Unless you believe that I Am ...
Yet the Divinity of Christ is often left out or skimmed over.
Have you ever watched a PBS documentary on the Life of Christ, with all the PhD's and their narrative on the historical Jesus, the man Christ? They go into great detail, defining characteristics of the politics of the time, the social milieu, even the archaeological traces of ancient lifestyles and so on? Even when their exegesis gets a bit too 'modern' - dismissing the Biblical texts or judging them to be middle eastern exaggerations or hyperbole - they completely avoid giving the impression Jesus knew he was God, and more telling, they avoid saying directly that he is God. One accepts such doctrinal neutrality since the documentaries are secular narrations, historical and academic in purpose. That's fine and I can easily ignore that feature. My faith isn't shaken by it.
The following example from the Frontline series, From Jesus to Christ is an example of what I'm saying:
"From Jesus to Christ" reveals that Christianity did not arise as a single, uniform, and coherent movement, but as one marked by diversity of opinion, practice, and belief. From the beginning, the movement was forged by conflict as the early Christians wrestled with their Jewish heritage, collided with paganism, challenged the authority of the Roman Empire, and clashed with each other. - SourceThis type of 'Biblical-study' may be another reason why men and women do not go to Mass, pretty much because religious educators and priests sometimes simply take it for granted that the 'choir' they are preaching to already fully believes that Jesus Christ is Lord - that he is God - the Son of God, consubstantial with the Father. (One in being: Father, Son, Holy Spirit - One God.) Christ is the full revelation of the divinity, the complete revelation of the Father. As stated in Colossians 2:9, "For in him dwells the whole fullness of the deity bodily." Sometimes - even frequently - that seems to get glossed over. Sadly, some priests seem to think the historical Jesus is much more important to discuss - more 'relevant' to the ordinary person in the pew. Sometimes it seems they may not even believe it themselves - that Christ is God - truly present...
Well catechized Catholics know that the Eucharist is the real Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Christ ... don't they?
Not long ago I mentioned an essay in Magnificat by Fr. Robert Barron. My point was obscured because I think a couple of people thought I was taking some sort issue with Barron's theology. People online do that when a popular Catholic personality is referenced - as if everything and everyone must be defended - and it's that type of dialogue online which gets to be frustrating and distracts one from more important issues.
The essay I referred to is in this month's Magnifcat and appears today. It's fine - nothing wrong with what Fr. Barron wrote - it's short, just a couple of paragraphs. Fr. Barron discusses Buddha, Mohammad, Confucius and compares them to Christ. Yes, Fr. Barron affirms the divinity of Christ, writing, "He is, in his own person, the divine life ..." That's true, that's good. It echoes St. Paul. Yet it seems to me it should be the the first and foremost distinction in an age marked by religious and moral syncretism. Of course Fr. Barron was writing for readers who already know that Christ is God - I'm not criticizing him (or other homilists) for what he said or neglected to say. I simply used the piece as an example. Some may read on where Fr. B. mentions Christ's "Body and Blood, which he invites them to consume." Well catechized Catholics know that the Eucharist is the real Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Christ ... don't they?
Frequently such snippets become part of a homily, they can be like an abridgement within a feverino. Likewise, the language of PBS specials can creep into a presentation - to avoid sounding 'overly pious' and to appeal to the more academic sensibilities of the hearers. For instance, how many times have you heard, "John records Jesus saying 'I Am' x number of times. 'I Am the vine' - he's comparing himself to God - he's using that language which gets the Pharisees so upset." First, who cares how many times something is repeated in Scripture - if Christ said it once, it should be enough. The homilist then goes on to call out the Pharisees of our day and sums it all up with some moral lesson telling us we have to be more welcoming or something. Yet - the most rapturous dimension of what Christ revealed in identifying himself as "I Am" is that he is God in whom dwells the fullness of the Divinity. That should 'slay us in the spirit' as it were. I mean, just think - we should have to tear ourselves away after Holy Communion if we could real-ize - for just an instant, the awesomeness of what we have consumed.
If people really believed Jesus Christ is God they would knock down the doors of Catholic churches not just for Mass but for prayer throughout all hours of the day and night. They would be like the Samaritan woman who ran to the townspeople - those from whom she hid and shied away from because of her lifestyle, and she told them to come meet the Christ.
You see, once we diminish the identity of Christ as the Son of God, we are left to view Him as simply a historical figure that was a nice guy... - Fr. Heilman
Sorry for the long intro, which isn't artfully written at all, but I wanted to share with you the following post by Fr. Richard Heilman on "Stealth Arianism". It expresses many of the ideas and thoughts floating around in my head, and my heart, for the past few months.
Stealth Arianism: The pervasive heresy of our times.
For the past two years I have been confiding to close friends my own growing sense that something is happening, that something unholy is stirring. I have spoken with others who have admitted the same suspicion. The way I have tried to describe it in the past is like the rumblings felt just before a volcano explodes.
Now, I find myself wondering if the eruption is upon us.
Many have pointed to “Modernism” as the heresy of our times. Modernism, while it takes many forms, is basically a break or rejection of our past in favor of all things new. And, while it seems evident that our Church is fully infected with the heresy of Modernism, I believe that it, too, is a symptom of this more fundamental threat.
What am I referring to? Something that impacts the very nature of human existence and the opportunity for our salvation. Lacking an official name, I call this monster, “Stealth Arianism.” Students of history know that the Arian heresy – the worst crisis in the Church before our present age – was rooted in the belief that Jesus Christ was merely a created being, not equal to God the Father. Stealth Arianism follows the same fatal error, but with a twist: while the Arians of the fourth century openly denied Christ’s divinity, today‘s Arians will profess Jesus as God, and yet through their actions deny it. In other words, they don’t even know they are heretics. Many even believe that they are doing God’s work in their attempts to elevate Christ’s humanity at the cost of His divinity.
You see, once we diminish the identity of Christ as the Son of God, we are left to view Him as simply a historical figure that was a nice guy, a respectable teacher and a good example for how we are to live. Religion is then reduced to a nice organization that does nice things for people as we seek a kind of psychotherapy for self-actualization. And this is not only not what He came to give us, but it’s something He made sure to leave no room for.
How do we recognize this pervasive Stealth Arianism?” - Finish reading here.
THAT'S IT! I think that's pretty much what I've been trying to articulate.
Thanks to Ray for the Fr. Heilman piece - providential timing.