I Believe in God the Father Almighty,
Creator of Heaven and Earth
by Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.
As we begin the Apostles
Creed, I would like to explain the method we will follow in these teleconferences.
Each article of the Creed is an ocean of revealed truth. Not just a single
conference, nor even a volume could be written about every one of these articles.
Literally a dozen libraries would not exhaust the revealed wisdom contained
in the Apostles Creed.
My plan, therefore, is to briefly explain
each of these twelve professions of faith, and then share with you what I
consider the single most important spiritual implications of each article
of the Creed.
Faith in God, Creator of the Universe
In the opening of the Apostles Creed, we
profess our faith in one God, the Father, the Almighty, Creator of heaven
and earth, of all that is seen and unseen.
Over the centuries, the Church has understood
this to mean that there is only one God. This one God has not only existed
from all eternity. He is the one Being who must exist. He is therefore the
one Necessary Being whose existence is His very essence.
Christianity also believes that, although
God is absolutely one in nature, He is not a solitary being. He is the Divine
Community of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This Trinity of Persons is the model
on whom the human race is patterned. As we read in Genesis, God said, Let
Us make man according to Our image and likeness (Genesis 1:26).
We also profess our faith in God as Creator
of all things visible and invisible. To create means to bring something into
existence out of nothing. In creating, God begins with nothing, parts with
nothing and gains nothing. Creation, therefore, is Almighty Love, because
all the benefits of creation are gained by the creatures, and not by the Creator.
We believe that there are two kinds of beings
whom God has created, the material and the spiritual. Material creatures have
space and size, weight and color and quantity. They can be seen and touched
and tasted and heard by bodily ears. In a word, they are perceptible by the
senses. Spiritual creatures have none of these qualities. They can be perceived
only by the mind and experienced only by the will. Thus, the angels are spiritual
persons and our souls are spiritual beings which animate our human bodies.
Immediately we see that the world is not eternal.
This is revealed in the Bible. The opening words of the Scriptures declare,
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1). And
Christ tells the heavenly Father, You loved me before the foundation of the
world (John 17:24).
God created the world in order to manifest
His perfection through the benefits which He bestows on creatures, not to
increase His own happiness nor acquire any perfection.
Needless to say, God was not obliged to create
the world. He was not constrained by anything within Himself or by anything
outside of Himself. His only motive for creation was to share something of
His own perfection.
He preserves the world by the same almighty
power which must be ever present to keep the world in existence. As we read
in the Old Testament, How could anything remain, unless you willed it; or
be preserved had it not been called forth by you? (Wisdom 11:25).
The world is governed by Gods providence.
There is an eternal divine plan for the universe. God always knew how He would
govern the world and willed to do so. Moreover, He is now putting this eternal
world-plan into effect.
By His providence, God watches over and directs
all the things He made, for everything is uncovered and open to the eyes
of the one to whom we must give account of ourselves (Hebrews 4:13). His
wisdom deploys her strength from one end of the earth to the other, ordering
all things for good (Wisdom 8:1).
Divine providence implies two things. God
foresees even those things that are going to occur by the free choice of creatures,
and He directs all creatures to their proper end or destiny.
Does this mean that we still act freely, even
though God has planned everything? Yes, our freedom is part of the divine
plan. God wills the final effects of all created actions and has provided
that they be achieved. Some of these effects are produced by what we call
necessary causes (like gravity) and others by means of truly free choices
Before we go into examining the spiritual
implications of our faith in Gods creating the world and us out of nothing,
it will be useful to remind ourselves that God not only created, He is creating.
Each of us, when we came into the world, was
conceived and born with a body and a soul. The body we received from our parents.
The soul for each one of us was individually, distinctively, separately and
immediately created by God. Let me repeat. It is not only that God created
the world, but every time a human being is conceived, the Church infallibly
teaches that, at the moment of conception, God creates the soul and infuses
it into the body. That is why the expression God our Creator refers not
only to the beginning of time. It refers to the beginning of each one of us
separately, distinctively, and as we soon find out, uniquely. The most fundamental
reason why each of us has such a distinctive personality is because at the
moment of conception, God created each one of our souls to be unlike any other
soul from the beginning until the end of the world.
We now wish to look at the spiritual consequences
of our faith in God our Creator. The number of these implications is beyond
counting. I would like to limit myself to just seven: first, humility; second,
gratitude; third, confidence; fourth, divine respect; fifth, peaceful reliance;
sixth, adoration and seventh, charity.
The first spiritual implication
of our having been created by God is humility. Humility is living the truth.
And the truth is that before God in His goodness brought us into being, we
were exactly, mathematically and, as we say in philosophy, metaphysically--Nothing.
We were nothing. We would be nothing except for Gods gift of creation.
In practice, we are not to consider ourselves
simply more than we really are. More than we really are! What is more than
nothing? Anything! As you reread the great saints and mystics of Catholic
history, men like John of the Cross or women like Catherine of Siena--you
are sometimes startled at how little, how unimportant they considered themselves
in their own eyes. Well they might because, whatever else the saints realized,
they knew more clearly than most people that once we admit that, of ourselves,
we were and would be nothing, it becomes (I dont hesitate saying) psychologically
impossibly to indulge even in one passing moment of pride. What are we, what
do we have, that we have not received from God?
Before we go on to the second of our implications,
let us be a little more clear. One of the consequences of our having been
made by God out of nothing is that we have no claim to anything of our own.
True, very true. Everything we are and everything we have is a gift that belongs
to God. But for that very reason, it is to be used according to the will of
God. We dare not hide in pseudo-humility by not putting it to use, not exploiting
the gifts that God has given to us which He wants us to use for His greater
glory. We should never be afraid, if we use Gods gifts according to His will.
He will protect us from pride, provided we keep telling ourselves, Whatever
I have, whatever I am is a sheer, unmerited gift from God.
Second implication, gratitude. Why did God create us? Very simply. Because He loved
us. What are we saying? Do we mean that God loved us before He made us? Sure!
Otherwise we would not exist. How this needs to be taught in the most unqualified
language to the now millions who are not accepting the gifts that God wants
to give them, for example, in the children that He intends to bring into the
world. No mystery this. God loved us before He made us. Our gratitude therefore
should be boundless. How spontaneously (I dont say without a second, but
even without a first thought), we are grateful for the least favor done for
us. How grateful then we should be to God who in His goodness wants us to
imitate His generosity. We are not to look for profit in giving ourselves
to others as an expression of our gratitude to God.
There are three words I would like to leave
with you of how we should show our gratitude to God. They are thanks-thinking,
thanks-saying, and thanks-giving.
How thoughtless I can be in not thinking grateful
thoughts for all that God has given and is constantly giving me.
If I think grateful thoughts, I will express
my gratitude in words. I will tell God, My Lord, I thank you for your goodness
to me, who deserves nothing except to be punished for my sins.
Grateful thoughts and words will lead us to
grateful actions. Not only will I give back to God what He has so generously
given me. I will give up what I like out of gratitude to the Lord who became
man to sacrifice Himself on the cross out of love for me.
The third implication of our faith in creation is confidence. Seeing what
God has given us, all that He has done for us from the moment of our first
existence to the present, can we possibly doubt His power and His goodness
in the future?
Our hope is grounded on our faith. We believe
that everything we have and possess and enjoy and, let me add, endure, is
a gift from God. You mean that pain is a blessing? Are you serious? I could
not be more serious. How dare we be anxious or worried. We must be confident
that we shall receive from the same God who has been so good in the past all
that we need to remain faithful to Him until death, and then confident that
the moment we cross the threshold from time into eternity, this God will be
there waiting for us.
Of course, the strength of our hope depends
on the depth of our trust. We hope in the good things that God promises to
give us in the future. But our hope of receiving these good things depends
on how completely we trust in God. Meaning what? How convinced we are of Gods
love for us. That is all that is, all the human heart wants in life--thats
all--to be loved. And the one by whom we most want to be loved is the one
who has been so good, so lavishly generous in the past.
Our fourth implication, divine respect. This is a strange combination of words to be explained
as we go along. It is many years since I attended a lecture by the social
scientist, Vance Packard. The whole audience of about five hundred were clergy.
Packard described how we in the modern world depend on advertising. Today,
some two hundred billion dollars are spent annually in America by the advertising
industry. At the root of advertising is the instinct to conformity. We fear
to be different from others, and we desperately want to be accepted.
There is no single practical recommendation
that I can give you during these teleconferences than to encourage you to
daily examine your conscience on giving in to human respect. How many temptations
and, as a consequence, how many sins, come from our fear of what others will
say or think of us. By the way, that is how the human race failed in the Garden
of Eden. Remember? The devil watched Adam and watched Eve. I have it, he
said to himself. I need to get Adam to sin. It is his fall that will bring
down the whole human race. But I think the best strategy is not to tempt Adam
directly, but through the woman he so dearly loved. The last thing he wants
is to be separated from her. If I succeed in getting her to disobey God, both
will sin. We know what happened. In greater or less measure, we are all victims
of human respect.
Now back to our faith in creation. A moments
reflection will tell us, Why should I be so concerned about what other people
think of me, or say about me, or, what may be the least painful, do to me?
Before they were conceived in their mothers womb, like me, they were--exactly
In the profoundest sense of the word, we have
no one to be afraid of. No creature. It is only the Creator whom we should
fear. The sobering remedy for human respect is what I call divine respect.
We are to be concerned only with what God thinks of us. We should strive only
to please Him. If in the process of pleasing Him, others are also pleased,
great! That is a bonus, but it is not necessary.
Our fifth implication, peaceful reliance.
In a prosperous country like ours, worry is literally an epidemic. The single
most flourishing profession in the health sciences is the profession of psychiatry.
Why? Because so many people are anxious.
We have nothing to fear from God, provided
we are faithful to His will. The reason we become anxious is because we are
so pathetically aware of our own weakness. We know how stupid we are and,
under the pressure of trial and temptation, how weak we are. That is why our
faith in creation is the single most effective remedy for anxiety and worry.
My dear, what are you worrying about? The better we know ourselves, the
more liable we are to be victims of anxiety. But this is where faith must
enlighten our minds and tell us, You wouldnt even have begun to begin to
be, let alone have become what you are now, if God had left you to yourself.
Trust Him for the future.
Sixth implication, adoration. God is to be adored for His greatness, His power and
His majesty. By now, how many prayers of adoration we have recited. Every
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, is an act
of adoration. But, as we said in opening this conference, our purpose here
is not to learn more theology. It is to strengthen our spiritual life. What
a difference between reciting the Glory be to the Father and realizing
the greatness of God. What is the deepest ground we have for adoring God?
It is the fact that He is our Creator.
The highest purpose of creatures in the world
is to reveal to us the greatness of the Creator. The main purpose of the sun
is not to give heat and light, or of food that we might nourish the body.
With all the wonderful things in nature that we so much enjoy, we must constantly
remind ourselves that their noblest reason for existence is to serve as windows
revealing to us the Great God. Every creature should be an impulse to adoration,
which means to give loving recognition of the beauty and excellence of God.
Over the years, I have found five words, each
beginning with an A, corresponding to adoration.
How are we to practice adoration of God? By
paying attention to God. How attentive we can be to creatures, especially
the one creature who is always on our minds and dominates even our dreams.
We adore the Creator by our admiration of
God. We stand in awe before what God is showing us so that, by seeing the
creature we might, through it, see and behold the wonderful God.
We adore God by our acceptance of His will
in our lives. By accepting His will, when it crosses our own, we call it,
what else, we call it pain. Words cannot describe the adoration of a loving
heart that sees the loving God in suffering pain.
We practice adoration of God by our acknowledgment
of His sovereignty in our lives. He is Master. That is why we never allow
ourselves to be cowed by others. We should be a slave to no one except to
We finally practice adoration by our anticipation.
We anticipate that the God whom we now believe in, we shall one day see face
to face in a heavenly eternity.
There is one more practical implication of
our faith in the mystery of creation. It is the practice
of charity. Everything in our spiritual life depends on the clear
understanding of our faith in God as Creator of the world. This faith is the
deepest stimulus for our practice of selfless, self-denying, self-effacing
and self-giving charity.
God created the world. Yes, He did. But, mysteriously,
in this world which God created, there are so many people in need; there is
so much suffering. How come? Why? God has indeed created the world, but, we
must immediately add, an uneven world. There are mountains and crests, but
there are also deep cavities. Why is there so much want, so much pain, so
much need in the world created by the good God?
Is it God who made the world? Yes! But He
wants us to cooperate with Him. The reason there are needy people is not that
we should question Gods goodness, but question our generosity.
Where would any of us be now, unless over
the years we have lived so far, there have been people with the divine impulse
to recognize and respond to our needs? God has put inequality in the world
to inspire us to cooperate with Him in, dare I say it, His ongoing creation
of the world. We have things that others lack. That is part of Gods plan
to inspirit those who have to share with those who need.
Everyone and everything in the world has been
created by God. Yet, in large measure, He has left the distribution of His
gifts to us. So true is this, that the Church has even coined a term to describe
our role in cooperating with God by distributing His gifts. She calls it the
Second Creation. The inequality among human beings which is such a scandal
to unbelievers, for us who believe is the foundation of charity. Thank God
for ignorant people! Thank God for unskilled people! Thank God for sick people!
Thank God for lonely people! Thank God, what am I saying? But I have to--thank
God for the sinners! God wants us, by our practice of selfless charity, to
share with Him what He has so generously given to us. We close with a short
Most Holy Trinity, we thank you for creating
us, and we adore you, the Creator of heaven and earth. Teach us, Father, Son
and Holy Spirit, to cooperate with you in communicating with others the blessings
you have given to us. By sharing your creation with everyone whom you put
into our lives, we are confident of reaching the destiny for which you created
Copyright © 1998 by Inter Mirifica