After Mass, I once had an Iraqi citizen come up to me one morning to challenge me about what the Catholic Church believes.
It was interesting in that he identified himself as a "Nestorian" Christian. He also stated that the Nestorian Believers made up about 5% of the Christians in Iraq.
Just to give a background on the Nestorians, in 431, the Catholic Church at the Council of Ephesus defined that Jesus was 100% God and 100% man in one person.
Nestorius, the Patriarch of Constantinople at the time had questioned the apostolic tradition which emphasized the disunity between Christ's human and divine natures.
To give added weight to the Catholic position, Mary was given the title "Theotokos", Mother of God.
That Mary was not just the Mother of the humanity of Jesus but the whole person. Jesus was conceived and born fully one person with two natures. He was not someone simply with multiple personalities.
My friend came up to me asking me what an "Apostle" was.
I simply responded that an apostle is one who is sent. Then I elaborated a little bit more explaining that Jesus had prepared his Disciples for three years for the missionary work that he was calling them to.
Not only does Jesus give the Apostles the "Deposit of Faith" but also the authority to proclaim it to all the nations.
That for nearly 2,000 years the Catholic Church has been empowered by the Holy Spirit to preach good news setting the captives free.
My Iraqi friend listened intently to me as I explained this to him when he asked me a second question.
He asked me why we were making a God out of Mary. To him, this was what kept the Nestorians from coming back to the Catholic Faith.
I thought about that for a second and I responded that the title "Theotokos" is an important title not necessarily for Mary, but because it identifies who Jesus is, Jesus is the Incarnation.
Jesus asked his Apostles who people say the Son of Man is and during the early centuries of the Church, that question was hammered out in the face of all the various heresies.
Nestorianism was just another heresy the Catholic Church had to contend with. I quickly posed this question to my friend:
"What is the difference from the Catholic definition "Theotokos" Mother of God, and Elizabeth's recognition of Jesus as "Adoni" or "my Lord"?
(The Bible records the Greek word Kyrios which is the translation of the Hebrew Adonai)
This is a very famous scripture coming from Luke 1:39-45, "In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a city of Judah, and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and she exclaimed with a loud cry. 'Blessed are you among women. and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted me, that the mother of My LORD (Adoni) should come to me? For behold, when the voice of your greeting came to my ears, the babe in my womb leaped for joy. And there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord".
This leads into the great song of praise from Mary, "My soul magnifies the Lord (Adoni), and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden. For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. And his mercy is on those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm, he has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts, he has put down the mighty from their thrones, and exalted those of low degree; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent empty away. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his posterity forever".
As I finished what I was saying, my Iraqi friend became highly interested in our Bible Study I had been conducting there at the Division Chapel. Oh, wouldn't it be great to bring back those who have wondered from the fold so long ago? Sometimes we can only do so one person at a time!