The Bishop Speaks

Bishop Louis Vezelis O.F.M.

There are persons who still maintain that they are `Roman Catholics' while selectively denying doctrines of the Church on the pretext that "they have not been declared doctrines ex cathedra." That is, such persons will argue and reject whatever (in their estimation!) has not been declared using the extraordinary and solemn form of declaration.

Experience shows that there is little hope of reaching such obstinate and blind individuals. One can only point out what the Church teaches and warn the unprepared to avoid such individuals.

Having said this, let us proceed with our study of grace.

Because grace is a supernatural reality (as we shall see) there must be some way that it makes itself manifest in a concrete manner. After all, even our Lord used miracles to establish not only credibility in His authority, but also in the truth of His doctrines.

How, then, can we of the twentieth century judge whether or not someone is in the state of grace? How can we tell whether or not we are in the state of sanctifying grace?

In order to understand this mystery of grace, we need reason enlightened by faith. There are three basic signs (according to St. Bellarmine _ the seventh lesson for his feast): these signs of God's presence in the soul are three. They are the same as those required by the Church for the canonization of servants of God.

1. The writings of the author reveal the supernatural faith of the writer. They show the author's supernatural wisdom.

2. Miracles prove that the power of God is with the person and reveal his hope; reveal his desire for heaven and his faith in the power of prayer.

3. Heroic virtue which shows forth the person's charity. Supernatural sanctity is shown by the person's patience, love for enemies and obedience to the will of God.

St. Robert Bellarmine says there are three things in God: Wisdom, Power, and Goodness. And God fills His servants with power, wisdom and goodness. This is the reason why the Church judges these three points in the process of canonization of saints.

The Existence of the Mystical Union

The Christian is a human being incorporated into Christ.

Before presenting the evidence for this doctrine, let us examine each word so that there is no mistaking what they mean and what we understand by them.

"The Christian"- We do not say the `just' in order not to go beyond the text of Scripture. The texts of Holy Scripture that affirm our incorporation are clearly understood to refer to Christians, and only doubtfully to the Just.

Moreover, the use of the term `just' would prejudice the nature of this incorporation, because it would suggest that those who are not in the state of sanctifying grace are not incorporated.

By `Christian,' then, we are to understand the person who has received valid Baptism of water according to Canon 87: "Baptism of water constitutes a human being a person in the Church of Christ, with all the rights and duties of Christians."

"Is" _ This is a simple affirmation of the fact without seeking the principle nor the nature of this incorporation.

"Incorporated" _ This means a union with Christ; a union with a body. It means to become a member of a body of which Christ is the Head and which comprises other members. It follows, then, that the Christian is also united to other Christians who form a unity.

"Into Christ" _ This union is realized immediately with the humanity of Christ. We are united to Jesus Christ in His humanity. This is the term of our union.

This union is proper to Our Lord and not to the three Persons of the Blessed Trinity. Nevertheless, being united to Our Lord, we acquire a relationship with the other Persons because Christ is united to the other Persons.

Now here is where the theological notes are important. This doctrine is termed `de fide.'

This truth is `de fide' because it is clearly evidenced in Holy Scripture.

The Synoptics (SST. Matthew, Mark and Luke) insinuate two things: !. The idea of a kingdom: This is the central idea of the spirituality of the synoptics. This kingdom has nothing of this world; it is totally spiritual and opposed to Satan.

We already perceive here a certain affirmation implying a union among Christians with Christ and of Christians among themselves.

Then, too, they speak of the identity of Christ and the Christian. This identity may be expressed as follows: Everything that is done to another Christian is done to Christ.

We find examples of this in the following Scriptural texts:

Matthew: "He who receives you, receives me; and he who receives me, receives him who sent me. He who receives a prophet because he is a prophet, shall receive a prophet's reward; and he who receives a just man because he is a just man, shall receive a just man's reward. And whoever gives to one of these little ones but a cup of cold water to drink because he is a disciple, amen I say to you, he shall not lose his reward." (Matt. 10, 40-42).

I would like to digress for a moment here to emphasize the true text and meaning of this Scripture. It has become common place to leave out the important words "because he is a disciple" and pretend that Our Lord intended these words to embrace all men. This is not true. All men are not members of the Mystical Body of Jesus, and, therefore, whatever is done to another member is done to Christ.

Whatever is done to others who are not members of the Mystical Body of Jesus is not considered by Him as done to Him.

Let us continue.

We read in St. Luke: "He who hears you, hears me; and he who rejects you, rejects me; and he who rejects me, rejects him who sent me" (Luke 10, 16).

Again, we may turn to St. Matthew: "All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me." Jesus then gives this power to His Apostles and commands them to "Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and behold, I am with you all days, even unto the consummation of the world" (Matt. 28, 18-20).

St. Matthew also repeats Our Lord's words: "And whoever receives one such little child for my sake, receives me" (Matt. 18, 5).

The scene of the Last Judgment is most explicit on this point: "Amen I say to you, as long as you did it for one of these, the least of my brethren, you did it for me" (Matt. 25, 40).

St. John uses the allegory of the vine and branches to show the intimate union of the Christian with Christ: "I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine-dresser. Every branch in me that bears no fruit he will take away; and every branch that bears fruit he will cleanse, that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it remain on the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, he bears much fruit; for without me you can do nothing…." (St. John 15, 1ff).

St. Paul's testimony is equally important.

1. St. Paul's conversion on the road to Damascus: "Saul, Saul, why dost thou persecute me?" (Acts 9, 4). To persecute the Christian is to persecute Christ.

2. St. Paul uses the metaphor of the body. This metaphor is used by St. Paul many times in his Epistles. He writes: "For the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, many as they are, form one body, so also is it with Christ" (I Cor. 12, 12 ff).

After going into some detail, St. Paul points out that these different members ought to live in harmony and to help each other. Christ is the Head of this body. Under the influence of this Head, the members exercise their activity.

Jesus is the Head of this Body: "And all things he made subject under his feet, and him he gave as head over all the Church, which indeed is his body, the completion of him who fills all with all" (Eph. 1, 22-23).

"Again, he is the head of his body, the Church; he, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things he may have the first place" (Col. 1, 18).

The members of this Body are influenced in their activities by the Head:

"Rather are we to practice the truth in love, and so grow up in all things in him who is the head, Christ. For from him the whole body (being closely joined and knit together through every joint of the system according to the functioning in due measure of each single part) derives its increase to the building up of itself in love" (Eph. 4, 15-16).

There are many more Scriptural texts containing similar expressions which establish the truth of this union of the Christian and Christ.

Whenever St.Paul speaks of the `mystery,' he is referring to the design of God to save all mankind through its union with Jesus Christ. Of course, it is evident that not all will respond to God's will and grace.

3. "In Christ Jesus". This expression signifiys in its fullest sense that all of humanity and even all of creation is enclosed in Him. And this is the only way that God sees it and blesses it.

All the Epistles of St. Paul sing of this union. It is impossible to understand St. Paul unless one clearly comprehends the view St. Paul has of our incorporation into Christ with all its consequences.

All the Fathers of the Church are unanimous in holding this doctrine, following St. Paul in this. The letters of St. Ignatius of Antioch contain precise passages. So much so that we can conclude with St. Thomas that no one has ever been able to be saved without being united to Christ (See: IIIa, q.68, ad.1).

Mersch, a most reputable Roman Catholic theologian states without the least hesitation: "A Christian is a member of Christ. That is a resumé of Christianity. He must act as a member of Christ: this is a resumé of Christian asceticism, the code of all sanctity". (Morale et Corps Mystique, Paris 1937, p.105).

Union with Our Lord is the first gift of God which leads to all the other, and which commands all the human activity of Christ, so too for the Christian: The union with Christ is the first favor of God to man, whence flow all the supernatural privileges and obligations.

We have seen that the mystical union of the Christian (Roman Catholic) with Jesus Christ is a reality. This union exists. We will then consider how this is realized in the Christian.

Basically, there are three fundamental questions that can be asked of anything: Whether the thing exists? If it exists, how does it exist, by what means? And finally, why does it exist?

God does nothing without a specific reason. Everything God does has a purpose and a definite means to attain that purpose. These are the things we will examine so as to enrich our minds and hearts with greater understanding and deeper love for Jesus Christ and His Mystical Body _ the Roman Catholic Church.

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