Crossed The Tiber

An Evangelical Converts to Catholicism

My Photo
Location: Pennsylvania, United States

I was born into the Catholic faith. At 14, I was "born again" and found Jesus personally but lost His Church. After thirty years as an evangelical protestant, I have come full circle to find that He has been there all the time, in the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. I wish others to find the beauty and truth of the Catholic faith as I have found.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

The Incarnational Gift That Keeps on Giving, The Catholic Church

Christianity is incarnational. As John stated "the Word became flesh and dwelt among us." Paul further elaborates on this theme in his letter to the Phillipians.
"Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:
But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross."

Through salvation history God has shown us that He is incarnational. Since we as humans are made of this "stuff" called flesh, God uses the flesh and things of the earth to communicate His grace to us.
In direct opposition to Gnostic philosophy, we believe God created us and the things of earth, therefore the flesh is not evil but is good!

God came to earth in the flesh of a crying, wet and smelly baby. (Luke 2:7)
He uses water to wash away our sins through baptism (John 3:3-5 1Peter 3:21)
He uses the ears of men to hear our confession and the lips of man to offer us His absolution of our sins (John 20:23). (Matt 18:18)
He uses the elements of bread and wine to be changed into His body and blood. (John 6:53-57)
(Matt 26:26)
He uses the one-flesh union of a man and woman to confer the sacrament of marriage. (Matt 19:5-6)
He uses the laying on of hands to pass on His authority to men which began with Peter and apostles. (Matt 16:18-19)
He used sinful men to start a visible Church that the gates of hell would not prevail against.

As a Catholic, the belief in a church that is one, holy, catholic and apostolic is deeply rooted in this incarnational nature and activity of God. Once I was able to understand that God pours out His grace through the "stuff of earth," it became easier for me to accept that He has founded His church on men and continues to infuse His grace through this visible structure, made of..... dare I say, flesh.

Perhaps the reason that some rail against the organization and very visible structure of the Catholic Church is their inability to appreciate this overarching incarnational aspect of Christianity.
As a non-Catholic for many years, I was probably more aligned with a gnostic versus incarnational view of Christianity. I had believed that Christ started a church but thought it was invisible. I thought of it more as a spiritual entity vs. a physical, living, breathing and durable structure of laity, priests, bishops lead by Christ's vicar, the pope. The Catholic belief that Jesus started His Church on Peter and continues it through apostolic succession is a direct extension of this incarnational view of how God delivers His grace to and through man.

"Where the bishop appears, there let the people be, just as where Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church." Ignatius of Antioch (student of St. John the Apostle), 107 A.D., Letter to the Smyrnaeans.


Blogger Prodigal Daughter said...

The meaning and purpose of our earthly life was something I struggled with for years. My evangelical Christian theology told me that this life was just a "stopping point" on the way to heaven. As a re-vert to Catholicism, I still believe (as the Church teaches) that heaven is my goal and destiny, yet I am so thrilled about the fact that Christ's incarnation gives meaning to my life on earth. As a person who struggles with depression, there was no worse task master than that belief system. Telling a depressed person “Don’t worry about it, the next 60 years of your life are just a temporary existence in preparation for something much better” is like telling a National Guard Reservist, “Boot camp is basically a joke and all the months of training you go through won’t be of any benefit to you when you’re actually on the battlefield.”

Now as a Catholic, I see that everything that happens in my daily existence has meaning and purpose beyond measure. All of the hours spent at work, the endless loads of laundry and dishes, the holidays spent with family and friends, the good works done in Christ's name and especially the suffering offered to Him for the salvation of souls, all have beauty and meaning and purpose. The God of the universe humbled himself and became like us so that we could spend our lives becoming like Him. So the sojourn on this earth becomes much more than a stopping point for receiving a "once and done salvation experience," but a beautiful journey in preparation for our eternal life beyond the veil. As an evangelical I often prayed that God would help me to acknowledge him throughout the day. I would find myself going through the day with barely a thought of God until I arrived at an evening worship service or Bible study. As a Catholic, I am able to give every moment as a prayer a praise or a fragrant offering. His earthly life has given meaning to my earthly life. I used to hear the phrase “Catholicism is a works mentality,” and now I see that it is true. I rejoice that my earthly existence is not just a temporary stopping point on the way to heaven but a beautiful gift redeemed by the incarnation!

November 26, 2006 11:37 AM  
Blogger Tiber Jumper said...

Thanks Proddy~

"The God of the universe humbled himself and became like us so that we could spend our lives becoming like Him."

So beautifully put!

Also regarding the trials of life on this side of the veil:
John Paul 2 said that Christ not only redeemded us by His suffering, but redeemed our earthly suffering as well, so it could be used by God for our sanctification as well as for other members of the body of Christ.

"Catholicism has a works mentality"
Yeah I think St. Paul started that when he told us to work out our salvation with fear and trembling.

November 26, 2006 11:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very well said - incarnational, I need to remember that term...I've written about it before, but didn't use the termonology, and it so perfectly describes it!

November 26, 2006 5:42 PM  
Blogger Tiber Jumper said...

Thanks Steph!
I believe that the lack of incarnational thinking is what eventually brought many of us converts /reverts back home. We longed and craved the Sacraments but didn't know it!
God bless

November 26, 2006 9:27 PM  
Anonymous Julie said...

That IS very well said, Prodigal Daughter. I have, in my mind, tried to separate faith from works, to see how the idea fits. But with faith, there are certain feelings and effects that stem from that faith, certain actions. It permeates your life. And when I offer myself to Christ to do His will, I am a much happier person. And also, I have started attending a regular Holy Hour. I heard Father Benedict Groeschel say on TV that when you spend a regular Holy Hour with Christ, you will change. It is true! My outlook is different, my mood, my feeling is more joyful and I feel stronger.
Certainly, if I have faith, but there is no indication of that, no way someone can tell me from a non-believer, what good is that? If I have plenty, and let the poor starve, what good is that?

November 27, 2006 9:21 PM  

Post a Comment