Silence

“Kichijiro wept softly; then he left the house. The priest had administered that sacrament that only the priest can administer. No doubt his fellow priests would condemn his act as sacrilege; but even if he was betraying them, he was not betraying his Lord. He loved him now in a different way from before. Everything that had taken place until now had been necessary to bring him to this love. ‘Even now I am the last priests in this land. But Our Lord was not silent. Even if he had been silent, my life until this day would have spoken of him.’” (P. 191)

  

The last paragraph of the novel is very touching and dramatic.  It touches on the two major burdens Sebastian Rodrigues faces.  He mainly battles with his faith.  Additionally, he struggles with both the Lord’s silence and the evolution of his faith.  Rodrigues tries to reconcile throughout the book with his struggle with the silence of the Lord.  While Rodrigues’ will is tested multiple times in the book, the reader sees Rodrigues encountering the Lord.  Rodrigues often wishes for God to show Himself.  Even more than Rodrigues wishes for God to show Himself, he wishes for God to justify and put an end to the suffering that has been done in his name.  In the end of Silence, Rodrigues realizes that God has been with him the entire time.  God is omnipresent and all knowing.  God does not just watch as his children suffer, but rather is with them through their agony and pain.  Through this insight, Rodrigues’ faith dramatically changes.

When Rodrigues attempts to make his way to Nagasaki, avoiding the authorities, alternately guided and betrayed by a Judas-like figure named Kichijiro, his questions mount, and where once he had found certainty, he increasingly hears only silence.  In the end of the novel, Rodrigues forgives Kichijiro, a character who frequently apostatizes and returns to the priest asking for his weakness to be forgiven.  Kichijiro is also interposed with the Biblical character of Judas as Father Rodrigues continually comes back to the question of what Christ meant when He told him to “go and do what you must do.”  Jesus had to allow Judas to exercise his moral agency.  Judas needed that freedom if he was to have any chance at being useful to God.  If we are to be judged by our works, as Jesus said, then we have to have the freedom to choose our works.  No one forced Judas to betray Jesus.  He wanted to.  Jesus wanted to ease the struggles of Judas by permitting him to betray him.  While the Lord struggled, Judas too also struggled.  Just like the forgiving of Judas by Jesus, Rodrigues forgives Kichijiro.  It did not matter to Rodrigues what the other priests thought of his decision, for Rodrigues knew that his choice is what God would have done.  Rodrigues accepts his faith and loves Christ even through the pain he had suffered.

Advertisements

Extra Credit Post: The Passion of the Christ

I watched the movie, Passion of the Christ.  Directed by the infamous Mel Gibson and made in 2004, this movie depicts the last twelve hours of the life of Jesus of Nazareth, on the day of his crucifixion in Jerusalem.  I found this movie extremely difficult to watch, as I was continually filled with emotions of sadness, anger, disbelief, and sorrow.  Having never seen this film before, I got to see what Jesus endured and the pain inflicted upon him, both physically and mentally.

This movie was a great interpretation of the story of Jesus for many reasons.  First, this moment touched upon so many key points in the last hours of Jesus’ life, such as the betrayal of Judas, the denial of Jesus by Peter three times, the Romans beating and whipping Jesus, Mary soaking up the blood of Jesus after his painful beating, the carrying of the heavy wooden cross by Jesus, Jesus’ hands nailed to the cross, and his crucifixion.  Second, this film truly depicted the people of the time, the Romans, Judas and Peter, and Jesus just as I had pictured them.  Lastly, this movie truly brought about strong emotions.  This story presented in this movie is really a heart wrenching and horrendously true account.  The Passion of the Christ is the Passion of Jesus largely according to the New Testament Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

Two moments that truly captivated me and moved me were when Mary soaked up the blood of Jesus on her cloth after his beating and when Pilate asks Jesus if he wants to be crucified or set free.  Both of these instances filled me with emotions.  Seeing Mary so fallen by the brutal beating of Jesus proves how wonderful and loving of a mother she really was.  It seemed to me that she wanted to preserve some part of him and through this action; she was able to do this.  On the other hand, seeing Pilate so conflicted with the decision he had to make was very interesting to me.  I never knew the great length he went to to try and get around Jesus dying.  Disappointingly, the crowd helps Pilate to make his decision: ordering the men to do as the crowd wishes.  I am Italian and knowing what the Romans did to Jesus truly upset me.  The fact that they were the first people to begin crucifixion also stuck with me as barbaric and cruel.

When this movie concluded, I sat for a while at my desk and pondered everything that I had just witnessed.  Watching this movie made me appreciate, even more, everything that Jesus did for man and creation, as he died for us to forgive our sins.  Jesus is the most special and important person in my life and I will always lead by example and do the right thing just as he would have done.

An Image of the Trinity: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit

A triangle is a common symbol used for the Trinity and Trinitarian icons.  The image (as pictured below) is representative of the Trinity, more specifically, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  As a Christian, I believe that the Trinity defines God as three persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  While each of the three persons is distinct, they are of one substance.  There is only one God, yet we experience God in three different ways, with three different relationships.  We experience God as Creator, or Father, who creates and gives life to everything in the world.  Secondly, we experience God as Jesus, or Son, who took on human flesh and shared in our human condition.  Lastly, we experience God as Spirit, who inspires us, gives us wisdom, and moves us to do good in God’s name.

Typically represented as either a white dove or flames, this image depicts the Holy Spirit as a white dove.  The Holy Spirit only appears three times, at the annunciation, baptism, and Pentecost of Jesus Christ.  Here, the dove is in the middle, or in between the Father and the Son, and flies above them.  The dove and the heads of both the Father and the Son form a triangle, the connection of three, the Trinity.

God, the Father, is typically represented as an older looking Jesus, with a white beard.  He represents kingship and power.  This icon depicts God in a simplistic way.  God is seen holding the tablets of the Ten Commandments, representative of the Old Testament.  Jesus is seen as a man in his thirties, with dark features and a beard.  He is holding Scripture, representative of the New Testament.  It is special to note that Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father.  Jesus echoes God’s every motion and movement in this icon, as they both have the same hand gesture, as a sign of peace, are dressed the same, and have their foot placement the same as well.

This image is a great image of the Trinity for it is a great representation of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  This icon truly depicts each person in a beautiful and special way, but in a way that is familiar to its’ viewer.  The Father is God, but God is not the Father.  The Father is revealed through the Son in the Holy Spirit.  He is not just the Father, Son, or the Holy Spirit, he is all three.  They are all related amongst one another.  They give themselves to one another.

St. Irenaeus: The First and Greatest Biblical Theologian

In Gerald O’Collins’s book, The Tripersonal God: Understanding and Interpreting the Trinity, I learned about the centrality of the Trinity to Christian faith.  In Chapter 5, The Trinity Before Nicaea, I found Irenaeus’s account and explanation of the Trinity most clear.  Though I do not relate with Irenaeus’s beliefs about the Trinity, I found his explanations and writings to be very fluid.  What I found fascinating was Irenaeus’ metaphor as the Son and Spirit as the two hands of God.  “The Word of God, present with his handiwork from the beginning, reveals the Father to all to whom he wills, when the Father will and how he wills.”

“The vital relevance of Trinitarian faith came strongly through Irenaeus’s writings.”  Irenaeus believed in the Trinitarian “rule of faith” shared by traditional Christians.  He emphasized faith in one God, the Father, who made the heaven and the earth and the seas and all things in them.  Irenaeues also views material and flesh as important.  He sees that salvation is mediated through flesh.  Irenaeus’ theology focuses mainly on God’s unity in contrast to the numerous emanated gods of Gnosticism.  Multiple “gods” cannot exist, for there is but One “Almighty”.  Irenaeus goes on to prove that God must be one.

On one hand Irenaeus repeatedly insists the Father, alone, is the one and only true God.  In Trinitarian theology, this simply does not work since the Father alone is not the only true God. Rather, the Father is true God along with the Son and the Holy Spirit.  On the other hand, Irenaeus does not mind telling us that his Son Jesus can be referred to as deity.  However, he says that the Scriptures also call Christians “God.”  Irenaeus does not believe that the Son is “God” by identity but is deity/divine by virtue of his divine origins in the Father as the Logos.  While the Trinitarian envisions “God” to be a three person being, Irenaeus envisions his God to be a one person being, out of whom came his Son, and therefore, Jesus is deity of the Supreme Deity.  In other words, there is only one true God and this God is the Father alone and the divinity of the Son is simply a derivative of the Father who is the Deity and for this reason only the Father is the one true God.  For Irenaeus, Jesus can be called “god/God” but only in the sense that he derives his power and immortal deity from the One and Only True God, the Father, and as such he is the Word of God, a manifestation of God, but is not himself ‘the One and Only True God.”  In this, Irenaeus speaks a common voice with all his early Christians brethren, Jesus is deity of The Deity, and the only true Deity was the Supreme God, the Father.  Irenaeus, along with all the early Christian witnesses, reveal that the early church of the first 250 years was most definitely not a church that worshiped a Trinitarian, “three in one,” God.

Faithfulness: From Paul’s Teachings in Romans 1-11 and In My Own Life

 The Book of Romans, specifically chapters 1-11, demonstrates that Paul’s desire to share the gospel came from his heart.  Paul was devoted to the Lord and loved Him.  Paul believed that both Jews and Gentiles could live “faithful” lives.  The contrast Paul is making is that anyone can say they have faith, but that does not mean that they are faithful.  It is not about an outward show of faith, but rather “being circumcised at heart” and having love and fidelity.  Paul does not agree that the law is a bad thing or that circumcision is a bad thing, he is just saying that these things alone do not make you righteous and just.  You have to have faith, specifically faithfulness.  Paul emphasizes faith over the law in Romans, as opposed to previous texts.  His claim is that faith precedes circumcision, not the other way around.  To Paul, faith will grant people righteousness.  Faith is someone’s response to God and response to revelation.  “Pistis”, the Greek word for “faith” or “faithfulness”, is the idea of being faithful and living faithfully.  My high school was named Oak Knoll School of the Holy Child, and we lived by the motto, “actions not words.”  Sometimes faith is not always about a person saying they have faith, but an outward show of having love and fidelity.  Being devoted and honoring Christ is a key to being faithful to him.  Faith is, in some sense, a gift from God.

In Chapter 10 of the Book of Romans, the word faith is taught.  By confessing with our mouth that Jesus Christ is Lord and by believing this in our hearts we are saved.  One can be justified and made righteous by faith in Jesus alone.  Faith comes by hearing this gospel message and responding to it.  Paul encourages us that “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”  The more one hears the Word of God, the more encouraged in faith one becomes.  “Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17).  We all have faith in something, but what our faith is depends on what or whom we are listening to.  Paul tells us that faith comes through hearing the Word of God.  Paul is talking about saving faith and this message of Christ is the only thing that can produce this type of faith.  One must hear it, receive it, believe it, and profess it.  This is “the word of faith we are proclaiming: if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:8, 10:9).

Most importantly, one needs the Word of God, planted in one’s heart, otherwise one will not grow in faith, because faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God (Romans 10:17).  Reading the Bible and hearing the Word is a wonderful adventure.  I pray that I take the seeds of life and start planting them.  I believe that Paul’s message of faithfulness illustrates that I have faith because of Jesus.  In Revelations 2:10, The Lord proclaims, “Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.”  I think that the key to living “faithful until death” is to be faithful one day at a time.  I will faithfully do my best to please and serve the Lord from now until the day I die.  If I am faithful one day at a time, each day I will put forth my faithfulness in the best fashion I can.  I believe that I am faithful, and thus, I am full of faith.  I find strength in being faithful to God because God is faithful in dealing with me.  I show my faithfulness to God by obeying him.  Jesus Christ is the supreme example of faithfulness.  He always did God’s Will and spoke God’s Words.  As we grow more faithful in one area of our life, that faithfulness can carry over into other areas.  Faithfulness toward God begins with faithfulness toward family and friends, faithfulness in our job and school, and faithfulness in financial dealings.  We can’t wait to show our faithfulness until someone trusts us with something big.  We must be faithful now with whatever has already been entrusted to us.  Joyce Myer, one of the world’s leading Biblical teachers, once said, “Faithfulness is not doing something right once but doing something right over and over and over and over.”

What Does It Mean to Be the Beloved Disciple Today?

Specifically, today, the beloved disciples of the Lord are the Disciples of Christ.  In other words, all Christ’s believers are his “beloved.”  Hence, all Christ’s believers are also his “disciples”.  If one were to break apart the two words, “beloved disciples,” one would find that they both mean different things, but together are united under the Lord.  A “beloved” person is one who is adored, much loved, respected, and cherished.  In other words, a beloved person is a loved person.  A “disciple” is a believer or follower, a person who holds something in high regard or has faith in something.  The words “beloved” and “disciple” are two very strong and important words in the Bible.  Together, a beloved disciple is a loved person who believes and follows the Lord and His Message.  To be beloved is to be a believer and to be a believer is to be a disciple.  The disciples are the messengers of the Lord.  “The beloved of the Lord rests in safety—the High God surrounds him all day long—the beloved rests between his shoulders” (Deuteronomy 33:12).

In the New Testament “beloved” used exclusively of Divine and Christian love, an affection begotten in the community of the new spiritual life in Christ.  Anyone who is deeply and personally committed to Jesus Christ by faith, who manifests the power and authority of our Lord, and who continues and extends His work, is a disciple.  In the Book of John, when Jesus is talking to the Jews who had believed in him, Jesus said, “If you continue in my word you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free” (John 8:31-32).  People who follow and preach the Word of the Lord and act according to Him will see themselves as modern “beloved disciples” and will discover how to allow God to establish a love relationship with Christ as the motivation for all they seek and do.  To be a disciple is to be like a teacher.  To be Christ’s disciple, then, is to strive to be like Him!

Deciding to be a disciple of Jesus is the most important, and the best decision you could make in your life.  The first thing you should do to be a disciple of Jesus is to accept him as your personal Lord and Savior.  To do this you have to accept the fact that you are a sinner and that Jesus came into this world to die for your sins.  Since Jesus came to this world to die for our sins, we are now cleansed of all our sins.  This gives us the opportunity to go to the place God has prepared for us in Heaven.  Imagine the love Jesus had for us, to die on the cross so that we, who are sinners, could go to Heaven.  For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, so that whoever believes in him shall nit perish but have eternal life.  So now, all we have to do is accept God into our lives.  After we accept God into our lives we have to live a life pleasing to God, as his disciples.  We should read the Bible everyday and see what God has to tell us. This will help us in our day-to-day lives and give us the strength to live as God’s disciples.  It will also help us to find out God’s plan in our lives, to live according to his will and to become more Christ like by doing what the Bible says.  To be a disciple of Jesus, we should also do whatever he has commanded us to do.  We should pray everyday thanking him for whatever he has given us, asking forgiveness for our sins and praying for others as well as ourselves.  We should be witnesses of Jesus.  To do this we have to be examples wherever we are.  We should always do whatever is right even though the others around us do the wrong thing.  This will enable the others to see Christ in us.  We should also tell others about Jesus, so that they also will be able to accept Jesus into their lives.

As a child, I heard the good news of the Lord and believed that it was the truth.  I believe that Christ is the redeemer, the forgiver, my personal savior, and Messiah.  Because of this, I am part of His beloved.  To be a disciple means that I will go towards and spread His Words and act Christ-like through my words, actions, and beliefs.  To be a Christian, is to live a life of good works.  I am a shining example of Christ as a disciple because I try to live a Christ-like life.

The Parable of the Lost Prodigal Son: Once Lost But Now Is Found

In the parable of the Lost Prodigal Son, the younger son is found by waiting, unlike the two parables before it which displayed the lost as being found by searching.  This parable is about a lost son who is found.  His father gives his son his inheritance and the son foolishly spends it.  The son returns and confesses to the father what he did.  Instead of his father scolding him, the father accepts what his son has did and lavishes him with a robe and they feast on a fat calf.  This son is rewarded for his wrongdoing and his older brother is left jealous, angry, and perplexed.  The moral of the story is that God rewards those who rebel and return.

This parable resonates with me because sometimes as children, we rebel against our parents, just like the younger son.  As an adult, I recognize that certain things in my past were not decisions well made and that I am happy that my parents forgave me for my mistakes, no matter how big or how small.  I appreciate my parents for always teaching me right and wrong and honoring my achievements and helping me to recognize my mistakes.  However, unlike the older brother in this story, my relationship with my parents is not based on work, but love.  On another note, I relate most with the father of this parable, for the father is kind and giving.  He tells his younger son that all that he has is his: “Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours” (Luke 15:31).  I see myself playing this role daily, because everyone I meet or know “like gold.”  I always put people before myself and give to them, not because I have to, but because I want to.  My parents have raised me to always do the right thing, and that sometimes, we may want to slip up, but it is up to our faith in God to steer us in the right direction.

In this story, the father is similar to God.  God does not give up on us when we start betraying him, and doing things that he would look at as wrong.  God will always forgive us if we have truly changed and regret what we have done.  The father forgives his son fully and looks past everything he has done because he loves him and sees that he has changed.  The father is merely rejoicing because his son lives, even though he thought he had died.

While the younger son had fallen out of favor with God, he proves that he saw the wrong in what he did and changes when he asks for forgiveness by his gracious father.  “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands” (15:18-19).  My parents have taught me many valuable lessons, but one in particular stands out to me in relation to this parable.  Forgiveness is difficult, but it is up to us to forgive people who truly change and want to be forgiven so that they can move past their mistake.  The father is righteous and giving, just like Our Almighty Father.  This parable has taught me to celebrate the milestones in a person’s life, actions that show growth and change, especially.  When someone is forgiven, it is up for that person to not make the same mistake twice, but rather show that they have changed.