Tuesday, March 27, 2012
TO HELL YOU SAY?
As the chapters are so brief and the questions very good with very tight answers, all the leader as to do is to read each question or explanation and then open it to discussion. Of course it does help to prepare ahead of time to bring other ideas to the discussion table as it concerns the content of this particular catechism which was written for children and to pique the religious imagination of children.
For example in the chapter on the resurrection of the body, respect for the human body even in death by treating it with dignity, giving a proper Christian burial, etc is very much needed in today's cremation culture and contempt for the human body in life and in death especially with our piercing and emerging tattooing culture, not to mention our face lift culture, tummy tucks, buttocks enhancement and so on.
What heaven is like, what hell is like and what purgatory is like also allows for more nuanced discussion of these realities and what these might be like. As adults and even as children we can understand the symbolism of fire in both a negative and positive way.
In our adult class on Sunday I was able to explain burning and fire in a more positive light as well as what God's love and justice for people in hell might be like. I'd like to think that in hell people are perfectly happy, because on earth they were partially happy with their deeds of darkness, the pleasure it brought their bodies and minds and that they loved hating God and neighbor. They loved not going to Mass but rather substituting other activities for it, such as working, sleeping in late or ignoring God and neighbor altogether. If that's what makes you happy on earth, you'll be perfectly happy in hell! Now that's another way to look at eternal damnation without it looking like God is getting even or people in heaven are singing nah, nah to those in hell to make them squirm even more, although if that happens, those in hell will like being taunted in that way by those hypocritical people in heaven--it gives them one more reason to prefer hell to heaven!
Using the Baltimore Catechism's chapter on personal judgement, purgatory, heaven and hell, how would you describe these in a more positive way in light of God's unconditional love and how can one view suffering in a positive way. Our culture today, especially our Christian culture and sadly to include many Catholics, no longer see suffering, even in purgatory, as a good.
On this chapter on the last things, even suffering is given a positive slant: "Love is purified, increased and perfected by suffering. This means not only bodily pain, but crosses of all kinds. God sends everyone all the sufferings they need on earth to cleanse, strengthen, and perfect their love. But most people waste their sufferings. They do not want them, complain about them, and try to escape them in every manner possible, even by committing sin. Because of this attitude, the fires of their sufferings are unable to burn away the selfishness from their love, so that it will be perfect. Then they must go to purgatory where they will have to suffer much more intensely than they would have if they had accepted the sufferings of earth. Their love is purified in purgatory...In purgatory, God's cleansing fires burn away the soul's selfishness till its love becomes perfect and it is ready to fly to heaven" Now if that isn't a discussion started (and it was on Sunday!) for understanding suffering in a more positive light, I don't know what is. This is especially true when we meet Christians who join denominations that promote the Gospel of prosperity and like Joel Osteen's version of Christianity avoids suffering at all costs!
And then the description of heaven in this chapter is very profound as well. I wonder if the majority of Catholics today could describe heaven this way:
"Heaven is the place, or state, of perfect happiness. Happiness comes from complete union with the one we love. In heaven, the saints share fully in God's life and love. They are perfectly united with Him and can never lose Him. Now at last they are perfectly free to love Him as they have desired. All their desires are satisfied, since these desires are all for the things of God. They have the companionship with Christ as man, with our Blessed Mother and all the angels and saints Everyone loves one another perfectly and all are completely and everlastingly happy in God!"
This description of heaven is written for children, but when I read it, it renews my desire to want to be there even more too. How basic is that!
Let's get back to the basics with our catechesis of children and adults, that combined with the recovery of the ethos of the Extraordinary Form of the Mass and also applied to the Ordinary Form of the Mass will do much to accomplish God's plan for the world, the salvation of our souls! Isn't that the reason for Christ and His Incarnation, life, passion, death, resurrection, ascension, giving of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and His return at the end of time? Is there any other religion that makes this evident? Let's not hide what we have under a bushel basket, but place it on a hill to be the Light of the world. All else in the Catholic Church flows from her ministry of saving souls for salvation begins in the here and now also and has ramifications for the lives we live, the love we express and the way we treat each other not only in the Church but in the social order including the ways governments act and assist in making people's lives what they should be. Let us remember that the way to salvation here on earth and finally in heaven is through God's gifts of faith, hope and love. These gifts are not imposed on us by God or else these wouldn't be gifts, but are given to us in order to be received by us. Thus the way to heaven is through faith and good works. Salvation hinges upon both, thus the Church's social teachings are very much tied into "saving one's soul" and "saving souls collectively." And all this from the Baltimore's Catechism used as a springboard to so much more!