MANY MOONS AGO one of our readers asked if Compass might sometime devote some space to the subjects of the Assumption of Mary and that of the Devil—what are Church teachings on these subjects, and what are the ‘underpinnings’ of that teaching? I suspect the underlying question is ‘What is a Catholic expected to believe?’ In this issue we have at long last attempted to satisfy that request with the article by Marie Farrell on the doctrine of the Assumption and my brief article on the Devil—this latter can be supplemented with pp.28-30 of Fr Tony Kelly’s article on hopeful intelligence and the Catholic intellectual tradition.
Though we might take a long time to satisfy such requests, we do welcome suggestions from our readership. They give us a chance to stimulate into action our many able Australian theologians, scripture scholars, philosophers, experts in spirituality, liturgy, etc.
When we stop to think about it, we Christians and Catholic Christians do believe a lot of unbelievable things—looked at from the purely human point of view. We are from time-to-time reminded of it by people who do not share our beliefs. Often Catholics are under fire, since it is usually a discussion that arises when funding of Catholic schools is an issue: ‘Why should the government support a system of education in which impressionable young minds are taught such unbelievable dogmas?’
My own reaction is to agree that what we Catholic Christians believe is very hard to believe. We believe that God exists, a personal, loving God who loves into being all that is and us humans too. God loves us so much that he has sent his only Son to lead us into a communion with our God that transports us beyond all our imaginings. Jesus Christ, Son of God, has promised us eternal life. And all this was accomplished by the most unbelievable act of costly love.
Further, Jesus Christ has established us as a community through which he works for our salvation and the salvation of the whole human race. Our God in Christ is with us, and the Spirit of God urges us on, as we journey towards what God has in store for us.
All this—and so much more when we tease out the detail—is so astonishing that it is no wonder that others marvel that we can believe it. Jean-Paul Sartre, the existentialist philosopher of the mid-twentieth century—stated that it was all ‘Too beautiful to be true’.
But we then remind ourselves of a few facts about the phenomenon of Christian faith. Faith is a gift, one of the three supernatural virtues. Like hope and charity, faith is not from our human resources, it is from God. Faith is described as ‘belief in things unseen’—it is not based on evidence. But is not a belief that offends our reason, either. Our reason is a God-given endowment that is fundamental to our personhood, and we must never accept anything that we find irrational.
Christian faith is liberating; it strengthens us; it gives meaning and hope; it makes life worth living. We have only to ask ourselves, as we perhaps have been asked by others, ‘What would I do if I were to discover that it is all false—too beautiful to be true?’ St Paul gave his reply when he was writing about the resurrection of Jesus:
[I]f Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is without substance, and so is your faith (…) if Christ has not been raised, your faith is pointless and you have not, after all, been released from your sins (…)If our hope in Christ has been for this life only, we are of all people the most pitiable. (1Cor. 15:16-19.)
Compass, with the generous and dedicated assistance of all our contributors, aims to enable us all to discover more and more the truth and beauty of our Catholic faith.
Barry Brundell MSC