Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA)

RCIA: Jesus Human and Devine

Each Sunday when we pray the creed we profess that, “We believe I one Lord, Jesus Christ.” This profession of faith is at the heart of all that we believe as Christians. The name Jesus itself means, “Yahweh is salvation. The word “Christ” is the Greek for the anointed one, when translated into Hebrew means, Messiah. This became the name of Jesus only because he accomplished perfectly the divine mission that the name “Christ” signifies. Thus, in saying “Jesus Christ” we are proclaiming is that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah sent by God and anointed with the Holy Spirit.
The most important source of the life, work, and way of Jesus is the New Testament and in particular the 4 Gospels.
The humanity of Jesus begins with his conception and so we will begin our reflection this evening by listening to the annunciation of his birth in Luke’s Gospel (Chapter 1:26-38.)
In this Gospel we are told that Mary is to be the mother of the Son of God, who will be conceived by the Power of the Holy Spirit. It means that this child will the Son of Mary, a young woman, fully human, and the Son of God, conceived through the power of the Holy Spirit.
We are told that Jesus went into the desert. There he remained fasting for 40 days and forty nights. At the end we are told that he was weak with hunger, and at this point of time Satan arrived to tempt him. (Luke 4: 1-13).
We are told of his grief at the death of his friend Lazarus. He sighed from the depth of his heart.
In the narratives concerning the passion of Jesus we are reminded of his suffering and the anguish that he experienced. We can think of Jesus’ anguish in the Garden of Gethsemane. (Luke 22: 39-46)
Ultimately, we are told that he died on the Cross.
Although the authors of the Gospels intend to express the message of Christ and his promise of Salvation, all of these narratives in the Gospels describe the humanity of Jesus. 
Matthew 16: 13-20
Here we hear Jesus asking the disciples, Firstly, “Who do the people say the Son of Man is?” And then secondly, “But you, who do you say I am?” In response to the first question, they say, “Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the other prophets.”
The title that Jesus uses to describe himself, is a title that would be assigned to a Messiah. However, although the people were looking for a Messiah, their idea of a Messiah would be a someone sent by God to bring about salvation and they would have expected to be saved from the tyranny of the Romans. And the response, in naming the great prophets would have reflected this understanding, that the Messiah would be a human being.
Peter’s response is entirely different. “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” This is the first time that a disciple has stated explicitly who Jesus is, and as Jesus explains it is only because Peter is inspired by the Holy Spirit.
This statement of faith, that Jesus Christ is Son of God gives expression to what is essential and specific to the Christian faith as a whole. It is the core belief of Christians. It is a statement of the divinity of Jesus Christ. This divinity is expressed in numerous places in the Gospels, the Baptism, the epiphany and the Transfiguration on the Mountain.
When we talk about the tradition of the Church we are looking at the teaching of the Church on Jesus since the earliest days. The teaching of the Church itself tends to take the form of proclamations made in opposition to heresies.
The first of these was the heresy of Arius. He taught that Jesus was not divine. In fact, he taught that Jesus was not really human either, but rather he was only human flesh. And so, in opposition to his teaching the council of Nicaea reaffirms the total humanity of Jesus. That he is human in both body and soul. This council of the Church also affirms the divinity of Jesus.
The next major heresy ascribed to Nestorianism. Nestorius argued, wrongly of course, that Christ is two persons, Jesus, a human person, to whom a divine person, Christ was united. This teaching was condemned at the Council of Ephesus in 431.
At the Council it was stated that,
  1. Jesus is truly God, and therefore that Mary is the Mother of God.
  2. That the ‘Son of God’ is one with his own flesh, that is to say that he is at once God and Man.
At the Council of Chalcedon 451 the Church taught that
“…We unanimously teach to confess one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, the same perfect in divinity and perfect in humanity, the same truly God and truly man composed of rational soul and body, the same one being with the Father as to the divinity and one in being with us as to the humanity, like us in all things but sin. The same was begotten from the Father before the ages as to the divinity and in the latter days for us and our salvation was born to His humanity from Mary the Virgin Mother of God.”
The teaching on Jesus Christ, as Human and Divine has continued to be taught throughout the centuries at major Church Councils, including Vatican II the latest major document concerned Jesus as the Redeemer of Man.
Once again Pope John Paul in this encyclical explains that it is because Jesus, is both Human and Divine, the Son of God who became flesh, that he is the Redeemer of Humankind.
Questions for discussion
  1. Before this evening how would you describe your understanding of the humanity and Divinity of Jesus?
  2. What is your own image of Jesus?
  3. How important is the divinity and humanity of Jesus to our Salvation?

RCIA: Creation and Fall

When opening a Bible, the very first Book we come across is the Book of Genesis. When we read the first two chapters it describes the creation of the world and all that it holds. When we take our time to read these two chapters we notice that there are in fact, not one, but two descriptions of creation.
The first account of creation begins with the words, “In the beginning God created heaven and earth and concludes with the words, “He rested on the seventh day and made it holy, because on that day he rested after all his word of creating. Such was the story of heaven and earth as they were created.
(READ THE FIRST ACCOUNT) (Genesis 1: 1- 2: 4)
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.
And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.
And God said, “Let there be a vault between the waters to separate water from water.” So God made the vault and separated the water under the vault from the water above it. And it was so. God called the vault “sky.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the second day.
And God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.” And it was so. 10 God called the dry ground “land,” and the gathered waters he called “seas.” And God saw that it was good.
11 Then God said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.” And it was so. 12 The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. 13 And there was evening, and there was morning—the third day.
14 And God said, “Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark sacred times, and days and years, 15 and let them be lights in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth.” And it was so. 16 God made two great lights—the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. 17 God set them in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth, 18 to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good. 19 And there was evening, and there was morning—the fourth day.
20 And God said, “Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the vault of the sky.” 21 So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living thing with which the water teems and that moves about in it, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. 22 God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth.” 23 And there was evening, and there was morning—the fifth day.
24 And God said, “Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: the livestock, the creatures that move along the ground, and the wild animals, each according to its kind.” And it was so. 25 God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.
26 Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals,[a] and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”
27 So God created mankind in his own image,
    in the image of God he created them;
    male and female he created them.
28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”
29 Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. 30 And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” And it was so.
31 God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day.
Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array.
By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.
This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created, when the Lord God made the earth and the heavens.
The second account of creation is more concise account:
(Genesis 2:5-25)
Now no shrub had yet appeared on the earth[a] and no plant had yet sprung up, for the Lord God had not sent rain on the earth and there was no one to work the ground, but streams[b] came up from the earth and watered the whole surface of the ground. Then the Lord God formed a man[c] from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.
Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed. The Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
10 A river watering the garden flowed from Eden; from there it was separated into four headwaters. 11 The name of the first is the Pishon; it winds through the entire land of Havilah, where there is gold. 12 (The gold of that land is good; aromatic resin[d] and onyx are also there.) 13 The name of the second river is the Gihon; it winds through the entire land of Cush.[e] 14 The name of the third river is the Tigris; it runs along the east side of Ashur. And the fourth river is the Euphrates.
15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. 16 And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; 17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”
18 The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”
19 Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. 20 So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky and all the wild animals.
But for Adam[f] no suitable helper was found. 21 So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs[g] and then closed up the place with flesh. 22 Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib[h] he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.
23 The man said,
“This is now bone of my bones
    and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called ‘woman,’
    for she was taken out of man.”
24 That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.
25 Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.
What is it that we find that is common to both accounts of creation?
  • (Both accounts point to God’s initiative:
  • God creates everything out of nothing:
  • In both accounts the culmination of creation is the creation of humanity.
The creation of Humanity
In the first account we are told “God said, ‘Let us make man in our own image, in the likeness of ourselves, and let them be masters of the fish of the sea, the birds of heaven, the cattle, all the wild animals and all the creatures that creep along the ground.’
God created man in the image of himself, in the image of God he created him, male and female he created them.”
In the second account we are told, “Yahweh God shaped man from the soil of the ground and blew the breath of life into his nostrils, and man became a living being.”
What do we find that is in common with the accounts of the creation human kind?
God chose to create man and woman. It is God’s initiative. In the first account we see that man and woman are made equally and importantly that God creates them in his own image and likeness. This is really important because it bestow a unique dignity on all men and women that comes from God and can never be taken away from them. Hence, we might say that in the first account the writer is focused first and foremost on the relationship between God and humanity.
In the second account of creation the account of the creation of humanity emphasizes that it is God who creates humanity. It is his initiative and, he places ‘man’ over all his creation. However, the author is attempting to describe the relationship between men and woman and give women a secondary role, that of the helpmate of man. However, he also describes how they complete each other, for they become like one flesh.
Every Sunday, in normal times we recite the Creed which is a summary of all that we as Christians believe. The Creed begins with a description of God the Father as the Creator. In the Apostle’s Creed it states that: “I believe in one God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.”
The Nicene Creed has a variation in wording: “We believe in one God, the Father, almighty, maker of all that is, seen and unseen.” However, both versions of the Creed begin by stating that God IS THE CREATOR and therefore all that exists comes from God and finds it source in God.
THE CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH states that “Catechesis on creation is of major importance. It concerns the very foundation so if human and Christian life: for it makes explicit the response of Christian faith to the basic questions that men of all times have been asked themselves. Where do we come from? Where are we going? What is our origin? What is our end? Where does everything that exists come from and where is it going? The two questions, the first about the origin and second about the end, are inseparable. There are decisive for the meaning and the orientation of our life and actions.
After the Book of Genesis introduces us to the concept of Creation, in the third chapter it introduces us to the concept of the Fall. When we talk about the fall we are talking about how humanity turned away from God. In other words, how sin entered into God’s creation.
(READ CHAPTER 3 OF THE Book of Genesis)
The Fall
1Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”
2The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’ ”
4“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. 5“For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
6When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. 7Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.
8Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”
10He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”
11And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?”
12The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”
13Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?”
The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”
14So the Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this,
“Cursed are you above all livestock
and all wild animals!
You will crawl on your belly
and you will eat dust
all the days of your life.
15And I will put enmity
between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and hers;
he will crush your head,
and you will strike his heel.”
16To the woman he said,
“I will make your pains in childbearing very severe;
with painful labor you will give birth to children.
Your desire will be for your husband,
and he will rule over you.”
17To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’
“Cursed is the ground because of you;
through painful toil you will eat food from it
all the days of your life.
18It will produce thorns and thistles for you,
and you will eat the plants of the field.
19By the sweat of your brow
you will eat your food
until you return to the ground,
since from it you were taken;
for dust you are
and to dust you will return.”
20Adam named his wife Eve, because she would become the mother of all the living.
21The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them. 22And the Lord God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.” 23So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. 24After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.
From our reading of Genesis 3, how might we describe the fall of humanity? What motivated humanity to turn away from God? Why did God choose to send Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden? Why did God choose not to completely abandon them? What might this tell us about God’s plan of salvation?
We might say that when we talk about the Fall, we are talking about the introduction of sin and evil into creation. Evil does not come from God; evil comes from sin. By listening to Satan, represented by the serpent, our first parents disobeyed God. The original sin was the beginning of evil in the world. The effects of this sin can be felt through all generations because it is transmitted to every descendant of Adam and Eve (except for the Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ) through all ages.
However, as the Catechism tells us: With his creation, God does not abandon his creatures to themselves. He not only gives them being and existence, but also, and at every moment, upholds and sustains them in being, enables them to act and brings them to their final end.  (301)
And so, even after the fall of humanity, that is sin, it is God who sustains us and brings us back to him to be with him for all of eternity.
So, to sum up our discussion, so far, we can say:
God created everything out of nothing. The universe is sustained by God and is not a product of blind chance. He created mankind in his own image. Adam and Eve are the first parents of all men and women. They were created in a perfect state but through their own fault they sinned against God. This sin is transmitted to every generation and is known as original sin. Every human being feels its effects.
The First three chapters of the Book of Genesis describes Creation and the Fall from an Old Testament perspective. If we read the Prologue of John’s Gospel we are given a different perspective, that of the New Testament writers.
The Gospel of John
The Prologue of John’s Gospel begins with a reflection on Creation
“In the beginning was the Word, the Word was with God and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things came into being, and not one thing came into being except through him. What has come into being was life, life that was the light of men; and light shines in darkness, and darkness could not over power it.”
When we reflect on these words from the prologue of John what do there tell us about creation?? What are the main differences in John’s understanding in comparison to that of the authors of the Book of Creation?
What is meant by the Word? Who is the Word? What is the role of the Word in creation?
Where do we see God’s Glory in creation today?
Where do we see sin in God’s creation today?
Where do we see humanity’s cooperation in God’s creation?
Where do we see humanity’s betrayal of God in the world today?
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