Friday, September 10, 2004

Pulcher Poeta

by Yohanes Manhitu

Pulcher poeta, creatura litterarum.
Vita dulcis tua gratia plena est.
Ex anima sancta tua scribes.
Vitae lumen donant verba tua.

Pulcher poeta, amo poemata tua.
Sine verba vivere non possum.
Ex anima tua bibo aquam pacis.
Vitam meam pingunt verba tua.
It needs to be repeated...

While I am in favor of fighting terrorism and threats to human life, I am not among those who wish that our government would wage a holy war against all Muslims at home and abroad. Certainly, Muslim terrorists use a perverted religiosity to attack innocent people, but the Muslims with whom I live and work do not. They are as American as I am, recalling a time in which Catholics were not accorded much respect as a group. History has certainly shown the folly of marking large groups of people for suppression or internment based on religion, race, or ethnicity.

I do believe that the Catholic Church possesses the fullness of revealed truth, born in the person of Jesus Christ, but I do not seek to dishonor anything that is intrinsically true in Islam, nor do I dishonor any man's sincere desire to know God. I have enjoyed many discussions with Muslims centering on the nature of what is true, what is virtue, and what is good. I don't always agree - I don't have to agree, but I anticipate many more discussions. I think the conciliar document Nostra Aetate bears a re-read.
The Catholic Church rejects nothing that is true and holy in these [non-Christian] religions. She regards with sincere reverence those ways of conduct and of life, those precepts and teachings which, though differing in many aspects from the ones she holds and sets forth, nonetheless often reflect a ray of that Truth which enlightens all men. Indeed, she proclaims, and ever must proclaim Christ "the way, the truth, and the life" (John 14:6), in whom men may find the fullness of religious life, in whom God has reconciled all things to Himself.

The Church, therefore, exhorts her sons, that through dialogue and collaboration with the followers of other religions, carried out with prudence and love and in witness to the Christian faith and life, they recognize, preserve and promote the good things, spiritual and moral, as well as the socio-cultural values found among these men.
Muslims are certainly not a unified religious body, and I'd be lying if I said I understood Islam, but it pains me to see Christians who believe they understand Islam simply by throwing around verses from the Koran. I see atheists do the very same thing with our own Scriptures to reach a similar end. I think we can act with a little more reflection and a little more depth than that. I believe that is what the conciliar statement is asking us to do.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

The Authority of the Keys

Isaiah 22:20-23
In that day I will call my servant Eliakim the son of Hilkiah, and I will clothe him with your robe, and will bind your girdle on him, and will commit your authority to his hand; and he shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and to the house of Judah. And I will place on his shoulder the key of the house of David; he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open. And I will fasten him like a peg in a sure place, and he will become a throne of honor to his father's house.
In the Old Testament, the key represents an authoritative office in the king's palace. He who held the key represented the king and acted with the king's authority. Here, a day is described when Eliakim will succeed Shebna, the master of the palace, and Eliakim will be given the key of the house of David. The language of opening and shutting, or in other words, binding and loosing refers to one who can authoritatively declare an act forbidden or permissible.

Not surprisingly, we see this same language and imagery used in the Gospel of Matthew 16:17-19 with reference to the Apostle Peter:
And Jesus answered him, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."
In light of the passage from Isaiah, Christ, the King of Kings, bestows an authoritative office on Peter, represented by the keys. He who holds the keys of the kingdom of heaven acts with the authority of heaven to teach and govern and guide. Along with the powerful key imagery, Christ also uses the language of binding and loosing, which in this context can be taken to mean the ability to teach authoritatively. The authority of binding and loosing is also given to the other apostles in the same Gospel in 18:15-18:
If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
From the context of the verse, this may be understood to be the ability to excommunicate, that is, to declare one outside of the community. However, the office and authority granted with the keys belongs to Peter and to those who succeed him in his office.


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