The title of this post is the first question posed in the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (comp. CCC). As a title it sounds much better than “Dim Bulb’s First Catechetical Instruction.” Here I present some thoughts, notes and reflections on the Compendium’s response which reads as follows:
God, infinitely perfect and blessed in himself, in a plan of sheer goodness freely created man to make him share in his own blessed life. In the fullness of time, God the Father sent his Son as the Redeemer and Savior of mankind, fallen into sin, thus calling all into his Church and, through the work of the Holy Spirit, making them adopted children and heirs of his eternal happiness.
A) The first thing I would like to note is that the above statement is a pretty good summary of the teaching of St Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians, as even a reading of the opening benediction would show. Said benediction begins by focusing on the Father’s plan of salvation; followed by its fulfillment in Christ; and ending with the consequences of that fulfillment: our inheritance (adoption) through the Holy Spirit. (See the threefold division of Ephesians 1:3-14 in the NAB)
B) The Scripture seldom calls God Perfect. In fact, I can only find one place in which it does so: “Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.” (Mt 5:48) The word perfect is in Greek teleios, It refers to something which is finished, complete, not lacking anything. In some ways it is similar to the word fulfill(Greek pleroo), Which our Blessed Lord used earlier in the sermon when he said “I have not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it” (Mt 5:17). For us Christians, “be perfect” means to be morally complete, but not by mere observance of the law; rather, our moral completeness is “derived from the personal and experiential knowledge of God.” ( Dictionary of the Bible by John L. Mckenzie, S.J.)
According to the CCC #48 our manifold perfections as creatures are the likeness of the infinitely perfect God. If, as the Compendium says, God created man in order to share in his blessedness, then man also would share in his perfection: “The Holy, Catholic, Apostolic and Roman Church believes and acknowledges that there is one true and living God, creator and lord of heaven and earth, almighty, eternal, immeasurable, incomprehensible, infinite in will, understanding and every perfection…This one true God, by his goodness and almighty power, not with the intention of increasing his happiness, nor indeed of obtaining happiness, but in order to manifest his perfection by the good things which he bestows on what he creates, by an absolutely free plan, together from the beginning of time brought into being from nothing the twofold created order, that is the spiritual and the bodily, the angelic and the earthly, and thereafter the human which is, in a way, common to both since it is composed of spirit and body.” (First Vatican Council, “Dogmatic Constitution on the Catholic Faith,” arts. 1, 3)
When we speak about or declare God blessed we are either acknowledging his power and glory, or that he is the source and fullness of all blessing.
C) In order that God might share his blessed life with man the CCC states that “at every time and in every place God draws close to man” (#1). In article 27 it elaborates on this:
“The desire for God is written in the human heart, because man is created by God and for God; and God never ceases to draw man to himself. Only in God will he find the truth and happiness he never stops searching for: The dignity of man rests above all on the fact that he is called to communion with God. this invitation to converse with God is addressed to man as soon as he comes into being. For if man exists it is because God has created him through love, and through love continues to hold him in existence. He cannot live fully according to the truth unless he freely acknowledges that love and entrusts himself to his creator.” (CCC 27)
Man, in other words, is a religious being:
In many ways, throughout history down to the present day, men have given expression to their quest for God in their religious beliefs and behavior: in their prayers, sacrifices, rituals, meditations, and so forth. These forms of religious expression, despite the ambiguities they often bring with them, are so universal that one may call man a religious being: From one ancestor (God) made all nations to inhabit the whole earth, and he alotted the times of their existence and the boundaries of the places where they would live, so that they would search for God and perhaps grope for him and find him-though indeed he is not far from each one of us. For ‘in him we live and move and have our being.'” (CCC 28. See also Acts 17:26-28. Here St Paul is quoting Aratus of Soli, a third century BC pagan poet.)
The revelation of God’s will to Israel does not mean that all others were cut off from God’s divine and salvific favor: “In truth, I see that God shows no partiality. Rather, in every nation whoever fears him and acts uprightly is acceptable to him” (Acts 10:34-35). “for when Gentiles who don’t have the law do by nature the things of the law, these, not having the law, are a law to themselves, cb(2,15); in that they show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience testifying with them, and their thoughts among themselves accusing or else excusing them cb(2,16) in the day when God will judge the secrets of men, according to my Good News, by Jesus Christ.” (Rom 2:14-16)
D) In the fullness of time. Our first parents were endowed with sanctifying grace but lost it as a result of their sin:
If anyone does not confess that the first man, Adam, when he transgressed the commandment of God in paradise, immediately lost the holiness and justice in which he had been constituted, and through the offense of that prevarication incurred the wrath and indignation of god, and thus death with which God had previously threatened him, and, together with death, captivity under his power who thenceforth had the empire of death, that is to say, the devil, and that the entire Adam through that offense of prevarication was changed in body and soul for the worse, let him be anathema. (Council of Trent, session V; Decree Concerning Original Sin)
As a result of this sin Adam injured not only himself, but also his posterity. Not only did he personally lose the holiness and justice which he received from God, he lost it for his descendent’s as well. He thereby transfused not only death and the pains of the human body to the whole of humanity, but also sin, which is the death of the soul, as the Apostle says: By one man sin entered into the world and by sin death; and so death passed upon all men, in whom all have sinned. (See Trent, session V Art 2 )
As a result, mankind stood in need of a redeemer since sin is, as it were, in control: So now it is no more I that do it, but sin which dwells in me. cb(7,18);For I know that in me, that is, in my flesh, dwells no good thing. For desire is present with me, but I don’t find it doing that which is good. cb(7,19); For the good which I desire, I don’t do; but the evil which I don’t desire, that I practice. cb(7,20); But if what I don’t desire, that I do, it is no more I that do it, but sin which dwells in me. cb(7,21); I find then the law, that, to me, while I desire to do good, evil is present. cb(7,22); For I delight in God’s law after the inward man, cb(7,23);but I see a different law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity under the law of sin which is in my members. cb(7,24); What a wretched man I am! Who will deliver me out of the body of this death? cb(7,25); I thank God through Jesus Christ, our Lord! (Rom 7:17-25)