Three Notes on Christianity
Christ at 33
Introduction: The Five Major World Religions
According to Paramahansa Yogananda, who is considered the "father of Yoga in the West," all religions serve the same purpose: to reunite the individual soul with the Supreme Soul or God. The differences that seem to split religions from one another result from the use of different metaphors that portray concepts.
All of the five major world religions, Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam have in common a basic faith, even though each religion describes the nature of their faith differently. They each have a prophet, or prophets, who interpret God's ways, and scripture in which the interpretation resides.
Christianity is one of the world's five major religions. In order of appearance on the world stage, those five religions are Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Christianity is the most widely practiced religion of Western culture, while Hinduism holds that position in Eastern culture. Judaism and Islam are the major religions of the Middle East.
I. Christmas and Christianity
The Christmas season lifts spirits for the good reason that it celebrates the birthday of the Christ Jesus, one our most sacred avatars. Although He spoke and taught very little, what he taught mattered vitally to all of humanity.
The heart of his teaching, the foundation on which Christianity is based, is "The Sermon on the Mount," which appears in the King James Version of the Holy Bible in St.
Matthew 5:3 through 7:27.
The purpose of the Sermon was to instruct the disciples so they could become ministers after Jesus Christ had left his body. It contains only about 2500 words, yet provides nearly all the advice one needs for living a Godly life.
The following offers a brief summary of each of the twenty paragraphs:
Matthew 5:3-12: Describes the nature of the spiritual aspirant: meek yet hungering and thirsting after knowledge of God in order to live rightly.
Matthew 5:13-16: What the spiritual aspirant does: preserves goodness and provides light or an example of right living.
Matthew 5:17-20: Emphasizes the importance of following spiritual principles.
Matthew 5:21-26: Explains and enlarges commandment: Thou shalt not kill.
Matthew 5:27-32: Explains and enlarges commandment: Thou shalt not commit adultery.
Matthew 5:33-37: Warns that the devotee owes his loyalty to God. Only to God can man keep sacred promises.
Matthew 5:38-42: Replaces the vengeance of "eye for eye" philosophy with "turn the other cheek."
Matthew 5:43-48: Replaces "hate thine enemy" with "love thine enemy."
Matthew 6:1-4: Warns against bragging about one's spiritual qualities.
Matthew 6:5-15: Instructs devotees to pray privately. Offers "The Lord's Prayer" as an example of a proper prayer.
Matthew 6:16-19: Explains proper way to fast.
Matthew 6:20-23: Extols spiritual aspirations and goals over material. Offers the often misunderstood statement: "The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, they whole body shall be full of light." The single eye refers to the spiritual eye located between the eyebrows. When the devotee can see the spiritual eye, that devotee can commune with God.
Matthew 6:24-34: Warns against trying to "serve two masters," God and mammon. One's inner spiritual life must take precedence over outward material existence: "But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things (food, clothing, etc.) shall be added unto you."
Matthew 7:1-5: Commands devotee not to judge others, but to reform oneself.
Matthew 7:6: Warns against trying to reform those who are spiritually unready.
Matthew 7:7-12: Emphasizes the nature of God as a father who is more willing to give good gifts to His children than the children are to ask.
Matthew 7:13-14: Warns that being a spiritual aspirant is demanding, and few people steadfastly follow the principles.
Matthew 7:15-20: Warns against false teachers who would lead one astray. Uses the metaphor of a fruit-bearing tree: "Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them."
Matthew 7:21-23: Warns against surface spirituality. The devotee must become God-united, not merely call on His name, and not merely perform shallow spiritual activities.
Matthew 7:124-27: Emphasizes closely following the spiritual principles and not merely listening to and/or talking about them.
For further discussion of Jesus's important Sermon, you might want to look at an online resource titled An Exposition of the Sermon on the Mount by Arthur W. Pink; this discussion is in depth, somewhat verbose, but is useful and thought-provoking.
The best, most accurate, and spiritually useful interpretation is by Paramahansa Yogananda, but at present his comments are available only throughout the body of the writing, in such works as Autobiography of a Yogi, Man's Eternal Quest, and The Divine Romance; no single resource yet exists; however, one will become available in the future.
Pope John Paul I
II. Humble, Wise, Fearless – Pope John Paul II
Recalling the death of Pope John Paul II.
Each day humanity is given the opportunity to begin a new spiritual journey. Each day features a new opening for advancement in awareness of the Divine Reality. The death of a pope offers a unique space of time to learn about and to contemplate a life that was totally devoted to God. Each day the pope offers his life and performs his duties solely to please God. Pope John Paul II has left this material world. He now inhabits the spiritual world—the world on which he kept his eye as he moved and toiled in the material world.
This pope is a pope of many firsts. He was the first non-Roman pope in 450 years. He was the first pope to travel widely, interacting with people all over the earth. He was the first pope to visit the White House. He spoke fluently in eight languages. He won the hearts of non-Catholics as well as Catholics.
Born Karol Józef Wojtyła in Wadowice, Poland, May 18, 1920, he graduated from Marcin Wadowita High School in Wadowice in 1938 and then entered Jagiellonian University in Krakow to study drama. In 1939, the Nazi occupiers closed the university, and he was forced to work in a quarry for the next five years. Then he worked in a chemical factory to keep from being deported to Germany.
He became aware of his call to the priesthood in 1942 and entered a secret seminary in Krakow. After World War II, a large seminary in Krakow re-opened, and he continued his studies, becoming ordained in 1946. He completed his decorate in 1948 in Rome under his mentor, French Dominican, Garrigou-Lagrange, writing his dissertation on faith in the works of Saint John of the Cross.
Upon returning to Poland in the 1950s, the future pope became a professor of moral theology and social ethics in Krakow’s major seminary and in the Faculty of Theology of Lublin. In the 1960s Cardinal Wojtyła participated in Vatican Council II, at which he made major contributions. He participated in all of the assemblies of the Synod of Bishops.
He was elected pope October 16, 1978. It is estimated that this pope met more people during his papacy than any other pope. His contribution to Catholicism is enormous. In his statement on the death of Pope John Paul II, President George W. Bush said,
Pope John Paul II was, himself, an inspiration to millions of Americans, and to so many more throughout the world. We will always remember the humble, wise and fearless priest who became one of history's great moral leaders. We're grateful to God for sending such a man, a son of Poland, who became the Bishop of Rome, and a hero for the ages.
Regardless of religion, even whether religious or not, most of us recognize the exalted stature of the office of the pope. Any pope occupies a unique position for doing good in the world. This pope reflected a shining example of a pope who put his office to work to accomplish undreamed of possibilities, and he will be celebrated and cherished for many years to come.
Our own spiritual journey can be enhanced knowing that such as traveler as Pope John Paul II has traveled by our side. As he sought to make each day a new opportunity to advance spiritually, we realize that we can emulate his sublime effort as we seek to advance toward our own spiritual goal.
Pope Benedict XVI
III. Habemus Papam!: Benedict XVI
Recalling the election of Pope Benedict XVI, who served from 2005 to 2013, becoming the first pope in centuries to resign from service.
We have a pope!
Do you feel the way I do? Even though I’m not Catholic, I feel especially inspired watching the spectacle of the election of a new pope. I studied Latin in high school, so I know the meaning of "Habemus Papam"; although I thought the word order should be "Papam habemus," but I could be wrong. Still the spiritual excitement abounds, and it is something to be savored. And it will be fascinating to watch as the new pope directs his papacy in years to come.
The new pope is Benedict XVI, the former Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, born in Germany April 16, 1927. There has not been a German pope since Adrian VI who served from 1522 to 1523. Benedict XVI is the oldest elected pope since Clement XII (1730). He speaks ten languages; I noticed that when he speaks English his German accent is quite thick, but when he speaks Italian, he sounds nearly native Italian.
Pope Benedict XVI is a scholar with numerous publications such as God Is Near Us: The Eucharist, the Heart of Life, The Spirit of the Liturgy, Many Religions, One Covenant: Israel, the Church, and the World, plus his autobiography Milestones: Memoirs 1927-1977, and many others. In 1953 he earned a doctorate in theology after studying philosophy and theology at the University of Munich and additional graduate studies at Freising. His dissertation is titled "The People and House of God in St. Augustine’s Doctrine of the Church."
Namewise, Benedict XVI follows Benedict XV who was the 258th pope from 1914 to 1922. Becoming pope at the very outset of World War I, Benedict XV, while remaining neutral as popes must do, pleaded for peace by sending an emissary to each warring country with a demand for the immediate end to war. President Woodrow Wilson was the only world leader to respond to Benedict’s plea, assuring the pope that such cessation of war was not possible, but after the war Wilson did seek to adopt a number of Benedict’s requests by attempting to achieve arms reduction, open seas, and international cooperation to bring peace to the world.
The 265th pope, Benedict XVI’s views on the direction of the church are clear. He has spoken out against moral relativism: "We are moving toward a dictatorship of relativism which does not recognize anything as definitive and has as its highest value one's own ego and one's own desires." He upholds church doctrine and chooses quality over quantity, believing that rather than submit to a changing moral climate, the church must be a bulwark against that which would weaken it by attempting to water down its doctrinal traditions.
Following closely the pontificate of his close friend and predecessor Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI vows to unify all Christians while offering a hand to other religions. He plans to continue putting in place the reforms begun with the Second Vatican Council of the 1960s.
Yes, the spiritual atmosphere is alive with the hopes of a new beginning. Let us all watch and be inspired with blessings as this new pope leads his flock ever nearer its celestial goal.
Questions & Answers
© 2019 Linda Sue Grimes