Question

Good morning Father Angelo,
I would like to know your thoughts about an insistence, seen by me not always in a positive way, which I often find present in the preaching of priests and in the texts of various theologians.
This insistence is the relationship between God and man, or the unconditional acceptance that the latter must always have of his own creation.
This insistence emerges in many themes, including the original sin which is read as man’s presumption of wanting to be like God; the misfortunes and suffering to be accepted in silence without questioning God (see Job); the salvation that we can achieve only if we recognize and worship God as our creator and loving father … and so on.
Regardless of the profound sense of the doctrine, I find that the insistence on these concepts, perhaps through the excessive use of comparisons to a royal and a master type, risks making God rather unpleasant, even if you continue to preach that God is love,and his love is for us.  A little psychology has taught us how a “cumbersome”, though loving, parenting figure is not good for the growth of the child, who will soon demand more freedom for himself. On the other hand, preaching does not take seriously the very figure that God himself, especially with Jesus, uses for himself, that of “father”. If God is father and we are children, then one day his kingdom will also be ours (see parable of the merciful father). Therefore, as children we will grow up to be one day with Him, in Him, like Him. God all in all, as the Revelation concludes. Instead around I hear nothing but lawyers of God, defenders of his sovereignty, belittles of children, sinners and unhappy as not “submissive” to their creator. This insistence, understandable in past centuries, in our times is inadequate in showing the true face of God, father in reality all too discreet, if I am allowed to say it, and is in my opinion, one of the causes of the estrangement from God of the modern man.
Andrew.

 


 

Answer from the priest

Dear Andrea,
1. Consider that I don’t feel the accepting of our own creaturly status an insistence. Your email appears as an apology of the prodigal son, “God has given us freedom, let’s do what we want.” Or better, an apology for sin.

2. You write, “If God is father and we are children, then one day his kingdom will also be ours (see parable of the merciful father). Therefore, as children we will grow up, to be one day with Him, in Him, like Him. God all in all, as Revelation concludes ”.
Yes, “God in all” (1 Cor 15:28). But who are these all?

3. Please keep in mind what Revelation says just before the verse you have quoted?  It says, “For he must reign until he has placed all the enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death, because he subjected everything under his feet” (1 Cor 15,25-27).
Until he has placed all the enemies under his feet . Of course, the language is figurative, because God has no feet, but it is the language used by God himself.

4. Not recognizing our own creaturly status is the same as putting ourselves in God’s place.
This is the reality of the original sin and the reality of every other sin.
Listen to what the Catechism of the Catholic Church writes,“God created man in his image and established him in his friendship.  As a spiritual creature, man can live this friendship only in free submission to God. The prohibition against the eating “of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil”, spells this out “for in the day that you eat of it, you shall die” (Gen 2:17). “The tree of knowledge of good and evil” (Jn 2,17) symbolically evokes the insurmountable limit that man, being a creature, must freely recognize and respect with trust. Man is dependent on his Creator and subject to the laws of creation and to the moral norms that govern the use of freedom “(CCC 396).

5. God calls man to communion with himself. He indicated the ways of this Communion to him. They are his precepts, which are precepts of love, like those of a Father who says to his son, “If you want to reach this goal, this is the way. Otherwise you go astray and get hurt.”

6. Listen to what John XXIII says in the encyclical Mater et Magistra, addressed not only to Christians but to all men of good will, “Let men make all the technical and economic progress they can, there will be no peace nor justice in the world until they return to a sense of their dignity as creature and sons of God, who is the first and final cause of all created being. Separated from God a man is but a monster, in himself and toward others; for the right ordering of human society presupposes the right ordering of man’s conscience with God, who is Himself the source of all justice, truth and love” (MM215). And, “The most perniciously typical aspect of the modern era consists in the absurd attempt to reconstruct a solid and fruitful temporal order apart from God, who is, in fact, the only foundation on which it can endure. In seeking to enhance man’s greatness, men fondly imagine that they can do so by drying up the source from which it is nourish. They want, that is, to restrain and, if possible, to eliminate the soul’s upward surge toward God.  But  today’s experience of so much disillusionment and bloodshed only goes to confirm those words of Scripture:” Unless the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it.” (MM 217).

7. Let’s go back to the CCC. “Man, tempted by the devil, let his trust in his Creator die in his heart and, abusing his freedom, disobeyed God’s command. This is what man’s first sin consisted of. All subsequent sin would be a disobedience toward God and lack of trust in his goodness ” (CCC 397).  Also, “In that sin, man preferred himself to God, and by that very act scorned him. He chose himself against God, against the requirements of his own creaturely status and therefore against his own good . Constituted in a state of holiness, man was destined to be fully ‘divinized’ by God in glory. Seduced by the devil, he wanted to become ‘like God’, but ‘without God, before God, and not in accordance with God'” (CCC 398).
The CCC then talks about the disastrous effects of sin.  Also, read Numbers 399, 400 and 401.

8. You speak of a preaching that would present a cumbersome father figure, while advising some psychology. But is the cumbersome preaching the one that presents its mercy as the only attribute of God?

9. Equally, at the end of your email,”This insistence, understandable in past centuries, in our times is inadequate in showing the true face of God, in reality all too discreet, if am allowed to say it, and is in my opinion one of the causes of the estrangement from God of the modern man.”  Apart from the expression,”understandable in past centuries”, what does this mean? That people of the past were poor souls who would understand little or nothing and among them there were St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Albert the Great, St. Catherine of Siena? 

10. But what is more serious are the other statements.
First, you speak of inadequacy in showing the true face of God. But do you know the true face of God? Have you long contemplated it? Are you sure you know Him more than the Apostles, the Holy Fathers, the Holy Doctors? And also of the humble and simple but God-fearing people?

11. Then, “In my opinion, one of the causes of modern man’s estrangement from God.”
Regarding the causes that distance man from God, even what you call modern, hear what the Divine Revelation says, “Take no part in the fruitless works of darkness; rather expose them, for it is shameful even to mention the things done by them in secret (those who disobey God); but everything expose by the light become visible” (Eph 5: 11-12).

12. The Divine Revelation still says, “Light came into the world, but people preferred darkness to light, because their works were evil ” (Jn 3:19).
This is the explanation for the estrangement of men that Our Lord gave us.

13. And also added, “For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come toward the light, so that his works might not be exposed” (Jn 3:20).
Priests who listen to the confessions of those who convert, with perhaps a few rare exceptions, would say, “It is just like that. That’s it”.

With the hope that you can be proud of being a creature of God, made like a masterpiece, and with the hope that you can always walk only in the Way that was presented to you by Jesus Christ, I assure you of my prayer and I bless you.
Father Angelo

original post is available in Italian