Saturday, November 2, 2019

The Miracle of Death




If Christians believe that Jesus died to save us from our sins and bring us eternal life, why then have I encountered so many afraid of death?  Working critical care meant more often than not, I would be faced with life or death situations.  The one thing I would always hear constantly is how Jesus would work a miracle and their family member would walk right out of the hospital.  There were many times that this miracle would occur and we were transferring patients out to less critical units.  A few times, the patient would walk in several months later and say thank you.  However, there were those moments this was not possible.

Watching families grieving was heart-wrenching.  No matter how professional one can be, you could not put away the human aspects of empathy and sympathy.  There were many times that I would have to hide in the supply closet so I don't show the family my tears.  What I grieved aside from the loss of the families is the moments when they could not let go.  It was more difficult to watch my patients' prolonged suffering because of their loved ones' inability to consider a world without them.  There was a time a patient had coded more than once and one of their family members said "If God wants to, He'll take him."  My coworker responded, "God did take him.  We brought him back."

Her response stuck with me.  Yes, God gave us the knowledge, the intelligence, the tools.  But there is a fine line between saving someone's life and playing God's hand.  What is more, there were times that the prolongation of life was against the wishes of the patient.  I saw children of patients beg their parents to reverse the "Do no resuscitate" status, even when you could see the patient was ready to let go.  They did not want to suffer anymore.  They did not want to feel pain anymore.  They were ready to let go.  They were ready to go home.


Too often I watched as my patients organs began to fail.  They could not breathe on their own, completely dependent on the ventilators.  Their body could not handle the amount of medications and fluids that their bodies began to swell, sometimes leaking the fluid from their pores instead.  In order to keep their blood pressure up so there is enough flow to the brain, we needed to give them medications that would cause their blood vessels to constrict; from this their fingertips and toe tips would turn blue because of decreased circulation.  You began to see their heart rate slowing down.  Once they coded we would work on them, sometimes for two to three hours, doing chest compressions, risking trauma to their ribs and sternum, giving them more medications, more toxins, more fluids.  Despite the minutes and hours we labored, the interventions we did, our efforts seemed futile.

Yet the families would still want us to keep going; the families that would gather around and pray for a miracle.  The families that would proclaim Jesus as their Lord and Savior.  There was a song and now a book called Everybody Wants to Go to Heaven, but Nobody Wants to Die.  How could we proclaim God's saving grace, the eternal life we all look for, but when we're faced with that moment, we deny God what we have all worked our lives to achieve: eternal rest with Him? By continuing the life support, by continuing the medications, by continuing the invasive procedures, we are taking that decision away from God. We are playing God’s hands. They seem to forget that “what is impossible for human beings is possible for God.” (Luke 18:27) It does not matter how many breaths we give them. It does not matter how many heart beats we give them. It doesn’t not matter what we put into their bodies. Because if God wills it, that is what will come to pass. All we have to do is have faith that God will work his miracle. Whether it be here on Earth or in Heaven, “Your will be done.” (Matthew 6:9)


For those who are faithful to God, death is the ultimate miracle.  For God so loved the world that He gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him might not perish but might have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. (John 3: 16).  Jesus gave himself as ransom for all (1 Timothy 1:6).

Heaven is defined as "the ultimate end and fulfillment of the deepest human longings, the state of supreme, definitive happiness." (CCC 1024).  Why would we want to continue our family members' suffering on earth and deny them this happiness that God has promised?  In the Gospel of John, Jesus Himself said, "If I tell you about earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you about heavenly things?" (John 3:12).  He  points out the lack of faith Nicodemus had.  He told him "What is born of the flesh is flesh and what is born of the spirit is spirit."  Holding on to the  bodies of our loved ones, we are born of the flesh, giving in to our earthly desires and not allowing the spirit of our loved ones to reach their ultimate destiny.

However, it is okay to grieve.  Jesus Himself wept and grieved for Lazarus (John 11:35).  Ultimate fulfillment for our loved ones in Heaven does not take away the loss we feel.  It does not diminish our pain having to endure without them.  One thing we can all hold on to is that one day, we, too will be united in Heaven with all of the faithful departed.



Angelica Delallana, MSN, RN

Thursday, October 31, 2019

HCD: The Return of the Duo

On Sunday October 27, 2019 I received a text message from Angel Delallana informing me that her flight had just landed at Tucson International Airport. That meant it was time to pack my family in the car and head off to pick up my partner in Humana Corpus Dignitate as we were going to spend some time with her that day before her and I would spend that evening finalizing different parts of the presentation we were going to share at my job the following day. That presentation was titled The Mindful Life and we were going to share this talk on Mental Health in Adolescents for the junior and senior theology classes at Saint Augustine Catholic High School here in Tucson, AZ.

Two weeks prior we were in Carson, CA, the town of my upbringing as well as Angel's hometown as we presented an Introduction to the Theology of the Body to both middle school students and Confirmation candidates. Now Angel was coming to what had now been my home for the past thirteen years with both of being excited to have the opportunity to . We were both really excited because this was our second time working together in the past two weeks and that's a lot considering the fact that we both work and are raising families in separate states!

On a personal note it also gave Angel a chance to see members of my family for the first time in over ten years. The last time she saw my wife and kids was at a local eatery during one of our trips back to Carson. Now she would see my family after years of growth and change. My wife was now a K-8 school principal with my kids now being in both high school and middle school.  I was really looking forward to this because I have had a chance to spend some time with her family on multiple trips to CA earlier this year so I wanted her to have the same opportunity once she found her way to my neck of the woods.

We started our time together showing her both the St. Augustine Cathedral as well as the San Xavier de Bac Mission, which gave her a chance to see some of the history of the Catholic Church in Tucson while the two of us took the time to take some pictures at some beautiful spots. We then spent some time having a late lunch in order to catch up on things before we all went back to my house for some rest and relaxation. Later that evening Angel and I worked on some last moment preparations for the following day before turning our attention to some other things that we had been working on a few weeks prior to her.



The following day Angel joined my kids and myself on our morning drive to school as she got a taste of my morning commute. We arrived to St. A's, met some of the staff and then checked her in. Then it was time to get to work. Most of the presentations took place in my classroom and it was non-stop for six straight periods. The students were very receptive to the material, even when it got a little heavy because they are used to my teaching style. I say that because I saw more than ever how similar Angel and I are when it comes to delivering the material. We are both willing to go there while also allowing students to ask questions with the intention of giving them a solid answer. In our case, Angel dug deep on issues from bullying to suicide with my jumping in later to speak both of how Christians should be handling those who are suffering from mental illness while showing both the progress that the Church has made along with how much more we have to do. (Short excerpt of The Mindful Life: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yXVhm4KNkeE&t=3s)

To be honest, I could see a big difference from two weeks ago. First off, we took a critical eye at our presentation back in CA within days of me returning home and made whatever changes needed to be made. Second, we were both even more comfortable working together and as the day went on we could feel the improvement of both our flow as well as our interactions. Even then we still made a few changes between presentations as both of us are more or less never done when it comes to the things that we create as we always seem to find a way to make it better.



We ended the day heading back to my place in order to have dinner with my wife before we spent some time interviewing her for a future podcast that we're currently putting together in order to expand our audience. We felt that it went really well and look forward to releasing it some time soon. Aside from that we also let her watch a video of one of our presentations in order to get her feedback since she is a principal whose job is to observe teachers from time to time. She had some great insights to offer, which we took note of in order to make even more improvements to our joint presentation.

Once everything we finished Angel called home with my wife and I having a chance to video chat with her boys. I was really moved by the way they spoke to me as I always enjoyed their company. Aside from that, I had a chance to see them interact with my wife as she finally got a chance to see how cute and funny they are. Angel and I are both looking forward to the moment when we can finally spend some time with our families together with members of our families feeling the same way.  

On a very personal note I can say that I am very satisfied with the start of actually working with a partner on such an endeavor. This is something I thought I would never do because I am not one who likes to work with others on important projects due to so many past disappointments. In most cases I would rather fail on my own rather than have my success and progress depend on the efforts of others. Taking on this task with Angel has actually been rather eye opening to say the least and it's more than just the leap of faith I took once we saw the potential in what we could do together.

For years I have seen her passion for her nursing profession but was always impressed with how she saw her work as a duty to both her patients as well as their families while never forgetting that these were also God's children who deserved to be treated with dignity and respect. Aside from that, her faith was something that inspired me as she always wanted others to see the life they could really live if they were just willing to open themselves to God's grace. That and the passion she had to share this faith others while she was in the midst of work and raising a family.

Once I saw that I was really excited to move forward with HCD as I saw someone whose drive was similar to mine who really goes after things once she sets her mind to it. Aside from that, she is someone who will really push me when it comes to both pulling my weight and in the constant task of having to update and improve all that I do for this ministry. She is very honest yet supportive with the way she offers her observations and suggestions so I know that any insight she has to offer is with the intention of helping this ministry move forward while also believing in what we stand for as her behavior towards me totally reflects our philosophy as a ministry.  

In her I have found a true partner and I am grateful to be on this journey with her.  And right off the bat we already know that we are not alone as we already have the support of our families as well as those who have graciously kept us in their prayers.






Carlos Solorzano 
BA & MA in Religious Studies from Cal State Long Beach 
Certified through the Theology of the Body Institute 
Co-founder of Humana Corpus Dignitate 
https://www.hcdtalks.com/



Saturday, October 19, 2019

An Exploration of Purgatory

One of the most misunderstood teachings of the Roman Catholic Church is the one on Purgatory. Many Catholics themselves do not fully understand this teaching and of course many false claims have been made by non-Catholics in terms of the origin and meaning of this doctrine. In this discussion we will take an in depth look at this teaching from a variety of sources while reflecting on some ideas that may further clarify what this teaching is all about.


What is Purgatory? 

For many the idea of an intermediary state between this life and heaven almost seems to personally offend them as the God of love could not possibly have created anything in the afterlife for the just other than heaven. Unfortunately, such people fail to see that the existence of purgatory is not a belief in God's lack of ability to save us but is in fact another reality of a loving and merciful God that continues to find a way to save us due to the various ways that we lack the holiness required to be in His presence.

Purgatory comes from the Lain word "purgare," which means to make clean or to purify. As stated by the New Advent website: "It is a place or condition of temporal pubishment for those who, departing this life in God's grace, are, not entirely free from venial faults, or have not fully paid the satisfaction due to their transgressions."

Notice the choice of words: place or condition. Part of knowing God and His will is to recognize that much of what we actually know about either is in fact a mystery, which is a word that the Church is not afraid to use in her own official documents because after all, how do finite beings understand an infinite God? However, the Church does teach that there is in fact a reality for those who do not merit the immediate privilege of heaven who are also not in a state of permanent condemnation.

What is this lack of perfection? 1 John 5:17 tells us that, "All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that is not deadly." This is certainly referring to those venial faults that were cited earlier that, while leaving us in an imperfect state do not keep us from the hope of the Resurrection.

Karl Keating tells us that: "In purgatory all remaining love of self is transformed into love of God. At death one's soul goes to heaven, if it is completely fit for heaven; to purgatory, if it is not quite fit for heaven, but not worthy of condemnation; or to hell, it it is completely unfit for heaven. Purgatory is a temporary state. Everyone who enters will get to heaven, and, after the last soul leaves purgatory for heaven, purgatory will cease to exist."

The reality is that there are those that are not in a perfect state, which should not surprise any of us since we live in a world tainted by original sin. Further, Catholics also believe that salvation, as stated by Keating, depends on the state of the soul at death. In other words, our salvation is not based on answering an altar call. Life itself is not about important moments that supposedly define us because we still have to live our lives after such moments and/or we are also experiencing other aspects of our lives that are unknown to those who witnessed one of what many call defining moments at a specific time and place that still do not tell our full story.

According to Alan Schreck, "Purgatory is a sign of God's mercy on those who have honestly sought to know God and to do His will in this life, and yet who die in some degree of bondage to sin or the effects of sin." This is of course an absolutely possibility, which is why Jesus said in Luke 12:59, "I say to you, you will not be released until you have paid the last penny." Such and idea would only be a threat to a person who dies in a state of mortal sin.

Why is this so? Why can't God just free us from our sins and allow us to be in His presence? Such a question is asked if we think that our salvation is all about us when we forget that we have a relationship with God. With that in mind, we must also think of the reality of God and why our sinful state, regardless of our level of corruption, does in fact, require a state of purification.

As stated by Schreck, we must be fully cleansed, "Because of God's holiness. Sin and God are diametrically opposed. God is so pure, so holy, that nothing impure or sinful can enter into His presence (see Revelation 21:27). Sin is burned away by God's holiness, by His anger against sin, and by His love of the repentant sinner, for our God is a consuming fire ( see Hebrews 12:29). Purgatory means that as a person is drawn nearer to God and finally drawn into the fully glory of His presence, the remaining sin in a person's life is just burned away by the consuming fire of God's hatred of sin and His love for the one bound to it. Sin is purged because it cannot exist in the presence of the all-holy God."

Such a reality is not something we have not seen before. As Schreck says, "The doctrine of purgatory is related to Isaiah's experience" (See Isaiah 6:1-3). After having a vision of God on his throne Isaiah states: Woe is me, I am doomed! For I am a man of unclean lips, living among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts! Then one of the seraphim flew to me, holding an ember which he had taken with tongs from the altar. He touched my mouth with it, 'See,' he said. 'now that this has touched your lips, your wickedness is removed, your sin is purged.'

There is a reason why there are images with fire with purgatory is because, as Schreck says, "purgation is painful but also cleansing and purifying. This is not an unfamiliar idea; even in this life we experience pain when God breaks us from patterns of sin."


Forgiveness After Death? 

Many Christians reject the idea that sins can be forgiven after death because they continue to attach themselves to what they see as that defining moment of salvation. What's most interesting about this teaching is when we become aware of a born again Christian who later in life commits a very serious sin. At that moment if the reality of their salvation is in fact challenged the response is usually that they were never really saved. How can this be if they did the same thing that the other saved people did by answering the preacher's altar call? Or, does this show that we in fact don't know a person's heart based only on what we see, which is why God is not only the judge of that person but also the source of their purification regardless of whether it happens in this life or the next one?

Instead of splitting hairs over this why don't we simply look at the bible to see if in fact a person can be forgiven of some sins after death.

In Matthew 12:31 Jesus says, "...whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit (the sin of attributing to Satan what is the work of the Spirit of God) will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come."  To unfold this teaching a bit more, Dave Armstrong tells us that, "...it is clear that Jesus is presupposing that there are other sins that are forgiven after death." Further, Armstrong states that, if the forgiveness of sins after death was a categorical impossibility then, "He (Jesus) would have never mentioned even its theoretical potentiality. He simply wouldn't bring it up at all. He doesn't teach falsehood, being God and omniscient."

One final point is that in searching through many Protestant bibles it is fascinating to see that many of the editors have removed the portion that states in this age or in the age to come. Is this perhaps an alteration to the text to fit a theological agenda? It is one thing to base one's teaching on a different translation but to remove a portion of the text  that is supposed to be the Word of God is most disturbing.

We can see now see that the claim that the Catholic Church's teaching on purgatory not being found in the bible is in fact false. While there is no direct statement about it from Jesus, the patriarchs or the prophets we must understand that doing theology is more than finding a statement from the bible, interpreting it our own way and then creating a theology around it. It is true that Jesus did not stand on Mount Sinai and say, "Blessed are those who believe that purgatory exists." However, it is a biblical fact that He did speak of the reality of some sins that are forgiven after death.

The belief of such was also very well known by many of the early Church Fathers, which is why many of them encouraged Christians to pray for the dead. This included individuals such as Tertullian, Origen, Cyprian, Ambrose, Augustine (whose own mother asked for him to offer Masses for her after she passed away), Basil, Gregory of Nazianzus, John Chrysostom and Pope Gregory the Great. Meanwhile, Schreck tells us that 4th century Christian Gregory of Nyssa wrote that, "after the departure from the body (a soul that is not purified)...will not be able to participate in divinity, unless the cleansing fire will have purged away all stains of the soul." This is also why there was also a prayer by St. John of Chrysostom that Schreck tells us says, Let us pray also for the repose of the souls of the departed servants of God and for the forgiveness of their every transgression, deliberate and indeliberate." All of this seems to go with quite well with the canonical status given by the Roman Catholic Church to the Old Testament book of 2 Maccabees, which is not included in the Protestant canon. A key statement from this book says that we should, pray for the dead that they might be loosed from their sins (12:46)

As Schreck says, "Praying for the dead makes sense only if those prayers can benefit the dead." This could only make sense with the existence of purgatory because as Keating says, "Prayers are not needed by those in heaven, and they cannot help those in hell. That means some people must be in a third place, at least temporarily."

In conclusion, we can see first that the bible does in fact speak of sins that can be forgiven after death. We also see the practice of early Christians acting on behalf of those in a purgative state with their prayers. So, if we are looking for someone to best to guide us on the validity of this practice should we look to those who participated in what was obviously a regular practice during the early days of the Church, which was closer to the time period when Jesus spoke of this teaching? Or, do we look to those who came centuries later who were already participating in a practice to remove things from the their own faith expressions that they identified as too Roman Catholic? Either way, regardless of how one wants to interpret scripture they cannot say that the belief in praying for the dead as well as the belief in purgatory that goes with this practice is not without biblical reference.







Carlos Arthur Solorzano 
  • BA & MA in Religious Studies from Cal State Long Beach  
  • Certified through the Theology of the Body Institute  
  • Instructor of Theology at St. Augustine Catholic High School 
  • Co-founder of Humana Corpus Dignitate   
  • https://www.hcdtalks.com/    
  • https://www.facebook.com/HCDTalks/

Sources







Friday, October 18, 2019

Adolescent and Abortion: Speaking on a controversial topic to young, curious minds

If there was one topic I could say I was nervous of speaking about, it would be abortion.  With the political climate surrounding it, the issues of rights, it could be a hot button for many people.  It wasn't necessarily a fear of being bombarded and attacked for my pro-life views, but rather the fear of speaking in a way that made others feel belittled for their own views and situations.

Being an adolescent nowadays is so different from even 20 years ago.  Back then, there wasn't information overload.  There was no, "I'll just Google it."  It took more effort than a push of a button to gain knowledge and learn facts.  That is not the case anymore.  The issue is that not only are the facts more readily available, but so, too, are distorted views and opinions.  What is more, the media has an easier reach into the minds of these young people.  Four to five words of a phrase on a photograph of the alleged speaker is not giving the context of the subject matter, nor the circumstances surrounding the issue.  It becomes a list of idioms with no context passed on to millions of people with a single click.  It gives such a keyhole point of view of a larger picture hidden behind the walls, but no one wants to open that door, walk into the room and look at it the way it's supposed to be seen.

I was asked by one of my former theology teachers to speak to the 9th-12th grade students at my Alma mater.  The week leading up to it was a stressful one.  There was some apprehension by some in the department regarding how the students would react to the presentation as some had previously experienced talks on the subject that was less than appealing and some talks to be rather offensive. Opinions were voiced, and perhaps some protestation as to why they are being forced to listen.

Knowing that the key was my medical background, I put as much evidence-based medical and scientific facts into the presentation as I could, while tying in Church teachings and scripture. The key in anything nowadays is empowerment.  The thing I kept enforcing was choices.  The example was heroin, how even though it is illegal, there are those who continue to do it anyway and are addicted to it.  Whether a thing is legal or not, we all still have a choice to make when we are faced with the situation.  This is why, from the beginning, I opened each talk acknowledging that this is a tough subject, to set their political opinions aside for a minute and be mindful and respectful of one another.

They were given examples of how their decisions could affect them in the future, providing personal testimonies, not just from stories people in my own life, but stories in other resources and ministries.  I showed them examples of pro-life advocates whose lives could have been ended by abortions.  Still, I needed them to understand this is a moral dilemma, one that faces me, someone who is pro-life, having to care for those who have made or are considering making the decision of abortion and treat them with dignity in my field.  Although the Church is steadfast in their stance on the sacredness of life from the moment of conception, that both Saint John Paul II (sec. 58, para. 4) and Pope Francis (sec. 12, para. 1) have acknowledged the emotional and psychological weight of this decision, as well as the need for forgiveness.

As I knew there would be, a few challenged me.  But their challenges helped strengthen my points as I realized what I needed to further explain or restate in a way that could speak to the audience better.  In the end, they were grateful.  They were grateful for the information.  Girls especially responded well, with a few thanking me.  What it made me realize was they just want to know.  They want facts, not have someone hammering them with opinions.  And those who did challenge me, I tried to listen as best I could, acknowledged them for their own views, but presented a different perspective with facts.  Gone are the days of "because I said so."  Young people will challenge rules and ask "why".  And unless it makes sense to them, they're not going to care.  They need to be able to relate to what is being told to them, making it relevant in their lives.  They need hard evidence and logical explanations.  They also need to see their own value and to feel valued.

The very last thing I emphasized was how Jesus was the example of how much God valued humanity by sending his only begotten son in the form of an innocent child, growing in the womb of a woman from conception to birth, and to grow into a man.  Then to sacrifice himself for the sake of our sins out of love for us, God shows how much he truly valued the humans he created.  In the end, the experience, though daunting in the beginning, strengthened my belief, my faith, and most of all my faith in the future generations.

-Angel

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Bringing it Together: The Debut of the HCD Duo

It was the week of my fall break from work and I was excited because I was going to be leaving my home state to return to the place of my birth and upbringing to share what I had been teaching up until this point only in my hometown of Tucson, AZ. For the past several years I have been a student and later an instructor of Pope St. John Paul the II's  Theology of the Body. Most of my work has been at the schools where I have worked for the past several years along with many of the local feeder schools and parishes for various ministries.

One recent change was that I no longer did these talks as an independent speaker. I had recently co-founded Humana Corpus Dignitate (HCD is the short version) with Nurse Practitioner Angel Delallana who is also a Catechist at St. Philomena Catholic Church in Carson, CA. Our objective is to share the teachings of the Catholic faith with a strong emphasis on the dignity of the human person by bringing theological teachings and medical knowledge together in order to offer a deeper understanding of all of the Church's teachings. Even though we live in neighboring states we had already started to collaborate on many of our non-speaking projects from creating a website, writing blogs, creating active social media sites while making other plans for the future. Up until now we had yet to do a talk together so we were very excited to have a chance to share our Introduction to the Theology of the Body presentation to multiple groups of young people. 

It began on the afternoon October 9th when we were invited to speak at St. Philip Neri Catholic School in Lynwood, CA. This place had many special memories for me because I had taught there over 20 years ago. Angel and I were welcomed by all of the teachers and staff members who were very excited to see what we had to share with their students. The place had changed so much yet retained so much of the beauty that I remembered so I was really excited about having a chance to share our presentation at such a special place.

One of the nice things that happened prior to the beginning of our talk was when school principal Alexandra Gonzalez showed us around the school. That also included a chance for me to go back into my old classroom, which brought back a lot of great memories. The biggest surprise though was when the teacher invited me to answer some questions from the students, which gave me a chance to time travel a bit as I was now standing in a familiar place doing something I had done over twenty years ago.



We eventually made our way to the hall in order to begin our presentation and had a great time speaking to a group of enthusiastic young people. Angel and I had a good flow together as we went back and forth on our designated sections with power point visuals behind us to accentuate all that we had prepared to share. What meant the most to both of us was that the students responded with questions and comments that showed a real interest in what we were sharing with them.



It was a real exciting time for me because I had the chance to share this beautiful teaching in a new yet familiar location for me. I did not become a student of the Theology of the Body until I had relocated to the Tucson area so my time as a teacher at St. Philip was long before I attended my first course at the Theology of the Body Institute. Further, my time at St. Philip Neri School was when I was still in my early years as a teacher so to return as a veteran teacher of 24 years was a whole new experience.

Later that day we arrived to St. Philomena Catholic Church in Carson, CA to lead the same talk for the year one Confirmation candidates. This is Angel's home parish where she also teaches Confirmation so she was in a very familiar setting. It was familiar to me as well since I grew up in Carson and have a lot of memories at this parish so it was exciting to see both the familiar sites along with many of the changes that have occurred over the years.



The room was full as we had a much bigger audience than we had earlier that day. Along with Director Justin Fontenot, Catechists and other adults leaders we also had over a hundred Confirmation candidates in front of us so we were excited to have this opportunity to work together for such a large audience. The presentation went well. We received many compliments from many who were in attendance but it still gave us a lot to reflect on in terms of what we presented and how we presented it. So we spent some time reflecting on our presentation in order to see what we could improve on right now.

We had that chance the following day as we shared the same presentation for the year two Confirmation candidates.  Right away we saw a different response to our approach as the two rounds from the previous day gave us a sense of comfort that we didn't have just twenty four hours ago. We had a better flow and read each other in a much better way. The response this evening was even better so we were more than encouraged to say the least.


With our ministry consisting of two people from two different states we know that it will always be challenging when we work together since we are both teachers who are used to working alone both at our daily places of employment as well as the presentations we do for HCD in out hometowns on our own. Still, we made the effort to seize the moment and then make improvements after each opportunity we had to work together so we know that our work is just beginning.



We were blessed to have both the administration of St. Philip Neri School and the adult leaders at St. Philomena Catholic Church already request that we return for future presentations. This was what we hoped and prayed for as the beginning of this ministry came from both of us feeling the call to share what we know in order to give people a vision of the abundant life that God has in store of them. We will continue to work hard on all of our projects and pray for the graces to lead us to where we are most needed in order to answer our call to share the Good News of the Gospel.



Carlos Solorzano
BA & MA in Religious Studies from Cal State Long Beach
Certified through the Theology of the Body Institute
Co-founder of Humana Corpus Dignitate 
https://www.hcdtalks.com/







Saturday, October 5, 2019

Reflections on The Pardon of the Sinful Woman from Luke 7:36-50

One of the best biblical stories to demonstrate how Jesus acknowledged the dignity of another person is the story of the Sinful Woman from Luke's Gospel. The two main characters who encounter Jesus are the Sinful Woman as well as Simon, the Pharisee who invited Jesus to dinner . If we look carefully though the title is a bit misleading because the further we get in the story we in fact see that both characters are sinners and Jesus will minister to both of them.

Once the Sinful Woman enters Simon's home we get a glimpse of the intention that both of them have with Jesus. Simon's reaction is one of disgust because as we see in verse 39 he is only focused on what he calls the type of woman that is touching Jesus. Yes, she is a sinner but unfortunately that is all that Simon sees regardless of her actions towards our Lord.

As Luke the evangelist tells us: "Bringing an alabaster flask of ointment, she stood behind Him at His feet weeping and began to bathe His feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them, and anointed them with ointment" (7:37-38). The woman is completely overwhelmed by the presence of Jesus that she takes on, as stated in Matthew Henry's Commentary, the role of a maidservant when she washes Jesus' feet with her tears. However, it goes beyond that. As she anoints his feet with oil her actions state clearly who Jesus was in front of the Simon, who has already expressed his suspicion of Jesus. In the ancient world, to anoint a person or a thing was to make the person of the object sacred. Kings were anointed to invest them with power as well as those who were consecrated for a holy purpose.

In her action, the Sinful Woman actually gives Jesus all that she had. As William Barclay says, "Round her neck, she wore, like all Jewish women, a little phial of concentrated perfume; they were called alabasters; and they were very costly. She wished to pour it on His feet , for it was all she had to offer. But as she saw Him the tears came and fell upon His feet. For a Jewish woman to appear with her hair unbound was an act of the gravest immodesty. On her wedding day a girl bound up her hair and never would she appear with it unbound again. The fact that this woman loosened her long hair in public showed how she had forgotten everyone except Jesus" (p. 95) 

How did she get to this point? What did she see in Jesus at that moment that led her to act in such a way? What would cause a person to enter someone's home as an uninvited guest that couldn't wait until later?. Further, she had to know how Simon and the others would see her once she made her presence known so what did she see in Jesus that gave her the confidence to act in this way? According to Barclay, "No doubt she had listened to Jesus speak from the edge of the crowd and had glimpsed in Him the hand that could lift her from the mire of her ways (p. 95)."

An interesting thought to add to this is the fact that a Jewish woman would never appear in public with her hair unbound. That would mean that the only man who would see them in this way were their husbands. This could lead us see a deeper image of the Bride of Christ, which we know to be the Church. Take this comment from the website What Every Catholic Should Know:

"The Holy Scriptures state that the Bride of Christ or Body of Christ is comprised of those who are born again into a living relationship with God through Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 12:12-14).  

The Sinful Woman is certainly a part of the Church and she has not only received Jesus in the most personal way but is offering herself both in action and appearance to our Lord.. This could bring to mind the idea of a woman standing at the altar as she exchanges her wedding vows with her husband. Think of the love and trust that she has for him. This Sinful Woman who Simon saw as an outcast actually recognized the presence of God more than the Pharisee who invited Jesus to dinner.

We see in the Sinful Woman someone who is certainly born again whose faith helped her acknowledge with her actions the identity of Jesus. This, according to the Collegeville Bible Commentary, displayed the great love that she had before she could show it, which means that she did in fact accept the hand that lifted her out of the mire of her ways as Jesus showed her the dignity she already had as a person before He stated that her sins were forgiven.

In the spirit of a mutual relationship we also see that  Jesus was also moved by her gesture that many could see as awkward and humiliating. Jesus being the One who sees us for who we really are, who also knew what Simon was thinking of the Sinful Woman at the moment of her appearance, also knew the heart and intention of the Sinful Woman during her humble gesture.

Jesus words following her gesture further identified the dignity of this woman that Simon failed to see. While Simon focused on the type of woman she was Jesus says, "Do you see this woman?" (verse 44). The key word here is see as Simon saw everything but the person that the Sinful Woman really was. To Jesus, this woman still had value and was worthy of respect. This should remind us that it was in fact her sins as well as the sins of the rest of humanity that caused the Divine Physician to come and heal the sick (Mark 2:17). One who is ill is in fact suffering and our loving and merciful God would certainly want to show them how to live their life more abundantly (John 10:10.

This story shows us the two opportunities we have as followers of Jesus. We can be like the Sinful Woman and recognize who He is and why He is here for us and go to Him knowing that He will receive us for who we are. Or, we can be like Simon who being a Pharisee certainly knew the tenets of his faith but did not know how to live it out the right way.



Carlos Arthur Solorzano
  • BA & MA in Religious Studies from Cal State Long Beach  
  • Certified through the Theology of the Body Institute  
  • Instructor of Theology at St. Augustine Catholic High School 
  • Co-founder of Humana Corpus Dignitate   
  • https://www.hcdtalks.com/    
  • https://www.facebook.com/HCDTalks/



Sources
  • The New American Bible (footnotes p. 1105)
  • Barclay, William. The Daily Study Bible Series: The Gospel of Luke: Revised Edition. The Westminster Press Philadelphia, PA 1975
  • McKenzie, John L. Dictionary of the Bible Macmillan Publishing CO. Inc. Collier Macmillan Publishers London, England 1965 
  • Edited by: Paul J. Achtemeir. Harper's Bible Dictionary Harper San Francisco 1985 
  • Edited by Dianne Bergant & Robert J. Karris. The Collegeville Bible Commentary The Liturgical Press Collegeville, Minnesota 1989 (p. 951) 
  • Edited by Raymond E. Brown, Joseph A. Fitzmeyer & Roland E. Murphy. The Jerome Biblical Commentary Prentice-Hall, Inc. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey (p. 138)
  • Edited by Rev. Leslie F. Church. Matthew Henry's Bible Commentary Zondervan Publishing House in Grand Rapids, Michigan1961 (p. 1436) 
  • http://www.whateverycatholicshouldknow.com/wecsk/convent_bridechrist.htm 

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Theology of the Body and...Rocky? Part Five

A great story features a hero that faces a challenge that seems insurmountable before succeeding in the most amazing way. It is meant to inspire us and make us believe that we are capable of the same type of victory if we just believe that we can do all that our hero did.


However, in the real world there are consequences and the opening of Rocky 5 makes perfect sense when we find out that Rocky has in fact suffered brain damage even though he won the biggest fight of his career. To make matters worse we find out that his accountant took advantage of him while he was grieving the loss of his friend, which led to him losing millions of dollars.

In most cases a spouse of such a person would be just as livid as the one who was ripped off but if we remember the events that occurred before this unfortunate act we remember that Adrian actually had even more reason to be upset with Rocky. That is because he didn't even consult with her prior to agreeing to participate in such a dangerous fight and then ignored her when she pleaded with him not to go through with it. Realistically, no one would have blamed her if she packed her stuff and took their son away in disgust since Rocky's negligence removed them from the comfort and security of the life that they were now accustomed to.

However, we already know from the previous blog in this series that Adrian has always seen Rocky the person and since he was now in a debilitating state in terms of what he could do physically she is not concerned with all that they had lost. In fact, it was at this time when he had never been so down that she began with what is probably the most beautiful exchange we see between the two characters in the entire series:

Adrian: Rocky. Do you love me? 

Rocky: Yeah, I love you, you know. Why do you ask that? 

Adrian: Because if you love somebody you live with them, you live for them. You don't gamble with a life. Rocky, I don't care about the money. It's you. That's all that matters. Please. We'll be okay. We'll be fine. 

There was no, I told you so! Or, why didn't you listen to me? Or, see what you cost us by making such a stupid decision? Adrian Balboa really understands what it means to live in the good times and the band times. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LelD80gDKRI

Adrian lives in the here and now and by doing so she looked at the man that she loved and not the decision that she firmly disagreed with. He had no problem believing the sincerity of all that she said because throughout the series we have seen that it was always about the two of them being together in that bond where they always willed the good of the other while living the call of agape.

Sadly, Adrian's commitment was not enough to deter Rocky from looking for something else that he thought would refill the fortune that he lost. Perhaps he was so used to being in the spotlight or felt bad for losing everything he had earned during those moments in the spotlight. Whatever it was, we start to see a determination on his part to get it all back once they return to their old Philadelphia neighborhood.

Soon he would start training a young boxer who moved his way up the heavyweight ranks and once this young star was in a position to earn a title shot Rocky felt he was close to regaining the respect that he once had as champion. The problem was that he didn't realize that he didn't need wealth or material things to prove his value to those who mattered most to him. He already had all that he needed from his family who he was now in danger of losing.

Rocky was so consumed with taking his young fighter to the top that he didn't offer his son the attention that he needed as he was entering his teen years. Adrian watched closely and patiently and dropped hints here and there to try and redirect Rocky's focus but nothing registered until his son blows up on him out of frustration. Rocky was crushed by son's pain but still didn't fully understand why his son felt the way he did.

Unfortunately, Rocky wasn't ready to hear the truth until he lost everything, again. After he has a falling out with his young protege he stood in the middle of the same street where it all started for him and even went as far as identifying himself as: Balboa, just another bum from the neighborhood! 

Enter Adrian to once again remind him that he was more than he realized.

At the moment when Rocky confessed his inadequacies and how he is without any respect Adrian grabbed her beloved husband and reminded him that she respected him because she had lived every battle and struggle with him. She knew all that he endured because she suffered with himShe then explained that he survived those challenges because of his heart, the special gift he had that was like no one else. His heart that propelled him to victories in the ring was the same heart that loved her and their son without question.

After reminding Rocky of the gift he had already shared with others she then laid out some tough love for him. He was not looking in the right direction and by doing so he was hurting the last person he should be hurting, his son! In her words: If there is something you want to pass on pass it on to your son. For God sakes, your son is lost! He needs you!

In other words, his value didn't come from passing on his boxing knowledge to a future champion because there is no point in being a successful trainer if he neglected his duties as a husband and father. It was time for Rocky to get his priorities together and while Adrian was direct with him she still didn't threaten him or offer some type of manipulative ultimatum. Her cry was one of desperation and it was timed perfectly since she waited for the moment when Rocky would actually hear and understand what she had to say.

Rocky's recognition of Adrian's intention allowed him to reach for her in order to comfort all of the pain she had been feeling while coming clean with what he needed to say to his faithful wife: I'm sorry. There was always you and me. There was always you and me. I'm sorry Adrian. He too remembered all that they have been throughthe good times and the bad times, and had never forgotten how he was not the only one that was on this journey. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uf63ZubculE

This is one of the most intimate moments we ever see between the two of them because it is filled with love and forgiveness. Adrian certainly held a lot in but once she let it out she reached for Rocky before an apology left his lips. She knew this man like no one else. She knew that he loved her and their son and that he would do whatever he needed to do in order to take care of his family. Aside from that, she also knew that when she spoke to him that he would listen. Rocky can embrace his wife without hesitation because he knew that when she was direct that it was from her concern for him as well as their family because he too knew how much she loved both him and their son.

Interestingly enough, while this movie is the least appreciated by Rocky fans because of what it lacked in action it actually served as a beautiful conclusion to the relationship we see between Rocky and Adrian Balboa (more on that in the final blog of this series). We see a couple who first recognized the good in the other at a time when neither of them saw that in themselves. One they got married they confronted each challenge together especially when it came to working out their differences. When their surroundings changed their commitment to each other remained and that was best expressed when they not only forgave each other but also loved each other during those moments when it wasn't easy to express that love. So as we get to the end of Rocky 5 we have a clear picture of how much the Balboas mean to each other and how that love would never fade away.

Their marriage is an example of what a permanent marriage should be. Yes, it existed in a fictitious universe but it is in the teachings of the Theology of the Body where Pope Saint John Paul II reminds us that the desire for authentic love is best expressed in art. The films in the Rocky series are no exception.


Carlos Arthur Solorzano 
BA & MA in Religious Studies from Cal State Long Beach 
Certified Through the Theology of the Body Institute 
Theology Teacher at St. Augustine Catholic High School 
Co-founder of Humana Corpus Dignitate 
https://www.facebook.com/HCDTalks/


Monday, September 9, 2019

Theology of the Body and...Rocky? Part Four

If you're looking for both the ultimate underdog story as well as a celebration of patriotism then Rocky 4 is the film for you. Of course while most people continue to focus on the action of the film we continue to see how the marriage of Rocky and Adrian continues to be challenged by the idea of having to love the other through difficult times. In this film Rocky almost seems to push Adrian aside in order to pursue his own interests with her once again having to let her love for him guide her decisions in a true practice of agape.

While the beginning of this blog seemed to have an ominous tone we can at least say that the film doesn't start out this way.  Early in the film the same man who fell in love with Adrian in the first film still offers his affection in ways that she has now known for years. After celebrating her brother's birthday Rocky plans a private moment for them as he has no intention of waiting another week to celebrate their wedding anniversary. In expressing his love for her we can see that she still moves him the same way she did when they first started dating with her also being just as happy with him. That's when he tells her that she still won't get rid of him as a way of reminding her that his commitment to her is the same as it was the day they got married. It's a very moving scene because we can see just how much they really love each other: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ssb6q1cf90&t=2s

Right after this beautiful scene we see the arrival of a huge Soviet boxer named Ivan Drago who was sent to the United States to take on American's best in the professional ranks (it was the 80's). After an introductory press conference where Drago is introduced to the boxing world Rocky's former rival Apollo Creed sees an opportunity to put himself back in the spotlight by taking on Drago who was greeted with the type of hype that Creed was known for. Immediately Rocky is hesitant at such an idea because Creed is much older now and Drago is bigger and stronger than either of them. Apollo responds with a ridiculous diatribe about how boxers are warriors and how they need to be in the middle of the action because that's how they were born.

Rocky has always been led by Creed's smooth talking ways so before we know it we witness another press conference where the former champion announces that he will take on the big Russian in an exhibition bout. Creed runs his mouth in order to build the fight and Drago, who is not accustomed to the American way of promoting a boxing match, doesn't take kindly to the ways of the former champion. Eventually the match takes place between Creed and Drago with Creed actually being beaten to death by his superior foe. Even when Rocky begs him to stop the fight Creed is too proud to admit that he is ove rmatched. Of course the worst part of this scene was that Creed's wife witnessed the whole episode that should have never happened.

With Creed's warrior words echoing in Rocky's head he goes on to schedule a fight with Drago in order to avenge the death of his friend. Most people think that Rocky is foolish to do such a thing because he risks the same fate as Creed. However, Rocky did something much worse in making his decision to take on the Russian boxer: he did so without telling Adrian! Adrian actually finds out when she arrives home one day and see members of the press waiting for her in the Balboa driveway. At that moment she has no idea what they are talking about so imagine the devastation she felt when she realized that Rocky would make such a decision without telling her first

When Rocky finally returns home she confronts him about his decision and he more or less gives her an excuse that sounds more like Creed than the man that she married. Adrian expresses her concerns and fears but Rocky refuses to budge. The worst part of the scene is the look on Adrian's face when she can see that he won't change his mind. Here she is, standing at the top of the staircase in their mansion, which is a long way from the run down apartment where they first kissed and all she sees is Rocky! Regardless of all of the wealth and fame her husband now has she had always seen the man she loved and not the man who provided these luxuries. And now he was willing to risk the life that matted so much to her in order to prove a point in the ring. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4xTWEWll2Ys

Then there is the somber moment of Rocky's departure as he prepares to go to Russia to train. As he is about to get into the limousine he looks up at his bedroom window and sees a saddened Adrian looking down on him. Anyone viewing the film must wonder how he could do this to her but he departs with her looking more concerned than ever. Adrian certainly said what she had to say to him but she didn't still didn't nag him about it. She didn't threaten to leave him because after all, this is the same woman who had already proven more than once that she understood the meaning of the word commitment. She was afraid of losing him and that in itself was heart breaking. (Start at 1:33) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ask5bx47Uw4

As the film progresses the viewer is pumped up by yet another fabulous training montage where we see two warriors prepare for what the Rocky universe will call the biggest fight in boxing history. This serves actually as an amazing distraction after Rocky's departure because we see some of the most beautiful parts of God's creation, which are two male bodies at their peak performing at such a high level. After all, creation is good and both of these boxers, as stated in the teachings of the Theology of the Body, are good.

The biggest surprise though is when Rocky returns from a run to see Adrian waiting for him. This is one of the most beautiful scenes in the series as she approaches the love of her life and lays her heart out to him: I couldn't stay away anymore. I missed you. We can assume that she is still hurt and scared but her love for Rocky is unquestioned and she would rather be with him than resent him and stay away. She also knows that she is safe to say whatever she has to tell him without any fear because she already knows of his unconditional love for her. That is why she is able to look him in the eye and say: I'm with you, no matter what. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EPTXZa4vYEI&t=8s


Imagine the impact that had on him knowing that she was with him as he prepared for the biggest match of his life. There is no doubt that having her support during his training sessions as well as during the big fight helped propel Rocky to the greatest win of his career.

More important than the hero in the ring is in fact our hero Adrian demonstrating her true love for Rocky as she truly demonstrated what it means to love someone in good times and bad:

  1. First, she didn't agree with Rocky's decision to fight Drago but gave him room to do what he  needed to do even though he was putting his life on the line. 
  2. Second, she could have claimed that Rocky betrayed her by not speaking to her first when he decided to take the fight. As his wife she certainly had the right to know even what he was thinking of doing but again, she let that pass especially after he finally explained his reasons for doing what he felt he had to do.
  3. Most importantly, Adrian showed greater strength than her husband during the fight as she sat there and watched him take a horrible beating prior to summoning the strength to beat what many saw as an unbeatable opponent. Most viewers tend to focus on Rocky's amazing victory, which made his nation proud but most people fail to see all that Adrian endured.

The hardest part for Adrian was that she wasn't given the choice to prepare for what could have been a tragic outcome. Still, she was there and supported her husband because her love for him was stronger than her greatest fear.

This was indeed, a true act of agape. 


Carlos Arthur Solorzano
BA & MA in Religious Studies from Cal State Long Beach
Certified Through the Theology of the Body Institute
Theology Teacher at St. Augustine Catholic High School 
Co-founder of Humana Corpus Dignitate
https://www.facebook.com/HCDTalks/



Friday, September 6, 2019

Monotheism in Pre-Columbian Mexico

Ever since the creation of the world, his (God’s) invisible attributes of eternal power and divinity have been able to be understood and perceived in what he has made.

                                                                                        St. Paul, Romans 1:20

St. Paul’s statement in the first chapter of his letter to the Romans was in reference to pagans who were not behaving in accordance to God’s law. Paul goes on to state that there is no excuse for such behavior and that the people could not claim to be ignorant of God’s expectations since creation itself shows God’s invisible attributes. In other words, to summarize a statement in the Collegeville Bible Dictionary, "Paul is concerned with people who do not behave according to God’s plan. This plan was in plain view in the orderliness of creation" (p. 1082).

In Romans 1:24-32 Paul states why the pagans failed to behave in accordance to God’s law. To summarize Raymond Brown from his book Introduction to the New Testament, "human fault and stupidity led to the divine image being obscured in the pagan world" (p. 566). Examples of inappropriate behavior would be idolatry, lust and other forms of depraved conduct. Further, Paul cites “stubbornness” and an “impenitent heart” as vices that prevent people from changing from their evil ways.

However, the pagans were not without opportunities to be aware of God’s divine plan. In the past, God used prophets to proclaim his word to Israel but such messages were also delivered to many Gentiles who would then attaching themselves to local synagogues in order to be part of the Jewish community.

God’s word and presence for that matter, as we know from Paul's statment in Romans 1:20, was not limited to the Jews or those who were close to a Jewish community. This we know from a number of teachings that have come down to us throughout history that are indeed similar to what is taught in the Gospels. That is why the Catechism of the Catholic Church makes the following statement in regards to how God prepared people from all over the world for the coming of Jesus Christ:


The coming of God's Son to earth is an event of such immensity that God willed to prepare for it over centures. He makes everything converge on Christ: all rituals and sacrifices, figures and symbols of the First Covenant. He announces Him through the mouths of the prophets who succeeded one another in Israel. Morever, He awakens in the hearts of the pagans a dim expectation of his coming.
(#522) 


Further, just as God used the voices of the prophets, or those chosen specifically by him to deliver his message to Israel he also used particular individuals from particular Gentile/pagan cultures to deliver His message to those closest to such individuals. This of course was for the same reason that the prophets came before Christ, to prepare the people for His coming, which in most cases would be in the presence of those that Christ sent out into the world.

One example of such an idea has been cited by many Christian theologians who refer to the teachings of Greek philosophers such as Plato and Socrates whose teachings are very similar to what is taught in by Christians.  For example, Plato along with a lesser known predecessor of his named Xenophanes spoke of the existence a single deity rather than the pantheon of gods that most Greeks believed in. Further, Plato and Socrates, who both lived in the 4th century BCE, seemed to prophesize the coming of Jesus as they spoke of the “Logos” (Word) that was indeed coming. And, like the prophets Plato and Socrates were at times persecuted for their personal beliefs that did not coincide with the beliefs or agendas of their peers.

As we will see this wisdom was not something that was only limited to Greek thinkers. In fact, it also occured on a different continent centuries later but at a time when those in the area had no knowledge of the Christian faith. That was when God worked through the efforts of a father and son tandem from the pre-Columbian Mexican city known as Texcoco. These individuals were Nezahualcoyotl and Nezahualpilli, two tlatoanis (rulers, kings) of the Alcohuan people.   
             

Monotheism in Ancient Mexico

Prior to the arrival of the Spaniards pre-Columbian Mexico was a highly organized society that was regulated by a triple alliance government of three highly populated cities: Tenochtitlan, Texcoco and Tlacopan. Like many great cities each of these three places had its own form of government, culture, scholarship, artistry as well as religious practices. Contrary to popular belief not all of the people in pre-Columbian Mexico practiced human sacrifice with the intention of appeasing bloodthirsty gods. In fact, the great king of the Texcoco region, Nezahualcoyotl had a system of beliefs that not only contradicted this ideology but also spoke out against the practice human sacrifice.

Nezahualcoyotl was the Renaissance man of his day. He was not only a king but a scholar who was well versed in astronomy, literature, philosophy, engineering as well as a patron of the arts since he was a poet. Luis Valdez stated that he was actually a precursor to someone like Frederick the Great who, “found time to mingle intellectual pursuits with war and statecraft.” In pre-Columbian Mexico this was also rare due to the fact that many of the intellectuals in this time period came strictly from the priestly class.




Being an heir to the throne, Nezahualcoyotl received a princely type education that was meant to prepare him for his opportunity to rule. Unfortunately, a rival to the throne killed his father in front of him and then sought his life, which forced the young prince into exile. This led to Nezahualcoyotl receiving the name that we have now, which is defined as “hungry coyote,” which is reflection of how he lived while in exile. He would eventually find his way to the city of Tenochtitlan and then spend eight more years of his life studying in order to advance himself intellectually. Soon after this he was contacted by many nobles from his place of birth that were tired of the tyrannical government of Texcoco. They would go on to form a coalition that eventually unseated the tyrannical ruler and placed Nezahualcoyotl in his proper place, as the tlatoani of Texcoco.

Gospel Preview

Nezahualcoyotl established a city in pre-Columbian Mexico that many historians call the Athens of the Western World. His first act as king was to establish laws that were considered to be so effective that it would also be adopted by his allies. Along with being a good statesman he also had important ideas regarding religion as he would eventually follow in the footsteps of great thinkers such as Plato and Socrates as he embraced a belief that was contrary to the beliefs of his peers, which was the belief in one God that didn’t require the blood offerings of human victims. After abandoning his pagan beliefs he built temples with altars filled with flowers and incense that offered praise to the what he called the true God.

After establishing his beliefs Nezahualcoyotl recognized the need to allow the spirit of this true God to direct his life. Eventually he would make a normal practice of disguising himself so he could walk the streets of the kingdom undetected, which in turn gave him the opportunity to see the living conditions of his people. At the sight of specific needs or shortocomings he would address them immediately in order to serve his people properly. In other words, while not knowing the Gospel in its written form he was aware of the message of Jesus Christ and made every effort to obey the commandments Jesus gave his followers in regards to assisting those in need (Matthew 25:31-46).

Prior to his death he is said that have made the following comment: “How deeply I regret that I am unable to understand the will of the great God, but I believe the time will come when he will be known and adored by all the inhabitants of this land” (A Handbook on Guadalupe, p. 45). This statement was indeed true since Nezahualcoyotl did live in ways that were not a part of the Christian lifestyle. At the time of his death he was survived by several wives and concubines and was said to have fathered 110 children. However, he was honored by the people and believed to have set up a powerful dynasty and this would be evidenced by his successor, one of his many sons named Nezahualpilli. It was also proven to be true as the Christian faith would eventually make its way to this land through the efforts of the Spanish missionaries. 

Legacy

Nezahualpilli was essentially the same type of ruler as his father. He was known to be fair and compassionate as he actually abolished the death penalty for certain crimes that in the past required the execution of the convicted. Like his father he was also a poet and a philosopher and was seen by many as a religious sage. His name is defined as “lord of fasting,” which was probably a reflection of his religion devotion since he was known to have a strong devotion to the true God. Further, this devotion surely enlightened him to be a great king since many of his peers and subjects saw him as a king Solomon type figure since he was known as the wisest man of his era (1 Kings 3:12).



The most profound thing about Nezahualpilli however was his prophetic insight. During a conversation with Motecuzoma (typically known as Montezuma) he informed him of a dream he had of invaders from across the sea that would come and take Motecuzoma’s throne while bringing the true religion to his land. Further, he went on to claim that the cities would be destroyed and the children assassinated, which sadly was part of the conquering process. However, Nezahualpilli did make every attempt to inform Motecuzoma that these events would only take place if he and others in this land continued the practice of human sacrifice. Sadly, like the pagans that St. Paul criticized in his letter to the Romans, Motecuzoma chose to be stubborn and impenitent so the events transpired as Nezahualpilli predicted.

Finally, Nezahualpilli, like his father also had aspects of his life that were not in agreement with the Christian faith. He was a polygamist and fathered 144 children, which is another reason why he is compared to Solomon who, while having a strong devotion to the true God, continued to live a promiscuous life. (1 Kings 11:3).
           

Missed Opportunity

In looking back at what we know about the history of the first contact that Christians had with the indigenous people of pre-Columbian Mexico one could reflect on what could have been had the conqiuistadors taken the time to see if there were any elements in the thinking of the indigenous people that were similar to their own Christian beliefs. Perhaps there would have been a much more peaceful process with less bloodshed that would have not only saved lives but left present day Mexico in a better condition. 

Sadly, it is not uncommon to be suspicious of those who come from a different place or in the case of today's world, a different lifestyle. Such suspicions are all too common even if the incident is without violence and bloodshed. 

At the end of the first century CE and throughout its history the Church became an international community that no longer belonged to one race of people. This of course would lead many people to be suspicious of the wisdom of other cultures, such as the early Church Father Tertullian who took exception to the idea of embracing the wisdom of a culture that did not give Christianity to the world. This is best described is his statement, “What does Athens have to do with Jerusalem? What does the Academy have to do with the Church?”

Tertullian’s attitude was common during the time of the early Church as many Christians held a view towards the Greeks that was best described by Tatian. According to Justo Gonzalez, Tatian believed that, “All that the Greeks have that is of any value (were) taken from barbarians: they learned astronomy from the Babylonians, geometry from the Egyptians and writing from the Phoenicians” (The Story of Christianity Volume I, p. 54). Gonzalez goes on to say that Christians believed that the writings of Moses, “ (were) much older than those of Plato and…. Homer,” and that since the Greeks, “learned their wisdom from the barbarians,” they must have, “ misunderstood it, and thus twisted the truth that the Hebrews knew.” With a strong appreciation for Hebrew wisdom it is not a surprise that Christians would refuse to associate with knowledge and wisdom that came from cultures that were indeed pagan in their religious forms or with cultures whose ancestors had either enslaved the Israelites or had taken them away from their homeland during the Diaspora. 

However, many Greek converts were able to appreciate the wisdom of the culture of their ancestors due to the teachings of Justin Martyr and Clement. Justin, for example, stated that there were many points of contact between Christianity and pagan philosophy. Clement went as far as divinizing this philosophy by saying that the Greeks were given philosophy by God in the same way that God gave the Mosaic Law to the Jews. Further, Clement went on to say that the Mosaic Law and Greek philosophy sought to find the ultimate truth, which was now fully revealed in Jesus Christ.

Justin and Clement’s view would be shared later by the brilliant St. Augustine who, according to Alister McGrath, stated that it was, “possible to extract all that is good in philosophy, and put it to the service of preaching the Gospel” (Historical Theology, p. 92).  McGrath would go on to say that Augustine used the analogy of the Hebrews leaving Egypt as they, “left behind their burdens, yet carried off the treasures of their former oppressors.” In other words, as long as the wisdom leads the believer to Jesus Christ it is indeed something that should be valued by the Church.

In conclusion, one would have to wonder how the Spanish missionaries could have used the teachings of Nezahualpilli to better deal with the indigenous people. Considering the fact that Nezahualpilli had teachings that complimented Christianity and with the fact that he prophesized their coming, Spain could’ve used these ideas and prediction to show God’s hand in their arrival and if they recognized the role they were playing the plan of Providence then maybe they would have understood the responsibility they bore to be authentic representatives of the Church. Unfortunately that did not happen. However, with the number of missionaries that are still circling the earth that are more aware of the ideas and beliefs of the various cultures that they are encountering perhaps we’ll see more effective methods of evangelization. However, that cannot happen unless people are willing to accept the fact that all races of people have a wisdom to share that should at least be studied and tested in accordance with the teachings of Jesus Christ before dismissing them.


Sources
1) Collegeville Bible Dictionary 
2) Introduction to the New Testament by Raymond Brown 
3) The Story of Christianity Volume One by Justo Gonzalez 
4) Historical Theology by Alister E. McGrath 
5) A Handbook on Guadalupe: Juan Diego Ambassador of the Queen of Heaven by: Dr. Charles Wahlig  
6) https://www.mexconnect.com/articles/298-nezahualcoyotl-texcoco-s-philosopher-king-1403%e2%80%931473


Carlos Arthur Solorzano 
BA & MA in Religious Studies from Cal State Long Beach 
Certified Through the Theology of the Body Institute 
Theology Teacher at St. Augustine Catholic High School 

Co-founder of Humana Corpus Dignitate 
https://www.facebook.com/HCDTalks/