Letter 23: Typology: Israel’s Rescue from Egypt and Our Salvation Process

 

My Son,

 

Salvation is a process. You are saved, you are being saved, and you will be saved. This was more difficult for me to grasp before I started thinking about the Old Testament story of the Exodus.

The Israelites were slaves in Egypt. God saved them from this bondage by opening the Red Sea and leading the Israelites across the waters on dry ground. They reached the other side and were free from slavery. They were saved! Their salvation, however, was not complete. They were in the wilderness and not yet in the Promised Land. Their time in the desert was a time of testing where they had to learn to obey and trust God. God supplied them manna from heaven and the law to sustain and guide them on their journey toward the Promised Land. Unfortunately, not all the Israelites who had crossed the Red Sea and had been saved from the Egyptians got to experience the fulfillment of their salvation. Some even got swallowed up by the earth and died. Others were able to enter the Promised Land many years later. The Israelites, while in the wilderness, could say they were saved from slavery by God through the crossing of the Red Sea; they were being saved in the wilderness through his manna and law; and they would hope to be saved and granted passage into the Promised Land.

Similarly, we Christians have been saved. We have been freed from our slavery to sin and have been brought into the kingdom of light. God, by his grace saved us, and just as the Israelites passed through the Red Sea, we passed through the waters of our Baptism. We have been saved! But have we already reached the fulfillment of this salvation? In our current predicament, it seems we are more like the Israelites in the wilderness, waiting for the day we get new resurrected bodies and get to see God face to face. In the wilderness, God is saving us by his grace. He has given us the true manna, Jesus Christ, in the Sacrament of the Eucharist. He has given us his Word, Jesus Christ, and sustains us with his Teachings. As Christians we can aptly say, that by God’s grace, “We have been saved, we are being saved, and by God’s grace, we will be saved.”

May you recognize your redemption through dying and rising with Christ in Baptism. May you be sustained on your pilgrimage toward the Promised Land through Christ’s manifest Presence in the Eucharist and in his Word. And may you one day experience the fullness of salvation, which is seeing God face to face!

 

Love,

Dad

Letter 22: Typology: Mary as the New Eve and the New Ark of the Covenant

 

My Son,

 

I remember my biggest stumbling block to joining the Catholic Church was their devotion to Mary. I didn’t get that whole “Mary thing.” I then learned the method of reading Scripture that the apostles used called typology, which illuminated my understanding of Mary. Adam was a type of Christ as shown in Romans 5:14, “Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sins were not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.” If Christ is the New Adam, then who is the New Eve? I learned that the early Church viewed Mary as the New Eve as well as the Church, since the Church was the new Bride of Christ and Mary was the Exemplar of the Church. Unlike Eve, who had rejected the word and will of God, Mary stands in stark contrast when she says to the angel, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38). When Jesus and Mary interact at the wedding feast of Cana in John 2, Jesus specifically calls Mary “woman” in a deliberate fashion, to make it obvious to John’s readers that Mary is the new “woman” at the beginning of God’s new creation in Christ.

Adam had named the “woman” Eve because she was the mother of all the living (Genesis 3:20). Mary, the New Eve, is the mother of all those born again to everlasting life. The Church is the Body of Christ, so Christ’s mother becomes our own mother. At the foot of the cross, Jesus tells John to behold his mother and John takes her into his home (John 19:27). John was the only apostle at the cross, thus representing what all true disciples ought to do, which is to follow Jesus to Calvary with Mary, behold her as our Mother, and take her into our homes.

My favorite Marian typological connection is found in Luke 1:39-45 when she visits her cousin Elizabeth and John the Baptist leaps in Elizabeth’s womb. This “leaping” is the same “leaping” that David did before the Ark of the Covenant when it was brought into Zion in 2 Samuel 6:12-15. Elizabeth’s reaction in saying, “and why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (Luke 1:42) is the same reaction David had with the Ark of the Covenant in 2 Samuel 6:9. Just as the Ark held the law, Aaron’s priestly rod, and manna from heaven, so Mary held in her womb the New Covenant law, the new priesthood, and the new manna from heaven: Jesus. Do you remember how much the Israelites honored the old Ark of the Covenant, my son? How much more should we honor Mary, the New Ark of the Covenant?

 

“Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant was seen within his temple; and there were flashes of lightning, loud noises, peals of thunder, an earthquake, and heavy hail. And a great portent appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars” (Revelation 11:19-12:1).

 

Love,

Dad

Letter 21: Typology: A Key to Unlocking Scripture

My Son,

 

Typology “discerns in God’s works of the Old Covenant prefigurations of what he accomplished in the fullness of time in the person of his incarnate Son. Christians therefore read the Old Testament in light of Christ crucified and risen” (CCC, 128, 129). Typology is the idea that Old Testament figures and stories are “types” pointing toward their New Testament fulfillments. St. Augustine once said, “the New Testament lies hidden in the Old and the Old Testament is unveiled in the New” (CCC, 129). Seeing the Scriptures typologically will make them come alive for you, my son. Every story in the Old Testament becomes an exciting exploration into the mystery of Christ. When you stumble across a connection between the Old and New Testaments, a certain sense of enlightenment will pierce your mind.

One of Jesus’s first actions upon rising from the dead occurred on the road to Emmaus when he taught two of his disciples “beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:27). Here are a few quick snapshots of types of Christ found in the Old Testament. Instead of going into detail on each type, I’m writing this list to ignite your imagination so that you can then reflect on these stories and make more connections yourself.

 

  • Christ is the New Adam
    • Adam was the first man and sinned against God by eating the fruit from the tree.
    • Jesus was the firstborn of all creation and perfectly obeyed God in dying on a tree. He died for the sins of the world in order that people may be born again and produce good fruit.
  • Christ is the New Abel
    • Abel offered an acceptable offering to God and was martyred by his brother for it.
    • Jesus offered himself as an offering perfectly pleasing to God and he was crucified by his “brothers” (humanity).
  • Christ is the New Noah
    • Noah built an Ark in obedience to God in order to save humanity from the flood.
    • Jesus built the Church to be the New Ark by which humanity is saved through Christ from the wrath of God.
  • Christ is the New Abraham
    • Abraham is the father of many nations by whom God promised to bless all the nations of the world.
    • Jesus is the fulfillment of this promise and is the blessing to all nations.
  • Christ is the New Isaac
    • Isaac was offered on the altar by his father Abraham. Before Abraham sacrificed his son God provided a ram in his place.
    • Jesus was offered on the altar of the cross by his Father in our place.
  • Christ is the New Jacob
    • Jacob had a vision of a ladder from heaven with angels ascending and descending on it.
    • Jesus told Nathan, “You will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man” (John 1:51).
  • Christ is the New Melchizedek
    • Melchizedek was the king of Salem (peace) who was also a priest who offered bread and wine to God.
    • Jesus is the King of Peace and is the new High Priest who offers himself to us through the bread and wine that become his Body and Blood in the Eucharistic sacrifice.
  • Christ is the New Joseph
    • Joseph was betrayed by his brothers, sent to prison though innocent, rose from the prison to be Pharaoh’s right-hand ruler, and preserved Israel from famine.
    • Jesus was betrayed by his people, sent to the cross though innocent, rose from the dead and is seated at the right hand of the Father, and is preserving his Church to the end of days.
  • Christ is the New Moses
    • Moses led the people out of Egypt.
    • Jesus delivered us from the kingdom of darkness and into the kingdom of light.
  • Christ is the New Israel
    • Israel was given the law, wandered in the wilderness for 40 years, then was brought to the promised land.
    • Jesus gave the new law in the Sermon on the Mount, fasted and went through temptation for 40 days in the wilderness, and ascended into the Promised Land (heaven).
  • Christ is the New Joshua
    • Joshua led the people of Israel out of the wilderness and into the promised land. He subdued the enemies of Israel after entering the promised land.
    • Jesus leads the Church through the cross and into his Resurrection. His enemies are constantly made a footstool under his feet.
  • Christ is the New David
    • David established the Kingdom of Israel.
    • Jesus established the Kingdom of God on earth.
  • Christ is the New Solomon
    • Solomon built the Temple of the Lord
    • Jesus built his Church, the new Temple of the Lord.

 

May this brief glimpse into the typology of Christ spark your desire to seek Christ in all of the Scriptures.

 

Love,

Dad

Letter 20: The Centrality of Jesus Christ

My Son,

 

Jesus is central to every aspect of the Catholic Church; this is what attracted me most. While there are many examples of this, I want to focus on the Mass and the Catechism.

When I first attended Mass in my mid-twenties, the very first thing that struck me about the liturgy was how the climax of the service was not in someone’s preaching, but in the Eucharist. The preaching is meant to lead into the climax of Communion. It is experiencing the true presence of Jesus Christ and communing with him. Wow! Before I became Catholic, I had heard a charismatic leader say that the church needs to be centered on the actual presence of God more than anything else. Little did I know that the Catholic Church has been centering the Mass on the literal presence of Christ for 2000 years.

Similarly, the Catechism exhibits the Christ’s central position in the Church. Catechesis refers to instruction or teaching. “‘At the heart of catechesis we find, in essence, a Person, the Person of Jesus of Nazareth, the only Son from the Father… who suffered and died for us and who now, after rising, is living with us forever.’ To catechize is ‘to reveal in the Person of Christ the whole of God’s eternal design reaching fulfillment in that Person. It is to seek to understand the meaning of Christ’s actions and words and of the signs worked by him.’ Catechesis aims at putting ‘people…in communion with Jesus Christ: only he can lead us to the love of the Father in the Spirit and make us share in the life of the Holy Trinity’” (CCC, 426).

Even when talking about other topics, the Catechism has a way of centering everything on the Person of Jesus. For example, when discussing the Fall and the origin of evil the Catechism says in paragraph 385, “We must therefore approach the question of the origin of evil by fixing the eyes of our faith on him who alone is its conqueror.”

There are many quotes from the Catechism that I could share in reference to the centrality of Jesus Christ. I have not even scratched the surface of this topic, but it’s been burning in me for quite some time so I just had to write this letter to you. May you come to see Jesus at the center of all the Church’s life and teaching. May you center your whole self on the person of Jesus Christ.

 

Love,

Dad

Letter 19: Wooed Into Catholicism

My Son,

 

My whole self — mind, body, and spirit — was drawn toward the Catholic Church. To explain how God wooed me into the Church, here I give you a brief list of the main factors that influenced my conversion:

 

  • Centrality of Jesus Christ: In Mass through the Eucharist and in the theology of the Church as articulated in the Catechism.

 

  • Love for Scripture: In every Mass I get to hear the Word of God from an Old Testament, New Testament, and Gospel reading.

 

  • Liturgy of the Hours: Through this scheduled prayer life of the Church, we fulfill our call to pray without ceasing. It also teaches us to pray the Scriptures, which I love!

 

  • Humility of the Church: Instead of the service being an entertaining show, Mass is a time where we humble ourselves under the Word of God and even kneel before his Altar.

 

  • The First Church: If I had lived during the first 1,000 years of Christianity I would have been Catholic along with every Believer because the Catholic Church was essentially the only Church.

 

  • The Church affirms rather than avoids history: the Creeds, Saints, Councils, etc. continue to be valued and built upon in the Catholic Church.

 

  • Apostolic Succession: Jesus appointed the Apostles, with Peter as the visible head, to hold the keys and be the foundation of the Church, with Christ Jesus as the Cornerstone and supreme head. Peter and the other Apostles passed down that authority to their successors and the line continues, unbroken to this day. Therefore, the Catholic Church can rightfully claim that it is the Church that Jesus started.

 

  • Authority of Interpretation: Anyone, including Satan, can twist the Scriptures to say anything they want. How do we know if we are seeing Scripture through the proper lens? If two people, both filled with the Holy Spirit and having the same Scriptures, come up with two different interpretations, how do we know who is right? The Church’s Magisterium, along with the Pope speaking ex cathedra (i.e. from the authority of his office as successor of St. Peter), gives us the infallible interpretation as built upon the original deposit of faith handed on from the apostles. We can rest in the fact that the Holy Spirit is guiding the Church into all Truth.

 

  • Typology (seeing Old Testament characters and stories as prefigurements of Christ): This method of reading the Scriptures has unlocked the Bible for me in profound ways. It’s the method Jesus, in Luke 24, and the Apostle Paul, in Romans 5, and other Apostles used to explain the Scriptures, and it is the method the Catholic Church utilizes in her teaching.

 

  • Either/Or vs. Both/And: The Protestant mindset can tend toward a more “either/or” perspective on issues; it’s either Scripture or Tradition. The Catholic mindset tends toward a more “both/and” approach; the Sacraments are both signs and instruments of grace.

 

  • Seven Sacraments: Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist, Reconciliation/Penance, Anointing of the Sick, Holy Orders, and Matrimony. Growing up, I didn’t even hear the word “sacrament,” let alone lived with a sacramental worldview. Seeing the world sacramentally, where everything has meaning in Christ, enlivens the world.

 

  • Early Church Fathers: The Apostolic Fathers of the Church (those before the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD) are particularly interesting to me. St. Ignatius, a co-worker and disciple of the Apostle John talks about the Eucharist truly being the Flesh and Blood of Jesus and about the structure of the Church made up of bishops, presbyters (elders/priests), and deacons. St. Clement, St. Polycarp (my patron saint), and St. Irenaeus also affirm the catholicity of the early Church.

 

  • The Church Calendar: Celebrating the Saints, Martyrs, special seasons and feasts help in journeying through the life of Jesus on a yearly basis.

 

  • Global Community: I get to be a part of the catholic (universal) Church that encompasses every culture and is unified in its mission to bring the Gospel to all people.

 

  • Relationship with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is at the core of Catholic teaching.

 

The list could go on and on, but these are some of my favorite things about the Catholic Church. At the end of the day, the Lord has used many things to draw me into the Church. His leading has been the main impetus for my conversion to Catholicism.

 

Love,

Dad

Letter 18: Rumors about Catholics

My Son,

 

Before becoming Catholic, I had a lot of prejudices against Catholics. These prejudices were derived from rumors and ignorance rather than actual experience. My conversion process was one of untangling these prejudices and watching my pre-conceived notions of Catholicism being dismantled. The rumors that I heard growing up as a Protestant are the same rumors I hear others saying now. Here are three of those rumors and my responses to them:

 

RUMOR: Catholics don’t read the Bible

ANSWER: The Bible was formed and agreed upon by the Catholic Church. Apart from the Catholic Church, nobody would have the full Bible. Catholics not only read the Bible, but they listen to the Bible being read at every Mass, and pray the Bible through the Mass and in the Liturgy of the Hours. In a three-year period, if a Catholic goes to Daily Mass, he or she will have listened to a vast majority of the Bible. When I first went to Mass, I was shocked at how much Scripture I heard. In fact, I heard more Scripture throughout the Liturgy than I ever heard at any Bible church, Baptist church, non-denominational church, or any other church growing up. The Scriptures are central to the Catholic Church: “In Sacred Scripture, the Church constantly finds her nourishment and her strength, for she welcomes it not as a human word, ‘but as what it really is, the word of God’” (CCC, 104).

 

RUMOR: Catholics worship Mary

ANSWER: Catholics worship God alone. We show great honor and respect to Our Lady, but we do not worship her. Most Christians believe in asking others to pray for them, especially those they believe are close to God. Asking Mary, or any of the saints, to pray for us is similar, except that they are in heaven and are even closer to God than we can imagine. The prayer of a righteous person has great power in its effects (James 5:16). Praying, or asking someone for something, is greatly different than offering sacrifice and worshipping someone. Thus we can pray to Mary, but those requests are not acts of worship, but acts of veneration and honor. “‘All generations will call me blessed’: ‘The Church’s devotion to the Blessed Virgin is intrinsic to Christian worship.’ The Church rightly honors ‘the Blessed Virgin with special devotion. From the most ancient times the Blessed Virgin has been honored with the title of ‘Mother of God,’ to whose protection the faithful fly in all their dangers and needs…This very special devotion … differs essentially from the adoration which is given to the incarnate Word and equally to the Father and the Holy Spirit, and greatly fosters this adoration’” (CCC, 971). While we do not worship Mary, we go to Mary for help so that our worship to God is magnified all the more.

 

RUMOR: Catholics don’t believe in having a personal relationship with Christ

ANSWER: When I first read the Catechism of the Catholic Church, I was shocked to find that the very first paragraph talked about being in relationship with God. I had thought Catholicism was just a dead, empty, ritualistic religion, but instead, I found that the centerpiece of the Catholic Church’s teaching was about being in relationship with the Holy Trinity: “In his Son and through him, he invites men to become, in the Holy Spirit, his adopted children and thus heirs of his blessed life” (CCC, 1). Far from being dead doctrine, the Catholic Church aims all her teachings toward love: “The whole concern of doctrine and its teaching must be directed to the love that never ends. Whether something is proposed for belief, for hope or for action, the love of our Lord must always be made accessible, so that anyone can see that all the works of perfect Christian virtue spring from love and have no other objective than to arrive at love” (CCC, 25). Not only does the Church’s teaching bear witness to having a personal relationship with Christ, but also in practice, the Church epitomizes what it means to have a personal relationship with Christ through the Holy Eucharist. The Church becomes one flesh with Christ in the Eucharist. We get to actually partake of Christ’s very own Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. The very person of Jesus, enters our body and becomes one with us in a very real way. It doesn’t get much more personal than that!

 

I know there are many other rumors floating around, but I wanted to go over these three, because these were the ones that most gripped me when I found out the truth. Let us continue to correct those who promote these rumors with gentleness and respect (2 Timothy 2: 25, 1 Peter 3:15) so that they also might come to experience Christ more profoundly through his Holy Catholic Church.

 

Love,

Dad

Letter 17: The Lens We Wear

 

My Son,

 

We all have a lens through which we perceive reality. Some lenses are better than others and some can be trusted more than others. It is important to recognize that you have a lens and that it may need some tweaking. If your lens contradicts what God has spoken already through the Scriptures and the Church, then you must change out your lens.

When it comes to Biblical interpretation, I find this idea of lenses to be particularly helpful. A lot of my Protestant friends would say things like, “I just follow what the Bible says.” While I enjoy saying that phrase myself, it unfortunately is not quite honest. People do not simply follow the Bible, but they follow a tradition of interpreting the Bible, or they follow their own interpretation of the Bible. Since we all have a lens by which we read the Bible, we need to be careful to align our lens with the lens God wants us to have. Fortunately when Jesus ascended into heaven he didn’t just leave writings for us to interpret on our own, but he left us his Church, which is “the pillar and bulwark of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15). The Church has been given the task of guarding the deposit of faith that Jesus revealed to us. For this reason, the successors of the apostles, that is, the Bishops of the Catholic Church (in particular the Magisterium), have been entrusted to give us the Holy Spirit led interpretation of our faith. Jesus gave us gifts that “some should be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; so that we may no longer be children, tossed back and forth and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the cunning of men, by their craftiness in deceitful wiles” (Ephesians 4:11-14). We no longer have to wonder which lens to trust, when in fact the Lord promised that he would send the Holy Spirit to guide the Church into all truth (John 16:13). As Christians, we are filled with the Holy Spirit to guide us as well, but when two Christians disagree over the interpretation of the same Scriptures we must ask ourselves how the Holy Spirit has spoken or is speaking through his Church.

So which lens do you wear my son? I pray that your own lens is a lens of love: that you begin to see everything in light of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, that you check your lens with that of the Church, and that you let the Holy Spirit shape your lens to be like that of Christ. We must view all of reality through the love of Jesus Christ.

 

Love,

Dad

Letter 16: My Journey Toward Catholicism

 

My Son,

 

This may surprise you, but your father was not always Catholic. In fact, I grew up very Protestant, although I was not aware I was protesting anything. I was baptized in first grade with my dad, mom, and sisters at a Presbyterian church. In middle school and high school, I attended a non-denominational megachurch on Sunday mornings, a methodist church on Sunday evenings, and a Baptist church on Wednesday nights for youth group. The non-denominational church we went to claimed to be a biblical and “seeker-friendly” church, but the pastor seemed only to talk about sex or tithing, neither of which seemed very seeker friendly to me. The biggest spiritual influence on my life growing up was not church, but an interdenominational Christian camp in Colorado. It was there that I really learned the value of reading the Scriptures daily and having people in my life to keep me accountable for my actions.

When I went to college and entered into my young adult years, I further explored Christianity by being part of various non-denominational groups: reformed churches, prayer groups, house churches, charismatic churches, a Christian fraternity, and a discipleship school. I am thankful to God for allowing me to experience each of these different streams because I learned a very key truth that has stuck with me to this day; Jesus is my friend and he wants me to have a personal relationship with him. Because of this focus, I eventually decided to spend time alone with Jesus rather than going to church. On most Sundays, I would go to a pond by myself to read Scripture and pray to God. It was at this pond where I asked God, “What is the Church? Please show me your Church.” I would read passages like 1 Peter 5:5 that said, “Likewise, you that are younger, be subject to the elders,” and I was greatly distressed. “Lord,” I asked, “who are my elders? Who do I need to submit to?” Many other questions pertaining to the Church were triggered in my mind during this time at the pond. Thus began my journey toward the Catholic Church. But it wasn’t for another year that I began to explore Catholicism.

After a year of visiting churches off and on with friends, and continuing this conversation with God at the pond, I started having some dynamic, thought-provoking conversations with a friend who, at the time, had just finished studying at a reformed Protestant seminary. After he had studied the writings of the Early Church Fathers, he became interested in Eastern Orthodoxy. Formerly, he too had been part of the same charismatic church where I had done my discipleship school, though we did not know each other at that time. Both of us had been a part of that church because we were seeking to be part of the Church as we saw it in the book of Acts. My friend said something to me that really resonated with me. He said, “I know that you have been seeking to be part of the early Church… and I think I’ve found it… it still exists.” he then told me about the apostles appointing successors as overseers, or bishops, and that, through the laying on of hands, this apostolic succession had continued through the ages. I learned how the Church was essentially one Church for the first thousand years of Christendom until the Great Schism between the East and West around 1054 AD. Our conversations evolved from Eastern Orthodoxy to Roman Catholicism after discovering these things.

My friend also invited me to an Anglican Church since they too claimed apostolic succession and celebrated Mass in a similar way to the Roman Catholic Church. It was at my Anglican Church that I first encountered a liturgy where the climax of the service was not some person’s preaching, but rather communion. This blew me away and spoke to me profoundly. I began to learn the special significance the early Church had placed on the Eucharist through the writings of St. Ignatius of Antioch, St. Justin Martyr, and the Didache. The early Church began to look a lot more Catholic than I had ever thought before. I then started to read the Catechism of the Catholic Church and it completely destroyed my former misconceptions of Catholicism by letting me see the beauty of the Church with her rich history, philosophy, and theology. I met a Catholic priest who told me to take R.C.I.A. (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) at my local parish if I were truly interested in exploring Catholicism. I probably started the class 50/50 as to whether I would join the Catholic Church. It took about 6 months for that percentage to go up to 100%. While taking these classes, I tried my hardest to find loopholes or faults in the theology of the Catholic Church and I could not. The Lord seemed to be drawing me deeper and deeper into his Holy Catholic Church. Every anti-Catholic book or article I would read only made me want to become Catholic even more. I put together a list of people who had influenced my spiritual life in my formative years to get their input on this journey toward Catholicism, and a vast majority of these Protestant leaders were supportive and prayed that the Lord would continue to lead me.

The Lord led me right into the arms of our Mother, the Church. I was finally gaining more clarity on the questions I had asked while I was at the pond. The Lord had answered me in a way that I never would have expected, but it was an answer nonetheless. The truth is that I had become part of the Catholic Church when I was baptized in first grade in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Yet it wasn’t until my mid-twenties when I got confirmed that I was able to recognize this catholicity from my past. After confirmation, I was catapulted into an even deeper fullness and understanding of the faith that had been once and for all handed on to the saints (Jude 3).

My heart for you, my son, is that you would draw upon the deep wells of our Catholic faith to gain even greater intimacy with your heavenly Father. May he enrich your own journey into the Sacred Heart of Jesus as you encounter the Body of Christ, his Church.

 

Love,

Dad

Letter 15: Truth is a Person

My Son,

 

Truth isn’t just some abstract concept, or a list of facts, or a black and white picture. Truth is a person, and a person is full of emotion, feeling, passion, intellect, will, flesh and blood, spirit and life. A person is like a diamond, and like a diamond, truth is multifaceted. From one angle or perspective, a person can look a certain way, but from another, that person can look totally different. So I ask, is truth relative or absolute?

Well, no matter which angle you choose to look at the diamond, the diamond is still the singular and absolute object you are observing. It would be absurd to assert that from one angle this object is a diamond, while someone else asserts it is actually an elephant. It is what it is in the absolute sense. To say, however, that this diamond is only a true diamond from the angle you are looking at it, is also absurd. The beauty one person sees may not be the same beauty someone else sees. There is relativity at play in the viewing of the diamond. Thus, truth is both relative and absolute, and most certainly found in the person of Jesus Christ.

During Christ’s Passion, the dialogue between Jesus and Pilate revolves around truth: “Pilate said to him, ‘So you are a king?’ Jesus answered, ‘You say that I am a king. For this reason I was born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth. Every one who is of the truth hears my voice.’ Pilate said to him, ‘What is truth?’” (John 18:37-38). The scene just ends abruptly with Pilate’s question to Jesus just hanging in the air. What did Jesus say? What was his response? I can imagine Jesus simply locking eyes with Pilate, and Pilate suddenly realizing he is looking at Truth himself.

You can look at John’s portrayal of this scene through this lens because the night before at the Last Supper Jesus had told his disciples, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). So, the answer to Pilate’s question, “What is truth?” is Jesus himself. Words cannot adequately describe this Word of the Father. So instead of answering Pilate’s question with words, Jesus answers through his profound silence and being.

Let Jesus gaze upon you, my son. His eyes of Truth will pierce your heart and humble you. Truth is a person, and this person is worthy of your affection, obedience, and worship.

 

Love,

Dad

Letter 14: Jesus Portrayed in “The Lord of the Rings”

My Son,

 

You probably know this already, but my favorite movies of all time are The Lord of the Rings movies. I also love the books, but since I saw the first movie before reading the books, the movies remain my first love. What is great about J.R.R. Tolkien is that there are so many deeply Christian themes throughout the story that he did not necessarily plan when he began to write the books. Tolkien was a strong Catholic, and his faith is evident in his writing, albeit perhaps unintentionally.

There are many Catholic themes in The Lord of the Rings: Frodo and Sam are sustained on their journey by the Elvish waybread (lembas bread) which corresponds to the Holy Eucharist that sustains Christians; Galadriel, or the Lady of Light, gives the Fellowship gifts to equip them on their journey and she is a clear portrayal of Our Lady, Mother Mary, who with the Holy Spirit, gives us gifts; the ring represents sin and evil in the world with Sauron, or Satan, being the spirit behind it all. There is a myriad of other themes and lessons from The Lord of the Rings, but I especially want to draw your attention to how Jesus is portrayed in the story.

There are three primary characteristics of Jesus that are vividly portrayed in The Lord of the Rings: Jesus as the Priest and Suffering Servant, represented by Frodo; Jesus as the Prophet, represented by Gandalf; and Jesus as the King, represented by Aragorn. Each of these characters experiences some sort of death and resurrection contributing to the salvation of Middle Earth. Frodo bears the burden of the ring, representing sin, for Middle Earth by carrying it to the fires of Mordor. He experiences a type of death after the ring finally melts in the lava, and a type of resurrection when the eagles rescue him and bring him to be restored in Gondor. Frodo expresses the priestly ministry of Jesus in offering himself as a sacrifice for the salvation of the world (unlike Jesus, Frodo tries to keep the ring for himself at the end. Frodo also represents our journey through this life and the temptations we face). Gandalf doesn’t just represent the prophetic ministry of Jesus, but comes to signify the Son of God coming in power at the world’s end. Gandalf the Grey dies when he falls into the abyss in Moria and fights the Balrog, but in his resurrection he comes back as Gandalf the White (a more powerful and authoritative class of wizard) and “comes again” just in the knick of time during the battle of Helm’s Deep to defeat Saruman’s army. Aragorn is the humble king who starts out as a mere Ranger from the north, but comes into his own after passing through the realm of the dead (corresponding to Jesus going to the realm of the dead in 1 Peter 3:19). He then rises from the place of the dead to defeat the enemy and claim his rightful place as King of Gondor. Frodo, Gandalf, and Aragorn are all types of Christ in their own respective roles as Priest, Prophet, and King.

Hopefully next time you read or watch The Lord of the Rings your eyes will be open to seeing Christ in the different characters. Many more things could be said about the Christian themes and lessons found in The Lord of the Rings, but I will leave those for you to discover in time.

 

Love,

Dad