Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Trilingual Christians and the Triune God

We just celebrated the Confirmation of two of our youth. They have learned a lot over the past two years. One of the things they learned is that they have a lot yet to learn. In fact, their Confirmation is a great opportunity for the rest of us to remember that we have a lot to learn also.

That’s why the word “catechesis” is so important. Catechesis is not “Confirmation Class”. Catechesis is the life-long learning of God’s Word and growing in faith. Confirmation instruction is the foundation for continued catechesis.

Look at your own Christian life. How have you grown in God’s grace since you were confirmed into the Christian faith, whether a few years ago or many years ago? Being confirmed and being catechized your whole life through is like learning a language. The best way to learn a language is to be immersed in it. That’s why little children will say things and you wonder how they were able to say something like that when they haven’t even been in school yet. It’s because they’re constantly surrounded by the language. They hear it often and soak it in.

The problem with us, however, is that we’re born with the inclination for three languages. These languages aren’t spoken languages, although words can certainly be used to communicate them. They are the languages of idolatry, and we’re very conversant with them.

The world is fluent in this language and is constantly attacking the truth of the Word of God, whether in outright disregard for it or in subtle ways to tempt us to live for ourselves rather than for God. We’re very comfortable with this language, using it at times rather than the lasting Words of the Holy Scriptures.

Another language we know well is the one the devil speaks. It’s tempting to dismiss this one as one we don’t speak, but don’t we often give in to the temptations of the devil? He will use any means to tempt us to doubt God, and when we do, we’re speaking the language of the devil—“Did God really say?”—rather than the one God has given us in His Word.

The third one we naturally speak is the one of our sinful flesh. This is the one that gives eloquent expression to the rationalization that it’s good to give in to our pleasures. Why would God deny us the good things He’s created?

By nature we are much more conversant as trilinguists than we are as catechumens (those who are learning the language of God in His Word, the language of faith). That’s why we need to be unilinguists. The language of the Triune God is the language of grace and mercy.

God the Father does indeed give us all good things for our benefit and enjoyment. God the Son has beaten down the devil to show us a way that doesn’t end in destruction but rather life. God the Holy Spirit raises us up to new life that is lived to Christ, not ourselves.

How does the Triune God teach us this language? Through catechesis. Through getting us into His Holy Word. Through us remembering daily our Baptism and the repenting of our sins and the rejoicing in His forgiveness. Through feeding us often the Body and Blood of Christ for our forgiveness and the strengthening of our faith. In this way we’re immersed in His Word.

He speaks. We listen. That is how we learn the language of the Triune God.

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