Monday, February 8, 2016

Recognizing Hope and the Apostle's Creed

I apologize to my readers. My posting has been sporadic, but the thing about me and silence is that it usually means I am thinking deeply on something. Today,  you reap the harvest of those deep thoughts.

As I explained in my last post, I hadn't intended to turn Daily Dose of Hope into a book on the Rosary. It was just something I began to see clearly while writing about it. And I didn't intend to dive into Catholic Prayers, either, but you can't explain the Rosary without those prayers, and so here we are. About to get knee deep in talking about the meaning behind those Catholic Prayers. And we're starting with the Apostle's Creed because that's where the Rosary begins.


Recognizing Real Hope: The Apostle’s Creed


The Apostle’s Creed can be a challenge to recite for those who do not claim Catholicism as their faith or for those who do not believe in God. But it need not be a stumbling block to those who pursue hope if you look at it as a super condensed story containing important truths about hope and love.
Reciting the words frequently commits that story to memory and allows us to call it to mind during moments when the decision to love is especially difficult or we face deep discouragement and the temptation to quit on our journey. We do not have to believe the story is literal truth in order to gain the benefit, only to believe in the message behind the story.

I believe in God, the Father Almighty

“for God is love” – 1 John 4:8

We begin with this statement to acknowledge that Love is the supreme force that guides our lives and the purpose for which we live it. Love is the heart of the story we are about to tell, and love is the reason for its existence. Everything we choose to do is to be guided by love if we are to find and cling to real hope.

Creator of Heaven and Earth

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” – Genesis 1:1

We acknowledge that Love is what has brought us, and all things, into being both the perfect and the imperfect. Love brought us into this world that we might grow in love and one day reach perfection in it.

And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord

“You shall call his name Jesus, He will be great, and will be called Son of the Most High…and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever and of His kingdom there will be no end” – Luke 1:31-33

In this statement, we embrace an incredible and powerful idea: That same Love that created us and all things, in its full power and majesty, came to earth not merely to temporarily take our form but to become one of us. We accept the leadership of Love made man for our lives and take up His quest to love as our own.

Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit

And the angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you, therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God” – Luke 1:35

Love was not content to allow humanity to struggle and to suffer without guidance. Love took action, and that is what we are required to do, as well. Love acted on behalf of humanity by seeking out a young woman who would be willing to cooperate with Him in His quest to show humanity by example what it meant to love their neighbors as themselves.

Born of the Virgin Mary

Love could not become truly human without the consent of a woman. Anything else He could have done on His own, but for this to work, He didn’t want to just take on the appearance of humanity – he wanted to go through the experience of being human from conception through death. He needed to live it so that He could see first-hand what it meant to be human.

Mary believed in Love, and she consented to cooperate with Him in His mission. She allowed Love to be conceived in her womb and born from her body. And she mothered him as any mother would – patiently, tenderly caring for his many needs as he grew.

This partnership with Love allowed the two of them to do greater things than either of them could have accomplished on their own. Without humanity’s cooperation, Love could never have become truly one of us. His very nature would not allow Him to force her cooperation. She had to consent.

Without Love’s help, Mary could never have raised up their son to become the perfect example of a life lived in Love that humanity needed. Love made sure she had all that she needed to be able to raise their son to be the example of love the plan would require, protecting her from the stain of sin of any kind.

Suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried.

“Then Pilate took Jesus and scourged him.” – John 19:1
“When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his garments,” – John 19:23
“When Jesus had received the vinegar, he said, ‘It is finished’ and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit” – John 19:30
“They took the body of Jesus, and bound it in linen cloths with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews…since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.” – John 19:40, 42
In the middle of what has thus far been a beautiful story about Love seeing the needs of humanity and being motivated by that love to take action in cooperation with Mary to solve the problem comes a grim reminder of the realities of choosing this path. Love did not spare the Son he created nor will Love spare us from the pain, suffering, and death we will experience as we walk the path of Love.

Jesus did not have to die. He had the power to break free of his bonds at any time. He chose it, because it was the only way to answer the question men had been asking from time immemorial, “How far must I go in loving my neighbor as myself?”

His reply was in his example. All the way to the grave. It was important to the crucifixion’s meaning that the betrayal happened at the hands of all, but especially at the hands of his own. Judas betrayed him and Peter abandoned him. His own people chose to free a murderer rather than let him go.

He died for every single one of those people, the ones who stuck by his side and the ones who betrayed him, the ones who spat on him and the ones who scourged him, the ones who turned away and washed their hands of him, and the ones who turned away and watched, doing nothing, as it happened.

Some of his final words were,
“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” – Luke 23:34
   
Love hurts, and loving other people will not always lead to being loved in return. Sometimes it will lead to being hurt emotionally, physically, or mentally. We must love them enough to die for them anyway. We must love them enough to forgive them no matter how deep a pain they cause us, and to love them past their unlovable behavior.

Walking the path of Love, following its ways, does not lead us to an easy life. There will be suffering, there will be false judgments, there will be pain, there will be loss, and there will be times when it seems that it was all for nothing and hate has won.

He descended into Hell

For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit; in which also He went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison, who once were disobedient – 1 Peter 3:18-20

At this moment when all seems lost will come the final confrontation. It is this moment that everything we’ve been doing has been leading us toward. Jesus didn’t have to go down to Hell. He went, as we learn in 1 Peter 3, to free all those who were held captive by their past by offering them the chance to join Him.

Love made man was dead, but Love's power continued to act on behalf of all of humanity. This story reminds us that although love may appear to die, it is never truly dead. Even in death, love’s power continues to act in secret and unseen by the eyes of men to rescue those who are imprisoned by pain or grief or sorrow or anger.

And on the third day

In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ ”  Then they remembered his words.
– Luke 24:5-8
This final confrontation may seem to last forever, but its time is limited and will end. It is during this time that we rely on this story to provide us with real hope – the hope that things will, if we hang on, turn around and we will see Love’s triumph.

He rose again from the dead

“But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep. For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.” – 1 Corinthians 15:20-23

Love will triumph in the end. The pain, the suffering, the anguish, even the death we may suffer will not extinguish it. Everything we go through will be worth it in the end. And this story reminds us of that.

If we do not give up, if we persevere and push forward, Love will triumph and come back to Life more powerful than it ever was.

He ascended into Heaven

 Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, who also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.”- Acts 1:9-12
This story includes a promise: there is something greater than what earth has to offer and we can ascend to it. We can attain perfection of love, and when we live in Love perfectly, which is what Heaven is, we will experience a fullness of peace, a complete and perfect joy, and hope that never diminishes for it is replenished continuously by the presence of Love in our lives.

Is seated at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty

To sit at the right hand of a ruler was a sign that the leader both honored, respected, and trusted you. It was to allow you a share in that leadership.

When we allow Love to reign over our lives, we will attain the respect and honor of others and the blessings which Love has to offer will be ours to command.

From thence He shall come to judge the living and the dead

This part of the story reminds us that our time to choose to live a life of Love expires at the end of ours. We will be eternally judged by the rest of humanity by the choices and decisions we make today. It is up to us to choose our path.

I believe in the Holy Spirit

Love is not a passive force. It acts. The Holy Spirit is that motivation and drive to act on Love’s behalf, even and especially when it requires great risk to ourselves and those to whom we are close.

The Holy Catholic Church

The Holy Catholic Church is, in the story of the Apostle’s Creed, a body of people united in the service of Love. All those who gather together in the name of Love and who commit themselves to not only following the path of Love Incarnate but to helping others do the same make themselves members of the Body of Love made man and are sanctified – set apart – (Holy) for the purpose of Love are gathered in unity (the word Catholic means universal) in the Lord’s house (the word Church means Lord’s house).

We are called to join together by the example of Love, who joined together with Mary to accomplish together what they could not accomplish alone. Humanity needed a savior, Mary didn’t have the ability to save them. Humanity needed someone among them to be an example of what living in love really looked like, and Love wasn’t able to give them that alone. Together, they were able to accomplish the salvation of man where neither of them could have alone.

Love could have accomplished salvation another way, if Mary had not been willing, but this was the best way – the one that would save the most souls and rescue the most people.

The Communion of Saints

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, - Hebrews 12:1
Saints are all those of the past, present, and future whose lives are devoted to Love and who continue to offer their guidance and wisdom by their example as we seek to walk this path. Though their bodies may die, those souls who die in the arms of Love live on in Him and are able to continue to act to help us.

The Forgiveness of Sins

Sin is a failure to Love, but it is also an opportunity to learn more about Love and to see where we still need to grow in our capacity to Love. Life is a study in love, and we will each fail many, many times and many different ways before we are able to finally fully understand what it is to Love.

Forgiveness for these failures, both our own and those of others, is an essential ingredient to our ability to grow in love. We are encouraged to look with compassion on those who have fallen in their walk, and to try and lift them up and encourage them to try again even as we work to help them understand what caused them to stumble. In turn, they do the same for us.

The resurrection of the Body

This portion of the story may be hard for an atheist to believe, let alone to say, but bear with me. In reminding ourselves of the resurrection to come, we are reminding ourselves that every death brings new life. Everything that has been lost to us because we chose the path of Love will be restored to us in a more perfect form when Love reigns supreme.

The body dies to become new life in the plant that grows. The plant dies to become new life in the deer that grazes. The deer dies to become new life in the bear that eats it. All death brings new life, and that includes the death of our hopes and dreams.

And life everlasting

In this final statement, we are reminded that eventually all things pass away, but Love never dies. As long as we live in Love, our lives will continue, too.

Feedback Greatly Appreciated

I need your help with this. I need feedback from the atheists, the agnostics, the Catholics, the Protestants, and anyone else who wants to give me feedback on it. This is, after all, a very rough draft and I need your wisdom and guidance to see where I have succeeded and where I have failed. I promised you this would be an interactive story telling, so that requires your interaction to be effective. 

Please leave me your comments and let me know your thoughts. I look forward to hearing from you.


 

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