Vince Exley shares a fairly intimate self-examination of what he really believes today and why.
I have no trouble with the Nicene Creed, although I do have a different world-view to those who composed it.
However, listening to Michael Morwood's six talks on "Reshaping Christian Imagination", has enabled me to express what I actually believe more precisely. I prepared the following summary of my creed for my journal but it could also be of use to members of Catholica.
That I am one of over 6.5 billion human beings in the world today. I know that over the last 3.5 billion years, by genetic mutation and natural selection human beings evolved from more primitive life forms. We are different to other animals in that we have self-consciousness.
We still have many of the animal attributes of those primitive life forms. We can call these attributes our fallen nature.
Our minds are in constant activity, never resting, either reflecting on the past, being angry and resentful or sorry for things done to or by us, or fantasizing about the future, all of which is mostly useless mind activity which is also part of our fallen nature.
We live on a tiny planet we call earth, which moves around a star we call the sun which is only one of billions of stars that make up one galaxy and that there are 300 to 400 galaxies each with hundreds of billions of stars that make up our universe. There are as many stars in the universe as there are grains of sand in all the beaches and deserts on Earth.
This universe unfolded from a single point, called the Big Bang, over the last 15 billion years. and expands 1 billion kms every hour so I am now several million kms in space from where I was when I got out of bed this morning. There is now postulation that there are eleven other universes.
That all of this is created and sustained within a being I call God.
It is impossible to understand God, he is way beyond human imagination.
God created all of this so that out of love He could communicate with His creation.
Over the centuries this self-communication has led to many people having insights and creating belief systems. For example; the Australian Aborigines 60,000 Years ago, Hinduism 2,000 BCE, Judaism with Moses 1,500 BCE, Buddhism 500BCE, and Islam 600 AD to take but a few examples.
Then in Jesus of Nazareth this self-communication of God reached the ultimate. God became human, He became one of us.
The present pope, Benedict XVI, writing in 1968 stated; "According to the faith of the Church, the divine sonship of Jesus is not based on the circumstance that Jesus had no human father. The doctrine of Jesus' divinity would not be violated if Jesus had been the product of a normal human marriage. For the divine sonship that faith speaks of is not biological, but an ontological fact; it is not an event in time, but in God's eternity."
However, I prefer to believe that God somehow formed Jesus in his mother Mary's womb and that he was born like all of us. In every respect, while he was on Earth Jesus was a MAN.
Jesus was completely imbued with the love of God. His main teaching was that this God, that we can never understand, was a God of Love. A God who really loves and likes us and takes pleasure in our company, in each one of the whole 6.5 billion of us. He taught us to regard God and speak to God as our Father.
Jesus was so completely taken over by this love of humanity that he became reckless, pouring out his love to heal people on the Jewish Sabbath, to associate with people looked down on by Jewish Temple authorities etc. This recklessness and the huge crowds of devotees, that followed him, proposed a threat to law and order. When he was welcomed into Jerusalem by a huge crowd on the eve of Passover, a Jewish feast that celebrated the story of the Jews escape from captivity in Egypt, a time of easily provoked civil unrest, the Roman governor fearing a riot had him arrested and eventually put to death.
Jesus was always fully aware of the possibility that he risked death. He could have avoided death by backing down from what he preached but this was not his way of love.
But then three days after being buried, Jesus was raised from the dead and appeared to his disciples before going back to God.
He left the SPIRIT OF GOD'S awesome love to us. We are meant to live life imbued with this love.
God may be closer to us than we are to ourselves, but it is still the task of a lifetime for us to appropriate that presence, to understand and accept that the whole of our being is enfolded within the self-communicating God.
We can be present to it at any time because God lives within us. We only need to sit quietly, not thinking about the past or the future, and we are present to the eternal NOW, to God.
The practice of Christian Meditation, consisting of sitting quietly for 30 minutes, twice a day, saying a mantra or word, I use the phrase "Thank You Father," is an excellent means of being present to God.
Another good practice is to "Watch the Thinker". I try to create gaps in my thought stream throughout the day. I create gaps of "no mind" by observing what I have been thinking. When these gaps occur I feel a certain stillness and peace which is the beginning of my desired natural state of felt oneness with God.
There is no way whatever a miserable speck on planet Earth like me can offend this awesome God. However, every time I 'miss the mark' I am actually, in some way, lacking in Love, either for others or for myself. God doesn't judge me; I judge myself and separate myself from God.
I don't believe that God will respond to prayer by interfering with the laws of nature, making miracles happen. God is self-limiting and respects the process of unfolding creation. However, I admit some events do take place that defy present human explanation.
Prayer, both private and communal, is beneficial in that it puts us in the presence of God.
God did not create evil, but He created a definition of good that seems to include evil. God tolerates evil, and even makes use of it to deepen our own our own insight into love.
I can attest to this. In mid 2007 I suffered a malignant germ in my ear, which destroyed the motor nerves in the right hand side of my face. My eyelid had to be stitched partially closed as it no longer worked and I need to keep an antibiotic ointment in it. I have difficulty breathing through my right nostril as well as trouble eating and talking. Somehow, I was led to totally surrender to my situation and the disability was suddenly transmuted into a wonderful inner peace, joy and serenity that came God. I experienced "the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding." What had been the worst thing to ever happen to me had become the greatest thing to ever happen to me.
While in hospital I had a wonderful visit from that tireless worker and Catholica member, Tony R from St. Mary's, South Brisbane.
I don't know what will happen after my death, that is a mystery as great as God himself, but I believe I will, like Jesus, be with God. I am impatiently looking forward to that.
After Jesus' resurrection his disciples carried on with his work and created communities of followers of 'THE WAY' — the Way of Love throughout the Roman world that surrounded the Mediterranean. Both Jewish & Gentile people were attracted to these communities..
Initially they thought of themselves as a sect of Judaism, but their enthusiasm soon spread throughout the Roman world. In a world of incredible cruelty, violence and suppression. people reacted enthusiastically to a message of LOVE. "See how they Love one another", we read in scripture.
After the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD these groups slowly coalesced into the Christian Church.
Inspired by the Spirit of Love, people such as Paul, Mark, Luke, Matthew & John, 30 to 70 years after Jesus' death, were inspired to write of how they understood Jesus' life;
Perhaps the greatest disaster to happen to the early Church was when emperor Constantine made Christianity the state religion. This created a Church that adopted Roman institutional structures, titles and a spirit of triumphalism, leading to many enormous mistakes being made over the next 2,000 years by the institutional church.
For the first Christians, still close to the wonder of the presence of Jesus among them, life was somehow drenched in sacramentality, but no one kept track of individual sacraments. The list of 7 sacraments wasn't established until the 12th century, and only gradually did sacraments turn into individualistic tools for salvation. Tables turned into altars and presiders into celibate priests, set over and apart from the people of God.
However, the Eucharist is still the supreme weekly event in my Church life. The priest who presides is speaking on behalf of me and all who are gathered. The spoken words over the bread and wine are the words of the people over the bread and wine. These are MY words, This is MY body which will be given up FOR you the community. This is the cup of MY blood, it will be shed FOR YOU and FOR ALL. Today there is no one else to offer to God if not myself, for Jesus of Nazareth is not here, I am. Having been shown the WAY of Jesus in the scripture readings, I make a covenant with God and my community to go out and act with LOVE.
To me the Eucharist is of extreme importance and therefore I look with great trepidation at an institutional church that seems to be unconcerned about the very real threat that many will be denied it in the future because of the shortage of clerical presiders.
We acknowledge a Power, a Presence, beyond our human words and images, energizing, holding everything in connectedness and relationship, a Presence that comes to expression everywhere at all times in the vastness of this universe.
We acknowledge we live and move and have our being in this Presence.
We rejoice in our conscious awareness of this Presence and of our intimate connectedness with it.
Mindful of the slow development of the human species, we give thanks for men and women throughout the centuries who gave this Presence expression in the ways they developed human relationships, communities and cultures.
We give thanks for all men and women across the centuries who have struggled with words and images to understand this Mystery beyond all words and images and to understand our relationship with this Mystery.
We give thanks for the diversity of stories and myths that has allowed people in different cultures in different places in different times to walk and live in reverence, wonder, connectedness, and hope.
We give thanks especially for men and women who have recognized the universality of this Presence and who have called on people everywhere to nurture awareness of this Presence and to allow this awareness to impinge on all our interactions.
We want to redress the harm done by those religious ideas, attitudes, and actions that have promoted superstition and dependence and those that have been divisive and ruinous elitist fundamentalist fanatical closed‑minded discriminatory, and violent.
We accept the challenge to heal the wounds of division and to respect diversity as we respect what unites us:
The great commandment to do unto others as we would want done to us.
As we seek respect for ourselves ‑we pledge to give it to others.
As we seek compassion for our shortcomings ‑ we pledge to show compassion to others.
In seeking forgiveness for our faults ‑ we express our readiness to forgive others.
In wanting to protect ourselves from violence in words or deeds, we steadfastly refuse to be violent in any shape or form to others.
In yearning for respect for our ideas, we will strive to respect differences of opinion.
In acknowledging our desire to be listened to, we will strive to be better listeners.
In wanting peace in our lives, we will work for peace in our world.
We want our belief in the Presence common to all of us to be greater than the religious doctrines and differences that divide us and we long for all religious‑minded people to share this determination with us.
We want to give the best possible human expression of this Presence in our world so that we and all like‑minded people might establish a human community characterized by genuine concern for all people in word and in action.
We pray for our Church as an institution desiring it to be a light in our world. We pray that, institutionally, our Church win die like the grain of wheat to claims of exclusivity to elitism and to theology that protects its power and authority.
We pray that, institutionally, our Church might better imitate Jesus who rejected power, authority, and control in favour of being with people in their day‑to‑day struggles, wanting to help them appreciate the presence of the Divine in their everyday neighbourly actions.
We Yearn for the day when Church leadership will renew itself in Spirit and renew confidence in the presence Of the Divine in all of us, As we strive to imitate Jesus and be the best possible human expression of the Divine we can each be in our World.
What are your thoughts on this commentary?