Tuesday, September 23, 2008

our present hope, our future glory, our deep connection to each other

I am currently reading a book called Furrow by St. Josemaría Escrivá. He arranged the book into 1000 points, and in a twist of irony and comedy, point number 666 spoke to me almost more than all the others I had read up to that point. This is what he said:

Those in love don’t know how to say good-bye: they are with one another all the time.

—Do you and I know how to love the Lord like this?

Many people have criticized me for being slightly awkward with personal relationships. I'm not one to say goodbye every time I walk out of the house, for example. And I've always had this sort of intuitive understanding that we're not apart from each other, because of our love for each other. Now, this kind of silly way of pointing to my personal oddities (without excusing all of my deeds, of course) is just a way to call to mind the idea that whether you act like me or not, as friends and brethren we are more deeply connected than we sometimes think.

Thinking in light of this connection, we can go to a grander scale and see how it applies to the idea of where we are, where we are going, and how we are aided by those who have gone on before us.

This is vitally important, as one objection to the Catholic idea of the intercession of the saints on our behalf is that it places powers into our hands which are only rightly God's. For example, His omnipresence enables Him to hear our prayers, and yet Catholics often ask saints in heaven to pray for them. But again, how connected are we?

And more importantly, how connected to God are the saints?

To answer that question, I want to share something that may or may not be familiar with you. St. Athanasius, champion of defending the divinity of Christ against the Arian heresy, also spent some time in the 300s defending something else that may make you feel a bit of unease. To quote him,

"He, indeed, assumed humanity that we might become God."

That sounds quite heretical, but it comes from the mouth of one that Protestants and Catholics alike call a champion of orthodoxy. How do these oddities coexist? To answer that, I want to place some passages of Scripture before you for consideration. In my next post, I will explain how I have come to conclude that these passages not only clarify what St. Athansius meant, they vindicate the practice of the earliest Christians down to those Catholic and Orthodox brethren who have seen fit to ask for prayer from departed saints. For now, think on these words.

As you read, consider where you are now, where you are going, what you want to be, and what the word of God says you will be. Ask whether you have limited the grandeur or the scope of what the Scriptures say is in store for us. And ask for the eyes and faith to see and hold to the great promises, despite your situations that may cloud such a view.

"For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified." Romans 8:29-30

"For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known." 1 Corinthians 13:9-12

"I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: "Death has been swallowed up in victory."1 Corinthians 15:50-54

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart." Hebrews 12:1-3

"Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective." James 5:14-16

"His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires." 2 Peter 1:3-4

"How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is." 1 John 3: 1-2

"My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me." John 17:20-23

"Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders. He had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. He came and took the scroll from the right hand of him who sat on the throne. And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints." Revelation 5:6-8

"When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained. They called out in a loud voice, "How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?" Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and brothers who were to be killed as they had been was completed." Revelation 6:9-11

" After this I heard what sounded like the roar of a great multitude in heaven shouting:
Salvation and glory and power belong to our God,
for true and just are his judgments.
He has condemned the great prostitute
who corrupted the earth by her adulteries.
He has avenged on her the blood of his servants." And again they shouted:
The smoke from her goes up for ever and ever."

The twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God, who was seated on the throne. And they cried:
"Amen, Hallelujah!" Revelation 19:1-4

"I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or his image and had not received his mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years." Revelation 20:4

"And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, 'Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.'" Revelation 21:3-4

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