Thursday, September 22, 2016

Bishop’s Note: September 22, 2016 – Capax Dei

           Bishop Eric Menees

In the lectionary, over the months of September and October, we are going through 1st & 2nd Timothy. Last week I mentioned how much I love the Pastoral Epistles, because St. Paul is clear and unequivocal in his teaching to his assistants - Timothy and Titus.

This past Sunday was no different. Apparently, Timothy had written to St. Paul asking for advice on dealing with parishioners who were pushing competing false teachings known as Gnosticism (which believed that only few could be saved through special enlightenment) and Ascetical Judaism (which believed Jesus was the Messiah, but also that everyone needed to become a Jew and follow the law strictly to be worthy of salvation). 

Rather than dealing with the particular interpersonal problem with the parishioners, St. Paul gives both theological and practical advice. Pray, pray, pray! Pray for all people. “[2:1] First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people.”  (1 Tim 2:1)

It is hard for us to appreciate the radical nature of this advice. To pray for everyone would have been outlandish, because it assumed that everyone was capable of receiving God and His Grace - exactly what the Gnostics & Ascetical Jews were arguing against. But St. Paul’s point is that all people can receive God’s Grace if they but open their hearts and minds to Him: “This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”

St. Augustine would later refer to this as “Capax Dei.” The understanding that God loves all His creation and desires salvation for all through His Son Jesus Christ. St. Augustine would write:

“All Amen may be lost but they can be found by Jesus Christ.
All men may be ignorant but they can be enlightened by Jesus Christ.
All men are sinners who may be redeemed by Jesus Christ.”

Let us never lose sight of this fact, and recommit ourselves to finding the lost, the ignorant, and sinners. Let us remember that we, too, fall into each of those categories, requiring the ministrations of the Good Shepherd who seeks the lost, enlightens the ignorant, and redeems the sinner.

I pray you all a very blessed week.

Catechism Questions: 336-337

336.     Is it possible for you to keep all these commandments?
No. I fail to fulfill them perfectly, however hard I try. One purpose of the Law is to show me my utter inability to obey God flawlessly, and so to point to my need of Christ’s obedience and atoning death on my behalf. (Isaiah 53:4-6; Romans 3:19-31; Hebrews 10:1-14)

337.    Since you cannot keep God’s commandments perfectly, what has Jesus done on your behalf?
As the perfect human and the unblemished Lamb, Jesus has offered himself to God, suffering death for my redemption upon the cross, which is the once for all “sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world.” (1662 Book of Common Prayer; Hebrews 10:10,12)

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