All Souls 2006

Cogitor, Ergo Sum: I Am Thought, Therefore, I Am

             The basic problem of human existence: death. What saves me from death is having been loved by “the other who still stands when I have fallen apart. Man is a being who himself does not live for ever but is necessarily delivered up to death. For him, since he has no continuance in himself, survival, from a purely human point of view, can only become possible through his continuing to exist in another. The statements of Scripture about the connection between sin and death are to be understood from this angle. For it now becomes clear that man’s attempt `to be like God,’ his striving for autonomy, through which he wishes to stand on his own feet alone, means his death, for he just cannot stand on his own. If man – and this is the real nature of sin – nevertheless refuses to recognize his own limits and tries to be completely self-sufficient, then precisely by adopting this attitude he delivers himself up to death.”[1]

It is illuminating to consider the scriptural, revelational understanding of death from the Greek philosophical. Benedict’s relational understanding of being is critical here. He says, “(W)e can understand afresh the biblical message, which promises immortality not to a separated soul but the whole man.”[2] He goes on: “The Greek conception is based on the idea that man is composed of two intrinsically alien substances, one of which (the body) perishes, while the other (the soul) is in itself imperishable and therefore goes on existing in its own right independent of any other beings. Indeed, it was only in the separation from its essentially alien body, so it was thought, that the soul came fully into its own. The biblical train of thought, on the other hand, presupposes the undivided unity of man; for example, Scripture contains no word denoting only the body (separated and distinguished from the soul), while conversely in the vast majority of cases the word soul too means the whole corporeally existing man; the few places where a different view can be discerned hover to a certain extent between Greek and Hebrew thinking and in any case by no means abandon the old view. The awakening of the dead (not of bodies!) of which Scripture speaks is thus concerned with the salvation of the one, undivided man, not just with the fate of one (so far as possible secondary) half of man. It now also become clear that the real heart of the faith in resurrection does not consist at all in the idea of the restoration of the body, to which w e have reduced it in our thinking; such is the case even though this is the pictorial image used throughout the Bible. What, the, is the real content of the hope symbolically proclaimed in the Bible in the shape of the resurrection of the dead? I think that this can best be worked out by means of a comparison with dualistic conception of the ancient philosophy.

             “1. The idea of immorality denoted in the Bible by the word `resurrection’ is an immortality of the `person,’ of the one creation `man.’ In Greek thought the typical man is a perishable creature which as such does not live on but goes two different ways in accordance with its heterogeneous formation out of the body and soul; but according to the biblical belief it is precisely this being, man, that as such goes on existing, even if transformed.

             “2. It is a question of `dialogic’ immortality (=awakening!); that is, immortality results not simply from the self-evident inability-to-die of the indivisible but from the saving deed of the lover who has the necessary power; man can no longer totally perish because he is known and loved by God. All love wants eternity, and God’s love not only wants it but effects it and is it. In fact the biblical idea of awakening grew directly out of this dialogal theme: he who prays knows in faith that God will restore the right (Job 19, 25 ff.; Ps. 73, 23 ff.);’ faith is convinced that those who have suffered in the interests of God will also receive a share in the redemption of the promise (2 Macc. 7, 9 ff.). Immortality as conceived by the Bible proceeds not from the personal force of what is in itself indestructible but from being drawn into the dialogue with the Creator; that is why it must be called awakening. Because the Creator means not just the soul but the man physically existing in the midst of history and gives him immortality, it must be called `awakening of the dead’ = `of men.’”

             “3. That the awakening is expected on the `Last Day,’ at the end of history, and in the community of all mankind, indicates the communal character of human immortality, which is related to the whole of mankind, from which, towards which and with which the individual has lived and hence becomes happy or unhappy.”[3]

The above could only attains their “full scope after the New Testament had given concrete shape to the biblical hope – in the last analysis the Old Testament by itself leaves the question of the future of man in the air. Only with Christ, the man is `one with the Father,’ the man through whom the being is `one with the Father,’ the man through whom the being `man’ has entered into God’s eternity, does the future of man finally appear open. Only in him, the `second Adam,’ is the quest in of man’s identity finally answered. Christ is man, completely; to that extent the question who we men are is present in him. But he is at the same time God speaking to us, the `Word of God.’ In him the conversation between God and man which has been going on since the beginning of history has entered a new phase: in him the Word of God became `flesh’ and was really injected into our existence. But if the dialogue of God with man means life, if it is true that God’s partner in the dialogue himself has life precisely through being addressed by him who lives for ever, then this means that Christ, as God’s word to us, is himself `the resurrection and the life’ (Jn. 11, 25). It also means that the entry into Christ known as faith becomes in a qualified sense an entry into that being known and loved by God which is immortality: `Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life’ (Jn. 3, 15; 3, 36; 5, 24). Only from this angle is it possible to understand the train of thought of the fourth evangelist, who in his account of the Lazarus episode wants to make the reader understand that resurrection is not just a distant happening at the end of the world but happens now through faith.”[4]

Which is it, Being Loved or Having a Spiritual Soul?

“Now one could say: Is it not then much simpler to see the distinguishing mark of man in the fact the he has a spiritual, immortal soul? This definition is perfectly sound; but we are in fact at this moment engaged in the process of trying to elucidate its concrete meaning. The two definitions are not in the least contradictory; they simply express the same thing in different modes of thought. For `having a spiritual soul’ means precisely being willed, known and loved by God in a special way; it means being a creature called by God to an eternal dialogue and therefore capable for its own part of knowing God and of replying to him. What we call in substantialist language `having a soul’ will be described in a more historical, actual language as `being God’s partner in a dialogue.’ This does not mean that talk of the soul is false …; in one respect it is indeed even necessary in order to describe the whole of what is involved here. But on the other hand it also needs to be complemented if we are not to fall back into a dualistic conception which cannot do justice to the dialogue and personalistic view of the Bible.”[5]

[1] J. Ratzinger, “Introduction to Christianity,” Ignatius (1990) 230-231.

[2] Ibid 269.

[3] J. Ratzinger, “Introduction…” op. cit. 270-271.

[4] Ibid 272-273.

[5] Ibid 275.

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World Death Rate Holding Steady At 100 Percent

GENEVA, SWITZERLAND—World Health Organization officials expressed

disappointment Monday at the group’s finding that, despite the

enormous efforts of doctors, rescue workers and other medical

professionals worldwide, the global death rate remains constant at 100

percent.

 

Death, a metabolic affliction causing total shutdown of all life

functions, has long been considered humanity’s number one health

concern. Responsible for 100 percent of all recorded fatalities

worldwide, the condition has no cure.

 

“I was really hoping, what with all those new radiology treatments,

rescue helicopters, aerobics TV shows and what have you, that we might

at least make a dent in it this year,” WHO Director General Dr. Gernst

Bladt said. “Unfortunately, it would appear that the death rate

remains constant and total, as it has inviolably since the dawn of

time.”

 

Many are suggesting that the high mortality rate represents a massive

failure on the part of the planet’s health care workers.

 

“The inability of doctors and scientists to adequately address this

issue of death is nothing less than a scandal,” concerned parent

Marcia Gretto said. “Do you have any idea what a full-blown case of

death looks like? Well, I do, and believe me, it’s not pretty. In

prolonged cases, total decomposition of the corpse is the result.”

 

“What about the children?” the visibly moved Gretto added.

 

“At this early date, I don’t want to start making broad

generalizations,” Citizens for Safety’s Robert Hemmlin said, “but it

is beginning to seem possible that birth—as well as the subsequent

life cycle that follows it—may be a serious safety risk for all those

involved.”

 

Death, experts say, affects not only the dead, but the non-dead as well.

 

“Those who suffer from death can be highly traumatized by it, often so

severely that it kills them,” noted therapist Eli Wasserbaum said.

“But it can also be very traumatic for the still-living who are left

behind. The sudden cessation of metabolic activity characteristic of

terminal cases of death often leaves the dead person in a position

where they are unable to adequately provide for the emotional needs of

their loved ones.”

 

In the most serious cases of death, Wasserbaum explained, the trauma

inflicted upon these still-living victims of death may continue

throughout their entire lives, until their own deaths. “Thus,”

Wasserbaum said, “the ‘vicious cycle’ of death trauma continues

indefinitely.”

 

“Everybody talks about death,” Sen. Pete Domenici (R-NM) said, “but

nobody seems to actually be doing anything about it. I propose we stop

molly-coddling death, not to mention the multi-billion-dollar

hospital, mortuary, funeral and burial industries that reap huge

profits from it.”

 

Under Domenici’s new bill, all federal funds will be withheld from the

medical industry until it “gets serious and starts cracking down on

death.”

 

Consumer rights advocate and staunch anti-death activist Ralph Nader

agreed with Domenici.

 

“Why should we continue to spend billions of dollars a year on a

health care industry whose sole purpose is to prevent death, only to

find, once again, that death awaits us all?” Nader said in an

impassioned address to several suburban Californians. “That’s called a

zero percent return on our investment, and that’s not fair. Its time

the paying customer stood up to the HMOs and to the so-called ‘medical

health professionals’ and said: ‘Enough is enough. I’m paying through

the nose here, and I don’t want to die.'”

 

 

Lent Day 19

 

Lazarus, Come Out!

 

 

Jesus raises three people from the dead in the Gospel stories: the daughter of Jairus, the son of the widow of Naim, and Lazarus. In the symbolic language of the Gospels, these physical resuscitations are evocative of spiritual raisings from sin to spiritual health.

St. Augustine says that the young girl, who dies inside her house, symbolizes the sin that takes place in our thoughts and our hearts but that has not yet borne fruit in action. The son of the widow of Naim, carried to the gate of the house, represents sin that has expressed itself concretely in action. This dead man is raised and given back to his mother, who stands for the Church.

Thirdly, and most drastically, we have the case of Lazarus. He stands for the worst kind of moral/spiritual corruption: sin that has been expressed in the world and become embedded in evil custom and habit. This is the rot that has really set in, producing a spiritual stink.

In the Gospel of John, the raising of Lazarus takes place just before the Passion, just before the climactic moment when Jesus defeats death by succumbing to it. When told that Lazarus has died, Jesus says, “Our beloved Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going there to wake him” (John 11:11). With these words, he signifies we are in a new world. Within the confines of the old world, the old consciousness, death is ultimate, and its very finality gives it its power, but referring to it as “sleep,” Jesus is signaling that through God’s power and according to God’s purpose, death is not ultimate; it is not the final word.

“When Jesus arrived at Bethany, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days” (John 11:17). This is to signal that there is no mistake; the man is truly and definitively dead. But this is no concern for the one who transcends both space and time, whose power stretches beyond life and death as we know them.

Martha comes out to meet him and indicates her incipient belief in his identity and power: “Lord, if you had been here, my brother never would have died. Even now, I am sure that God will give you whatever you ask him.” Jesus replies, “Your brother will rise again…I am the resurrection and the life” (John 11:21-25). God hates death and doesn’t want its phony finality to ruin human life.

Coming to Lazarus’s tomb, Jesus feels the deepest emotions and begins to weep. This is God entering into the darkness and confusion and agony of the death of sinners. He doesn’t blithely stand above our situation, but rather takes it on and feels it.

But then, like a warrior, he approaches the enemy. “Take away the stone,” he directs. Those who are stuck within the confines of this world protest, “Lord, surely there will be a stench.” They are saying, “Don’t mess with death; you can’t reverse it. Its power is final.”

Jesus is undaunted. He commands, “Lazarus, come out!” This is the voice, not simply of a hopeful human being, not simply of a great religious figure; this is the voice of God who hates death and has dominion over it. And therefore “The dead man came out.”

Jesus finally says, “Untie him and let him go free.” Just as he freed Lazarus, so Jesus liberates us from our thralldom to death.

 

As St. Josemaria Escriva said: “But we don’t die!” (Si no nos morimos)!

 

Love is more powerful than death!

 

The Revolution that is the Universal Call to Sanctity by Self-Gift and Not According to the Categories of Natural Reason.

Ivan Illich said: “I believe that the Incarnation makes possible a surprising and entirely new flowering of love and knowledge. For the Christian the Biblical God can now be loved in the flesh. Saint John says that he has sat at table with him, that he has put his head on his shoulder, heard him, touched him, smelled him. And he has said that whoever sees him sees the Father and that whoever loves another loves him in the person of that other. A new dimension of love has opened… Before I was limited by the people into which I was born and the family in which I was raised. Now I can chose whom I will love and where I will love. And this deeply threatens the traditional basis for ethics, which was always an ethnos, an historically given ‘we’ which precedes any pronunciation of the word ‘I.’”

   Illlich then   points out that all preaching on the parable of the Good Samaritan from the third to the nineteenth century commented that “it was about how one ought to behave towards one’s neighbor, that it proposed a rule one ought to follow, a rule of conduct. The point is that Christ‘s teaching is “whom I chose, not whom I have to choose. There is no way of categorizing who my neighbor ought to be. The Greeks recognized a duty of hospitality toward xenoi, strangers, who spoke a Hellenic language, but not towards the babblers in strange tongues whom they called barbaroi. Jesus taught the Pharisees that the relationship which he had come to announce as most completely human is not one that is expected, required, or owed. It can only be a free creation between two people… It is not a relationship that exists because we are citizens of the same Athens, and so can feel a duty towards each other, nor because Zeus also throws his mantle over the Corinthians and other Hellenes, but because we have decided. This is what the Master calls behaving as a neighbor.”

And therefore, for my purposes here is to suggest that the Law that calls us to love the Lord our God with our whole mind, soul and strength is the same Love that we freely give to another human person because he is a human person. In a word, you cannot reduce the love of God and neighbor to an ethical category. As Illich says, “The doctrine about the neighbor, which Jesus proposes, is utterly destructive or ordinary decency, of what had, until then, been understood as ethical behavior.”[1]

               So also virtues are not reducible to categories that one achieves by oneself; ‘The stress which the New Testament puts on relationship is also visible in the new account of virtue which appears amongst Christians. In the Platonic and Aristotelian teaching, virtue is something that I can cultivate in myself by the discipline of repeating good actions until they have become a second nature. Hught of St. Victor, the twelfth century abbot who is one of my great teaches, takes this traditional account of the virtues as his starting point, but says that, for a man of faith, each one of them can flower only as a surprising gift which he receives from God, usually through the intermediary of his interlocutor or the person or persons or community with whom he lives. The flowering of virtues, as evidenced by what Hugh calls the delicacy of their perfume, can come about only as a gift to me and not something which I can do on my own, as in classical tradition. Virtue, in that view is very self-centered, building on my power…”[2]

[1] Ivan Illich “The Rivers North of the Future- The Testament of Ivan Illich” as told to David Cayley and a foreword by Charles Taylor, Anansi (2005) 49-52.

[2] Ibid.  52-53.

Experiencing Christ and Understanding “Amoris Laetitia”

I can’t throw out this unfootnoted note without  shouting it out:

“Unconverted man lives in the visible world judging all that is or may be by tradition’s experience and by the rules of logic. But when he encounters Christ, he must either accept him and his revolutionary approach to truth or lose him. If he attempts to judge also the Lord by the standards o common experience, he will soon notice that he is dealing with something outside experience. He will have to discard the norms of the past, and take Christ as his new point of departure, When he no longer attempts to subject Christ to immediate reason and experience, he will recognize him as the supreme measure of all possible reality. The intellect jealous for its own sovereignty rejects such recognition, which would pout an end to its word-anchored self-glorification, and surrender ti into the hands of the God of Revelation This is the ‘risk’ any would-be Christian must take. If he takes it, a profound revolution begins. It may take a disquieting, even frightening form; it may demand demand passage through stifling darkness and perplexity. All that until now has seemed certain suddenly becomes questionable. The whole conception of reality, the whole idea of existence is turned upside-down. Only the haunting question persists: Is Christ really so great that he can be the norm of all that is? Does the world really lose itself in him, or is the whole idea only another (magnificent) example of the human tendency to make that which it reveres the measure of all things; another proof of the blindness inherent in all love? Yet the longer the intellect continues to grope, the clearer it becomes that the love of Christ is essentially different from every other love. And to the degree that the searching individual experiences such spiritual revolution, he gains an amplitude, a superiority, a synthesizing power of reason that no natural insight can match . [I can’t find the source].

Holiness

The Question: Could the national and global collapse of ideological structures in the United States and the world from 1989, through 2001 into the fall of 2008, be the historical moment for the conversion to the reality of the Person of Jesus Christ as God-man to become the defining center of the world and the truth that orders global freedom?

The Revelation

Christ as Defining Center (Scripture and Magisterium)

1) “‘I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end,’ says the Lord God, ‘who is and who was and who is coming, the Almighty’” (Apocalypse 1, 8)
“I am the alpha and the omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end!” (Apocalypse 22, 13).

2) “All things have been created through and unto him, and he is before all creatures, and in him all things hold together” (Col. 1, 17-19).

3) “For all things are yours… and you are Christ’s and Christ is God’s” (1 Cor. 3, 22-23).

4) “Even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blemish in his sight in love. He predestined us to be adopted through Jesus Christ as his sons according to the purpose of his will” (Ephesians 1, 4-5).

4) Dominus Iesus (SCDF 2000) #15:[1] “(O)ne can and must say that Jesus Christ has a significance and a value for the human race and its history, which are unique and singular, proper to him alone, exclusive, universal, and absolute. Jesus is, in fact, the Word of God made man for the salvation of all. In expressing this consciousness of faith, the Second Vatican Council teaches: “The Word of God, through whom all things were made, was made flesh, so that as perfect man he could save all men and sum up all things in himself. The Lord is the goal of human history, the focal point of the desires of history and civilization, the centre of mankind, the joy of all hearts, and the fulfilment of all aspirations. It is he whom the Father raised from the dead, exalted and placed at his right hand, constituting him judge of the living and the dead.” “It is precisely this uniqueness of Christ which gives him an absolute and universal significance whereby, while belonging to history, he remains history’s centre and goal: ‘I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end’ (Rev 22:13).”[2]

The Collapse of the Structures

Benedict XVI remarked in Brazil in May of 2007, that “we inevitably speak of the problem of structures, especially those which create injustice. In truth, just structures are a condition without which a just order in society is not possible. But how do they arise? How do they function? Both capitalism and Marxism promised to point out the path for the creation of just structures, and they declared that these, once established, would function by themselves; they declared that not only would they have no need of any prior individual morality, but that they would promote a communal morality. And this ideological promise has been proved false. The facts have clearly demonstrated it. The Marxist system, where it found its way into government, not only left a sad heritage of economic and ecological destruction, but also a painful destruction of the human spirit. And we can also see the same thing happening in the West, where the distance between rich and poor is growing constantly, and giving rise to a worrying degradation of personal dignity through drugs, alcohol and deceptive illusions of happiness.
Just structures are, as I have said, an indispensable condition for a just society, but they neither arise nor function without a moral consensus in society on fundamental values, and on the need to live these values with the necessary sacrifices, even if this goes against personal interest. Where God is absent — God with the human face of Jesus Christ — these values fail to show themselves with their full force, nor does a consensus arise concerning them. I do not mean that non-believers cannot live a lofty and exemplary morality; I am only saying that a society in which God is absent will not find the necessary consensus on moral values or the strength to live according to the model of these values, even when they are in conflict with private interests. On the other hand, just structures must be sought and elaborated in the light of fundamental values, with the full engagement of political, economic and social reasoning. They are a question of recta ratio and they do not arise from ideologies nor from their premises.”

State of Affairs: Crises

1) Death to the unwanted child: Abortion, Fetal Stem Cells, the Handicapped…

 2) No discrimination between the sexes: The need to recover the ontological dissimilarity (opposing relations) within the equality as persons: “The person’s power for actively being his sexuality without necessarily engaging his sexual functions. This is one way of stating the original and most authentic meaning of sexual freedomWhen the sexuality of man and woman becomes centered, as it is meant to be, in their capacity for being love without necessarily making love in a genital manner, then their sexual actions emerge from freedom rather than from necessity.”[3]

 3) Massive financial fraud: The loss of trust as faith in the other as person. Linda Chavez: “‘Money is a matter of belief, even faith: belief in the person issueing the money he uses or the institution that honors his checks or transfers. Money is… trust inscribed.’ And once trust breaks down, the system itself collapses. What is worrisome in today’s troubled economy is that trust seems to be dissolving before our eyes. Why have banks stopped lending? Why are people pulling their money out of the stock market, driving down the Dow and NASDAQ? Why are people afraid to buy houses? It all boils down to trust. Banks son’t trust that debtors – companies, individuals, even other banks – will pay back the money they lend, so they stop lending…” (NY Post, Sat. Dec. 20, 2008 A23).
Once again, the reduction of person to thing. Mortgages as personal relations turned into “traunches.” Now, the credit card. “The End of the Financial World As We Know It” – Michael Lewis.

4) Loss of Freedom of Speech: The Press is now “advertising” rather than report and critique.

 5) Government is now“power” over the people rather than service: “I won (the election).”

The Secret

The Way #301: “I’ll tell you a secret, an open secret: these world crises are crises of saints. God wants a handful of men ‘of his own’ in every human activity. Then… ‘pax Christi in regno Christi’ – ‘the peace of Christ in the kingdom of Christ.’”

The Charism of Opus Dei

“When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all things to myself”
(Jn. 12, 32).

St. Josemaria Escriva was given the exegesis of these words during a Mass on August 7, 1931. He was told: “Not in the sense in which Scripture says it do I say it to you. I say it to you in the sense that you are to place me at the summit of all human activities, so that in all the places of the earth there will be Christians with a most personal and free dedication, that they be other Christs.”

In “Christ is Passing By,” he gives it this variation: “If you put me at the center of all human activities… by fulfilling the duty of each moment, in what appears important and what appears unimportant, I will draw everything to myself. My kingdom among you will be a reality!”[4]

The Absolute Within the Relative

The Christology Supporting the Centrality of Christ: “The Divine Person of the Logos is present as the Subject of the man Jesus of Nazareth. Therefore, the words, deeds, and entire historical event of Jesus, though limited as human realities, have nevertheless the divine Person of the Incarnate Word, “true God and true man” as their subject. For this reason, they possess in themselves the definitiveness and completeness of the revelation of God’s salvific ways, even if the depth of the divine mystery in itself remains transcendent and inexhaustible. The truth about God is not abolished or reduced because it is spoken in human language; rather, it is unique, full, and complete, because he who speaks and acts is the Incarnate Son of God.”[5]
What must be grasped here is that the absolute is present within historical contingency and time. God as second Person of the Trinity is present in the here and now. This can only be understood if we grasp the philosophic point that only persons or “supposits” are causes of free action. Bodies don’t act, minds don’t think and wills don’t will, animals and machines don’t work. Only persons act, think, will and work.[6]

4) Gaudium et spes #22: Jesus Christ is the revelation of not only who God is, but who man is: “In reality it is only in the mystery of the Word made flesh that the mystery of man truly becomes clear. For Adam, the first man, was a type of him who was to come, Christ the Lord, Christ the new Adam. In the very revelation of the mystery of the Father and of his love, fully reveals man to himself and brings to light his most high calling…He who is the ‘image of the invisible God’ (Col. 1, 15), is himself the perfect man who has restored in the children of Adam that likeness to God which had been disfigured ever since the first sin. Human nature, by the very fact that it was assumed, not absorbed, in him, has been raised in us also to a dignity beyond compare. For, by his Incarnation, he, the son of God, has in a certain way united himself with each man. He worked with human hands, he thought with a human mind. He acted with a human will, and with a human heart he loved. Born of the Virgin Mary, he has truly been made one of us, like to us in all things except sin.”

The Dynamic Disclosing the Centrality of Christ as Working Person: Historical Praxis

The great work of David Walsh in his “The Modern Philosophical Revolution – The Luminosity of Existence”[7] centers on the “I” of the human person as the absolute ontological reality. Absolute knowledge of the real comes from experience and consciousness of that “I.” The great value of the work is its reflecting philosophically what has taken place in the Magisterium of the Church in Vatican II and since Vatican II in John Paul II and Benedict XVI. The work is fascinating as a re-reading of so-called “German Idealism” in an ontological existentialist key from Kant through Hegel, Schelling, Nietzsche, Heidegger, and Levinas into Wojtyla and Ratzinger both within Vatican II and afterwards as popes. This attempt by Walsh dove-tails with Benedict XVI’s attitude of recovering “modernity” (read modern philosophy) when he said: “(I)t seems to me that this was the true intention of the Second Vatican Council, to go beyond an unfruitful and overly narrow apologetic to a true synthesis with the positive elements of modernity, but at the same time… to transform modernity, to heal it of its illnesses, by means of the light and strength of the faith.”[8]

The Kingdom of God: The Kingdom of God is here and now, as is the enfleshed Logos of the Trinity. The Kingdom of God is neither “up there” or “after this” in an eschatological future: “If it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons then the Kingdom of God has come upon you” (Lk. 11, 20). The Kingdom of God becomes a here and now reality that can be seen when a person makes the act of self-determination to give the self. As one becomes “another Christ” by the gift of self, the Kingdom is present here and now. It is not a thing or a structure, but a person in relation. Because of the scandal of the invisibility of the Kingdom of God that cannot be seen as a “this” and a “that,” “Christian theology, which was very soon confronted by” the promise and the disappointment of its non-appearance, “in the course of time turned the kingdom of God into a kingdom of heaven that is beyond this mortal life, after death. But theology did not thereby provide an answer. For what is sublime in this message is precisely that the Lord was talking not just about another life, not just about men’s souls, but was addressing the body, the whole man, in his embodied form, with his involvement in history and society; that he promised the kingdom of God to the man who lives bodily with other men in this history.”[9]
The Kingdom of God is, then, a reality of persons. It is not a “thing” or a structure like “Christendom.” It is not the Church as visible structure, although it cannot exist without the Church. John Paul II wrote: “Christ not only proclaimed the kingdom, but in him the kingdom itself became present and was fulfilled. This happened not only through his words and his deeds: ‘Above all… the kingdom is made manifest in the very person of Christ, Son of God and Son of Man, who came ‘to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many’ (mk. 10, 45). The kingdom of God is not a concept, a doctrine, or a program subject to free interpretation, but is before all else a person with the face and name of Jesus of Nazareth, the image of the invisible God. If the kingdom is separated from Jesus, it is not lover the kingdom of God which he revealed. The result is a distortion of the meaning of the kingdom, which runs the risk of being transformed into purely human or ideological goal, and a distortion of the identity of Christ, who no longer appears as the Lord to whom everything must one day be subjected (cf. 1 Cor.15, 27).

“Likewise, one may not separate the kingdom from the Church. It is true that the Church is not an end unto herself, since she is ordered toward the kingdom of God of which she is the seed, sign and instrument. Yet while remaining distinct from Christ and the kingdom, the Church is indissolubly united to both.”[10]

The point I am suggesting is that the ideological structures of Capitalism and Marxism that have dominated world culture for several centuries are being toppled by the emergence of a personalist culture that will have the working Christ as its prototype and defining center. Could it be that, in the light of the Christian revelation and the pertinent Magisterium, particularly “Dominus Iesus,” the global debacle of the economy is like the movement of tectonic plates presaging the emergence of the new awaited culture of the third Millennium? Could it be that “the 21st century will be religious or it will not be at all.”

Fr. Neuhaus commented: “I’m not sure what Malraux meant by it, but it is one of those oracular pronouncements that have about them the ring of truth. At the threshold of the Third Millennium, it seems that the alternatives to religion have exhausted themselves. That is true of the materialistically cramped rationalisms of the Enlightenment encyclopaedists, which, along with ideological utopianisms, both romantic and allegedly scientific, have been consigned, as Marxists used to say, to the dustbin of history. The perversity of the human mind will no doubt produce other ideological madnesses, but at the moment it seems the historical stage has been swept clean, with only the religious proposition left standing. That is certainly the intuition that informs John Paul II’s repeated exhortation, “Be not afraid!”–an exhortation addressed to the entire human community.”[11]
Is This Theologically Feasible?

The ideological structures have in fact collapsed. Could a new truth be emerging now by dint of the praxis of prayer and self-giving as service in ordinary work (where the whole philosophical corpus of modernity has been heading [but incorrectly understood and labeled “German Idealism”]). Could it be understood not as a doctrinaire conservatism but as a true “liberalism” of self-transcendence – a praxis – where the truth emerges from the experience of the self as self-transcendence? And could this truth be the truth of the human person that can be found, as the Second Vatican Council teaches in Gaudium et spes #24: “Man, the only earthly being God has willed for itself, finds himself by the sincere gift of himself.” Could it be that this non-doctrinaire liberal formulation of the Magisterium of the Church be the key to the emergence of the truth that has its prototype in Jesus Christ that will make us free (Jn. 8, 32)? Recall that the “theological epistemology” of Ratzinger offers a “liberal” praxis to achieving a “knowledge” of Jesus Christ as transcendent, personal Deity. He offered St. Luke’s “And it came to pass as He was praying in private, that his disciples also were with him.” They were able to transcend contingent sensible knowledge of the man Jesus of Nazareth to draw from the experience and consciousness within themselves as “Other Christs” and transfer that consciousness as the concepts and word: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Mt. 16, 16).

Could this be where the Spirit is leading the entire world at the present moment? Could it be that we have actually reached the historical moment when The words uttered to St. Josemaria Escriva become historical actual: “If you put me at the center of all human activities… by fulfilling the duty of each moment, in what appears important and what appears unimportant, I will draw everything to myself. My kingdom among you will be a reality!”

Primacy of Persons over Structures

“(The Church) considers that the first thing to be done is to appeal to the spiritual and moral capacities of the individual and to the permanent need for inner conversion, if one is to achieve the economic and social changes that will truly be at the service of man.

“The priority given to structures and technical organization over the person and the requirements of his dignity is the expression of a materialistic anthropology and is contrary to the construction of a just social order.

“On the other hand, the recognized priority of freedom and of conversion of heart in no way eliminates the need for unjust structures to be changed. It is therefore perfectly legitimate that those who suffer oppression on the part of the wealthy or the politically powerful should take action, through morally licit means, in order to secure structures and institutions in which their rights will be truly respected.

“It remains true however those structures established for people’s good are of themselves incapable of securing and guaranteeing that good. The corruption which in certain countries affects the leaders and the state bureaucracy, and which destroys all honest social life, is a proof of this. Moral integrity is a necessary condition for the health of society. It is therefore necessary to work simultaneously for the conversion of hearts and for the improvement of structures. For the sin which is at the root of unjust situations is, in a true and immediate sense, a voluntary act which has its source in the freedom of individuals. Only in a derived and secondary sense is it applicable to structures, and only in this senses can one speak of ‘social sin.’

The Gospel of Work

“The life of Jesus of Nazareth, a real ‘Gospel of work,’ offers us the living example and principle of the radical cultural transformation which is essential for solving the grave problems which must be faced by the age in which we live. He, who, though He was God, became like us in all things, devoted the greater part of His earthly life to manual labor. The culture which our age awaits will be marked by the full recognition of the dignity of human work, which appears in all its nobility and fruitfulness in the light of the mysteries of creation and redemption. Recognized as an expression of the person, work becomes a source of creative meaning and effort.

“Thus the solution of most of the serious problems related to poverty is to be found in the promotion of a true civilization of work. In a sense, work is the key to the whole social question.

“It is therefore in the domain of work that priority must be given to the action of liberation in freedom. Because the relationship between the human person and work is radical and vital, the forms and models according to which this relationship is regulated will exercise a positive influence for the solution of a whole series of social and political problems facing each people. Just work relationships will be a necessary pre-condition for a system of political community capable of favoring the integral development of every individual. …

“A work culture such as this will necessarily presuppose and pout into effect a certain number of essential values. It will acknowledge that he person of the worker is the principle, subject and purpose of work. It will affirm the priority of work over capital and the fact that material goods are meant for all. It will be animated by a sense of solidarity involving not only rights to be defended but also the duties to be performed. It will involve participation, aimed at promoting the national and international common good and not just defending individual or corporate interests. It will assimilate the methods of confrontation and of rank and vigorous dialogue….

“A culture which recognizes the eminent dignity of the worker will emphasize the subjective dimension of work.

“The value of any human work does not depend on the kind of work done; it is based on the fat that the one who does it is a person. There we have an ethical criterion whose implications cannot be overlooked.”[12]

The fundamental value of all subsequent structures is the Person of Christ who has been theologically elaborated as pure relation to the Father, who in turn becomes prototypical of man as the anthropological process of “finding self by the sincere gift of self” (Gaudium et spes #24).

The Question: Could the national and global collapse of ideological structures in the United States and the world from 1989, through 2001 into the fall of 2008, be the historical moment for the conversion to the reality of the Person of Jesus Christ as God-man to become the defining truth that orders global freedom?

In a word, is the moment for the beginning of the new evangelization, the first step of which is conversion in this year of St. Paul, is it now? Benedict just sent the message for World Youth Day on the topic of “Hope.” Until now we have placed our hope in the structure of free market capitalism. It collapsed. Where do we put our hope now? In the survival of the structure by bailing it out financially? Where did Paul put his hope?

Paul: “We have set our hope on the living God” (1 Tim 4, 10). Benedict asks: “How did this hope take root in him?” Saul had a personal encounter with the Person of Christ on the road to Damascus. Benedict: “After that encounter, Paul’s life changed radically… On the road to Damascus, he was inwardly transformed by the Divine Love he had met in the person of Jesus Christ…. For Paul, hope is not simply an ideal or sentiment, but a living person: Jesus Christ, the Son of God… ‘We have set our hope on the living God’ (1 Tim. 4, 10). The ‘living God’ is the Risen Christ present in our world. He is the true hope: the Christ who lives with us and in us and who calls us to share in his eternal life.”

a) Conversion: Sacrament of Penance

b) Prayer: perseverance in short periods of prayer: Jacques Philippe
[1] #6. August 6, 2000.
[2] John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Redemptoris missio, 6.
[3] John and Mary Rosera Joyce, “New Dynamics in Sexual love: A Revolutionary Approach to Marriage and Celibacy,” internet: Worldwide Book Drive.
[4] “Christ is Passing By,” #183.
[5] Dominus Iesus, SCDF 2000 #6.
[6] The key is the thomistic text: S.. Th. II-II, 58, 3 Respondeo: “Now actions belong to supposits and wholes and, properly speaking, not parts and forms or powers, for we do not say properly that the hand strikes, but a man with his hand, nor that heat makes a thing hot, but fire by heat, although such expressions may be employed metaphorically. Hence, justice properly speaking demands a distinction of supposits, and consequently is only in one man towards another. Nevertheless in one and the same man we may speak metaphorically of his various principles of action such as the reason, the irascible, and the concupiscible, as though they were so many agents: so that metaphorically in one and the same man there is said to be justice in so far as the reason commands the irascible and concupiscible, and these obey reason; and in general in so far as to each part of man is ascribed what is becoming to it. Hence the Philosopher (Ethic. v. 11) calls this metaphysical justice.” Note also this propriety of attribution of action to “supposits” or persons is critical in the case of the humanity and divinity in Christ. The whole of Constantinople III depended on getting this right with regard to the freedom of the human will and its personal identity with the divine.

[7] David Walsh, “The Modern Philosophical Revolution – The Luminosity of Existence” Cambridge (2008)
[8] “The Spiritual Vision of Pope Benedict XVI, ‘Let God’s Light Shine Forth,’” Doubleday (2005) 35.
[9] J. Ratzinger, “What It Means to Be a Christian,” Ignatius 2006, 28.
[10] John Paul II, Mission of the Redeemer, #18.
[11] First Things 76 (October 1997): 75.

[12] SCDF “Instruction on Christian Freedom and Liberation” (1986) #75-85.

 

All Saints Day

1) The “Failure” of Christ Ratzinger (1964): “It has been asserted that our century is characterized by an entirely new phenomenon: the appearance of people incapable of relating to God. As a result of spiritual and social developments, it is said, we have reached the stage where a kind of person has developed in whom there is no longer any starting point for the knowledge of God…. Indeed, that even we who are trying to be believers often feel as if the reality of God is being withdrawn from between our hands. Do we not ourselves often begin to ask where he is amid all the silence of this world? Do we not ourselves often have the feeling that, at the end of all our thinking, we have only words in our grasp, while the reality of God is farther away than before? “And that takes us to a further step. I believe the real temptations for someone who is a Christian, as we experience it today, does not just consist in the theoretical question of whether God exists; or even the question of whether he is three or one; or even the question of whether Christ is God and man in one person. What really torments us today, what bothers us much more is the inefficacy of Christianity: after two thousand years of Christian history, we can see nothing that might be a new reality in the world; rather, we find it sunk in the same old horrors, the same despair, and the same hopes as ever. And in our own lives, too, we inevitably experience time and again how Christian reality is powerless against all the other forces that influence us and make demands on us.” – The Experience of St. Josemaria Escriva: – “Let me tell you about an event of my own personal life which happened many years ago. One day I was with a friend of mine, a man with a good heart but who did not have faith. Pointing toward a globe he said, “Look, from North to South, from East to West.” “What do you want me to look at?” I asked. His answer was: “The failure of Christ. For twenty centuries people have been trying to bring his doctrine to men’s lives, and look at the result.” I was filled with sadness. It is painful to think that many people still don’t know our Lord, and that among those who do know him, many live as though they did not. But that feeling lasted only a moment. It was shortly overcome by love and thankfulness, because Jesus has wanted every man to cooperate freely in the work of redemption. He has not failed. His doctrine and life are effective in the world at all times. The redemption carried out by him is sufficient, and more than sufficient.” And Yet, “The time is now here; the kingdom of God has come:” Therefore, the question is: “What is all this array of dogma and worship and Church, if at the end of it all we are still thrown back onto our own poor resources? That in turn brings us back again, in the end, to the question about the gospel of the Lord: What did he actually proclaim and bring among men?” The answer: “`The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of god is at hand; repent, and believe in the gospel’ (Mk. 1, 15). `The time is accomplished: the kingdom of God has arrived.’ Behind this saying lies the whole history of Israel… (T)here had grown up in Israel the demand for a kingdom that would not be any human rule, but the kingdom of God himself; the kingdom of God, in which he, the true ruler of the world and of history, would reign supreme. He, who is himself truth and righteousness, ought to rule everyone, so that well-being and justice among men should at last really be the only ruling powers… The time is now here; the kingdom of God has come.” What is the Kingdom of God? A Person! John Paul II wrote: “The kingdom of God is not a concept, a doctrine, or a program subject to free interpretation, but it is before all else a person with the face and name of Jesus of Nazareth, the image of the invisible God. If the kingdom is separated from Jesus, it is no longer the kingdom of God which he revealed.” John Paul II also clarifies that the kingdom of God is not the Church, but that it cannot be separated from the Church. “It is true that the Church is not an end unto herself since she is ordered toward the kingdom of God of which she is the seed, sign and instrument. Yet, while remaining distinct from Christ and the kingdom, the Church is indissolubly united to both. Christ endowed the Church, his body, with the fullness of the benefits and means of salvation. Christ endowed the Church, his body [the Church is body, Christ is head: they are one, but they are not the same] with the fullness of the benefits and means of salvation. The Holy Spirit dwells in her, enlivens her with his gifts and charisms, sanctifies, guides and constantly renews her. The result is a unique and special relationship which, while not excluding the action of Christ and the Spirit outside the Church’s visible boundaries, confers upon her a specific and necessary role; hence the Church’s special connection with the kingdom of God and of Christ, which she has `the mission of announcing and inaugurating among all peoples.’ “It is within this overall perspective that the reality of the kingdom is understood.” Discrepancy between Kingdom of God and Kingdom of Heaven: Joachim of Fiore (d. 1202) Splits Them. Because of the “failure” of the anticipated Kingdom of God to appear in time, Benedict preached that “Christian theology, which was very soon confronted by this discrepancy between expectation and fulfillment, in the course of time turned the kingdom of God into a kingdom of heaven that is beyond this mortal life; the well-being of men became a salvation of souls, which again comes to pass beyond this life, after death. But theology did not thereby provide an answer. The Theological Work of Joachim of Fiore (d. 1202) Benedict’s doctoral thesis included this major point which dominates all thinking after Joachim of Fiore (d. 1202). Joachim introduced an entirely new perspective of history that dominates us today. Before Joachim, “For the first thousand years of Christian theology, Christ is not the turning-point of history at which a transformed and redeemed world begins, nor is He the point at which the unredeemed history prior to His appearance is terminated. Rather, Christ is the beginning of the end. He is `salvation’ in as far as in Him the `end’ has already broken into history. Viewed from an historical perspective, salvation consists in this end which He inaugurates, while history will run on for a time, so to say, per nefas and will bring the old aeon of this world to an end. The idea of seeing Christ as the axis of world history… appears clearly for the first time in Joachim… Consequently Joachim became the path-finder within the church for a new understanding of history which to us today appears to be so self-evident that it seems to be the Christian understanding. It may be difficult for us to believe that there was a time when this was not the case…. It should be clear that the church and redemption are rendered historical in an entirely new way which cannot be a matter of indifference for the history of dogma nor for systematic theology…. (A) new eschatological consciousness develops here, and it is demanded precisely by the new manner in which the church as it has existed up to the present is interpreted historically” The large point to be made is that Christ is not the be all and end all of history, but merely a turning point, after which we await a new heaven and a new earth in a third aeon of the Holy Spirit after the Father and the Son. Christ is not the end as well as the beginning and meaning of all history. He is a “turning point.” Benedict asserts that “Joachim concludes that a truly good and redeemed history is yet to come since an unredeemed and defective history continues after Christ. But this redeemed history is not at hand, as he understands it with gratification. Indeed, it has been growing for a long time in a hidden way, and it must sun burst forth in the open.” Benedict’s Response: “For what is sublime in this message is precisely that the Lord was talking not just about another life, not just about men’s souls, but was addressing the body, the whole man, in his embodied form, with his involvement in history and society; that he promised the kingdom of God to the man who lives bodily with other men in this history. As marvelous as the knowledge is that has been opened up for us by biblical scholarship in our century (that is, that Christ was not just looking forward to another life, but was talking about real people), it can also disappoint and unsettle us when we look at real history, which is in truth no kingdom of God.” The Christology at the Root of this Response: There is only one Person in Jesus Christ, the divine Logos. There are two “natures,” but only one Person. The relation of the two “natures” considered from the viewpoint of the will, the human and the divine, is not a parallelism, but a “compenetration.” That means, first, that we get straight that wills don’t will. Persons do. It is only subjects as persons who will. And if the gift of self of the divine Logos is such that he is so fully the man as Jesus of Nazareth that He has “become [our] sin” (2 Cor. 5, 21), then the human willing is done by a divine Person. That changes things. That means that there is nothing “human” that is not divinized. God Himself has entered into time, space and history. That means, ultimately, that the absolute beginning and end of all things is spatially and temporally present as this individual, Jesus of Nazareth. That means that He could not be merely a turning point in history, but its complete and total consummation. That all “progress” that could possibly be made in history – be it scientific, technological, psychological, social, political, economic, etc. – its supreme zenith has already been given, and it is the task of each human person to find himself (and the meaning of himself) in that zenith. This also means that all the dualisms that appear as parallelisms – supernatural-natural, grace-nature, faith-reason, Church-State, male-female, priest-layman – must be re-interpreted in this compenetration of the created “natural” by the divine Person of the Logos. They all become “communions” in which to Be = to Be for, and one cannot be without the other. In fact, one enters the perspective that the only really real is the Person of Christ because He is the Absolute, and that one becomes real only by being in relation to Christ. This is achieved by prayer which is made possible by the sacrament of faith that is Baptism and perfected in the Eucharist as Sacrament of intimacy. Then, the experience of the really real is the experience of the “I” in its self-transcendence, or going out of self as gift to the revealing Person of Christ. Than, the perceptions of the senses are seen to be what they are in truth: not experiences of the really real as it is, but subjective receptions of the extra-mental reality as it impinges on sense organs. We attribute reality to what we sense because of the experience of the self as reality that is experiencing the sensation. These seem to be the epistemological conclusions that are inexorable once we understand that Jesus Christ is truly God and man and it is He Who is ultimately real. Benedict finds in modern quantum physics an important confirmation and analogy to this theological epistemology. In a word, the external senses do not grasp the existent reality as it is. It grasps only aspects of it. “The physicist is becoming increasingly aware today that we cannot embrace given realities – the structure of light, for example, or matter as a whole – in one form of experiment and so in one form of statement; that on the contrary from different sides we glimpse different aspects, which cannot be traced back to each other. We have to take the two together – say the structure of corpuscle and wave – without being able to find any all-embracing aspect – as a provisional assessment of the whole, which is not accessible to us as a unified whole because of the limitations implicit in our point of view…. The intellectual approach of modern physics may offer us more help here than the Aristotelian philosophy was able to give. Physicists know today that one can only talk about the structure of matter in approximations starting from various different angles. They know that the position of the beholder at any one time affects the result of his questioning of nature… We meet here the hidden interplay of faith and modern thought. That present-day physicists are stepping outside the structure of Aristotelian logic and thinking in this way is surely an effect already of the new dimension which Christian theology has opened up, of its need to think in `complementarities.’” The epistemological importance of the above is the following: Sensation is a subjective entering into the world. It is not objective in the sense that we sense things as they really are. The sense organs are receptive, but they are selective in their receptivity. Hence, only part of the real is taken in. Benedict says: “We know today that in a physical experiment the observer himself enters into the experiment and only by doing so can `arrive at a physical experience. This means that there is no such thing as pure objectivity even in physics, that even here the result of the experiments, nature’s answer, depends on the question put to it. In the answer there is always a bit of the question and a bit of the questioner himself; it reflects not only nature-in-itself, in its pure objectivity, but also gives back something of man, of our individuality, a bit of the human subject.” The Key to Resolving the Scandal: Jesus Christ is the Personal Absolute, the Absolute Person, as this concrete individual man, Jesus of Nazareth. Not only union with Him, but the mysterious identity of becoming Ipse Christus by sacramental life is the key to the presence of the Kingdom on earth here and now. Transformation into Christ is the establishment of the Kingdom of God. You, in your ordinariness, by living the gift of self that is Christ, are the presence of the Kingdom, the fulfillment of “Thy Kingdom come.” Conclusion: Jesus Christ has not failed. He is the hidden God. His success is hidden to the senses. “For all of us God is the origin from which we come and yet still also the future toward which we are going. And that means, furthermore, that for all of us God cannot be found except by going to meet him as the One who is coming, who is waiting for us to make a start and demanding that we do so. We cannot find God except in this exodus, in going out from the coziness of our present situation into what is hidden; the brightness of God that is coming. The image of Moses, who had to climb up the mountain and go into the cloud to find God, remains valid for all ages. God cannot be found – even in the Church – except by our climbing the mountain and entering into the cloud of the incognito of God, who in this world is the hidden One…. “(T)he real sign that he chose is hiddenness, from the wretched people of Israel to the child at Bethlehem to the man who dies on the Cross with the words, `My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ (Mt. 27, 46). This sign of hiddenness points us toward the fact that the reality of truth and love, the actual reality of God, is not to be met within the world of quantities but can be found only if we rise above that into a new order…. “The first thing we have to accept is, ever and again, this reality of an enduring Advent. If we do that, we shall begin to realize that the borderline between `before Christ’ and `after Christ’ does not run through historical time, in an outward sense, and cannot be drawn on any map; it runs through our own hearts. Insofar as we living on a basis of selfishness, of egoism, then even today we are `before Christ.’ But in this time…, l.et us ask the Lord to grant that we may live less and less `before Christ,’ and certainly not `after Christ,’ but truly with Christ and in Christ: with him who is indeed Christ yesterday, today, and forever (Heb. 13, 8).”

All Saints Day: Jesus Christ is Our Sanctity

The Ontological and Epistemic Priority of Christ

(in view of Robert Barrons’s “The Priority of Christ”[1]

“(R)ather than experts in dire predictions, dour judges bent on rooting out every threat and deviation, we should appear as joyful messengers of challenging proposals, guardians of the goodness and beauty which shine forth in a life of fidelity to the Gospel.”[2]

The Epistemic Priority of Christ: The mind-boggling reality that God, the Creator of all things, has become man. This is the truth that St. Anselm was after, and Robert Sokolowski clarifies. Anselm had said that God was “that than which nothing greater can be thought.”  Sokolowski  writes: “Anselm’s argument works explicitly with the contrast between being in the mind and being in reality. This contrast, the two ways of being that it distinguishes, are themselves deserving of further thought. But besides this explicit premise for his argument, there is another, an implicit premise, which the argument requires but which is not expressed openly by Anselm in chapter two [of the Proslogian]. This implicit premise also contains a contrast. It might be formulated as the statement that:

               (God plus the world) is not greater than God alone;”[3]

 

The point Sokolowski makes is that the being of God is so different from the world, thatHis Being (reality) would not be more because the world exists, nor would It be less if it did not. That is to say, the Being of God as Creator of all things is so different from the being of all things that they are incommensurable. That is not to say that they are not analogous insofar as they are; but rather to say that the way that they are is epistemically different.

 

What does that mean? That the Being of God is not part of the world that we know by the experience of sensation, abstraction and rational thought. His humanity is, indeed, “part” of our world, but His divine Person is not “part” but Creator of all of it.  Nevertheless, His humanity was assumed by His divine Person, and therefore, is it. Being Creator of the world, and yet “in” it, He must be known – as incarnate God in Jesus Christ – through the experience of ourselves as created images of Himself and baptized into Him. We do this by transcending ourselves in the act of faith as He is totally out of Himself as Son of the Father.

 

Romano Guardini says it thus: “The person of Jesus is unprecedented and therefore measureable by no already existing norm. Christian recognition consists of realizing that all things really began with Jesus Christ; that he is his own norm – and therefore ours – for he is Truth.

               “Christ’s effect upon the world can be compared with nothing in its history save its own creation: ‘In the beginning God created heaven and earth.’ What takes place in Christ is of the same order as the original act of creation, though on a still higher level. For the beginning of the new creation is as far superior to the love which created the stars, plants, animals and men. That is what the words mean: ‘I have come to cast fire upon the earth, and what will I but that it be kindled’? (Lk. 12, 49). It is the fire of new becoming; not only ‘truth’ or ‘love,’ but the incandescence of new creation…. Down, down through terrible destruction he descends, to the nadir of divine creation whence saved existence can climb back into being…

               Guardini then points out that this will demand a new way of knowing: “Now we understand what St. Paul meant with his ‘excelling knowledge of Jesus Christ:’ the realization that this is who Christ is, the Descender. To make this realization our own is the alpha and omega of our lives, for it is not enough to know Jesus only as the Savior. With this supreme knowledge serious religious life can begin, and we should strive for it with our whole strength and earnestness, as a man  strives to reach his place in his profession; as a scientist wrestles with the answer to his problem; as one labors at this life work or for the hand of someone loved above all else.”[4]

And then, in implicit reference to the spirit of Opus Dei: “Are these directives for saints?  No, for Christians.For you. How long must I wait? God knows. He can give himself to you overnight, you can also wait twenty years, but what are they in view of his advent? One day he will come. Once in the stillness of profound composure you will know: that is Christ! Not from a book or the word of someone else, but through him. He who is creative love brings your intrinsic potentialities to life. Your ego at its profoundest is he.”

 

This is totally the charism St. Josemaria Escriva receivedexperientially on October 2, 1928. And you will know Christ in the most profound intimacy with the most radical realism because you will become Him, such that you will hear from the Father: “You are my Son; you are Christ.” Escriva wrote: “When God sent me those blows back in 1931, I didn’t understand them… The all at once, in the midst of such great bitterness, came the words: ‘You are my son (Ps. 2, 7), you are Christ.’ And I could only stammer: ‘Abba, Pater! Abba, Pater! Abba! Abba! Abba!’ Now I see it with new light, like a new discovery, just as one sees, after years have passed, the hand of God, of divine Wisdom, of the All-Powerful. You’ve led me, Lord, to understand that to find the Cross is to find happiness, joy. And I see the reason with greater clarity than ever: to find the Cross is to identify oneself with Christ, to be Christ, and therefore to be a son of God.”[5]

 

With this in view, Pope Francis encourages “the fundamental role of the first announcement or kerygma, which is the first proclamation that must ring out over and over: “Jesus Christ loves you; he gave his life to save you; and now he is living at your side every day to enlighten, strengthen and free you.” Since it is addressing the unique ontological reality of the God-Man, it is “the principal proclamation, the one which we must hear again and again in different ways, the one which we must announce one way or another throughout the process of catechesis, at every level and moment.”[6]  And as a result, “rather than experts in dire predictions, dour judges bent on rooting out every threat and deviation, “we should appear as joyful messengers of challenging proposals, guardians of the goodness and beauty which shine forth in a life of fidelity to the Gospel.”[7]

 

Bishop Robert Barron has written “The Priority of Christ – Toward a Postliberal Catholicism.”[8] The third part of the book is entitled “The Epistemic Priority of Jesus Christ,” and his first chapter under that rubric is “The Scriptural Warrant.” There he writes that “It is my conviction that we don’t read Jesus through the lens of a predetermined epistemology, but rather that we understand the nature of knowledge in general through the (narrative icons concerning Jesus Christ).”[9]

               “But is this coherent? Do Christians know in a distinctive way? Are both the object of their intellectual investigation and their manner of rational procedure unique?”

 

I skip to the point: Two texts: a) Accepting St. Paul’s face to face experience of Christ led to his Colossians 1, 15:  “(Jesus is) the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For in him were created all things in the heavens and on the earth, things visible and things invisible… All things have been created through and unto him, and he is before all creatures, and in him all things hold together.” Barron writes: “Jesus is not only the one in whom things were created but also the one in whom they presently exist and through whom they inhere in one another. And if we are inclined to view the future as a dimension of creation untouched by Christ, we are set straight: ‘Through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross’(v. 20). Individuals, societies, cultures, animals, plants, planets and the stars – all will be drawn into an eschatological harmony through him. Mind you, Jesus is not merely the symbol of an intelligibility, coherence, and reconciliation  that can exist apart from him; rather, he is the active and indispensable means by which these realities come to be. This Jesus, in short, is the all-embracing, all-including, all reconciling Lord of whatever is to be found in the dimensions of time and space.

 

  1. b) The Prologue to the Gospel of St. John: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God; and the Word was God… He was in the world, and the world was made through him… And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us… No one has at any time seen God. The only-begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has revealed him.” (1-18).

Barron writes: “He cannot be understood as one object among many or surveyed blandly by a disinterested observer. If such perspectives were possible, then he would not be the all-grounding Word or the criterion than which no more final can be thought. If we sought to know him in this way, we would not only come to incorrect conclusions but also involve ourselves in a sort of operational contradiction. To be consistent with these accounts, we must say that Jesus determines not only what there is to be known (since he is the organizing principle of finite being) but also how we are to know what is to known (since the mind itself is a creature, made and determined through him).

               “A Christ-illumined mind in search of Christ-determined forms seems to be the epistemology implicit in Colossians [Col. 1, 15-19] and the Johannine prologue. Further, as Bruce Marshall has argued, this primacy implies that the narratives concerning Jesus must, for Christians, be an epistemic trump, that is to say, an articulation of reality that must hold sway over and against all rival articulations, be they scientific, psychological, sociological, philosophical, or religious. To hold to Colossians and the prologue to John is to have a clear negative criterion concerning all claims to ultimate truth: whatever runs contrary to the basic claims entailed in the narratives concerning Jesus must certainly be false.”[10]

 

Keep the Chalcedon-Constantinople III Christology in mind. There is only one ontological Person in Christ, and He is God the Son, endowed with two natures. All free actions performed by Christ, be they divine or human, are performed by His Person. Both natures are ontologically distinct as uncreated and created, but there is only one active principle: the Person. Therefore, every human act of Christ is divine in time and space. This is what Barron means by “Jesus cannot be measured by a criterion outside of himself or viewed from a perspective higher than himself.”

               Therefore, He is the meaning of “Being.” And if his every human action derives from his divine Person, it will have the characteristic of relation since He is nothing but Relation to the Father.  Therefore, we have to view all the human from sex to doughnuts through the prism of Christ, divine and human. This is a revolution.

 

The unfathomable forgiveness revealed: How can we begin to understand the magnitude of divine mercy unless we commit an unfathomable sin and be forgiven?

               The unfathomable sin: Deicide. Did Christ suffer as man, or as God-man? Ratzinger: “The suffering Christ… was an unshakeable fact; but there is no such thing as a Passion without the passions: suffering presupposes the ability to suffer, the sensibility and its feeling faculty. In the patristic period it was Origen who most profoundly grasped the theme of the suffering God, and who also most straightforwardly declared that this theme cannot be reduced to the suffering humanity of Jesus, but that it colors the Christian conception of God himself. The fact that the Father allows the Son to suffer constitutes the Father’s own Passion, and this is also the suffering of the Spirit, of whom Paul says that he sighs in us and that, in us and for us, he bears the passion of our longing for the fullness of redemption (Rom. 8, 26f). And it was also Origen, moreover, who formulated the normative hermeneutic on the theme of the suffering God: whenever you hear of God’s passions and sufferings, says Origen, you must always relate these to his love. God is a sufferer only because he is first a lover; the theme of the suffering God follows from the theme of the loving God and continually points to it. The decisive step that the Christian concept of God takes beyond that of the ancients is the realization that God is love.”

               And so, God cannot be rejected and suffer – and die –  and not cease to be God as Greek “instrumental” reason saw it. The Greeks under stood that one suffers only by a diminution in being, and therefore God, within that metaphysic, would have to cease to be God to suffer. But if God is Love as Self-gift, He suffers because He is not received.[11]

 

               The Son of God dies, not because they kill Him (which they cannot), but because He wills to die. Death is an act of the whole person. It is done to us; but it could not be done to Him (the Author of life). He would have to execute the action of dying by His divine Self, and this, of course, in His human nature. But this does not mean that He does not die. He dies without ceasing to be a divine Person, and He does it through His human nature.

 

John Henry Newman wrote: “He offered Himself wholly, a holocaust, a whole burnt-offering; – as the whole of His body, stretched out upon the Cross, so the whole of His soul, His whole advertence, His whole consciousness, a mind awake, a sense acute, a living co-operation, a present, absolute intention, not a virtual permission, not a heartless submission, this did He present to His tormentors. His passion was an action; He lived most energetically, while He laylanguishing, fainting, and dying. Nor did He die, except by an act of the will; for He bowed His head, in command as well in resignation, and said, ‘Father, into Thy hands I commend My Spirit;’ He gave the word, He surrendered His soul, He did not love it.

 

               “Thus you see, my brethren, had our Lord only suffered in the body, and in ti not so much as other men, still as regards the pain, He would have really suffered indefinitely more, because pain is to be measured by the power of realizing it. God was the sufferer; God suffered in His human nature; the sufferings belonged to God, and were drunk up, were drained out to the bottom of the chalice, because God drank them; not tasted or sipped, not flavored, disguised by human medicaments, as man disposes of the cup of anguish.”[12]

 

Now, in the light of the mental revolution that we must undergo to come to grips with the reality of God in His own creation and living a human life in time and space through a full humanity, we can begin to understand the unthinkable horror of deicide and the return we received from it: Shalom: “Peace to you! It is I, do not be afraid” (Lk. 24, 36).

Barron wrote: “According to the standard interpretation of justice and the traditional theology, this greatest of crimes would call for the greatest of retributions, but instead it is met with nonviolence, compassion, shalom. This in turn shows us that authentic justice is much different from what we had imagined and that God is much stranger than we had thought. God’s love is such that it can swallow up, absorb, and conquer even the most pointed resistance, and this becomes clear in the manner in which the murdered God restores order to the broken circle of his disciples. They (alone with many others) contributed to the killing of God, the most egregious violation of justice imaginable, and God answers this injustice with forgiving love. In light of this compassion that swallowed up the greatestof sins, Paul could exclaim, ‘I am certain that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers… neither height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord’ (Rom. 8, 38-39).  Human beings committed the unsurpassable sin – not only turning from God but actively opposing him, even to the point of putting him to death – and they were met with forgiveness. The only conclusion is the one that Paul drew: that nothing is powerful enough to turn back the relentlessness of the divine mercy.”[13]

 

Conclusion: Revolutionaries!! Christ lives!“(R)ather than experts in dire predictions, dour judges bent on rooting out every threat and deviation, we should appear as joyful messengers of challenging proposals, guardians of the goodness and beauty which shine forth in a life of fidelity to the Gospel.”[14]

 

The goal is not morality, virtues, orthodoxy, a religious life, apostolate, heaven…, all of which can be ways of looking for yourself. The goal is Christ, the God-Man. And you find Him by exercising in the Bread and the Word.

[1]Brazos Press (2007).

[2]Pope Francis, Joy of the Gospel #168

[3]Robert Sokolowski, The God of Faith and rEason, UNDP (1982) 8.

[4] Romano Guardini, The Lord Gateway (2002) 357-358.

[5] John F. Coverdale, “Uncommon Faith,” Scepter (2002) 93-94.

[6] Pope Francis, The Joy of the Gospel, #163.

[7]Ibid #168

[8]Brazos Press (2007).

[9]Ibid. 133.

[10]Ibid

[11] J. Ratzinger, “Paschal Mystery as Core and Foundation of Devotion to the Sacred Heart,” in Towards a Civilization of Love. Ignatius (1985) 154-155.

[12] John Henry Newman, Discourse 16 to Mixed Congregations:  Mental Sufferings of Our Lord in His Passion.

[13]Barron, Ibid, 125.

[14] Pope Francis, Joy of the Gospel #168

At this Chairos [χαiρος],[1] this piece by Pope Francis is a Semantic Masterpiece of Wisdom, Christian theological profundity, and an in-the-world spirituality of sanctity. Read it carefully. And then on to the whole text again (If you’ve already read it – but, do it again). It redounds with the mind of John Paul II and Benedict XVI.

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Yes to the new relationships brought by Christ

  1. Today, when the networks and means of human communication have made unprecedented advances, we sense the challenge of finding and sharing a “mystique” of living together, of mingling and encounter, of embracing and supporting one another, of stepping into this flood tide which, while chaotic, can become a genuine experience of fraternity, a caravan of solidarity, a sacred pilgrimage. Greater possibilities for communication thus turn into greater possibilities for encounter and solidarity for everyone. If we were able to take this route, it would be so good, so soothing, so liberating and hope-filled! To go out of ourselves and to join others is healthy for us. To be self-enclosed is to taste the bitter poison of immanence, and humanity will be worse for every selfish choice we make.
  2. The Christian ideal will always be a summons to overcome suspicion, habitual mistrust, fear of losing our privacy, all the defensive attitudes which today’s world imposes on us. Many try to escape from others and take refuge in the comfort of their privacy or in a small circle of close friends, renouncing the realism of the social aspect of the Gospel. For just as some people want a purely spiritual Christ, without flesh and without the cross, they also want their interpersonal relationships provided by sophisticated equipment, by screens and systems which can be turned on and off on command. Meanwhile, the Gospel tells us constantly to run the risk of a face-to-face encounter with others, with their physical presence which challenges us, with their pain and their pleas, with their joy which infects us in our close and continuous interaction. True faith in the incarnate Son of God is inseparable from self-giving, from membership in the community, from service, from reconciliation with others. The Son of God, by becoming flesh, summoned us to the revolution of tenderness.
  3. Isolation, which is a version of immanentism, can find expression in a false autonomy which has no place for God. But in the realm of religion it can also take the form of a spiritual consumerism tailored to one’s own unhealthy individualism. The return to the sacred and the quest for spirituality which mark our own time are ambiguous phenomena. Today, our challenge is not so much atheism as the need to respond adequately to many people’s thirst for God, lest they try to satisfy it with alienating solutions or with a disembodied Jesus who demands nothing of us with regard to others. Unless these people find in the Church a spirituality which can offer healing and liberation, and fill them with life and peace, while at the same time summoning them to fraternal communion and missionary fruitfulness, they will end up by being taken in by solutions which neither make life truly human nor give glory to God.
  4. Genuine forms of popular religiosity are incarnate, since they are born of the incarnation of Christian faith in popular culture. For this reason they entail a personal relationship, not with vague spiritual energies or powers, but with God, with Christ, with Mary, with the saints. These devotions are fleshy, they have a face. They are capable of fostering relationships and not just enabling escapism. In other parts of our society, we see the growing attraction to various forms of a “spirituality of well-being” divorced from any community life, or to a “theology of prosperity” detached from responsibility for our brothers and sisters, or to depersonalized experiences which are nothing more than a form of self-centredness.
  5. One important challenge is to show that the solution will never be found in fleeing from a personal and committed relationship with God which at the same time commits us to serving others. This happens frequently nowadays, as believers seek to hide or keep apart from others, or quietly flit from one place to another or from one task to another, without creating deep and stable bonds. “Imaginatio locorum et mutatio multos fefellit”.[68]This is a false remedy which cripples the heart and at times the body as well. We need to help others to realize that the only way is to learn how to encounter others with the right attitude, which is to accept and esteem them as companions along the way, without interior resistance. Better yet, it means learning to find Jesus in the faces of others, in their voices, in their pleas. And learning to suffer in the embrace of the crucified Jesus whenever we are unjustly attacked or meet with ingratitude, never tiring of our decision to live in fraternity.[69]
  6. There indeed we find true healing, since the way to relate to others which truly heals instead of debilitating us, is a mystical fraternity, a contemplative fraternity. It is a fraternal love capable of seeing the sacred grandeur of our neighbour, of finding God in every human being, of tolerating the nuisances of life in common by clinging to the love of God, of opening the heart to divine love and seeking the happiness of others just as their heavenly Father does. Here and now, especially where we are a “little flock” (Lk12:32), the Lord’s disciples are called to live as a community which is the salt of the earth and the light of the world (cf. Mt 5:13-16). We are called to bear witness to a constantly new way of living together in fidelity to the Gospel.[70] Let us not allow ourselves to be robbed of community!

 

[1] Unique time in history, which in the normal flow is Chronos.

On the occasion of filing the clipping of Joseph Ratzinger introducing the Catechism of the Catholic Church in December 1992, and in particular on the grounding of morality

images (1) “‘(…) (T)he question: is the Catechism really a book of morals? The answer is: yes it is, but it is something more. It deals with the human person, but in the conviction that the human-question cannot be separated from the God-question. One does not really speak rightly of man without speaking of God as well; however, we cannot really speak correctly about God if he himself does not tell us who he is. Therefore the moral directives offered by the catechism cannot be separated from what it says about God and the history of God with us. The catechism must be read as a whole. It would be an erroneous reading of the pages on morality if they were to be separated from their context, namely, from the profession of faith and the teaching on the sacraments and prayer. In fact, the catechism’s basic assertions about human nature are as follows: man is created in the image and likeness of God. Everything that is said about proper human conduct is based on this central perspective. It is the basis of human rights which belong to the human person from conception to the last instant of his life…

   In the catechism the question about man and the God-question are inseparably interwoven; everything that is said about our moral conduct can therefore be said only from God’s viewpoint, from the viewpoint of that God who revealed himself in Jesus Christ…”

               Blogger: But Jesus Christ is a divine Person with two natures. Actiones sunt suppositorum (only persons act). Therefore, the grounding of morality is not human “nature”  In the sense of Greek philosophy, but in the Christian consciousness of the human person as “good” (a work-in progress) as God is good”[1] and imaging God in His goodness. Jesus Christ is the revelation of the Father and therefore He as God-man is the revelation and criterion of morality.  His human nature or His human will do not act. He –the divine Person – acts through them. Therefore, Jesus Christ, as divine Person, is the prototype of human morality. And since He is Self-gift in all that He does, so also the human person. Consider this in the light – again – of the brouhaha around “Amoris Laetitia” where Pope Francis writes in #305:

“For this reason, a pastor cannot feel that it is enough simply to apply moral laws to those living in “irregular” situations, as if they were stones to throw at people’s lives. This would bespeak the closed heart of one used to hiding behind the Church’s teachings, “sitting on the chair of Moses and judging at times with superiority and superficiality difficult cases and wounded families”.

349 Along these same lines, the International Theological Commission has noted that “natural law could not be presented as an already established set of rules that impose themselves a priori on the moral subject; rather, it is a source of objective inspiration for the deeply personal process of making decisions”.350 Because of 348 In another text, referring to the general knowledge of the rule and the particular knowledge of practical discernment, Saint Thomas states that “if only one of the two is present, it is preferable that it be the knowledge of the particular reality, which is closer to the act”: Sententia libri Ethicorum, VI, 6 (ed. Leonina, t. XLVII, 354.) 349 Address for the Conclusion of the Fourteenth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops (24 October 2015): L’Osservatore Romano, 26-27 October 2015, p. 13. 350 International Theological Commission, In Search of a Universal Ethic: A New Look at Natural Law (2009), 59. 237 forms of conditioning and mitigating factors, it is possible that in an objective situation of sin – which may not be subjectively culpable, or fully such – a person can be living in God’s grace, can love and can also grow in the life of grace and charity, while receiving the Church’s help to this end.351 Discernment must help to find possible ways of responding to God and growing in the midst of limits. By thinking that everything is black and white, we sometimes close off the way of grace and of growth, and discourage paths of sanctification which give glory to God. Let us remember that “a small step, in the midst of great human limitations, can be more pleasing to God than a life which appears outwardly in order, but moves through the day without confronting great difficulties”.352 The practical pastoral care of ministers and of communities must not fail to embrace this reality.”

[1] Cf. John Paul II, “Veritatis Splendor” #9:”’No one is good but God alone’ [Mk. 10. 18; cf. Lk. 18, 19], Only God can answer the question about what is good, because he is the Good itself.”