Food for the Soul
A bi-weekly blog on the virtuous life. Written not by a master, but by a student, but one at least who knows whence sound teaching is found.
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI at work in his office.
I am a huge proponent of "smart" Christianity. My own personal journey to the priesthood, and now educational arena have been marked by my personal experience and conviction that not only does God exist, but he can be known. Faith is reasonable. It is not an exercise in emotivism. Nor is it some kind of blind hoping that there is some final happiness for good people. No. Christian faith is an intellectually and morally defensible way of living. The intellectual tradition present in Catholicism and other Christian traditions does, indeed, contain good thought and solid answers about some important human questions, such as the existence and nature of God, the purpose of human life, the question of evil and human suffering, the notions of justice and moral conduct, et cetera.
The problem, and all of us feel it at some level, is that their is a growing divide between faith and reason, and some may assert faith and science as well. In fact, many Christians wonder whether perhaps there are any good explanations for Christian beliefs at all. Is our faith capable of holding up to the objections of atheists and secularists? Are the Christian claims true? Is it possible to be a person who both believes in the inspiration and inerrancy of Sacred Scripture, as well as in the findings of empirical science and valid conclusions of philosophy?
No matter where you are on your journey of faith, it is important for us to look and investigate the reasonability of faith. Perhaps you yourself have doubts about the reality of the Christian claims and maintain a Christian connection merely because of the moral compass that it provides for your children. In any case, the video below between Dr. William Lane Craig and Bishop Robert Barron is well worth your time. It is chalk full of smart Christianity that if not complete in its dialogue provides a very smart introduction to a lot of important ideas and figures that can serve as a good guide to your own continuing education. It has been my experience that seeking to find greater understanding of one's faith is difficult and hard work at times. But it is worth it! If you are willing to enter into the great conversation about the meaning of Jesus Christ, which has been on-going since the 1st century AD, then I assure you, you may not find easy answers, but you will find compelling discourse and thought which can help you to set your faith on solid ground. The conversation between these two contemporary Christian thinkers is, I believe, worthwhile for their insights. I hope you'll set aside an evening to watch! The link is below.
Jesus decided to go to Galilee, and he found Philip. And the Jesus said to him, "Follow me." Now Phillip was from Bethsaida, the town of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael and told him, "We have found the one about whom Moses wrote in the law, and also the prophets, Jesus, son of Joseph, from Nazareth." But Nathanael said to him, "Can anything good come from Nazareth?" Phillip said to him, "Come and See." Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, "Here is a true child of Israel." There is no duplicity in him." Nathanael said to him, "How do you know me?" Jesus answered and said to him, "Before Philip called you, I saw you under the fig tree." Nathanael answered him, "Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel." Jesus answered and said to him, "Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than this." And he said to him, "Amen, Amen, I say to you, you will see the sky opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man." - John 1: 43-51
We are now well into the Christmas season, and we have had much time to pray with the rich Biblical stories that surround the birth of Christ. Through these Biblical accounts, God communicates to us not just historical knowledge about the events, but also information that gives us insight into the way that God works.
The Mystery of Christmas is the mystery of God's humility and unassuming approach to the redemption of the world. Think about it. The most important event in all of human history, happened in a manner mostly hidden from the eyes of the world. God became man through the faithful cooperation of Mary, a poor and unknown virgin from a small town in Israel. She was of the house of David, but she didn't live in a palace. She married a humble laborer. Jesus was born in the backwoods of Bethlehem, in a stable. The first to receive him were shepherds; not exactly dignitaries or men of influence.
We know very little of his first thirty years of life. He preached publicly for only three years; and this he did in an extremely small area of the world. The distance between Galilee and Jerusalem is only about 65 miles. Rome was the place to make waves if you wanted to influence the entire world at that time. He died totally defeated (apparently) on a cross: rejected and abandoned by most everyone. Then, when he rose from the dead, he only appeared to a few more than 500 people: The 500 brothers mentioned by St. Paul, the Apostles, and the women. In short, every aspect Christ's birth, life, ministry, death, resurrection, and now governance of the Church through the action of the Holy Spirit and the bishops is almost scandalously quiet and unexpectedly reserved to times, places, and people of seemingly little influence.
So when in today's Gospel, Nathanael, upon hearing that Philip has found the messiah for which everyone has been waiting, responds by asking if "anything good can come from Nazareth", he is pointing out in the most obvious terms the strangeness of the claim. It would be like telling you that I found the person who would completely and single-handedly bring peace to the world in... Carpio, or Deering.
When it comes to our school, I think we all can say we know or have heard from a few "Nathanaels", people who don't expect great things to come from Bishop Ryan. After all, as the smallest of the three Catholic High Schools in the diocese, we don't have enrollment like Light of Christ (St. Mary's) in Bismarck and we don't have a brand new school like Trinity in Dickinson. Locally, people may say we're just that old building on the base with outdated ideas about how the world works. We are too small and insignificant to be the locus of something truly great, right? Can anything good come from Bishop Ryan?
And yet, our students continue to be a beacon of light, accomplishing great things on large scales, and small.
Friends, I'd like us all to take a look at our attitude toward our school. Do we see the signs of God's presence and work within our halls? I do. I know that there are already wonderful things happening in our school, and I believe that this is just the beginning. I believe that we are on the verge of seeing God bring to fruition something beyond our expectations in our school. The Strategic Plan, and all the work we are doing to create an Educational Plan to define and implement Classical Catholic Education, are the cultivation of the soil so that the seeds of God's grace and our labor may grow up into the largest and most beautiful of all "educational trees".
So maybe the next time someone you know asks you if anything good can happen at Bishop Ryan, remind them that when God is involved, great things come from the most unexpected places... And they are even now.