In conjunction with the Year of Faith, Today’s Catholic is putting together a series of articles by Fr Felix Au on the Apostles’ Creed, which is the symbol of our faith.
I believe in God
We believe in God in order to come to know him. Faith is necessary starting point for us to have a relationship with God. Think of faith as the doorway into God’s household, or the gate through which we pass into the Kingdom of God.
Christianity is a monotheistic religion, which means we believe in one God. This is affirmed both in the Old and New Testaments: “… I am God and there is no other” (Is 45:22). In Mk 12:29 Jesus says that God is “the one Lord”. More than 3,500 years ago, God told Moses his divine name: “I am” (Ex 3:14). This mysterious name, “I am” contains the truth that God is the perfection of being – the perfection of reality and existence. God is without beginning or end. He is eternal – he exists outside time. Everything that exists depends on God for its existence.
God has revealed that his very being is truth and love. This means God is trustworthy. He cannot lie, deceive or be deceived. God not only loves but is love itself. This means that God cannot but love. He is all-merciful and forgiving because his nature is love.
While we believe that God is one, we also believe Jesus to be the Lord, and that the Holy Spirit is the Lord and Giver of life. Christian faith professes that in the one God there is a Trinity of persons: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. This astonishing truth comes not from human reflection through the powers of reason alone, but from God’s self-disclosure. We believe in the Trinity because we rely on God’s testimony, who speaks only what is true.
Metaphorically, we can call God Father because he is the origin of everything that exists. But God is not only Father because of his act of creation, but in his very nature. Unlike a man who only becomes a father after he has a child, God is eternally Father. There was never a time when God was not Father. But to be Father means to have a Son. St Augustine who lived in the fourth century tried explaining it this way: God is Love. Love does not exist by itself but exists between persons in relationship. In God are relations – The Father who loves the Son and the Son who loves the Father. The Holy Spirit is love that exists between the Father and the Son. The Trinity is central in the mystery of the Christian faith and Christian life.
When we say that God is Almighty, we mean that he can do whatever he wills. This does not mean he is capricious and fickle – that he blesses and inflicts evil according to his whims and fancies. God wills only what is good, true and loving as this is his nature. God can never do evil or lie as this goes against his nature.
It is a wonderful mystery that God reveals his almighty power in the voluntary humiliation suffered by Jesus and in his resurrection. This should change the way we understand what is true strength and power. If we believe God can do all things, then we must ever give up on others or ourselves because he can convert anyone from sin and live in friendship with him.
God is creator of all things. He creates out of love because love is creative. Think about the love between a married couple that bears children as the fruits of the couple’s love for one another. This is but a reflection of the fruitful love of God. The purpose of God creates is so that creatures may share in his goodness and glory.
Though God is never the cause of evil, we may ask why he permits physical and moral evils in this world. Evil is a mystery that we can only begin to understand in the light of Jesus’ death and resurrection. In faith we believe that God would not permit evil if he was not able to cause a good to come from that very evil, by ways that we shall fully know only in eternal life.
Heaven and Earth
God created the angels as purely spiritual beings who glorify him and serve his saving plans for the rest of God’s creation. We venerate angels who help the Church in her journey towards God and who protect every man and woman.
Man stands above the rest of God’s creation as his crowning glory. Genesis 1:27 tells us that God created man in his own image. This means that of all visible creatures, only man is able to know and love his creator.
Man is both a bodily and spiritual being. Two natures, physical and spiritual, are not united in man. Rather the union of body and spirit forms the single human nature. God offers salvation to the whole man – body and spirit. We must therefore not despise or overlook the value of our bodily life. We are to regard the human body ‘as good and hold it in honour since God has created it and will raise it up on the Last Day’. (GS 14.1)
To be human means to be either male or female. Though their different sexes make them different in physical and emotional make up, men and women share equal dignity.
The Word of God tells us God created woman to be a helper fit for man. A man or a woman is not half-made or incomplete. A man is a complete person, as is a woman. However, in God’s design, there is a beautiful communion of persons when a man and woman are joined in marriage. Marriage reflects the complementarity of the male and female sex. In marriage, husband and wife become one flesh, reflecting God’s unitive love. When they raise a family they reflect God’s fruitful love.
We cannot begin to understand sin and evil unless we look at these realities through the eyes of faith. Man was created to have an intimate relationship with God. Sin is the rejection of God and rebellion against him. God gives us the gift of freedom in order that we be capable of loving him and one another. Love can only be exercised in freedom. Sin is the abuse of this freedom.
Satan or the devil and other demons are fallen angels. They too were given the freedom to love and submit to God but had instead chosen to oppose God. The angels’ sin is unforgivable not because God’s mercy is inadequate but because the angels will never alter their choice to rebel against God.
God created man good and in right relationship with him and with the rest of creation. In the Garden of Eden, God commanded that man must not eat ‘of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.’ (Gen 2:17) This tree is the symbol for the limits that man must not cross. To not eat of this tree means to recognise his dependence on God, to live according to the laws of creation and the moral standards proper to the gift freedom.
However, Adam and Eve disobeyed God. Man was created to share in God’s own glory and to live in communion with him. However, seduced by the devil, man had chosen to ‘be like God’, but ‘without God, before God, and not in accordance with God.’ This is the original sin.
As a result of this original sin, death enters human history. We see that in the history of Israel – they rebelled and abandoned God repeatedly. We also find this in our own experience – our frequent falls into sin and inclination to give in to temptations.
Original sin is different from personal sin in that it is contracted, not committed – it is a state, not an act. Original sin has left every man and woman with a wounded human nature which is inclined to sin and evil and often struggles in order to do what is good and right. This following is an example sometimes used to try to explain how original sin is contracted. When a king, as head of a nation, declares war against another nation, all the people of his country suffer the effect of being at war even if they did not personally decide to go to war.
Original sin is an essential truth of our faith. Because Adam is the first man, his personal sin affects all human beings. But just as Adam is the source of the entrance of sin into the world, Jesus Christ is the source of abundant grace for all of humanity. The victory that Christ won over sin has given us far greater blessings that those which sin had taken from us: ‘where sin increased, grace abounded all the more’ (Rom 5:20).
Today’s Catholic Vol.24 No.11 March 2013