Praise God all you eager hearts! May the Holy Spirit indwell in us as we thirst for God’s word and direction in our lives.
Due to the need to balance family commitments, I was unable to fully participate in Day 2 and 3 of the kerygma course so I implore those who were there to contribute to these few points I was able to capture.
THE FALL OF MAN
The course started out by asking us whether we sympathised with Adam and Eve after reading Gen 2:15-17 and Gen 3:1-20. Some people replied that they did not sympathize with them and attributed blame to them for causing the Fall of Man and putting us in “this mess”. Another person shared that she sympathized with them, as she is often faced with temptations which are not even as strong as that the serpent gave, but she finds herself falling. May we all strive for the grace not to give into the temptations of the devil.
There was then a discussion which addressed whether we should have been given free will at all and people took different approaches to this. Some claimed that love necessitates a freedom of will and without it, we would operate as robots. Then there others who claimed that they would have preferred to live like robots and in ignorance since Adam and Eve had made a mess of everything. The facilitator explained that God is love and He wanted to create something out of the Trinity and share His love. She further explained that the only way that He could do this was to make something in His image and likeness which meant that since He had free will, we too had to have free will and also be capable of giving love which he gives freely.
We were then led to read Gen 3:6-15 to share the consequences of disobedience to God. She referred to yesterday’s diagram which showed that a body is made up of spirit (supernatural), soul (natural)\ and body. She stressed that God does not lie so when He said that Man would surely die by eating of the fruit, he was talking of a spiritual death and the taking away of His Spirit from Man – the “ruach” breath vanished from Man. Man died at the supernatural level and was only left with his nature and his body. There would no longer be eternal life which was guaranteed by having God’s spirit and there would be limitations to the soul which held our natural existence.
She explained the trick of satan which was borne out of envy towards the communion that Man shared with God. The tragedy of it all is that the serpent tempted Man to think that God was hiding something from Him and that He could be like God and all-knowing. Man did not realize that he was ALREADY LIKE GOD since he was in communion with God and was made in the IMAGE AND LIKENESS OF GOD. Instead, Man ate of the fruit to gain that which HE ALREADY HAD and was denied God’s everlasting life and condemned to spiritual death.
She also brought to the fore that it was Adam who had given up his dominion over the earth and abdicated his place as king of the world. This was done when he ate of the fruit and immediately gave dominion to satan. She cited the mocking tone of satan while tempting Jesus in the wilderness when he told Jesus to bow down before him since all things of the world had been given to him.
For more on this, she led us to read John 12:31, 1 John 5:15 , Luke 4:5-6 , Romans 3:23 and 5:12,19 and ofcourse the CCC (big red book) 407.
In spite of this fallen nature, she pointed out that God’s mercy remained. God showed his mercy by not condemning Adam when he realized that Man had eaten the fruit and was no longer in GOD’S PRESENCE when He asked of Adam “Where are you”. He allowed Man to admit to his wrong but instead Adam placed blame on Eve and Eve placed blame on the serpent showing that Man was not ready to take responsibility. This blame cycle began and has continued to date.
It never occurred to me that God also showed mercy by not allowing Man to stay in his sinful state by preventing him from eating of the Tree of Life by placing cherubims in front of it. Otherwise, Man would have lived in his fallen state forever without being in God’s presence since the “ruach” breath had been taken away. The image of God as a punishing father is totally wrong, as He stops us from being eternally separated from Him as this would indeed have been hell and this is what hell is – separation from God eternally.
Image and Likeness
Another aspect of the course which was interesting was the distinction between being made in the IMAGE and in the LIKENESS of God. With reference to the diagram, she explained that once Man had fallen from grace, Man became only the image of God as he was only soul since God’s spirit had departed from him and he no longer was in a supernatural state. The likeness of God was no more.
She explained that Man’s fallen nature is still above creatures since we are made in God’s image. However, there is no likeness to God in that state. A question was then asked why God allowed evil to come into the world since He was all-knowing which brought up the issue of giving Man free will. She replied by explaining that evil came into the world due to disobedience which was seen first through Lucifer who tried to be God and also through Adam and Eve who had been lured to follow suit and that God did not create evil but because of His love for us and us being made in His image and likeness, He gave us free will.
Monseigneur then asked a pertinent question. He asked us whether knowing what we know now, would we still prefer God to give us free will? Would we?
My God help us all to rise from our fallen state in Jesus name and give us His everlasting Spirit to dwell in us each day. Amen!
She explained that with the Holy Spirit we are able to attain our true purpose of life and stressed the words of Pope John Paul who said that the glory of God is MAN FULLY ALIVE. That touched me, as we often go through life in this hectic Lagos without being truly alive. We merely exist and are indeed not truly alive. True life can only be attained when God’s glory is within us. When God’s glory finds His home in us and we allow the Holy Trinity to be enthroned within us, the healing process occurs and former divisions caused by the Fall from grace, the physical sickness of our bodies and even the lack of trust and enmity with God’s creatures and nature is no more.
She stressed that in order to be this new creation, we must first repent then believe then be baptized as echoed by Peter in Acts 2:38. She also pointed out that this new creation needs to be nourished as it is a newborn spiritually. This nourishment is fueled by us staking a step towards God and yearning for Him. When we do this, we move from knowledge OF HIM in an EXTERNAL WAY to knowing him INTIMATELY. Ask yourself how you would have answered if Jesus asked you “Who do people say I am” like He asked His disciples.
This transformation into this new creation shows the move from disciples living in the sight of Jesus to now living IN HIM and from speaking ABOUT him to speaking THROUGH Him to others. All this happens when we allow the Holy Spirit to dwell in us.
She asked the audience to share their experiences encountered with the Holy Spirit which was varied, A man replied that he did not feel any real difference or experience any manifestations after Life in the Spirit seminar which made him a bit confused. Another lady explained that she stopped being worried about issues. The facilitator replied that there may have been some obstacles which prevented the man from experiencing what he desired. In reply to the lady, she cited the boldness of the apostles especially Paul and stressed that since fear is a spirit, it is cast out and replaced with love which is poured out to us as mentioned in Romans 5:5.
DISTINCTION OF GIFTS
This area was very insightful for me, as I had always known that there were different gifts .She, however, explained that there were 2 categories which were sanctifying gifts and charismatic gifts. She explained that the distinction between both of them was that sanctifying gifts bring you closer to the supernatural you and bring you closer to God personally. The charismatic gifts are those that are geared towards service as we are all part of the body of Christ. It was stressed that these gifts could not be mutually exclusive, since if you are not living in holiness, it would be pointless trying to serve God, as it would also be, if you are serving God with your gifts and yet doing so routinely or purely academically. The charismatic gifts / gifts for service were read form Romans 12:6-8 and 1 Cor 12:4-11.
Seven gifts were identified in Isaiah 11:2 and are listed below:
- WISDOM: This gift allows you to see how good God is and adds flavour to your life since we are the salt of the earth. Pope Francis said that divine wisdom helps you see things with God’s eyes and from God’s perspective. She gave examples of how this gift is useful to those who have children and seek wisdom in guiding them and disciplining them. As teachers, I think this is a gift we must yearn for seriously.
- UNDERSTANDING: allows you to understand in depth the Faith. She mentioned that people may know some aspects of the Faith like the Trinity but not understand it in depth. She gave examples of the Irish missionaries who explained the Holy Trinity using the Shamrock (3-leaf clover)
3.COUNSEL: allows us to advise others and hear God’s advice and warning to us.
- FORTITUDE: This gift allows us to overcome temptation even to the point of sacrifice. It gives us supernatural strength and power to do what God wants us to do. I thought of this in light of all of those who are surrounded by corrupt practices in business or in our work place and the laissez-faire attitude that has taking root in Nigeria. We really need supernatural strength to resist the negative trends of our society.
- KNOWLEDGE: She explained that this allows us to find knowledge in creation and know how God speaks. It enables us to understand his creation in depth and to have respect for God’s creation and know that we are all connected.
- FEAR OF THE LORD:She explained that this was a gift that allows us to do God’s will because we love God and don’t want to offend Him.
- PIETY: When we have this gift, we revere things, places and people of God. We no longer find ourselves speaking profanity or using God’s name in vain because we revere His name nor do we engage in perverted talk or sick humor.
HOW YOU OPEN THE DOOR/ RECEIVE GIFTS
She then gave an example which addressed the degree of receiving the gifts we ask for by likening the act to answering a knock on the door. God is the one knocking and we can choose to answer Him in either of 3 ways:
- We can look through the peep hole on the door and let Him in that way only letting a small part of His grace dwell in us.
- We can actually open the door a bit which still has chains and locks on the door. A bit more light surely enters and His grace touches us but the door is still chained.
- The ultimate reception of the gifts we seek is obtained when we decide to answer the knock by opening the door ajar and fling it wide for the fullness of God’s light and grace to hit our soul and the gifts to be given.
I always wondered why God could use anyone and give them gifts or why some people who were not seeking would get some gifts and this has shed more light to this for me. Those people may have looked through the peephole or they may not even have answered the door and yet God will use them for his greater glory like Saul of Tarsus.
OBSTACLES TO RECEIVING GIFTS
She also explained that the degree of receiving the gifts depended on how open you were to receiving the gifts and cited 3 obstacles:
- SIN could be preventing the Spirit from dwelling in you
- IGNORANCE could be preventing you from being open
- FEAR of the unknown stops you from yielding yourself
May we all strive to overcome these obstacles by confessing our sins daily and using the sacrament of Reconciliation. May we equip ourselves with the Word of God to overcome any ignorance preventing our openness and ask God for the gift of wisdom, knowledge and understanding. May we also overcome all fear of the unknown as we surrender ourselves to be led by His Holy Will.