The Progression of Faith

As Catholics, we have a Profession of Faith which states all of our core beliefs (CCC 14), but to understand this faith, accept it, and truly believe requires a long “progression” of faith. God in his infinite wisdom inspired the writing of the Bible over thousands of years (CCC 106). As each new book was written and compiled, God slowly added more to the deposit of faith (CCC 84). In the beginning, humanity had a very simple understanding of the world. As humanity progressed, it learned the world was much more complex than it seemed. If someone had gone back to the time of Adam & Eve and explained how the Internet worked, the people would not have believed such a thing could even be possible on the planet Earth. In these present times we are able to believe because we can use the Internet but also because we have this foundation of history and science. We learn enough in school that we might not understand every detail of how it works, but it’s at least plausible to us. It’s the same with our Catholic beliefs.

The first humans had only a basic understanding of the faith. In the time of Adam & Eve, the people only knew God existed and that he created the world and all it’s inhabitants (Gen 1:1-27). They didn’t know anything else. In Noah’s time, God taught humanity about punishment when the flood wiped out most of the population (Gen 6:7-8). In Abaham’s time, God taught humanity about obedience when Abraham trusted God that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars (Gen 22:12,16-18). A big revelation for the Israelites was the Ten Commandments God provided to Moses (Ex 20:1-17).

God knew humanity could not understand the deposit of faith from the beginning. It took generations to absorb and believe a new teaching. When humanity had enough of a foundation, God taught them a little bit more about the faith. This has gone on throughout history. It took thousands of years for humanity to be ready to know Jesus. Not everyone was ready (Jn 6:60-71) but enough to spread the Good News that God had sent his Son to save us. Belief in the Holy Spirit came next. In the Macedonianism heresy some Christians stumbled on the belief that the Holy Spirit was co-eternal with the Father and Son.

Belief in the Catholic Church was another new thing that had to be accepted. To this day there are millions of Christians who don’t believe in the authority of the Catholic Church. Even with belief in the Church, another development to accept was the belief that the Church could know, without a doubt, that a holy person is in heaven (CCC 828). Many people don’t believe in this. It’s a hard teaching, but when they can believe it, they have improved their understand of the overall Christian faith. There are countless teachings that I could go into when they were added to the deposit of faith, but it would be the length of an encyclopedia to go through it all. Instead, I end with where the progression of faith ends: Private Revelation.

The deposit of faith contains the entire truth, so belief in private revelation is optional (CCC 66-67). It can be something as amazing as a vision or as simple as a small insight into the faith after reading the Bible. Whatever the case, Catholics are not bound to believe private revelation because, for the most part, we can’t verify it is true. In rare cases, the Church has identified certain private revelation as being supernatural in origin. When that happens a holy person, such as a pope or saint might believe in and profess it to be true. It’s still private revelation, but over hundreds of years and a long line of affirmative belief, it can almost become a de-facto part of Church teaching. Catholics are still not bound to believe it, but there comes to be a sort of consensus among all Catholics that it is true (CCC 67). We have examples of this primarily in the appearances of Mary, such as Our Lady of Fatima and Our Lady of Lourdes.

Much like how I wouldn’t be able to understand an advanced math book unless I had a long and proper foundation in math, humanity could not understand the path to eternal life if God had simply thrown down a book in the beginning with everything we needed to know. It was just too complex. Humanity had to understand and believe in one teaching before God could reveal another teaching. Because of our human limitations, it took thousands of years for the human race as a whole to progress in this understanding and belief. God is eternal though. He patiently revealed more when humanity was able.

Because of writing and books in modern times, we can read and learn much faster than those in the past, but it still takes time to absorb the knowledge and wisdom of God. Every believer is on their own faith journey. It takes some people their whole life to understand the truth while others might understand in just a few years. We all need to be patient with ourselves on this journey, reading, studying, and praying to continue learning. We also need to be patient with others.

They first have to believe that God existed, he was all powerful and created everything. Once they believe that, they can learn to obey his teachings. Only after that is known can they believe in Jesus Christ, the Son, and all his teachings. The Holy Spirit comes next, how it is everywhere and in everyone constantly urging good deeds. This is the place where many Christians are because the next step is believing in the Catholic Church. There is this human institution, the Church, that Jesus promised would stay true to his Way for all time (Mt 16:18). Once they believe in the Church, they can trust its authority and obey its teachings. This allows them to trust to the Church when it names the many saints throughout history that are now in heaven.

At the very end, they might have a personal belief in some private revelation, maybe their own or something they learned from others. This belief is does not supercede or contradict the Bible or the Church but instead supplements what they already know with more insight (CCC 67). This is where I am now. I understand and believe everything the Bible and Church teach, but I also sometimes gain insights. I write these down on this blog in case anyone else finds them insightful as I do.

Even with our modern technologies, deposit of faith is a lot to believe in, as the apostles made clear when they questioned Jesus (Jn 6:60). Not everyone learns at the same rate. You might know the whole truth about a particular teaching, but others may not. Do your best to lead them to the truth, but be patient with them just as you are with yourself. Don’t get frustrated if it’s taking awhile for them to move past an obstacle. They are on their own faith journey. Sometimes we have to leave it up to God. Always be a supporting presence in their life, ready to help whenever they have questions, and you will be fulfilling your obligation to spread the faith to them.

May God bless you with his abundant grace,
Jared

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The Top Ten Qualities of Jesus According to the Bible

One of my first religious books was Be a Man by Fr. Larry Richards. My father bought this book for me during a Catholic Men’s Conference. One of Fr. Larry’s bold claims in the book was that if the reader did all of the tasks he put forth, he would become a real man. Most of the tasks were pretty easy for me, but some of them required a lot of work.

One task involved the reader writing down all of Jesus’ qualities in the Gospels, and then praying for God to give them these qualities. I’m not sure how far Fr. Larry intended the reader to go, but I went all the way with the task. I read all the Gospels line by line, writing down the qualities I believed Jesus was exhibiting through his actions. I also made note of how often he displayed each quality. At the end of it all, I had a list of 23 qualities, which I then ranked according to frequency.

For this list I kept just the top then qualities. For each quality, I included the total number of references from all four Gospels for that quality along with the breakdown from each Gospel. Some Bible references involved multiple qualities, so the same reference may appear under multiple qualities. Now for the list:

The Top Ten Qualities of Jesus

1. Teaching and Wisdom

This was the most frequent quality by far. It was around three times more frequent than the second place quality. Jesus knew he couldn’t live forever, so he had to teach the apostles and anyone else who would listen the most important parts of the Christian faith. Jesus founded the church, but his followers had to build it. This is the beauty of education. As long as the knowledge is passed on, it never dies. It will last forever. That was critical because Jesus was founding the eternal Church that would last forever. It would exist until the end of time on Earth as well is in eternal Heaven.

Jesus also had great wisdom. Giving the apostles this wisdom, they could focus their efforts on things that mattered in the long run, not waste time on useless things like amassing wealth. Catholics are all called to convert the world to faith in God. Today, this would be called spreading the Gospel. The Gospel is the wisdom of God. It is the recipe for eternal happiness. We don’t have to be teachers in front of a group. We can teach any individual we come across.

Total Gospel References: 238

Matthew: 52 references Mark: 42 references
4:13-14
5:1-48
6:1-34
7:1-29
8:3,13,15,16,20,32
9:6,22,25,29,32
12:3,5,25-37,43-45,48-50
13:3-9,24-33,44-50
14:27, 15:4,10-11,16-20
16:12,26
17:11-12,20
18:3-5,14,18-20,35
19:9
20:16,26-28
21:21,31-32,43-44
22:14,29-32,37-40,43-45
23:12,20-22
24:23-28,32-33,36-51
25:1-30
26:41
2:2,17,19-22,27-28
3:4,23-29,33-35
4:3-9,13-32
6:2,34
7:14-15,18-23
8:17-21,34-38
9:12-13,23,29,35-37,39-41,42-50
10:4-9,11-12,14-15,18-21,23-25,27,29-31,38-40,42-45
11:22-25
12:1-9,17,24-27,29-31,38-40,43-44
13:28,33-37
14:7,22-24,49
Luke: 67 references John: 77 references
4:24-28,31
5:3,10,22-24,31-32,34-39
6:3-5,20-49
7:24-35,40-47
8:4-8,10-18
9:23-27,48,50
10:20,23-24,26,28
30-37,41-42
11:2-13,17-26,28-36
12:1-12,14-40,42-48,57-59
13:3-9,11-13,16-33,37-52,57
14:3,5,8-14,16-24,26-35
15:4-32
16:1-13,16-31
17:1-4,6-10,20-37
18:2-8,10-14,16-17,24-25,27,29-30
19:12-27
20:9-16,18,34-38,41-44,46-47
21:3-4
22:25-30,35-38,48,52-53,67-68,70
24:27,29-30,41-45
1:48,50
3:3,5-8,10-15
4:10,13-14,21-24,26,32,34-38,48
5:17,19-47
6:5-6,26-27,29,32-33,35-40,44,46-51,53-58,60-65,67-70
7:4,6-7,16-19,21-24,28-29
8:2,12,14-19,23,25-26,28-29,31-32,34-47,49-51,54-56,58
9:41
10:1-5,7-18,25-30
11:9-10,14-15,25-25
12:7-8,24-26,30,35-36,44-50
13:8,10,12-17,20
14:3-4,6-7,9-21,23-31
15:1-11,13-16,18-24,26-27
16:4-7,9-12,21,23-24,27-28,33
18:34,36
19:11,29
20:15,17,29

2. Faith, Trust, and Prophecy

Jesus continually told the apostles they had to trust him. Things always happened how he described they would happen. Once the apostles trusted him, he could bring in the idea of faith. This is seeing without believing. The apostles were able to experience some miracles the average person doesn’t get to see, but they didn’t get to see all that Jesus promised come to pass in their lives. They had to have faith. Jesus himself had faith towards his father in heaven, God. The ability to prophesy is a special gift no human normally has. Jesus was God, so he could prophesy. Without faith there can be no belief, so every Catholic must have faith. When we fully believe in something, it’s easy to talk about it with others. We can’t follow Jesus’ example of prophesying, but we can repeat all his prophecy to nonbelievers. In this way we are aiding Jesus in his act of prophesying.

Total Gospel References: 104

Matthew: 20 references Mark: 22 references
8:26
10:19
16:21
17:22-23
20:18-19
21:5,42
22:44
24:2,4-22,29-31,36-44
25:31-46
26:2,18,21,31-32,34,45-46,56
1:15
2:25-26
4:12
7:6-8,10
8:31
9:1,31
10:33-34
11:17
12:10-11,35-37
13:2,5-32
14:9,18,20-21,25,27-28,30,41-42,62
Luke: 22 references John: 40 references
4:21,23,43
7:22-23,27
8:50
9:22,44
12:49-56
13:14-15
18:31-33
19:46
20:17,42-43
21:6,8-36
22:10-12,15-22,34,69
23:29-30
24:46-49
1:51
2:4,19
4:17-18,21,23
5:25,28
6:45,70-71
7:33-34,37-38
8:21,24
9:4
11:11,23,41-42
12:23,27,31-32
13:1-5,7,11,18-19,21,26-27,31-33,36,38
15:25
16:1-4,8,13-16,20,22-23,25-26,32
18:37
21:18

3. Leadership

Because Jesus had the wisdom of God, he knew what everyone should be doing. Someone that has wisdom can be a natural leader. They know things that others don’t. Not only that, wisdom is knowledge that leads to success. It betters the lives of people that have it. When people know someone is wise, they go to that person for advice. This happened with Jesus, but it’s also a calling of every Catholic to use the wisdom they have learned from God for the good of the world. Religion comes up in conversation all the time. It is then that we must do our best to lead people to Jesus, and ultimately, to eternal happiness.

Total Gospel References: 65

Matthew: 7 references Mark: 17 references
3:14-15
7:29
10:5
14:31,18-20
26:26-29
28:18-20
1:17,20,22
2:14
3:14-15
4:39-40
6:7-11,35-39
8:15
9:2,19,21
11:2-3
14:13-15,32,34
16:15-18
Luke: 21 references John: 20 references
4:32
5:3-4,14,27
6:13
8:22,39,55-56
9:1-5,13-14,41
10:1-12
18:20,22,40
19:5,30-31
22:8,17-20,40,46,51
1:38-39,42-43
2:7-8
4:7
5:14
6:10,12
7:3,8
9:7
11:39,43-44
13:34-35
14:1
15:12,17
20:21-23
21:15-17,19,23

4. Healing

Jesus was a great healer, but he didn’t use it just to make money or gain fame. Instead, Jesus used his healings to convert people to the faith. We humans can’t heal the way Jesus did, but we can aid people that are sick or injured. For those with terminal illness, we can be a loving presence to comfort them in their last days. For those with a simple cold, we can help out with some of their chores or other responsibilities for a short time. We can’t directly heal them, but we can aid the healing process. Doctors and nurses have a more direct way of fulfilling this quality, but everyone can help heal in some way.

Total Gospel References: 63

Matthew: 20 references Mark: 14 references
4:23-24
8:3,13,15,16,32
9:6,22,25,29,32
12:13,22
14:14,36
15:30
17:18
19:2
20:34
21:14
1:25,31,34,41-42
2:11-12
3:5
6:5,56
7:29,33-35
8:23-25
9:25,27
10:52
Luke: 24 references John: 5 references
4:35,39,40
5:13,24-25
6:10,18
7:9,14,21
8:30,32,44-46,52,54
9:11,42,58,60,62
11:14
13:4
17:14-15
22:51
4:50
5:8
6:10-13
9:3-7
11:43

5. Reproaching and Rebuking

Jesus showed disapproval of others’ sinful actions in both of these ways, though rebuke was a more severe response than reproach. Jesus used whatever technique was best to the audience to get the message across. Most times he only had to tell someone the truth and they listened. A few times Jesus knew they would not respond unless he really got their attention through a harsh rebuke. In our lives, we sometimes do need to be severe in our rejection of sin. Certainly, if we know a loved one is committing mortal sin, we need to be pretty clear how serious their situation is. We also need to rebuke when someone is tempting us to commit mortal sin ourselves, as Jesus did when he referred to Peter as Satan.

Total Gospel References: 37

Matthew: 6 references Mark: 12 references
11:21,23
12:39
16:4
17:18
26:23-24
1:25
2:8,17
4:39
8:11-12,33
9:25
11:14
12:15
14:6,37-38
16:14
Luke: 18 references John: 1 references
4:35,39,41
8:24-25,30,32
9:21,41-42,55
10:13-16
11:39-44,46-52
16:15
19:40
20:3,8,24-25
24:25-26
6:43

6. Forgiveness, Mercy, and Repentance

When people repented of their evil actions, Jesus had mercy on them and forgave them. The apostles all sinned. So did the nonbelievers. Jesus was always willing to forgive if someone was sorry for their actions. Even more, he taught the apostles that they had to forgive too. As God had no limits on forgiveness, the apostles could have no limits either. It’s the same for us. We must always be ready to forgive someone when ask for it. We can’t hold a grudge. As God does when we go to confession, we must forget the sins they have committed against us, erase them from our mind. They do not exist.

Total Gospel References: 33

Matthew: 14 references Mark: 3 references
4:2
8:3,13,15,16,32
9:6,13,22,25,29,32
15:28
17:7
1:43-44
2:5
3:10
Luke: 10 references John: 6 references
4:2
5:20
7:48,50
8:48
17:17-19
18:41-42
19:9-10
23:34,43
4:16
5:6
8:7,10-11
20:27
21:15-17

7. Courage and Calmness

These two qualities are slightly different but also very related. Jesus urged the apostles not to be anxious about their future. The only thing they had to worry about was following God’s will in the commandments and what Jesus taught them. Then they could look forward to eternal life in heaven. Jesus warned them that most of them would be killed just like he was, but they still had their work to do. They couldn’t be all worried about the suffering they would go through. This required courage. They had to do the right thing no matter how bad it would be for them. Like the apostles, Catholics today are called to have the same courage because being Catholic is not easy. It is much easier to just live a life of sin. That’s what we are constantly tempted to do, but we follow a higher order, from God himself, to be good in our actions. We can’t worry about how this will cause us to suffer, we just have to do it.

Total Gospel References: 31

Matthew: 14 references Mark: 9 references
10:19
15:3,13
19:3
21:12-13,24
23:2-3,13-19,23-36
26:52-54,55,63-64
27:11-12,14
3:21-22
6:50
7:9,11-13
11:29-30,33
14:61
15:2,5
Luke: 2 references John: 6 references
6:8-11
23:3
7:10
10:32,34-38
18:4-5,7-8,23

8. Retreats

Jesus was God but even he had to get away from the crowds sometimes. It was then that he went on a retreat with the apostles. He used this time to teach the apostles without distractions, but a big part of Jesus’ retreats was praying to God. Jesus had a human body, which could be hurt like any of our bodies. He needed to get strength from God through prayer. He couldn’t do that in the city with all the noise. He had to get away. We need to do the same thing in our lives. We don’t have to go on formal retreats all the time, but we should try to get away from distractions a few minutes each day for our prayers. We can also take a day off to just focus on God. Not everyone has a schedule that allows this, but we should look for opportunities to spend time with God in our lives. That is what heaven will be. We can get a taste of heaven when we retreat from the world, no matter short it is.

Total Gospel References: 28

Matthew: 5 references Mark: 9 references
8:18
13:36
14:13,22-23
26:36
1:35
3:7,13
4:35
6:31
7:24,33
8:9-10
9:30
Luke: 10 references John: 4 references
4:1-2,42
5:16
6:12
9:10,18,28
13:36
21:37
22:39
6:3,15
8:1
18:1

9. Compassion and Pity

Because Jesus loved everyone so much, he had a deep sense of compassion whenever they were suffering. Some people were suffering because of original sin (illness), others were suffering because of the sins of others. No matter what, Jesus did not like to see people suffer. When he came across suffering, he did his best to remedy it. Compassion comes from pity, so we must have pity on the people of the world too. This should give us a sense of solidarity with the suffering of the world, urging us to help them if we are able. That solidarity also helps when we are suffering ourselves. We don’t feel alone because we know countless people are praying for our well-being.

Total Gospel References: 17

Matthew: 6 references Mark: 4 references
9:36
14:14
15:28,32
20:34
28:10
1:41
6:34
8:2-3
10:49
Luke: 5 references John: 2 references
7:13
18:56
23:28-31
24:36,38-40
6:20
11:33

10. Friendship and Love

Jesus is love, so it made sense that this quality would be in him. In fact, every quality on this list is part of love. However, I only marked down a quality as part of love if it did not fit anywhere else. A big part of love was friendship. Jesus showed the apostles how to be a good friend and told them to go out and make new friends. Many of these friends went on to become great church leaders themselves. Even their laypeople friends contributed to the spread of the faith. We can’t really help anyone without love. It is the core of everything we do. We might express that love in many different ways, but they are all part of love.

Total Gospel References: 13

Matthew: 4 references Mark: 2 references
4:19
16:24
26:10-13,50
10:16
12:34
Luke: 2 references John: 5 references
22:31-32
24:50
11:5-6
19:26-27
20:19,21
21:12-13

I must note that these qualities were based on my own subjective interpretation of the Bible readings. My findings may also be influenced by the translation I used: New American Bible – Revised Edition (NABRE). If you repeated this same exercise, you would most likely get different results, but hopefully they would be similar to mine. I encourage you to do this exercise for your own growth in the faith. Jesus is the example we should always be following. It is good to know some qualities we should be emulating in our lives.

The Remaining Qualities

For anyone curious, here are the rest of the qualities I noted down when reading the Gospels:

Sadness and Fear (12) – Matthew (4) 26:38-39,42-44, 27:46,50; Mark (4) 3:5, 6:45-46, 14:34-35, 15:34; Luke (3) 19:42-44, 22:42-44, 23:46; John (1) 11:35
Obedience (10) – Matthew (1) 10:37; Mark (1) 14:36; Luke (5) 2:49, 4:4,8,12,18-19; John (3) 17:1-26, 18:11, 19:30
Feeding the Hungry (8) – Matthew (2) 14:16, 15:36-37; Mark (2) 6:41-43, 8:6-9; Luke (2) 5:6, 9:16-17; John (2) 21:5-6,10-11
Glory and Praise to God (8) – Matthew (1) 11:25; Mark (1) 14:23; Luke (3) 7:9, 10:18-19,21-22; John (3) 11:4, 12:28, 17:1-26
Humility (7) – Matthew (4) 3:14-15, 21:5, 27:11,142; John (3) 18:20-21, 20:20,27
Life Purpose and Efficiency with Time (5) – Matthew (3) 9:15, 10:14, 13:58; Mark (1) 1:38; John (1) 21:22
Invitation (5) – Matthew (1) 11:28; Luke (1) 8:21; John (3) 9:35,37, 11:7
Anger (3) – Mark 3:5; Luke 19:45; John 2:15-16
Value of Life (2) – Matthew 12:15; John 11:54
Truth (1) – John 1:47
Righteousness and Justice (1) – Matthew 18:6-9
Law Abiding (1) – Matthew 17:27, 21:22
Caring (1) – Matthew 19:14

May God bless you with his abundant grace,
Jared