Archive for the ‘Variety’ Category

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Richard Dawkins and Doubting Thomas

August 4, 2010
 

The Incredulity of Saint Thomas by the Italian Baroque master Caravaggio, c. 1601-1602.

Adam Patrick Taylor is a 5th year Ph.D. student  in the Philosophy Department at the State University of New York, University at Buffalo. I found these exchanges on one of his course sites. The following is a selection I made that captures the highlights of the entries.

Last week in my philosophy of religion class, I had my undergrads read and discuss Richard Dawkins’ article “Is Science A Religion” in Pojman and Rea’s Philosophy of Religion: An Anthology. In that text Dawkins says:

“Science is based upon verifiable evidence. Religious faith not only lacks evidence, its independence from evidence is its pride and joy, shouted from the rooftops. Why else would Christians wax critical of doubting Thomas? The other apostles are held up to us as exemplars of virtue because faith was enough for them. Doubting Thomas, on the other hand, required evidence. Perhaps he should be the patron saint of scientists.”

Dawkins’ fideistic (Fideism = Reliance on faith alone rather than scientific reasoning or philosophy in questions of religion.) reading of this episode intrigued me. So, I looked up the relevant passage (John 20: 24-29 NIV) to see whether it did indeed demand a fideistic reading and found the following:

24. Now Thomas (called Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came.
25. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.”
26. A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”
27. Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”
28. Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
29. Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

It seemed to me at first glance that Christ was, in this instance, endorsing fideism. Which left me somewhat disheartened since I certainly don’t think that this is right account of religious belief. But then while thinking about it aloud during my class a few thoughts came to mind. First, Note that Christ does not say in verse 29:

     1.  “Blessed are those who have no evidence whatsoever and yet have believed.”

Nor does he say,

     2. “Blessed are those who will not have evidence in the future and who yet will believe.”

That Christ did not say the latter is important because I think there is a tendency, when interpreting scripture, to make hasty generalizations. In this case, doubtlessly, Dawkins is generalizing from Christ’s response to Thomas on this occasion to all believers down through history to the present, and I think that this is surely mistaken. That what Christ says in verse 29 is meant just for Thomas and the Apostles is made clear by the tense of the utterance “blessed are they who have not seen and yet have believed”. This is in the past tense, it has already happened. It need not apply to all believers through all of time.

That Christ did not say the former is important because, as I read the passage, Thomas did have evidence of the Resurrection in the form of the testimony of his companions. They told him that they had seen the risen Lord. But Thomas refused to believe them.

The upshot here is that, as far I can tell, Christ’s dictum in verse 29 is simply saying that those who believed on the basis of the Apostles testimony, because they loved and trusted in the other Apostles, were blessed (or more blessed on some translations). The other Apostles in turn were given evidence, they saw the risen Lord before them. Thomas’s sin is not that he demands evidence, but that he will not accept the evidence he is given, namely the evidence of the eyewitness testimony of his brothers and sisters. This is a sin against charity and Christian unity. Thomas would have been more blessed than the other Apostles if he could have believed on the basis of his love for them and trust in their testimony, but instead he was made to see for himself.

At any rate it seems Dawkins is clearly wrong to assert: “The other apostles are held up to us as exemplars of virtue because faith was enough for them”. As far as I can tell they believed not on blind faith, but rather on the basis of having seen for themselves, or on the basis of knowing others who had seen for themselves, that Christ was risen. Either way, they had some evidence.

 Comments

  1. The issue is that faith involves a trust in testimony. There is a special kind of virtue involved in trusting testimony — in not being a suspicious sort of person, but being a two-way participant in one’s relevant epistemic communities. There is something contrary to the Golden Rule about expecting others to trust one (and if we don’t do that, why would we bother to speak?) but not trusting others.The theme of testimony is central to the Fourth Gospel (I didn’t bother to check the Greek, but in the RSV, “testimony” occurs three times in Matthew, four in Mark, three in Luke, and 15 times in John).In the Christian context, faith involves a trust specifically in God’s testimony — in Christ’s testimony. This is probably an important aspect of the text. It’s not just the testimony of the fellow apostles that Thomas has trouble believing. He has trouble believing the testimony of Christ, who had told them that he would die and rise–of course, the other apostles had the exact same problem, but in this teachable moment Thomas is singled out. However, to balance the apparent unfairness of his being singled out, he is enabled to make the most explicit profession of faith in Christ’s divinity that we find in Scripture: “My Lord and my God”.
  2. To say that religion celebrates its alleged “independence from evidence” is bizarrely wrong. At least, Judeo-Christian religion could be called a “religion of evidence”, full as it is of revelations and prophets, manifestations and miracles. (You may or may not find the evidence weighty enough to be convincing, but you can hardly deny it’s an integral part of Western theism.) The puzzling thing is that so many religious people themselves seem to think that faith means believing without reasons! Thomas did have reasons to believe — his friends were unlikely to be so earnest about it if they weren’t absolutely certain (–well, maybe if it had just been Peter, but not all the others too!) Nor were they likely to be pulling a practical joke about something like that. But I think it’s important to note that nowhere in the passage is Thomas’s behavior called a crime or a sin.
  3. Speaking of Doubting Thomas, there is a beautiful quotation from Andrew P. Peabody, Christianity and Science (New York: Robert Carter and Brothers, 1874), pp. 250-51: There are two kinds of skepticism,– that of the heart and that of the intellect. The former is adapted to make unbelievers; the latter, to make Christians. The former will not look at the hands and the side, because it is determined not to be moved morally and spiritually as they would move the honest soul; the latter insists on seeing the wound-marks, because it wants to know the precise truth, and therefore avails itself of whatever evidence God has given.The skepticism of the heart hates the light, and will not come to the light, lest its deeds be reproved. The skepticism of the mind is that which cannot believe without sufficient evidence. It proves all things, and holds fast that which will stand the test. It examines both sides of a question, and adheres to that which imposes the least strain on its belief. Such a mind needs only to have the evidences of Christianity fairly presented, to yield to it entire and cordial faith.

    Many of the firmest believers, many of the ablest defenders of the truth as it is in Jesus, belong to this class of minds. In this sense, Lardner, Paley, and Butler, whose contributions to the Christian evidences are invaluable, and will be so for generations to come, were pre-eminently skeptics. They would not believe, without examining the hands and the side, trying all the witnesses, testing the objections against Christianity with the opposing arguments, weighing coolly and impartially the evidence, real or pretended, on either side; and the result was a faith in Christ, which sight could hardly have rendered clearer or stronger.

    God has made many such minds, and they are among the noblest and best of his creation.

  4. One wants to say that Dawkins can claim that Christianity makes a virtue out of belief in the absence of evidence only because he hasn’t actually read the Gospels, the Gospel of John in particular. One wants to say this, but unfortunately it would constitute an indictment on many Christians as well. There are a couple of features of this incident to note: First, as rightly highlighted in this post, Thomas had the unanimous and unequivocal testimony of the other disciples, people with whom he had lived for three years. Should this have been enough?Second, Jesus suddenly appears in their midst (as he had a week earlier). That’s miracle #1.

    Third, Jesus reported what Thomas had said earlier in his absence. This is plausibly read as miracle #2 — assuming the others hadn’t independently reported this challenge to Jesus. (Would Peter have tattled on Thomas?)

    Fourth, while inviting him to touch, Jesus presumably showed Thomas the holes in his hands and side. That’s pretty strong evidence that he was who he claimed to be.

    But here’s the kicker to the whole episode. Jesus did not reject or even belittle Thomas’s request. “Stop doubting” sounds like a rebuke, but need not be read in that tone. Note what Jesus did: he in fact invited Thomas to put his hands in his side, as if to say that if you need more evidence than what you already have in hand, then I am willing to accommodate your hard-headed, perfectly natural, intellectual intransigence (read: scientism) if that is what it takes for you to “stop doubting and believe.”

    Jesus calls Thomas’s bluff. When it came right down to it, Thomas didn’t need this additional evidential support; seeing the gaping wound was apparently enough, in spite of his earlier bluster about the need for evidence. Again, the suggestion says something like the following: if it is really a matter of evidence, I’m willing to meet even this high standard of proof. Of course, if it’s a matter of skepticism of the heart, I know that even placing your hands in my side would not convince you.

    Thomas’s response was one of a heart’s submission: “My Lord and my God.” Dawkins’s Thomas should have said: “It now appears to me that there is some not insignificant evidence for God hypothesis which may or may not override such alternative explanations as….”

    Jesus’s teaching: you are blessed because you could have had more evidence but didn’t require it — you saw and you believed because your heart was ready and your intellectual skepticism was honest (Peabody). That really is a good thing. Others have believed (their hearts were ready) without even that much evidence. Great. Whatever it takes to move a willing heart, I’m willing to provide for you.

    There is probably a lot to dispute in this reading, but the point of absolute clarity is the lack of rebuke for the request for more evidence. Dawkins’s Jesus should have said, “Cursed are you for not believing in the absence of evidence.” John’s Jesus says, “Blessed are you for believing upon seeing, even though there was even more evidence (touch) that I was ready to make available to you.”

A. P. Taylor concludes: It is always instructive, especially for undergrads, to see where a thinker goes off the rails. My contention is that Dawkins is, somewhat, straw-manning religion by insisting on an unambiguously fideistic picture of religious belief, which most religious people would not accept.

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Exploring The Good Samaritan

October 8, 2009
Van Gogh was staying in an institution for the mentally ill when he painted this work, in May 1890.

Van Gogh was staying in an institution for the mentally ill when he painted this work, in May 1890.

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 

But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.’ Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”
Luke 10:29-37

A Portrait of Christ by Fr. Robert Barron:

THE STORY OF the Good Samaritan is probably the best known of Jesus’ parables. And the moral lesson contained in this narrative — that one should reach out to the suffering person, no matter what social, racial, or religious animosities might exist between helper and helped — is perennially pertinent. But something that both the fathers of the church and the Protestant theologian Karl Barth have taught me is that all things in the New Testament — stories, moral exhortations, letters, and parables are finally descriptions of Jesus, portraits, however indirect, of the Lord. In one of the great painted windows of Chartres Cathedral, there is depicted the intertwining of two biblical stories: the account of the fall of the human race and the parable of the Good Samaritan. This artistic juxtaposition reflects a connection that was made from earliest centuries of the church between the figure of the Good Samaritan and Jesus the savior. It is this provocative symbolic suggestion that I should like to explore.

Jesus’ story begins as follows: “There was a man going down from Jerusalem to Jericho.” Jerusalem is a symbol of heaven, Mt. Zion — the place where, as Isaiah predicted, all of the tribes of the Lord will go up. Read mystically, therefore, Jerusalem signals the state of friendship with God. And as any attentive reader of the Hebrew Scriptures would know, Jericho evokes the city of sin, for it was the place that the invading Israelites had to conquer as they moved into the Promised Land. The journey from Jerusalem to Jericho is thus a symbol of the fall, the downward progression of the human race from unity with God to alienation from him. As the parable unfolds, we hear that “the man fell in with robbers.” This is a realistic detail, since that road was notorious in Jesus’ time as a haunt of bandits, but there is also a symbolic resonance. Sin effectively robs us of friendship with God and thereby corrupts all that is good in us. When we know the world apart from God, we know it less truly and less well; when our wills function in alienation from God, they do so errantly and awkwardly; when our passions are divorced from God, they become disordered and fall into a kind of civil war. Now all of this debilitation robs us of our dignity and corrodes the image of God according to which we were created. Those who have been the victims of a robbery often say that the worst part of the experience is the humiliation of itand this same dynamic holds when the robbery is a spiritual one. Next we hear that “they stripped him, and then went off, leaving him half-dead.” What a perfect description of sin. In its wake, we are alive, hut barely, for the divine life in us has been compromised; we are like the Gerasene demoniac, alive hut wandering among the tombs, half-dead.

The parable is a tightly scripted drama, and now we turn to act two. “A priest happened to he going down the same road; he saw him, but continued on. Likewise there was a Levite who came the same way; he saw him and went on.” To be sure, this is a sharp criticism of our unwillingness to take care of people in need; there is certainly a moral lesson to he learned here. If we pursue our Christological reading, however, unexpected dimensions open up. The priest and the Levite symbolize official religion, pious practice, the works of the law — all of the efforts of Israelite religion to affect salvation. These disciplines are not, of course, bad in themselves, but in accord with Paul’s constant observation, they are, in their fallen state, unable to save us. Walking from Jerusalem to Jericho, the two pious figures stand for religion that has itself been compromised by sin, devolving into an exercise in self-justification. Those who have been beaten up and left half-dead by sin should, therefore, not expect aid from that particular quarter.

Now comes the hinge upon which the parable turns:

“But a Samaritan who was journeying along came on him and was moved to pity at the sight.” Samaritans were half-breeds, the descendants of those Jews who remained behind at the time of the exile and allowed themselves to mix sexually and culturally with non-Jewish tribes. Their very presence, therefore, was repulsive to Jews of pure blood. Jesus was a Jew, hut he mingled so prodigally with sinners, outsiders, the morally suspect that he became, in the course of his public ministry, an object of suspicion. Finally, at the close of his life, all of polite society turned away from him. He is, therefore, the Samaritan. What does this despised traveler do? “He approached him and dressed his wounds, pouring in oil and wine as a means to heal.” In his letter to the Philippians, Paul says of Jesus, “Though he was in the form of God, Jesus did not deem equality with God a thing to he grasped at, hut rather emptied himself, taking the form of a slave.” The Son of God was not pleased to remain in his heaven, but rather took to himself a human nature by which he could enter as radically as possible into the condition of the fallen human race. He approached us, even in our repugnant state, stooping down in order to raise us up. What is more, he healed us. One of the earliest titles given to Jesus is Soter (healer, in the Greek), rendered in Latin as salvator (bearer of the salus, the salve, the healing balm). Christ is the great healer, And how does he heal? Once more the symbolism of the parable is striking: he pours in oil and wine. The alert Christian reader immediately interprets these as evocative of the sacraments of baptism, confirmation, and orders (all of which involve anointing) and Eucharist (wine consecrated to be the blood of Jesus). The author of the Gospel of John makes much the same sacramental point when he tells us that from the pierced side of Jesus there flowed water (baptism) and blood (the Eucharist),

We then hear that “he hoisted him on his own beast and brought him to an inn, where he cared for him.” In his dying, Jesus took upon himself the sins of the world; in Paul’s even more dramatic language, he became sin on the cross, bearing in his own body the suffering of the human race — hoisting us, as it were, upon himself. And then he brought us to the church, a place of rest and recuperation, where he continues, through the word, sacraments, and the community itself, to care for us. The narrative closes with a sharp symbolic detail: “The next day, he took out two silver pieces and gave them to the innkeeper and said, ‘Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever you spend.’” A word frequently used to describe what Jesus accomplished in his dying and rising is “redemption,” from the Latin redemere, which means simply “to buy back.” Christ Jesus paid the price for sin; he redressed the imbalance that it caused; he reestablished justice in God’s cosmos. And thus we live as debtors no longer; we’ve been paid for.

We recall that the telling of this parable was prompted by the question of a man who “wished to justify himself” and asked, “who is my neighbor?” Jesus turns the table on him by asking, at the close of his narrative, “Which of these three was neighbor to the man who fell in with the robbers?” When the answer comes, “the one who treated him with compassion,” Jesus says, with devastating simplicity: “Go and do the same.” Having been saved by Christ, who became a neighbor to us, we must spend our lives becoming neighbor to those in need, scouting the road for those who have been brutalized by sin, and then endeavoring to pour in the wine and the oil. Having read this story as an icon of Jesus, we must become what we have seen.

From Jesus of Nazareth by Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI):

What Are The Parables?
There is one vexed saying of Jesus concerning the parables that stands in the way: “To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside, everything comes in parables; in order that ‘they may indeed look, but not perceive, and may indeed listen, but not understand; so that they may not turn again and be forgiven.’” [Mark 4:12] …In saying these words, Jesus places himself in the line of Prophets – his destiny is a Prophet’s destiny…In the book of Isaiah it says “Make the mind of this people dull, and stop their ears, and shut their eyes, so that they may not look with their eyes, and listen with their ears, and comprehend with their minds, and turn and be healed.” [Isaiah:6:10] Prophets fail. Their message goes too much against general opinion and the comfortable habits of life. It is only through failure that their work becomes efficacious. …Prophets are the way that to reach the point where “they turn and God will forgive them” It is precisely the method for opening the eyes and ears of all. It is on the Cross that the parables are unlocked. …The parable has a two fold movement. One the one hand the parable brings distant realities close to the listeners as they reflect upon it. On the other hand, the listeners themselves are led onto a journey. The inner dynamic of the parable, the intrinsic self-transcendence of the chosen image, invites them to entrust themselves to this dynamic and to go beyond their existing horizons, to come to know and understand things previously unknown. This means , however, that the parable demands the collaboration of the learner, for not only is something brought close to him, but he himself must enter into the movement of the parable and journey along with it. At this point we begin to see why parables can cause problems: people are sometimes unable to discover the dynamic and let themselves be guided by it. Especially in the case of parables that affect and transform their personal lives, people can be unwilling to be drawn into the required movement. …He (Jesus) has to lead us to the mystery of God – to the light that our eyes cannot bear and that we therefore try to escape. In order to make it accessible to us, he shows how the divine light shines through in the  things of this world and in the realities of our everyday life. Through everyday events, he wants to show us the real ground of all things and thus the true direction we have to take in our day–to-day lives if we want to go the right way. He shows us God: not an abstract God but the God who acts, who intervenes in our lives, and wants to take us by the hand. He shows us through everyday things who we are and what we must therefore do. He conveys knowledge that makes demands upon us; it not only or even primarily adds to what we know, but it changes our lives. It is knowledge that enriches us with a gift: “God is on the way to you.” But equally it is an exacting knowledge: “Have faith, and let faith be your guide” The possibility of refusal is very real, for the parable lacks the necessary proof.

Parables Are An Expression Of God’s Hiddeness
We have developed a concept of reality today that excludes reality’s translucence to God. The only thing that counts as real is what can be experimentally proven. God cannot be constrained into experimentation. That is exactly the reproach he made to the Israelites in the desert:

Do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah, as on the day at Massah in the wilderness,
when your ancestors tested me, and put me to the proof, though they had seen my work.
[Psalms 95:8-9]

God cannot be seen through the world – that it is what the modern concept of reality says. And so there is even less reason to accept the demand he places on us: To believe in him as God and to live accordingly seems like a totally unreasonable requirement. In this situation, the parables really do lead to non-seeing and non-understanding, to “hardening of heart.”

This means, though, that the parables are ultimately an expression of God’s hiddeness in this world and of the fact that knowledge of God always lays claim to the whole person – that such knowledge is one with life itself, and that I cannot exist without “repentance.” For in the world marked by sin, the gravitational pull of our lives is weighted by the chains of the “I” and the “self.”

The Samaritan
And now the Samaritan enters the stage. What will he do? He does not ask how far his obligations of solidarity extend. Nor does he ask about the merits required for eternal life. Something else happens: His heart is wrenched open. The Gospel uses the word that in Hebrew had originally referred to the mother’s womb and maternal care. Seeing this man in such a state is a blow that strikes him “viscerally,” touching his soul. “He had compassion “ – that is how we translate the text today, diminishing its original vitality. Stuck in his soul by the lightening flash of mercy, he himself now becomes a neighbor, heedless of any question or danger. The burden of the question thus shifts here. The issue is no longer which other person is a neighbor to me or not. The question is about me. I have to become the neighbor, and when I do, the other person counts for me “as myself”

If the question had been “Is the Samaritan my neighbor, too?” the answer would have been a pretty clear-cut “No “given the situation at the time. But Jesus turns the whole matter on its head: The Samaritan, the foreigner, makes himself the neighbor and shows me that I have to learn to be a neighbor deep within and that I already have the answer in myself. I have to become like someone in love, someone whose heart is open to being shaken up by another’s need. Then I find my neighbor, or – better – then I am found by him.

The Samaritan: The Risk Of Goodness
We always give too little when we just give material things. And aren’t we surrounded by people who have been robbed and battered? The victims of drugs, of human trafficking, of sex tourism, inwardly devastated people who sit empty in the midst of material abundance. All this is of concern to us, it calls us to have the eye and heart of a neighbor, and to have the courage to love our neighbor, too. For –as we have said – the priest and the Levite may have passed by more out of fear than out of indifference. The risk of goodness is something we must relearn from within, but we can do that only if we ourselves become good from within, if we ourselves are neighbors” from within, and if we then have an eye for the sort of service that is asked of us, that is possible for us, and is therefore also expected of us, in our environment and within the wider ambit (scope) of our lives.

The Samaritan In Terms Of World History
The (Church) Fathers see the parable (The Good Samaritan) in terms of world history: Is not the man who lies half dead and stripped on the roadside an image of “Adam,” of man in general, who truly “fell among robbers”? Is it not true that man, this creature man, has been alienated, battered and misused throughout his entire history? The great mass of humanity has almost always lived under oppression; conversely, are the oppressors the true image of man, or is it they who are really distorted caricatures, a disgrace to man?

The road from Jerusalem to Jericho thus turns out to be an image of human history; the half-dead man lying by the side of it is an image of humanity. Priest and Levite pass by; from earthly history alone, from its cultures and religions alone, no healing comes. If the assault victim is the image of Everyman, the Samaritan can only be the image of Jesus Christ. God himself, who for us is foreign and distant, has set out to take care of his wounded creature. God, though so remote from us, has made himself our neighbor in Jesus Christ. He pours oil and wine into our wounds, a gesture seen as an image of the healing gift of the sacraments, and he brings us to the inn, the Church in which he arranges our care and also pays a deposit for the cost of that care. …The great theme of love which is the real thrust of the text, is only now given its full breadth. For now we realize that we are all “alienated,” in need of redemption. Now we realize that we are all in need of the gift of God’s redeeming love ourselves, so that we too can become “lovers’ in our turn. Now we realize that we always need God, who makes himself our neighbor so that we can become neighbors.

 

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An Unmasking Of Human Nature

August 10, 2009

 

Good Shepherd Icon

Good Shepherd Icon

So again Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away — and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep.”
 John 10:7-15

Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.” So he told them this parable: “Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. “Or what woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
Luke 15 1-10

A tremendous thought breaks in on us: Jesus is saying that the bond between himself and us is the same bond which binds him to the Father, in that perfect intimacy and understanding of life shared in its entirety side by side. John speaks of this union in his opening words: “…and the Word was with God.”

…Now we understand better that humble and yet so exalted name that the Messiah goes by: Son of Man. No one is so warmly, so intimately, so excellently human as he. That is why he knows us, why his words strike the intrinsic in us. That is why man is more profoundly understood by Christ than he ever could understand himself. No wonder he can call his sheep by name! But then what about those others who also wish to help mankind — to teach wisdom, lead the way, fight for the truth behind our existence? Jesus says: I am the door to the sheepfold — door and shepherd. The shepherd comes in through the door. All others are thieves who sneak in to steal and kill and destroy.

He alone is the gateway to the essence of human existence. Anyone who would reach that essence must come through him. This is not meant figuratively, but literally. The intrinsic form of all Christian being is Jesus himself. He who would penetrate to man’s heart, to the core where all true decisions form, must pass through Christ. The thoughts of any other must be purged to blend with Christ’s thoughts, his words with Christ’s words. Then that other will think and speak truly, and his teaching will strike home. His intentions must be carried out as Christ would have wished them; his will must be fused with Christ’s love. It must be Jesus Christ who speaks, not he; Jesus Christ who is presented, and not other. Then the depths of the soul, which “know” the Lord and obey his voice, will respond. That the metaphor of the door might swing its full weight, Jesus declares categorically: All others are “thieves and robbers.” Terrible sentence! Nothing else is acknowledged, neither wisdom nor goodness, nor cleverness, nor pedagogy, nor pity.

Everything outside of Christ is swept aside. Obviously, ultimate reality is at stake, and no confusion with human attributes — even the noblest — can be countenanced. Compared with the coming of the Messiah, the advent of any mere human is theft, robbery, violence and murder. What an unmasking of human nature! We do well to waste no time wondering whether also Abraham is meant, Moses and the prophets – “all” others; the words are there in black and white. But never mind the others, see to yourself. God has declared what you are when you to others with your worldly wisdom; take his word for it!
The Lord — Romano Guardini

Man Is A Lost And Erring Creature
Somewhere in Mark we find the sentence: “And when he landed, Jesus saw a large crowd, and had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd.” How well we understand these words: whenever we meet a crowd we are reminded of sheep without a shepherd. Man is a lost and erring creature who has forsaken the very fundaments of his being. Not because there are too few efficient or conscientious people who bother about the others — more would only mitigate the loneliness and isolation within existence. What is meant here is a sense of forsakenness that goes back much further. Existence itself is forsaken because it is as it is: estranged from God and sinking into nothingness. No human can rescue here, only Christ, the Godman, who has overcome the void.
The Lord — Romano Guardini

While he is still a long way off (still to some degree in the land of exile), his father catches sight of him (he had obviously been looking for him) and is “filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him” (Luke 15:20). The word used in the Greek here for the feeling of compassion is esplagnisthe, meaning literally that the father’s guts are moved (gut wrenching?), the visceral connection to his child stirred up. This same term is applied in the New Testament to the feelings of Jesus himself: “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36). This powerful feeling leads to an extraordinary gesture. As many have pointed out, in ancient Jewish society, it was considered terribly unseemly for an elderly man to run to meet someone; rather, he was the one to whom others would come in a spirit of respect and obeisance. So the Father’s running, throwing caution and respectability to the wind, is an act of almost shocking condescension and other orientation.
The Priority of Christ – Fr. Robert Barron

The Shepherd Discourse
A third essential motif of the Shepherd discourse is the idea that the shepherd and his flock know each other: “The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.” [John: 10:3]  “I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep.” [John 10:14]

These verses present two striking sets of interrelated ideas that we need to consider if we are to understand what is meant by “knowing.” First of all, knowing and belonging are interrelated. The shepherd knows the sheep because they belong to him, and they know him precisely because they are his. Knowing and belonging are actually one and the same thing. The true shepherd does not possess the sheep as if they were a thing to be used and consumed; rather, they “belong” to him, in the context of their knowing each other, and this knowing is an inner acceptance. It signifies an inner belonging that goes much deeper than the possession of things. …

Herein lies the distinction between the owner, the true Shepherd, and the robber. For the robber, for the ideologues and the dictators, human beings are merely a thing that they possess. For the true Shepherd, they are free in relation to truth and love; the Shepherd proves that they belong to him precisely by knowing and loving them, by wishing them to be in the freedom of the truth. They belong to him through the oneness of “knowing,” though the communion in the truth that the Shepherd himself is. This is why he does not use them, but gives his life for them. Just as Logos and Incarnation, Logos and Passion belong together, so too knowing and self-giving are ultimately one. ….

The mutual knowing of the shepherd and sheep is interwoven with the mutual knowing of Father and Son. The knowing that links Jesus with “his own” exists within the space opened up by his “knowing” oneness with the Father. Jesus’ own are woven into the Trinitarian dialogue….This will help us to see that the Church and Trinity are mutually interwoven. This interpenetration of two levels of knowing is crucial for understanding the essence of the knowing of which John’s gospel speaks.

Applying all of the above to the world in which we live, we can say this: It is only in God and in light of God that we rightly know any man. Any “self-knowledge” that restricts man to the empirical and tangible fails to engage with man’s true depth. Man knows himself only when he learns to understand himself in light of God, and he knows others only when he sees the mystery of God in them.
Jesus of Nazareth – Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI)

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The Goodness of God

June 5, 2009

Psalm 145
1I will extol you, my God and King, and bless your name forever and ever.
2Every day I will bless you, and praise your name forever and ever.
3Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; his greatness is unsearchable.
4One generation shall laud your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts.
5On the glorious splendor of your majesty, and on your wondrous works, I will meditate.
6The might of your awesome deeds shall be proclaimed, and I will declare your greatness.
7They shall celebrate the fame of your abundant goodness, and shall sing aloud of your righteousness.
8The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
9The Lord is good to all, and his compassion is over all that he has made.
10All your works shall give thanks to you, O Lord, and all your faithful shall bless you.
11They shall speak of the glory of your kingdom, and tell of your power,
12to make known to all people your mighty deeds, and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.
13Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures throughout all generations. The Lord is faithful in all his words, and gracious in all his deeds.
14The Lord upholds all who are falling, and raises up all who are bowed down.
15The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food in due season.
16You open your hand, satisfying the desire of every living thing.
17The Lord is just in all his ways, and kind in all his doings.
18The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.
19He fulfills the desire of all who fear him; he also hears their cry, and saves them.
20The Lord watches over all who love him, but all the wicked he will destroy.
21My mouth will speak the praise of the Lord, and all flesh will bless his holy name forever and ever.

Authenticity And Sanctity: Superlative Goodness
Authenticity coincides with sanctity. The saint alone is fully real, honest, faithful, loving, genuine. He alone is immersed in beauty, truth, ecstasy. The classical, theological way of thinking about authenticity was to think of virtue, especially heroic virtue.
What is heroic virtue?
It is goodness to a superlative degree, a degree that far surpasses the mere natural resources of the human person. Over the course of the centuries the Church developed a detailed theology of saintliness, a theology that included definite criteria for determining in canonization processes the eminent perfection to which God calls us (Matthew 5:48). Heroic goodness is a specific human quality (humility, patience, purity, love) that shows itself in actions which are 1.) promptly, easily, joyfully done; 2.) even in difficult circumstances; 3.) habitually, not just occasionally; 4.) present actually, not just potentially; 5.) found mingled with all the virtues. A few examples will make the concept easy to grasp. A person possesses heroic humility when promptly and easily he avoids vanity in dress, domination in conversation, desire to impress. He experiences little difficulty in accepting correction — indeed, he desires it. He is content and at peace with accusation, neglect, blame, rejection. He quite literally finds a joy in all this after the word of Jesus:
“Happy are you when people abuse you and persecute you and speak all kinds of calumny against you on my account. Rejoice and be glad . . . “ (Matthew 5:11-12) This heroic humility is practiced even in difficult circumstances (e.g., when one is alone without human support) and habitually, not just occasionally. It is not merely potential, a being able in one circumstance or another. Rather it is an actually lived reality. It is found with the totality of the virtues: patience, gentleness, frugality and all the others.
Another example: faith. Faith is heroic when one accepts God’s revelation in Scripture and in the teaching of the Church not simply as a cultural heritage but because of his divine knowledge and truth. The acceptance is not selective, but entire, and it is prompt, easy, joyful. One adheres to the divine self-disclosure not only when one’s companions also adhere but even when, for example, the Church’s teaching is widely rejected, when one may be persecuted for fidelity either psychologically and/or physically. The man or woman of heroic faith stands by the biblical word and the teaching Church day by day, not only when he has the human support of his friends. Like Thomas More, he is ready to stand up to kings and bishops who reject the Holy See, and he is so joyful in his confession of truth that he may be able to joke, as Thomas did, with his executioners.
A third illustration: purity. The heroically chaste person is not the little boy or girl who has no idea of what impurity is all about, who has suffered no unchaste allurement or temptation. Rather he or she is the person who even in the midst of sensual advertising and immodest dress readily and easily and joyfully resists the degradation and cheapening of the human body. This is the man or woman who so reverences the divine gift of sexuality that he experiences no great problem in loving others in a pure delight. This chastity has nothing of rigidity or coldness about it, but is easily warm, gentle, strong, joyous. Needless to say, it is rooted in a profound faith, hope, love, humility.
A fourth example: obedience. Heroic obedience is neither reluctant nor selective. One happily carries out all the directives of his superior because he sees the divine hand in them. The execution of a command is prompt, not delayed. The task is easily, joyfully done, habitually done. He makes it a joy for the superior to be in charge (Heb 13:17), and he obeys even when the director is unworthy to be in a leadership position (Matthew 23:1-7). This submission is humble, gentle, trusting, loving.
A final example: patience. The average individual can on rare occasions bite his tongue in annoying circumstances and perhaps barely restrain a sharp word if not a disapproving glance. The heroically patient person is habitually calm in aggravating situations and he readily, even joyfully responds to the unkind remark or gaze or action. He knows how to turn the cheek and he does it easily. He is joyful with those who rejoice and is sad with those in sorrow. He treats all, friends and enemies alike, with equal kindness (Romans 12:15-16) even though he may be closer to some persons than to others.
And so it goes with all the theological and moral virtues. It takes little imagination to see that the Church’s age-old criteria for determining who is a saint and who is not are so many indicators of authenticity. The picture is demanding but it is beautiful. A close analysis of St. John of the Cross’ teaching on the transforming union discloses the almost incredible beauty of a person who has been transformed by an entire immersion in God. Advancing prayer brings about what St. Paul speaks of as a growth from one glory to another as we are transformed by the indwelling Spirit into his own image (2 Corinthians 3:18).
Authenticity – Fr. Thomas Dubay S.M.

The Ground Of Being And The Good: The Ultimate Cause Of Creation
God does not produce the world naturally because he is God, which would then mean that the world would be in the same measure divine and necessary as God himself; rather it is an absolute freedom which is the ground of the self-effusion of the ultimate good. This in turn has two consequences: that God in himself and independently of his relationship to the world is the good, or in Christian terms is love, and that the ultimate cause of the creation of a world can only be the free, loving communication of divine goodness to created beings.  If one thinks this through, then one will have to say, over and above this, that precisely in the freedom of the love of the divine ground of being lies the possibility of there being such a thing as a world (which is not God, not the infinite and the all) at all. Indeed the final point may emerge dimly as a kind of limiting concept which will find its confirmation in the central assertions of the Christian faith: The ground of being can be called the good as free love only if it possesses in itself a spiritual life of love; that is to say, if there is within it a self-giving, a communing, a communality that does not impugn the identity of the absolute but indeed is the necessary condition of its truly being the absolute good.

The Intentions Of A Free Divine Good
If (a man) encounters the idea that he …is the image of the freely loving God who consequently also wills him of his freedom, then a strange and remarkable light will be shed on his existence. On the one hand, it will become clear to him that the free divine good has intended him to be this particular person, this unmistakable person, and has consequently freely given to him his freedom insight and responsibility; but that this, on the other hand, cannot be simply a matter of dismissing him, of sending him off without further interest into an estrangement from God. Rather he must realize his being as a man with free, rational responsibility precisely by relating the image to the original, not by turning away, but by turning to God. Here a realm of intimate inwardness is opened up which may take many forms and names: contact with the primal image, cherishing an d contemplating memories and recollections, prayer, the attempt to make human insight and freedom in every situation transparent to absolute insight and freedom. It is an openness, ready to be formed and fulfilled; it is making room for the one who may come to dwell, a readiness to the be the womb which shall bear fruit each in one’s own particular human world activity and efforts.
Elucidations – Hans Urs Von Balthasar

The Fundamental Schism Of Man
We all share in a shattering duality – and by this I don’t mean that soggy, superficial split that one so often sees: the kind of thing, for example, where the gangster sobs uncontrollably at an old Shirley Temple movie. I mean the fundamental schism that Newman referred to when he spoke of man being forever involved in the consequences of some “terrible aboriginal calamity;” every day in everyman there is this warfare of the parts. And while all this results in meanness and bitterness and savagery enough, God knows, and while only a  fool can look around him and smile serenely in unwatered optimism, nevertheless the wonder of it all is to me the frequency with which kindness, the essential goodness of man does break through, and as one who has received his full measure of that goodness, I can say that for me, at least, it is in the long succession of these small, redemptive instants, just as much as in the magnificence of heroes, that the meaning and the glory of man is revealed…
The Edge of Sadness – Edwin O’Connor

An Insight Into God’s Playfulness
Dionysius, a theologian to whom Thomas Aquinas is deeply in debt, described God as “the good which is diffusive of itself.” For the great mystic Dionysius, goodness is like a fountain, constantly overflowing, or like the sun, naturally radiating out, communicating almost in spite of itself. Or in more psychological terms, it is like a joyful person who simply cannot keep his good cheer to himself. The good spills over speaks itself, shines forth …For Thomas it is precisely this insight into God’s playfulness and capacity for self-offering that convinces Christians of the unspeakable goodness of the divine power. It is this self-forgetfulness of God, made visible in Jesus, that persuades us finally of God’s superabundant generosity. If God had not joined us in our creatureliness, God would remain a limited, finite good, still to some degree restricted in love. In a word, the Christian discovers in Jesus Christ that God’s being is fully ecstatic. God’s nature is to go beyond himself, to step outside of himself, to forget himself in love….For Thomas, Jesus Christ, God made human, is the light by which the goodness, the power, the strangeness, and especially the ecstasy of God are revealed. In his great leap out of himself, God discloses, superabundantly and overwhelmingly, who he is. In this ecstatic leap, God opens up the human mind and heart, illumines and heals the eyes of the human spirit, and thereby sets us on the path that leads to him.
Thomas Aquinas, Spiritual Master – Fr. Robert Barron

Discrediting The Goodness Of God
One of the tendencies of our age is to use the suffering of children to discredit the goodness of God, and as soon as you have discredited his goodness, you are done with him…Ivan Karamazov cannot believe, as long as one child is in torment; Camus’ hero cannot accept the divinity of Christ, because of the massacre of the innocents. In this popular pity, we mark our gain in sensibility and our loss in vision. If other ages felt less, they saw more, even though they saw with the blind, prophetical, unsentimental eye of acceptance, which is to say, of faith. In the absence of this faith now, we govern by tenderness. It is tenderness which, long since cut off from the person of Christ, is wrapped in theory. When tenderness is detached from the source of tenderness, its logical outcome is terror, It ends in forced-labor camps and in the fumes of the gas chambers…
Flannery O’Connor — Collected Spiritual Writings

Man Is Held To Goodness
The meaning of the law has been transfigured: they no longer command bad men to be good and to grow into something which they are not; rather do they command good men not be bad and not to fail in that which they already are, not to fall back into that state of slavery from whence they have been freed. Justification is received through faith, quite apart from works. But once justified man is more than ever held to do good works…And this is not because the works of man would have power to save man by themselves, but because good works proceed from the charity which has been given to man and which is his life – his new and eternal life – and which is joined to faith when faith is living: “faith working through charity.” And also because the works of charity, serving of life, to the extent that man, acting freely under the inflowing of grace, receives from God’s mercy the dignity of being a cause – secondary and instrumental – the matter of his  own salvation. 

Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

“Everything is permissible for me”—but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible for me”—but I will not be mastered by anything. “Food for the stomach and the stomach for food”—but God will destroy them both. The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never! Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, “The two will become one flesh.” But he who unites himself with the Lord is one with him in spirit.

  All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body. . [1 Corinthians 6:9-12; 15-20]

And in like fashion, Paul writes:

Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

 If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection. 6For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with that we should no longer be slaves to sin—because anyone who has died has been freed from sin.

Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.

In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness. For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace. [Romans 6:2-14]
Saint Paul
– Jacques Maritain

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Revealed to Infants

June 4, 2009

At that time Jesus said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants;
Matthew 11:25

A Stupendous Riddle
They call him Master and rightly so, but in washing their feet the Master deliberately abases himself in order to demonstrate that greatness lies not in self-assertion, but in self-abnegation. Earthly authority displays itself in giving orders, in magnificent apparel, in hordes of servitors, in sycophantic addresses; the authority Jesus disposes of is, by contrast, spiritual, and expresses itself in serving, not in being served, in seeking to be the least instead of the greatest, the last instead of the first, in finding wisdom in the innocence of children and truth in the foolishness of men rather than in those who pass for being sagacious and experienced in the world’s ways. When we want to adulate men, we say they are godlike; but when God became Man, it was in the lineaments of the least of men…

If the greatest of all, Incarnate God, chooses to be the servant of all, who will wish to be the master? If he receives orders, who will venture to give them? If those who climb are descending, and those who descend, climbing, who will aspire after eminence? These are the questions Jesus leaves with us; not to answer – because they have no answer – but to live with and by. Christianity is a stupendous riddle without a solution; a stupendous joke without a point; a stupendous song without a tune; a stupendous waking dream that we lose in sleeping; a death in life and a life in death.
Jesus – Malcolm Muggeridge

The Witness Of The Church In The Little Ones Of The Earth
“People were bringing little children to him in order that he might touch them; and the disciples spoke sternly to them. But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.” And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them.”  [Mark 10:13-16]

The point of Jesus’ last statement is different here than in [Matthew 18:3] who uses the wording: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven,” is making the point we must become childlike. Mark’s point, on the other hand, is that the way we receive a child, welcome a child, is the measure of our reception of God’s rule. Not to welcome a child, and by extension any of the worlds’ lowly and outcast – is in effect to reject Jesus himself….In the worlds’ oppressed and outcast and marginalized, the face of Jesus is to be discerned.
Living Jesus – Luke Timothy Johnson

Perhaps God Is Strong Enough To Exult In Monotony
All the towering materialism which dominates the modern mind rests ultimately upon one assumption; a false assumption. It is supposed that if a thing goes on repeating itself it is probably dead; a piece of clockwork. People feel that if the universe was personal it would vary; if the sun were alive it would dance. This is a fallacy even in relation to known fact. For the variation in human affairs is generally brought into them, not by life, but by death; by the dying down or breaking off of their strength or desire.

A man varies his movements because of some slight element of failure or fatigue. He gets into an omnibus because he is tired of walking; or he walks because he is tired of sitting still. But if his life and joy were so gigantic that he never tired of going to Islington, he might go to Islington as regularly as the Thames goes to Sheerness. The very speed and ecstasy of his life would have the stillness of death. The sun rises every morning. I do not rise every morning; but the variation is due not to my activity, but to my inaction.

Now, to put the matter in a popular phrase, it might be true that the sun rises regularly because he never gets tired of rising. His routine might be due, not to a lifelessness, but to a rush of life. The thing I mean can be seen, for instance, in children, when they find some game or joke that they specially enjoy.

A child kicks his legs rhythmically through excess, not absence, of life. Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them.

It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we. The repetition in Nature may not be a mere recurrence; it may be a theatrical ENCORE. Heaven may ENCORE the bird who laid an egg. If the human being conceives and brings forth a human child instead of bringing forth a fish, or a bat, or a griffin, the reason may not be that we are fixed in an animal fate without life or purpose. It may be that our little tragedy has touched the gods, that they admire it from their starry galleries, and that at the end of every human drama man is called again and again before the curtain. Repetition may go on for millions of years, by mere choice, and at any instant it may stop. Man may stand on the earth generation after generation, and yet each birth be his positively last appearance.
Orthodoxy – G.K. Chesterton

We Pretend We Are Doing The Best We Can.
I think we are capable of fooling ourselves in a lot of different ways. People talk about what makes a child an adult, as if there is some physical or emotional or mental threshold we cross, but I tell you this, and if you are honest with yourself you will know it is true: the thing that makes us adult is our ability to delude ourselves. That’s all. Children know what they are. Try telling a fat kid he looks good, or a child who is a bad athlete that he just needs to try harder. He knows better.

But as adults, we start to believe the bullshit. We tell ourselves that cheating on our taxes isn’t really stealing and that the job candidate with long legs is really a better fit of the company. We look at our lives and pretend that we aren’t money hungry and consumed by status, that we have kept the morals and ethics of our college years, that we are healthy and not fat, distinguished and not old, that gray looks sophisticated in our hair, that it doesn’t hurt her if she doesn’t know, that it’s not really lying if he doesn’t find out, that we deserve a break now and then, that we had no choice, meant no harm, didn’t know what would happen, would take it back if we could, that we are still liberal and open minded and easy going and not afraid.

We come up with rationalizations and justifications after the fact, and then we convince ourselves that these things are true. We pretend we are doing the best we can.
Land Of The Blind – Jess Walter

Reconciliation
Mr. Head stood very still and felt the action of mercy touch him again but this time he knew that there were no words in the world that could name it. He understood that it grew out of agony, which is not denied to anyone and which is given in strange ways to children. He understood it was all a man could carry into death to give his Maker and he suddenly burned with shame that he had so little of it to take with him He stood appalled, judging himself with the thoroughness of God, while action of mercy covered his pride like a flame and consumed it.

He had never thought himself a great sinner before but he saw now that his true depravity had been hidden from him lest it cause him despair. He realized he was forgiven for sins from the beginning of time when he had conceived in his own heart the sin of Adam, until the present, when he had denied poor Nelson. He saw that no sin was to monstrous for him to claim as his own and since God loved in proportion as He forgave, he felt ready at that instant to enter Paradise.
The Artificial Nigger Flannery O’Connor 

Revealed to the Childlike
About Mary — “Humble and great, more than a creature,” was the way Dante defined her. She possessed none of the requisites of human greatness. Her sole value lies in the fact that she was chosen by God to play a role of superior importance to any human exaltation whatsoever (who has the power to raise a woman to the dignity of Mother of God?) and she always corresponded fully, with intelligence and freedom, to the will of her Lord.

About us — Each one of us has also been thought of by God from all eternity and must accomplish that salvific role, for ourselves and for others, which God assigns to us and makes known to us through the various circumstances of our lives, as well as through the “talents” (material goods and personal gifts) which we have received from the Lord. Our great­ness will depend on how we correspond and how we stand before the eyes of God.
Father Gabriele Amorth
Father Amorth is the Chief Exorcist of Rome, Italy, and the author of four books about the Blessed Virgin Mary

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