Thanks for asking!
I think we would say that God did “build in” certain things: the laws of physics, the complexity and intelligibility of the universe, our ability to reason, etc.
By “His Law” I’m assuming you mean moral law. The Church does have the concept of Natural Law, which basically argues that through our reason, human societies will always tend to value the good and hold moral precepts against bad behavior.
Murder is bad, stealing is bad, share with others, hospitality, etc. These are things that don’t really need God in order for us to naturally conclude they are right or wrong (similar to Kantianism).
However, this only goes so far, as much of Christianity goes deeper. It states that love is dying to yourself for the sake of the other, turning the other cheek, loving your enemies, praying for those who persecute you, etc. These inclinations are generally not always found in nature (save maybe dying for others), and rely upon divine revelation for us to have learned them (or an incredibly insightful man I suppose).
Now, if we could conclusively prove that God exists through his signatures in the physical world, it would remove our free will, as we would not be free to reject God. If we are not free to reject God, it makes God a rapist who forces us into relationship with Him.
But because God is love, and an integral component of love is the freedom to choose that love; God can never completely reveal Himself to us without compromising our freedom, and thus our ability to love. So we are left to follow the breadcrumbs so to say. In this world, we will not encounter anything which will force us to believe that God must exist, as God desires the greater good of us freely choosing to love Him, rather than loving Him because “we may as well if He exists.”
As to your last point regarding Mary, and why God did not create (or recreate) everyone perfectly and give the world only those who would use their freedom for good… I have this answer:
Suffering in this world, caused by the freely chosen immoral acts of others, is a sort of crucible for the soul.
Encountering this suffering forces us to react to it. Will we respond by giving of ourselves, or respond by giving into evil?
I often think of Mother Teresa encountering the radical poverty of the slums. Had she not encountered this evil, would she have risen to the spiritual heights that she did? I don’t think so.
Further, if suffering did not exist, what is to say that Mother Teresa would even have left Albania? Maybe God would not even have given us the soul of Mother Teresa, because her soul, not being able to give of itself to others, would not find fulfillment, and her soul would fall into despair? In this despair she may have committed a sin, and thus God would not have created her free soul that would not sin in this hypothetical world.
Now let us imagine the soul of Hitler. He never encounters the horrors of WWI or Depression Era Germany, he doesn’t become radicalized, and he lives his life as an Augustus Gloop merrily drinking beer and eating sausages in Germany his whole life time.
In our hypothetical world, God would give us this soul of Hitler. Wouldn’t that be a sad thing? That the world receives the soul of Hitler because he wouldn’t use it for evil (because he never faced evil), and never would be graced by the soul of Mother Teresa (because she never faced evil)?
So I would reply that a world populated by free souls that would never sin is not as great as we imagine it would be. Rather it would be bland and full of people who are neither greatly good nor greatly evil. This lukewarmness is unattractive in the life of love.
God wants our full and whole selves, molded through the crucible of this suffering world. Anything less would be God creating a world of souls akin to paint by color rather than Rembrandt.
— Bishop of San Diego, Robert Brom.
Therefore, God exists.
— Judge Andrew Napolitano
Prayer in many respects can be the most challenging aspect of being a Christian today. This is unfortunate because prayer is how we communicate and share in the love that God has for us. It is easy to believe that God loves us, but what does this mean if we never take the time to contemplate God’s love, or thank God for His goodness? A marriage in which husband and wife never speak to one another is on very rocky ground, similarly, how will we ever grow in our relationship with God if we do not take the time to speak with Him?
Just as different couples communicate their love to one another in different ways, and those methods may evolve over the course of the relationship; so to our prayer life with God can be expressed in an infinite variety of ways. Sometimes we may think that we are “bothering” God with our prayer, or that God does not care about us. Is a mother “bothered” when her child wants to talk to her or ask for her help? Is a father “bothered” when he is asked for advice by a son or daughter? Of course not! How much more so for God, who created each of us uniquely and loved us into being! God created the whole universe with each of us in mind, and He could not have imagined a universe without you! What an amazing gift that we have, to be able to share in the life that God has given to each one of us, and to share our joy, sorrow, and presence with our Creator.
We believe in an all good, all powerful, all knowing God. Yet in life, we often come face to face with evil and suffering. We often question how God could allow this suffering to come upon us. Suffering can lead us to doubt God or even reject Him. Let us now examine the problem of evil, and propose some responses which may help make sense of suffering in our world.
The problem of evil starts with what is known as the “Inconsistent Triad,” which consists of three points. 1) God is all powerful and can eliminate evil. 2) God is all loving and wants to eliminate evil. 3) Evil exists. As we can see, given the first two statements, there should not be evil in the world. From human experience though, we know there is evil and suffering in our world. This has led us to wrestle with the question of God, and how God, if He does exist, could allow evil in the world. Attempts to rationalize the existence of God and the existence of evil are known as theodicies.
The first theodicy is known as the Evil as Privation theodicy. In effect, this theodicy says that evil does not really exist. Just as “cold” is really just the absence of heat, “evil” is said to be the absence of good.
The second theodicy is known as the Immortality theodicy. This theory holds that even though we may suffer on earth, we will be rewarded and consoled in Heaven. Advocates of this theory will say that the evil that we endure must be looked at in context of eternity. We often indirectly use this theodicy when someone passes away. We might say “at least they are no longer suffering”, or “They’re with God now”, it is our way of making sense of their pain by comparing it to the eternal joy of Heaven.
The third theodicy is the Counterpart theodicy. This states that without evil there would also be no good, or that it would be unrecognizable. Children may get sick, but just because they get sick it does not mean we should not have children. Dogs bite humans, but the world is still better off having dogs than not having dogs. Some have said that suffering in this world will allow us to accept the pure love offered in the next, because we will know what lack of love feels like.
The fourth theodicy is very common, and is known as the Soul-making theodicy. We have all experienced suffering in our life that looking back has made us stronger people. This theodicy explains that suffering is something that brings about a greater good by making us stronger than we would be without suffering.
The most common theodicy is the Freewill theodicy. This theodicy states that God has given us freewill, in which to love Him (because love requires a free act of the will); but a side effect of freewill is that it can be used for evil purposes. Advocates say that a world with freewill and evil is better than a world without freewill and no evil.
“Where would I be today without my crosses? What knowledge and wisdom would I lack without the challenges and difficulties that caused me to ask questions and passionately seek answers? When you suffer, platitudes aren’t enough, slogans won’t do. You have to go deeper, search for real answers and often learn that there are no simple answers. Suffering also unlocks an acceptance of paradox and an appreciation that all is not as it seems and some of God’s greater gifts come in mighty strange packages. Suffering can also teach silence and waiting. Great wisdom is found in these virtues. Suffering bestows insight, trust and serene peace. Only after years of suffering could Joseph stand before his criminal brothers and say, “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.” (Gen 50:20). Suffering does that, it teaches the deeper things, the harder things, the better things.” –Msgr. Charles Pope
We hear people say “That’s a sin!” or “You’re a sinner!” often in our culture. We throw the word “sin” around and apply it to all sorts of situations and people we do not really know or fully understand. That’s a shame, because sin and morality in the Catholic tradition is an incredibly complex field where “one size fits all” does not apply. Catholics think that we know all about sin, after all we are often defined by our “Catholic guilt”. Do we really know though, what sin actually is?
Before we talk directly about sin, it is important to first remember that we are beings created in love, and called to live in relationship with one another. We have a relationship with God, others, ourselves, and our environment. We have all experienced ways in which we have harmed or done injustice within those relationships. Sometimes the harm done is relatively light and can be fixed, sometimes it is very grave and parties are seriously wounded. An immoral action is any action (or lack of action) in which we harm our relationship with God, by harming ourselves, others, or the environment. An example of an immoral action would be car theft, or an act of violence. An example of immoral omission (refusing to act) could be neglecting an elderly relative or a child.
The first thing to remember when talking about morality is that everything must be viewed in context. Ten people could perform the same action, and it could be a sin for some but not for others. Sin in the Catholic tradition requires three conditions:
1) Full freedom to choose the action
2) Full knowledge that the action is immoral
3) The action itself must actually be immoral
“I want to spend my heaven in doing good on earth” –St. Therese of Lisieux
One of the great things about being Catholic is that we believe that those who have passed away in Christ are still very much alive. People in Heaven are not passively “floating in the clouds,” rather they behold and worship God, and lift their prayers to Him. Everyone that is in Heaven is a saint. Within that communion of saints, there are some whom the Church has beatified or canonized. These are people who generally lived a life of heroic virtue, and the Church holds them up as role models to help and guide us on our faith journey.
Do Catholics worship saints? No, worship belongs solely to God. The respect and honor we show to saints is known as veneration. We venerate the saints in the same way we venerate those we love, or objects which represent something important (such as a flag, tombstone, a battlefield, or a picture of a loved one). In this way, if a Catholic kisses a statue or a religious artifact, they are venerating what the object represents, not the object itself. This is an important distinction, because in pagan religions people would worship the idols themselves as gods, hence the prohibition against idol worship in the Bible. Many people have pictures of loved ones who have passed on in their homes. No one would say that we are “worshipping” them; however on their birthdays, important anniversaries, or when we are going through a tough time, we may focus on that picture and even hold it close to us. This is not worship, it attests to the fact that the grave cannot stop love from being exchanged between those on earth and in those Heaven.
“Our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee, O Lord” –St. Augustine
Our culture loves the idea of an afterlife. The idea of a “better place” after our lives on earth has captivated the human imagination since the dawn of man. Images of the afterlife are everywhere in popular culture; people laying on clouds, tiny demons with pitch forks, St. Peter and the Pearly Gates, are scenes we all recognize among many others. Unfortunately though the popular culture does not reflect what the Church actually believes about the afterlife. We have many misconceptions which can make the afterlife seem contradictory to what we believe, leading to doubt and cynicism. I have found that the best way to think of “Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory” is to instead think of, “Love, the absence of Love, and learning to love.”
What is Heaven (Love)? One of the first things to acknowledge is that Heaven is beyond our capacity to describe it. Scripture has referred to it as a banquet, a wedding feast, the heavenly Jerusalem, among other images. All of these descriptions give us an idea of what Heaven is, but they do not completely give us the essence of what it truly is. Heaven at its core is life in communion with the Trinity, which is the ultimate expression of total self giving love. This is why we say that God is Love. “How great will your glory and happiness be, to be allowed to see God, to be honored with sharing the joy of salvation and eternal light with Christ your Lord and God… to delight in the joy of immortality in the Kingdom of heaven with the righteous and God’s friends” –St. Cyprian. Heaven is not as the world portrays it, passively lying on a cloud while playing a harp; rather in Heaven we will find our ultimate fulfillment and joy. This joy will never subside, never fade away, and never be taken away. We will be enraptured into the mystery of Love as we see God face to face.
“Adam and Eve” EDIT: Click the “Read More” link and it formats more correctly
God forms man from the clay in the ground, breathes (ruah) life [Gen 2:7]
· God is intimately involved in the creation of mankind
“It is not good for man to be alone” [Gen 2:18] à we are made to live in relationship
A. God brings animals to man, and the man starts naming the animals, but none are a suitable partner.
God creates woman
A. Why does God take a rib from the man? The rib is “close to heart,” In the original language the word “rib” or “side” comes from “friend” “partner”.
B. Woman as the crown of creation, being last means you are the most important in Semitic culture. This is why we show up “fashionably late” to social gatherings, and also why the priest processes in “last” during Mass. In no way does the woman being created after man make her “inferior” to him.
C. When man sees the woman he proclaims, “This one, at last, is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.” Man and woman were made for one another, and have a natural attraction to one another.
My friend Hosanna from high school is a spoken word artist and makes a living performing her art in christian churches. I think this video is fantastic for all Christians!
Give her a listen, she is awesome!
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