instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Monday, April 02, 2012

He makes all things new

The form of a thing determines what the thing is. When God formed man from the slime of the earth, the thing formed was man. When He formed His people Israel, the thing formed was His people Israel. When He formed Jeremiah the prophet in his mother's womb, the thing formed was Jeremiah the prophet.

All things have a form, and many things can become deformed. God's people Israel, for example, deformed so predictably you could infer a Second Law of Theodynamics from it: Absent Divine work, fallen man acts to maximize his own will.1 And indeed, periodically God went to work to re-form His people.

The Catholic Church calls herself the People of God, which gives rise to the question, is the Church subject to the same process of deformation the nation of Israel cycled through so often?

A loyal son of the Church might answer, "No. In Matthew 16:18, Jesus promises that the gates of hell shall not prevail against the Church."2

But Matthew 16:18 doesn't contradict the principle of deformation absent Divine work. In fact, combining the two leads yields the promise of Matthew 28:20: "Behold I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world."

Jesus is always at work in His Church, not least in the Liturgy and sacraments. So His Church stays holy, even as her holiest members on earth fall seven times each day.

Which brings me to this oracle from today's first reading:
Thus says God, the LORD,
who created the heavens and stretched them out,
who spreads out the earth with its crops,
Who gives breath to its people
and spirit to those who walk on it:

I, the LORD, have called you for the victory of justice,
I have grasped you by the hand;
I formed you, and set you
as a covenant of the people,
a light for the nations,
To open the eyes of the blind,
to bring out prisoners from confinement,
and from the dungeon, those who live in darkness.
This is the oracle Jesus applies to Himself in the synagogue at the beginning of His public ministry. By extension, it can be applied to Jesus' Mystical Body, His Church. Let me now apply (less authoritatively) the introductory lines, "Who gives breath to its people and spirit to those who walk on it," to that very work by which Jesus sanctifies His Church, giving His Spirit to His people and those who walk with Him.

Just as, physically speaking, breathing is a process of continually taking in fresh air, so the Spirit of Christ is to be continually brought anew into our souls. If we stop breathing air, we die a physical death; if we stop receiving Christ's Spirit, we die a spiritual death. There is, if you will, a holy respiration that keeps the Spirit moving in our hearts, and thereby through our lives. If we carry the Holy Spirit in ourselves, then we carry Him to those we meet, including the blind, the prisoners, and those who live in darkness.

1. Note that such a law of "Theodynamics" doesn't trip over Spong's Law of Theophysical Asininity because, while it reads like a physical law, it doesn't actually invoke the science of physics. Of course, "reading like a physical law" doesn't popularize a concept, so let's just let the expression "Second Law of Theodynamics" die on the vine of this post, shall we?

2. Matthew 16:18 is one of the handful of chapter-and-verse citations a loyal son of the Church may make without smacking of Protestantism.