to the Bishops

Today we are witnessing a silent spiritual holocaust

This letter is also published at Church Militant

 

The Bishops of the Church today face the most difficult crisis in the entire history of the Church–a crisis greatly magnified by a series of crises layered one upon another, a crisis that manifests on every level of the Church’s existence: spiritual, ecclesiological, theological, liturgical, and pastoral. But the Bishops, successors of the twelve Apostles of Christ, also have great potential to transform the Church and the world.

In this letter I propose to give a brief outline of the origin of the Bishop’s Office, the range of challenges which confront the Bishops, the heart of the present crisis, the spiritual danger that souls are facing, and, last but not least, the power and efficacy of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Origin of the Bishop’s Office

In the year 33 AD our Lord Jesus Christ, having risen from the dead, ascended into heaven in the sight of His holy Mother Mary and His Apostles and was seated at the right hand of the Father. Ten days later the Holy Spirit came upon them amid the sound of a rushing wind and tongues of fire which sat upon their heads.

The twelve Apostles were empowered to teach the Gospel, govern the Church, sanctify souls for heaven, and to pass on their mission in an unbroken succession of shepherds until the end of the world.

The Apostles launched their evangelical mission with little more than the rigorous training, the spiritual gifts, and the Divine authority which Christ had bestowed upon them. The Church which they helped to establish (Ephesians 2:20) had, within three centuries, transformed virtually the entire world.

The Present Crisis

Fast forward 2,000 years and it appears that today there are powerful forces both in the world and in the Church hierarchy which would seek to reverse everything that the Apostles worked so hard to establish.

From the Second Vatican Council to the effects of the sexual revolution to the threat of totalitarian regimes to the ever widening influence of relativistic ideologies to the advent of Pope Francis to the widespread contestation of the definition of marriage to the present day Covid Crisis, the Church has suffered so many assaults within the space of just a few, short decades.

The Church is being tossed to and fro in a severe storm that threatens her very life, the teaching of the faith, the objectivity of moral values, authentic pastoral practice and, it seems, the very foundation of her Divine authority.

Will she survive? Will she emerge unscathed? “When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on earth?” (Luke 18:8)

A Real Pandemic?

Today we are witnessing a world thoroughly shaken by an alleged health crisis.

Given the near global response to the virus, as the life and activities of the Church have undergone significant reconfiguration, the nature of the Church and her relationship to her children are implicitly called into question.

But who is pulling the strings of history? Is it the global elites who seek to build an earthly utopia on their own terms and conditions? Or is the Covid Response Team simply reacting to a worldwide health crisis? Or is it fair to say that, in the greater scheme of things, any and all such manoeuvres and machinations, regardless of their origin and purpose, are subordinate to the omniscience and omnipotence of a benevolent God, who determines the real course of history in mysterious ways?

Whatever you think about these matters, what is undeniable today is that we are witnessing the most universal and pervasive forms of intervention in the state of human affairs that the world has ever seen.

So what is really happening? Is the pandemic really real?

The Two Narratives

There are basically two competing narratives playing out on the world stage.

On the one hand, there is a narrative that says the new coronavirus is highly dangerous, that we ought to practice widespread lockdown measures in order to save lives and to completely eradicate the virus from society, and that we ought to suffer whatever the cost to our social, economic, and political freedoms in the meantime.

This idea was based upon theoretical contagion models—not on real data—which predicted millions and then tens of millions of deaths, was widely promoted by the mainstream media, and was acted upon by (most) governments.

On the other hand, there is another narrative, supported by many scientists and medical experts, which claims that the coronavirus is only about as dangerous as the common flu, that you cannot possibly eradicate it completely from society (no matter how many lockdowns you enforce), and that widespread lockdown measures have caused far more damage than the virus could ever have done.

A large number of governments together with the mainstream media are opposed to this narrative—so much so that many of us have long stared with wide-eyed fascination at how insular the Covid Response Team has been to the well researched and highly reputable opinions of renowned scientists and top medical experts from around the world.

The list is enormously long but it is worth mentioning a few of them:

In May 2020 the UK’s Chief Medical Officer confirmed that covid-19 is “harmless to the majority” of people.

Also in May the CDC (Center for Disease Control) released a statement saying that coronavirus is “nowhere near as lethal as earlier [theoretical] models claimed.”

In August the head immunologist at Tel Aviv University revealed that 99.99 percent of the world’s population has survived covid-19. 

And from a medical report in September 2020: “According to the latest immunological studies, the overall lethality of Covid-19 (IFR) in the general population ranges between 0.1% and 0.5% in most countries, which is comparable to the medium influenza pandemics of 1957 and 1968.”

Early in October, 9,000 (nine thousand) medical professionals signed a joint document strongly criticising the lockdowns. One could multiply such corroborating reports almost endlessly.

Which of these two narratives will prevail, in the final analysis? That remains to be seen.

Assume For A Moment

But let’s assume for a moment—just for argument’s sake—that there is a real pandemic. What would that mean for the Church?

Even if there were a real pandemic, could the Bishops actually relinquish their responsibility for the care of souls—a responsibility they have assumed in the eyes of God? Could the Bishops’ God-given mandate to save souls be justifiably subordinated to the strictures and demands of a health crisis? Would souls have less need of God in the event of a health crisis?

Let us acknowledge, the choice to close or to restrict Church services in the event of a health crisis is to subordinate the care of the soul to the care of the body, and effectively to reverse the order of priorities mandated by our Lord Jesus Himself:

“And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matthew 10:28)

Such a reversal of priorities has consequences for the understanding of the nature of the Church. It reaches deep into the life and consciousness of the Church, undermining traditional doctrines regarding the Divine foundation of the Church, her God-given authority, and her God-given mission.

If the subordination of the soul to the body continues it will lead, sooner or later, to the complete subordination of the Church to the State, forsaking obedience to her Lord and Master, Jesus Christ.

The Message of Complicity

When the doors of the Church are closed in the face of believers this fosters an insinuation that the holy Mass and other Church services are no longer “essential”.

When masks are mandated in Church this is counterproductive because, according to Scripture, we come together as the Body of Christ so that “with unveiled faces we may behold the glory of the living God.” (2 Corinthians 3:18)

When believers are denied Holy Communion on the tongue it robs them of a precious opportunity to express due reverence, devotion, and love for the Lord Jesus in the Eucharist.

When Church services are cancelled this deprives the faithful of coming into the sacramental Presence of God and worshipping God.

When the Bishops are all too ready to capitulate to widespread Church restrictions and closures—never before witnessed on such a scale in 2,000 years of Church history—this cannot but give a subtle impression that the Church has been transformed into a social institution, an instrument of the State, and has implicitly denied her Divine constitution.

Such a reconfiguration of the life and activity of the Church cannot help but insinuate that the Church is, in essence, subject to change; that she is no longer the custodian of the Revelation of Jesus Christ; that her role in the economy of salvation is non-essential.

Assault On The Faith

How many souls will be able to withstand the Covid Persecution? How many will emerge with a living faith? In the face of such wholesale surrender to the State, will the Church ever recover her rightful place in society?

This assault on the Faith is rendered all the more dangerous because it follows upon the heels of decades of spiritual devastation: for at least two or three generations vast numbers of Catholics have been deprived of authentic catechesis, secular ideologies have been quietly invading the life of the Church, moral values are ridiculed or altogether abandoned, and the Gospel often suffers dilution and compromise.

The Church and the World

The Church cannot serve both God and the world. She must choose one or the other.

The Lord Jesus said that we are “in the world” but not “of the world.” (John 17: 11-19) And the Apostle John wrote: “If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” (1 John 2:15)

But we might ask: Ought not the Church to love the world, as “God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life”? (John 3:16)

Here we come face to face with a profound paradox—a paradox that we ought to embrace rather than surrender to an unholy compromise with the world.

As G.K. Chesterton famously wrote, can a man “hate [the world] enough to change it, and yet love it enough to think it worth changing?” (Orthodoxy)

Ever since Vatican II, when Pope John XXIII’s fundamental impulse was to bring the Church up to date with the times (aggiornamento), the Church adopted what can rightly be called an ambivalent attitude towards the world—an attitude which has rarely been clarified or set right.

Can the Church both love and not love the world at the same time? Yes, but each in a different sense. The Church ought to conform herself, not to the world, but to Christ for the sanctification of the world.

Any suggestion or hint that the Church could possibly learn from the world in matters pertaining to the salvation of souls is not only unwise but thoroughly and grievously mistaken.

It was the Council’s compromise on this point, explicit or implicit, that introduced a basic disorientation into the heart of the Church, a festering wound that has spawned a multitude of errors and heterodox tendencies.

Saint Paul reminds us: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2)

The basic orientation of the Church to the world will feed into everything: the Church’s faith, doctrines, moral teaching, pastoral practice—everything!

Pope Francis

Vatican II’s ambivalent embrace of the world is complicated even further by the advent of Pope Francis, who demonstrates, intentionally or unintentionally, a strong and consistent tendency to engage with heterodoxy.

The Bishops have a grave responsibility to remind Pope Francis what the First Vatican Council taught clearly and unequivocally:

“For the Holy Spirit was promised to the successors of Peter not so that they might, by his revelation, make known some new doctrine, but that, by his assistance, they might religiously guard and faithfully expound the revelation or deposit of faith transmitted by the Apostles.” (Session 4, Chapter 4, paragraph 6)

A Silent Spiritual Holocaust

For all the above reasons, what we are now witnessing is a silent, spiritual holocaust: the holocaust of multitudes of vulnerable and unsuspecting souls on the altar of the Bishops’ silent complicity with the world.

How many will survive?

The Lord declared: “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I will also reject you as My priests. Since you have forgotten the law of your God, I will also forget your children.” (Hosea 4:6)

Jesus said, “the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32) 

Christ came “neither to condemn us in our sins nor to condone our sins, but to save us from them”, as a faithful priest once said. Hell is real. Salvation is real. The Lord takes no pleasure in “the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live.” (Ezekiel 33:11)

These truths do not change with the passage of time.

A Call to the Bishops

Today in the midst of this crisis, as one crisis has been added to another and again to another, the Church has need of Bishops and priests who will be like the Apostles, their predecessors, who transformed the world by the witness of their word, and most often by the witness of their blood, the Holy Spirit working through them with great signs and wonders.

There is no challenge, obstacle, or difficulty that could prevent our shepherds from achieving what the twelve Apostles achieved.

Saint Paul testified, “For I am not ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.” (Romans 1:16)

The Gospel is “ever ancient and ever new”, the fruit of God’s Self-revelation in the Incarnation of Jesus Christ, the fount of eternal salvation.

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8) His message does not change with the changing times.

When proclaimed in its purity and entirety, the Gospel exerts a powerful attraction on the soul—because the soul hungers, consciously or unconsciously, for the word of the Lord, for the truth that will set it free, for the fruits of the Redemption which Christ paid for with His own Blood.

This is not to say that the Bishops are entirely missing in action. A few Cardinals and Bishops have been strongly vocal about the rights, duties, and needs of the Church. But the majority are still silent—so much so that recently Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò noted that such silence is ”deafening”.

When Peter and John were hauled before the council of priests and high priests they were commanded “not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus.” (Acts 4:18)

But Peter and John responded: “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:19)

What will the Bishops now say?

We need you, the successors of the Apostles, to rise to the occasion. The Lord is waiting for you. The Church is waiting for you. The world needs your unfailing witness to our Lord Jesus Christ.

LG Sleiman

Lastest revision: 2:00 pm, 7th November 2020. Sydney, Australia.

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The Human Condition–Part One

The human condition is full of contradictions: our world is marked by great progress and great suffering, by wonderful opportunities and sad failures, by amazing discoveries and unexpected tragedies, by deep sorrows and profound joys.

Each soul is a reflection, in one way or another, of these contradictions that mark the human condition, as though each individual represents a unique microcosm of the world at large. Each soul knows the meaning of hope and fear, joy and sorrow.

We all share in this common ’thread’ that runs throughout human history, this clash of contradictories, while each individual is a unique expression of the same. This is one of the greatest of all paradoxes: we are all the same yet each one of us is different.

And one of the greatest of all consolations is that the Son of God is no stranger to the human condition.

Jesus entered into this world as a human being and became acquainted with the human condition. The only begotten Son of God, who is in eternity, descended from heaven, was clothed in human nature, and entered upon the stage of the human drama.

The Son of God became the Son of man. He took upon Himself our own nature. Jesus immersed Himself in all the joys and sorrows, all the hopes and fears of the human condition, so that He could identify with each one of us. He united His divinity with our humanity, and our humanity with His divinity. He immersed Himself in all our pain, suffering, and death so that we could come to know His peace and life: “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10)

Let us not imagine that Jesus does not understand all the difficulties and struggles, the anguish, pain and suffering that we experience:

“Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathise with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:14-16)

To the extent that we come to know the Lord, to that extent we come to share in His life and peace. Conversely, to the extent that we “hide” ourselves from the Lord, to that extent we “hide” ourselves from His loving support.

And how do we “hide” ourselves from the Lord? When we fail to believe the words He has spoken; when we fail to trust or to confide our thoughts and concerns to His Sacred Heart; when we turn away from His will and follow our own will.

Saint Augustine confessed to the Lord: “When I hide my thoughts from you, I do not hide myself from you, but I hide you from myself.” (The Confessions of St Augustine, paraphrased)

If, on the other hand, we immerse ourselves in Jesus, if we trust in Him instead of trusting in our own understanding, then He carries us and all our difficulties on the wings of His own strength and wisdom. All the Lord really wants is to save us: “Come to me all you who labour and are burdened and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)

This is the Good News: that the Son of God came to share in our human condition so that He can be present to us in the midst of our struggles and suffering; that we can confront them in the strength of the Lord’s virtue, if only we will believe in Him; that He did not leave us to cope on the strength of our own resources; that He has already carried all the burden of our sins and sorrows and negligence, if only we will seek Him.

This is the Good News: that the Son of God has immersed Himself in all the misery and suffering and death that belongs to the human condition in order that we may receive His life and peace.

“In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him.” (Hebrews 5:7-9)

But how do we immerse ourselves in the Lord? Let’s allow the Lord Jesus to speak for Himself, and take His words to heart:

“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” (John 15: 4-11)

LG Sleiman Copyright June 2019