Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam

Essential thinking for reading Catholics.

Friday, April 28, 2006

The Catechism, Part 3 of ?

Been a while, huh?

Q. Did God have a beginning?
A. God had no beginning; He always was and always will be.

There has never been a time when we could say there was no God. A time when there was no Heaven? Sure! Earth? Absolutely! Angels? Why not. People? Obviously. But a time when there was no God? Nuh-uh. Go back eleventy gazillion years before the Creation, before the Big Bang, before ANYTHING and God was existing. God had no beginning and will have no end. To have a beginning means SOMETHING began God, and if God is It, then He can't have been made. That'd make Him a creature and not a Creator. And that's just crazy. Why this is so is a Mystery. (More on that later.)

Q. Where is God?
A. God is everywhere.

"Everywhere" does not mean all spread out like the air we breathe, but "whole and entire" in every individual place. Still, there is only one God, not one little god for every place. How this works is something we can't completely cram into our heads, because this is also--surprise!--a mystery. Here's a simple sort of example. If we ring a REALLY loud bell, everyone in that city will hear the bell; not that the sound is "divided" so that each person hearing it gets a little chunk of sound, but each person hears the whole ringing, just like if only one person was there to hear the bell. The bell doesn't sound differently because there were 10 or 10 gazillion people. Why? There are not as many rings as there are people hearing but somehow everyone hears the whole ringing.

Q. Does God see us?
A. God sees us and watches over us.

Check this out. "Watches" means He protects, rewards or punishes us. He watches us constantly. In fact, He not only watches us, but keeps us alive. Sure, God could have just created us and then never bothered with us again. However, if He had done that, we would have dropped back again into nothing. This is because Gods preserves us every NANOSECOND of our lives. We cannot so much as blink without God. Think of a car. No, the color doesn't matter. If a car is needed to run reliably, you just can't start it up and then leave it entirely to its own devices. You have to check the coolant, change the oil, add fuel, be mindful of overheating or strange sounds, basically, keep a constant watch on the car so that nothing interferes with its operation. (My wife tried it the other way with our previous minivan, which is why it's no longer our minivan.)

Anyway. Not only does God also watch His creatures, but also provides for them. Because we depend so much upon Him, it pretty stupid to sin against Him, to offend Him, and tempt Him, right? OK. Example time. Say you go rock climbing. I'm not entirely sure why people do this, but play along. Now, while you are hanging wa-a-a-a-ay up there, your life is entirely in the hands of your friends holding the rope. You may not think so, but you are in danger. While in that danger isn't it spectacularly stupid to insult those people holding the rope by which you are hanging? Same way with God. While we live on earth we all hang off the edge of a really tall cliff. We'll call that Eternity. God holds us by a rope (we'll call that our life) and when He decides, the rope drops and we fall into into eternity. Now, if we have been so incredibly unwise as to offend Him or insult Him, and that rope drops when we are in mortal sin then, well, let's just say it'll be Hell when we land.

Q. Does God know all things?
A. God knows all things, even our most secret thoughts, words, and actions.

I mean, DUH. Of course God "knows all things:" First, God is infinitely wise, and if He he didn't know something he couldn't be INFINITELY wise. Second, because God is everywhere, He sees and hears everything. Nothing can hide from God's view, nothing can prevent God from hearing. When you look at it that way, it surely becomes a LOT harder to sin, dunnit? As I type this, God is right here, looking at me type and listening to the keyboard clicking and clacking. How would you behave if you knew your boss, your parents, your neighbors, or your friends were watching? Would you want them to know that you were thinking sinful thoughts, and planning to do sinful things? Of course not.

Think of St. John's Gospel (3:19-20): "And this is the judgment: because the light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than the light: for their works were evil. For every one that doth evil hateth the light, and cometh not to the light, that his works may not be reproved." (Yeah, I like the "thees" and the "thous." Sue me.)

Not only will God see and know about this omission, action or thought; but, by His doing so will all the angels and saints and, most of all, your guardian angel will be greatly upset by it. Oh, yeah. To top it all off, whatever your sin was/is? It will be revealed to the whole world on the last day, and your friends, parents, and everyone will know what it was you did. Nice.

Q. Is God just, holy, and merciful?
A. God is all just, all holy, all merciful, because He is infinitely perfect.

"All just" means He is the most just. "Just" means to give to every person what belongs to that person--a reward or a punishment if it's deserved. "Holy" means totally good. "Merciful" means compassionate and forgiving and less severe than strict justice would require. In a trial a just judge listens to both sides, and then makes a ruling exactly in accordance with the verdict. If a judge issues more or less punishment than is deserved, or takes a bribe or is otherwise unfair, then he is an unjust judge.

The way the judge could be merciful is this way: The law says that for this crime the criminal can be sent to prison for a term for between five and ten years. The judge could smack him with the full ten years the law allows and he'd still be just. Now...suppose the judge believed the criminal didn't know the law; or that it was his first offense, or other extenuating circumstances the judge could be merciful and sentence him for the shortest term the law says.

But...if the judge dismissed every prisoner, no matter how guilty, without punishment, he would not be merciful...he'd be unjust. The same way, God is merciful to sinners and punishes them less than He could, if he wanted to use strict justice. If God allowed every sinner to go without any punishment--as some people say God should do, by having no Hell--then God would not be just. Just as God is an Infinite Being, all His perfections must be infinite; that is, He must be as infinitely just as He is infinitely merciful, true, wise, or powerful.

The thing of it is that God has promised to punish sin; and because He is infinitely true, He must keep His promise.

More later!