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Sunday, March 25, 2012

JW tract: How do you view Jesus? As a Newborn Baby? A Dying Man? Or an Exalted King?

“Love the Lord with all your heart, and with all your soul,
         and with all your MIND”--Matt 22:37

A Jehovah's Witness (JW) left this tract at our door the other day.  It asks, provocatively, ""How do you view Jesus?  As a Newborn Baby?  A Dying Man? Or an Exalted King!" 

The Catholic answer is, of course, "Yes!" 

Again, as with most Catholic answers, the response is not either/or but both/and. 

Yes, we view Jesus as a newborn baby.  And as a dying man (we prefer to use the term "crucified savior").  And as an exalted king.

We might also add that we view Him as

fisher of men
advocate of women
lover of children
2nd person of the Trinity
the lamb of God
the word made flesh
the most blessed sacrament of the Eucharist
suffering servant
son of Mary, the ark of the covenant
prince of peace
the Incarnation
and a multitude of other titles and adjectives that we all could add.

I find it interesting that the JWs are offering this tract as we approach the Easter Triduum (Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday/Easter Vigil), which are Christianity's most holy days.

(Not to mention I find it slightly amusing that the tract says, in response to the question "How do you view Jesus?", to come "hear the answer" at their Kingdom Hall.  How is it that I will hear the answer to how I view Jesus at their presentation? )

Their presentation is being offered in response to a very common criticism leveled at Catholicism:  that it is morbidly obsessed with the death of Jesus.  And this obsession is at its  extreme during our Good Friday services (through our veneration of the Cross, Stations of the Cross, reading of the Passion narrative, etc).  The JW position is:  why?  He is now reigning as an exalted king!  Why commemorate a bloody and horrific event? Why keep images of Him, suffering and dying, in your churches?  If your loved one had died a horrible death would you keep pictures of that around your home and church?

My response is: yes, if my loved one died a horrific death, in ransom for me, because of my sins and failures, out of the greatest love for me, then I would most certainly keep that event ever present in my heart and mind!

And we Catholics remain focused on His Passion because that is the primary purpose for Jesus' Incarnation:  to be the Lamb of God who takes away our sins. 

He did not come, primarily, to heal the sick, or to preach the Golden Rule, or to teach a new morality.  While all of those ministries of Christ were important, and ought not be dismissed, Pope Benedict XVI's beautiful words here confirm that Jesus' mission was to be the true Sacrificial Lamb.

The mission for which Jesus came among us was accomplished in the Paschal Mystery. On the Cross from which he draws all people to himself, just before "giving up the Spirit," he utters the words: "it is finished" (Jn 19:30). In the mystery of Christ's obedience unto death, even death on a Cross, the new and eternal covenant was brought about. In his crucified flesh, God's freedom and our human freedom met definitively in an inviolable, eternally valid pact. Human sin was also redeemed once for all by God's Son. As I have said elsewhere, "Christ's death on the Cross is the culmination of that turning of God against himself in which he gives himself in order to raise man up and save him. This is love in its most radical form."
Love in its most radical form.  Gotta love our pope!  Who could disagree with that?  And who would object to venerating and adoring The Act of Love that purchased for us so great a salvation?

Not to mention, we focus on the atoning death of Christ (but are not, as some point out, "morbidly obsessed" with it) because Scripture commands that we do.  St. Paul writes, "
but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are called, Jews and Greeks alike, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength" -1 Cor 1:23-25

and here he proclaims, "
When I came to you, brothers, proclaiming the mystery of God, I did not come with sublimity of words or of wisdom.  For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified" -1 Cor 2:1-2

So, yes, Christ is our exalted King, as the JWs correctly proclaim, and we rejoice in this every Sunday.  But we also rejoice in Him whose suffering and death was a radical act of love for you and me.  Isn't that the right thing to do, if someone suffered and died for your sake?

For more in-depth study visit these websites:
Distinctive Beliefs of the Jehovah's Witnesses

Catholics Come Home

"Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect" - 1 Peter 3:15

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Dissecting this video: Angelic Immersion Retreat

“Love the Lord with all your heart, and with all your soul,
                                               and with all your MIND”--Matt 22:37

So I went on a women's retreat in the 90's similar to the one shown on this video, although ostensibly more Catholic as it was directed by a Catholic nun and we actually had Mass.  (I had merely signed up for a women's retreat advertised in my parish bulletin--didn't know it was going to be all about men bashing and hierarchy-rejection,  telling "herstory" vs HIStory, incriminating Catholicism as patriarchal and authoritative, etc etc etc)

Video:  Angelic Immersion Retreat with an Angel Therapy Practitioner

On one level, there is much healing and spiritual nourishment on retreats such as these. It appears on the video to have been a lovely weekend and I am certain that the women left the retreat feeling immensely loved by God, accepted and empowered.  Their femininity was celebrated!

Nothing wrong with that, of course.

However, when I accidentally encountered this video online it gave me pause.  I think that these types of "alternative" spiritual encounters can cause great harm and we ought to have our antennae up whenever these New Age-ish spiritualities are proposed. 

In fact, I will go so far as to say that if we are offered a chance to attend a retreat/seminar/workshop such as this, we ought to run away as fast as we can! (Slight hyperbole intended.)

(I must also offer a disclaimer:  I did not attend the retreat that is shown on this video, so my comments are based only on generalities and my own experiences.)

So how can a retreat that endorses this type of spirituality cause great harm? Isn't the theme really harmless:  "whatever it is that you believe that makes you happy, go for it!"  What's so wicked and evil about that?

Well, firstly, because it's a lie.  Truth matters.  It's not true that "whatever you believe, as long as it makes you happy" ought to be pursued.  The story of ";The Emperor's New Clothes" is a great example of this.  While the Emperor believed the lies told to him that he was dressed in elegant finery--and that pleased him immensely--the truth was that he was parading around butt naked in front of his kingdom.  Eek!  Truth matters.  While the Emperor was happy, the truth was inevitably going to come back and bite him.  Or consider whether an adult ought to believe in Santa Claus--it may make him happy to believe in him, but do we really want to encourage him in his belief and tell him, "go for it!  If that's what makes you happy, I'm with you!" 

Also, what I find so sinister about this type of spirituality is its use of Christian language.  
We hear the familiar language of Christianity and are insidiously and complacently drawn into the lies.  We think, "Hey--they believe in angels. Catholics believe in angels!  We're on the same page here!" 
"There is also talk of Christ, but this does not mean Jesus of Nazareth. “Christ” is a title applied to someone who has arrived at a state of consciousness where he or she perceives him- or herself to be divine and can thus claim to be a “universal Master”. source
Here are some phrases taken from these types of retreats/spiritualities/theologies:

Partnering with Your Angels, Getting to the Heart of Matter:  Using Heart Energy to facilitate healing in Mind, Body, and Spirit; Living in Balance and Joy!

In this role, she offers a clear translation of heavenly messages and healing energy in her Angel Healing Sessions

Immerse yourself within the heart of the divine

Labyrinth Meditations

Angelic Revelation

Sacred Art

Encouraging the Emergence of Each Soul's Voice
These phrases/concepts sound quite benign and generically religious and holy, and anyone might be tempted to investigate this type of retreat.  (Well, perhaps most men might not find these concepts attractive, but I'm guessing there are lots of women who might have their interest piqued by these activities. )  Yet, at its essence, this type of spirituality promotes concepts antithetical to Christianity.  We are definitely NOT on the same page doctrinally and credally with this type of spirituality.  In fact often the message of New Age religiosity is in direct opposition to Christianity.

For example, this spirituality denies sin.  Therefore there is no need for a Savior.  Jesus was an amiable and pleasantly good man who was just misunderstood.  That he was crucified was a tragedy but has no bearing on us today. 
There is no need for Revelation or Salvation which would come to people from outside themselves, but simply a need to experience the salvation hidden within themselves (self-salvation), by mastering psycho- physical techniques which lead to definitive enlightenment. source

This is contrary to Christianity!

Yet they take Christian principles that are attractive and palatable and apply it to their own theology: i.e:   "God loves us."  "He wants peace and harmony in our lives." **

Of course!  Who would want to disagree with a theology that espouses that?

A god is created that conforms to our own image and likeness, rather than encouraging us to conform our beliefs and image to that of God. 

Shouldn't it be the other way around?  Shouldn't WE be changing our beliefs?  Not finding a spirituality that conforms to that which we like and find palatable and acceptable.

**(Actually, they wouldn't say "He" wants peace and harmony in our lives.  That's too misogynistic.  They would say, "GOD wants peace and harmony in our lives."  Avoidance of any reference to God as Father or as "HE" is imperative in New Age religiosity!)

For more in-depth study visit these websites:

Catholics Come Home

"Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect" - 1 Peter 3:15