Fr Rodney Kissinger, S.J.
“They begged him that they might touch only the tassel of his cloak; and as many as touched it were healed.” (Mark 6:53-56) What healed them was not their touch of the garment but their faith - their faith in the person of Jesus. They are teaching us a truth that is very much needed today. They are teaching us that the immediate object of faith is not a truth but a person. We first accept the person, and then we accept his testimony.
The immediate object of Christian faith is the person of Jesus Christ, true God and true man. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.” (John 3:16) Jesus is the final and definitive revelation of God. In Jesus, the medium is the message. “I am the way, the truth and the life.” (John 14:16) All the truths of Christianity are abstracted from the person and the life of Jesus. To be a Christian is to incarnate these abstractions into our own person so that once again Christianity is a person and the medium is the message.
The faith of Simon Peter was not in some abstract truth but in the person of Jesus. “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe that you are the holy one of God.” (John 6:68) The faith of Paul also was firmly rooted in the person of Jesus. “I have been crucified with Christ; yet, I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me; in so far as I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the son of God who has loved me and given himself up for me.” (Gal.2:19-20) The faith of the doubting Thomas was also in the person of Jesus, “My Lord and my God.” Our faith also is in the person of Jesus Christ, yesterday, today and the same forever.
Jesus commissioned his apostles, “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations…” (Matt.28:19) “It was at Antioch that the disciples were first called Christian.” (Acts 11:26) To be a Christian, therefore, is to be a disciple. A disciple is one who has a personal relationship with Jesus, a personal relationship of love. Mary is the first and the greatest disciple because she had the most intimate personal relationship of love with Jesus. The reason for and the purpose of the Catholic Church is to initiate, nourish and bring to fruition this intimate personal relationship of love with Jesus.
We are all familiar with the expression “Ipse Dixit” (Latin: He said it.) We learned in philosophy that “Ipse Dixit” is a no, no. In philosophy, we do not accept something simply because a certain person said it. We have to prove it by the use of reason.
But “Ipse Dixit” is the very heart of theology: “Jesus said it.” For example, we believe that the Eucharist is the Body and Blood of Jesus because Jesus said it. Not because we can make it seem to be understandable with such theological jargon as transubstantion, transfinalzation and transignification.
Theology is defined as “faith seeking understanding.” By that definition, “faith is seeking its destruction;” because in proportion as you understand, you do not need faith. So, if you want to understand, you do not really believe Jesus. You are saying, I believe Jesus - but I would just like to check it out. You are forgetting the famous statement by Thomas Aquinas: “To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible".
Faith begins with reason. Reason is the substratum of faith. Reason gives what is called the “signs of credibility.” For example, we have to have a reason why we believe in Jesus and not Mohamed, Confucius, or a Hindu god. But faith goes much further than reason. “Faith is reason in ecstasy”
Gnosticism, salvation through knowledge, is one of the oldest heresies in the Church and it is flourishing today.
What then should be the definition of theology? A good definition of theology would be: “faith seeking fulfillment in love.” Love is the essence of God. Since we are made in the image of God our essence is also love, to love and be loved. And this is reason why Jesus gave us the First and Second Commandments.
this is also the reason why love is the irrefutable, instantly verifiable
sign of Christian identity. “This is how all will know that
you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John
13: 35) “I give you a new commandment: love one another. As
I have loved you so you also should love one another.” (John
13: 34) This is how the first Christians were identified, “See
how they love one another.” (Tertullian, Apology, 39.6) By
this criterion of Jesus would I be recognized as a Christian?
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