“It Is Sometimes Necessary to Risk Giving Offense” by Msgr Charles Pope

It Is Sometimes Necessary to Risk Giving Offense

Msgr. Charles Pope • February 22, 2017 •

We live in times when many people take offense very easily. While this may have been a human problem seen in all ages, it is particularly evident today, when relativism and subjectivism are so widespread. Relativism is essentially a form of subjectivism. In subjectivism, the measure of truth shifts from the object (i.e., that which is being perceived) to the subject (i.e., the one who is perceiving). In this system, truth becomes relative, because there are as many versions of truth as there are subjects to perceive it. In this highly subjective perception of reality, people tend to take their own views very personally and are easily offended by views contrary to their own.

Over time we have seen how subjectivism has given rise to “identity politics.” No longer does a person say that he holds liberal views; rather he says, “I am a liberal.” No longer does a person say that he struggles with same-sex attraction; rather he says, “I am ‘gay’.” Views and interpretations are no longer merely philosophies, paradigms, or tendencies through which a person interprets things. Rather, the cry goes up, “This is who I am. If you disagree or even worse seek to refute my viewpoint, you are offensive and hurtful. By disagreeing with me you are attacking me; you are a hater. You are an enemy whom I must fear and must keep at a distance lest you do me harm.” So-called “safe zones” on college campuses are an extreme outcome of this. In identity politics, the mere questioning of one’s views amounts to a personal assault that may cause lasting harm to the psyche!

We have also seen how relativism and subjectivism have led to the shaming and silencing of politically incorrect views, especially those based on traditional biblical faith. Too many Christians have allowed themselves to be silenced by accusations such as this common one: “You are judging me.” Never mind that the conversation is about a moral issue or a particular behavior, not about “you.” Identity politics says, “I am my behavior, therefore your contrary view hurts me; this makes you a bad and offensive person.”

No one (other than a sociopath) deliberately tries to hurt or offend others. Many Christians have been effectively silenced by the fear of causing offense, even if there is no reason for offense to be taken. As our fearful silence has spread, the moral darkness has grown ever deeper.

Volumes could be written to address the problems associated with subjectivism and relativism. St. Thomas Aquinas provided a cogent response to the issue of so easily taking offense in his Summa Theologica:

It was foretold (Isaiah 8:14) that Christ would be “for a stone of stumbling and for a rock of offense to the two houses of Israel.”

The salvation of the multitude is to be preferred to the peace of any individuals whatsoever. Consequently, when certain ones, by their perverseness, hinder the salvation of the multitude, the preacher and the teacher should not fear to offend those men, in order that he may insure the salvation of the multitude. Now the Scribes and Pharisees and the princes of the Jews were by their malice a considerable hindrance to the salvation of the people, both because they opposed themselves to Christ’s doctrine, which was the only way to salvation, and because their evil ways corrupted the morals of the people. For which reason our Lord, undeterred by their taking offense, publicly taught the truth which they hated, and condemned their vices. Hence we read that when the disciples of our Lord said, Dost Thou know that the Pharisees, when they heard this word, were scandalized? He answered, Let them alone: they are blind and leaders of the blind; and if the blind lead the blind, both fall into the pit (Matthew 15:12,14).

A man ought so to avoid giving offense, as neither by wrong deed or word to be the occasion of anyone’s downfall. “But if scandal arise from truth, the scandal should be borne rather than the truth be set aside” as Gregory says (Hom. vii in Ezech.).

[Summa Theologica III, Question 42, Article 2 ….  END QUOTES

“Tghe Anatomy of Original Sin” by Msgr. Charles Pope: blogged

The Anatomy of Original Sin

Msgr. Charles Pope • February 12, 2017 •

Last week we explored the creation accounts of Genesis, finishing with the account of original sin, that committed by Adam and Eve. Today and tomorrow I’d like to examine original sin more closely. Today, I’ll present the stages of sin that are manifested in Adam’s and Eve’s struggle.

Many tend to describe original sin merely as the eating of a forbidden fruit. While this accurate, it is incomplete and leads many to wonder why all this trouble came just from eating a piece of fruit. I believe it is helpful to consider the sin of Adam and Eve more richly. While the eating of the fruit is an external act, like any human act it proceeds from the heart and admits of some complexity.

I will use this passage from the Book of James to help frame our reflections. It describes the stages of sin:

Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death (James 1:13-15).

From this, we can distinguish the following stages of sin:

  1. The lure of temptation
  2. The engagement of desire
  3. The conception of sin
  4. The birth of sin
  5. Spiritual death

When we examine the sin of Adam and Eve we can see these stages at work.

Preamble – God had put Adam in the garden even before Eve was created:

The LORD God took the man and placed him in the Garden of Eden in order to have him work it and guard it. And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die” (Gen 2:15-17).

Adam’s task was to work the garden and also to guard (keep watch over) the Garden. There was also a boundary that God told Adam not to cross related to the tree. God does not explain why, but simply notes the danger and asks Adam to trust Him.

Adam is to tend, till, and trust. As we shall see, Adam fell short in two of these, and they are aspects of what we have come to call original sin.

  1. The Lure of Temptation– The story opens with the description of the serpent, the most cunning of all the wild creatures God had made (Genesis 3:1). While most of us imagine a snake of some sort, that description is given only afterGod curses Satan, who is allegorically represented by this creature. Exactly what this creature looked like before the fall is not stated, and hence we need not imagine a talking snake. Whatever creature Satan made use of (or whatever creature the author of Genesis allegorically made use of), it is representative of the way in which Satan interacts with Eve.

Cunning and subtle, Satan uses intellectual arguments to appeal to aspects of what would later come to be called pride and sensuality. He also seeks to undermine her trust in God’s goodness.

Satan begins by attempting to make God seem unreasonable, suggesting that He had forbidden them to eat from any of the trees in the Garden. Eve easily deals with this temptation and dismisses it, correctly stating that it is only one tree that has been proscribed. This is a common tactic of Satan’s even today: presenting God as unreasonable, demanding too many things and forbidding too much. This accusation wholly ignores the fact that God has given incredible liberty to the human person, who, unlike any other creature except the Angels, is permitted to say no to God.

Satan’s second attack is more successful. He declares that God is not telling them the truth. In effect, he says that God (who has given them everything) is holding something very important back from them. Satan argues that God is restraining them from being the gods they deserve to be. In effect, he says, “Why do you let anyone have power over you? Why do you let anyone tell you what to do? Why do you not instead say, ‘I will do what I want to do and I will decide whether it is right or wrong’?” Satan appeals to their incredible pride by saying, “You will be gods!”

And thus Eve is in the first stage of sin, the lure of temptation. One may well wonder where Adam is. Satan has been talking to Eve, but where is Adam? The text says that he is right there with her! (Gen 3:6)

Now here’s a problem integral to Adam’s sin. He was told, among other things, to guard the garden, to keep watch over it. It is arguable whether he could have prevented Satan from being there at all (he probably could not), but surely he could have tried to protect and guard his wife! Satan is there and Adam says and does nothing. He does not try to ward off the evil one, nor does he assist his wife in resisting the tempting thoughts. No, he stands quietly by. Adam is a passive husband here.

As the head of his family, Adam was obligated to come to his wife’s aid, to protect her, to assist her in this grave temptation and threat. But the text reports him doing nothing but standing quietly by. Indeed, Adam is so unobtrusive that when I point out the sixth verse, which says he was with Eve, people are surprised. Even many a passive husband would intervene if he were to see some strange individual speaking to his wife.

“But Father, but Father! Are you saying that Adam already sinned even before original sin was committed?” No, not necessarily. The point here is that original sin is more complicated than merely biting into a piece of fruit. Like many sins, it has layers. Adam may not yet have sinned, but his silence is surely puzzling; indeed, it is troubling. It is not a sin to be tempted (even Jesus was tempted), but to do nothing in the face of temptation is to at least open the door to the next stage of sin.

  1. The Engagement of Desire The text says, the woman saw the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise(Genesis 3:6).

Temptation is a thought that either occurs to us or is presented to us by another. If I were to say to you, “Why don’t we go down to the corner store and rob it?” I have simply presented you with a thought or proposed course of action, which may or may not appeal to you. Temptation of itself is merely a thought.

In the second stage of sin, the tempting thoughts of Satan stir up Eve’s desires. The fruit engages her sensual desires; it looks tasty and delights the eyes. It also engages her intellectual desires, for it has been described to her as a source of empowering wisdom.

Thus, temptation moves from being a mere thought to becoming a kind of force or power. Eve’s desires have been engaged and ignited. Things are a bit more difficult. A purely intellectual response will not be enough, the will must be engaged in such a way that the desires can be curbed and subject to truth and right reason. Either she will obey God (who has given her everything) and thus decide reasonably, or she will yield to temptation and desire and decide to accept the proposal of Satan, who has given her nothing except an appeal to her sensuality and pride.

Again, note the silence of Adam. How tragic this is! Eve seems quite alone and without support. One would hope that in any marriage in which one spouse is struggling, the other will be strong. Adam remains silent. He is no leader. He seems to wait to see what his wife will do. Adam is a passive husband.

  1. The Conception of Sin The text simply says, she took of its fruit(Genesis 3:6). In reaching out to take hold and possess this fruit, Eve conceives sin in her heart. Her husband will do the same thing, taking hold of it before he eats it.

What are they taking hold of? Several things.

First, there is a colossal pride. Satan had said, “You will be gods.” Now, Adam and Eve are laying hold of and conceiving of this idea. They are laying hold of the prideful and rebellious notion that “I will do what I want to do and I will decide whether it is right or wrong. I will be under no one’s authority. I will do as I please. I answer to no one. I am god.”

They also sin against gratitude. God had given them everything, but even paradise was not enough for them; they wanted more. Ungratefully, they reject God, who has given them everything. They turn to Satan, who “promises” more, but has delivered nothing.

Finally, and most problematically, they sin against trust. Note that the tree is called “The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.” In the Bible, “knowing” refers to more than simple intellectual knowing; it means knowing something by experience. Thus, in naming this tree “The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil” and commanding them to stay away from it, God is saying,

I am asking you to trust me to tell you what is good and what is evil, and not to demand to know this personally for yourselves. I want you to trust me, and that I tell you this for your own good. But if you take from that tree, you are insisting on knowing for yourself what is good and what is evil; and more importantly, you are insisting on knowing and experiencing evil.

In this way, Adam and Eve refuse to trust God, insisting on knowing (experiencing) for themselves the difference between good and evil. The Catechism describes original sin in this manner:

Man, tempted by the devil, let his trust in his Creator die in his heart and, abusing his freedom, disobeyed God’s command. This is what man’s first sin consisted of. All subsequent sin would be disobedience toward God and lack of trust in his goodness (CCC # 397).

So we see that at the heart of original sin (and all other sin) is a refusal to trust God, a refusal to trust in His goodness, and an abuse of our liberty.

All of this has been conceived in the heart of Adam and Eve as they lay hold of this fruit.

  1. The Birth of Sin Little needs to be said of this stage; the sin is engaged. Note that Eve eats first and then entices her husband to do so as well. I will discuss this topic further in tomorrow’s post, in which I will reflect on St. Paul’s commentary on the “Sin of Adam.” For today, suffice it to say that the sins of Adam and Eve are described somewhat differently. Eve is described as being deceived while Adam is described as being, in effect, seduced. Neither of them is without blame, but the nature of their temptation and the way in which their desires are engaged is different.
  2. Spiritual Death Adam and Eve do not immediately die a physical death; rather, they die spiritually. This is symbolized in many ways in the verses ahead.

As they become aware of their nakedness, they feel exposed, no longer innocent. They feel vulnerable and ashamed. Righteousness and integrity have died in their hearts. They are now “dis-integrated” and disoriented, turned away from God and turned in on themselves.

Most seriously, they are cut off from God, who is the source of their life. When God walks through the Garden at the usual time, they do not run to Him, but from Him; they are afraid. Having died spiritually and embraced the darkness, they now fear Him who is Life and Light. They cannot endure His presence.

Recriminations follow, and the prophecy of suffering, strife, and ultimately, death; the wages of sin is death. Had they been willing to trust Him, God would have spared them of this, but Adam and Eve wanted to know for themselves. Mysteriously, they sought a “better deal” than paradise, even knowing that its price would be death—so tragic, foolish, and horrifying!

Too often, original sin is reduced to the mere eating of a piece of fruit. In fact, far more was at stake and far more was going on beneath the surface in the subtleties of the story. There were many moving parts and numerous layers to the sad reality we call original sin.

END QUOTES

“A Brief Primer on Catholic Faith and Conscience” by Father Mark A. Pilon

 

A Brief Primer on Catholic Faith and Conscience

https://www.thecatholicthing.org/2017/02/22/a-brief-primer-on-catholic-faith-and-conscience/

Fr. Mark A. Pilon

WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 22, 2017

In 1930, the Anglican Communion abandoned the universal Christian moral teaching of two millennia, which condemned artificial birth control as a grave moral evil, contra naturam, and destructive of marriage. It did so by allowing the individual subjective conscience to overrule the absolute moral norm that such actions are intrinsically evil and thus allow no exceptions.

This was a death knell for Anglicanism as a moral authority. The result has been not only the total independence of Anglicans from their traditional moral teaching but the collapse of religious practice among the laity (except for the African branches of this once vibrant communion). Where private, subjective conscience becomes the ultimate moral authority, religion based on faith is simply no longer tenable.

So it’s shocking that, eighty-seven years later, certain national Catholic bishops’ conferences have taken the same path. In practice, the elevation of subjective conscience as the ultimate moral principle began right after Humanae Vitae in many local churches, especially in Europe. Now the Maltese, Argentinean, and German bishops are making the same mistake about divorce and remarriage, adultery and relevant sacramental disciplines.

 

This so-called “pastoral solution” was the very path taken by the Anglican hierarchy regarding contraception forty years, more or less, before Humanae Vitae, which, they assured the Anglican faithful, would be rarely applied and only for serious reasons. Actually, it very quickly produced a contraceptive mentality and moral relativism – key elements in the 1960s sexual revolution and an even more radical relativizing of all moral norms. Some Catholic bishops and hierarchies, too, began to weaken. And it was only a matter of time (fifty years, more or less), until this false notion of conscience would be extended to other unpopular moral teachings, like divorce and adulterous second unions. That day has arrived, and it’s just the beginning.

 

As with the Church of England, by adopting a subjective conscience approach to moral life back in the Sixties, the European Church accelerated already declining religious practice. A recent sociological study determined that about 2 percent of the French population is really practicing Catholics. A few more occasionally attend Mass or other services, but even many of these are not really “believing” Catholics. Many of these “attendees” are nostalgic Catholics, or what the study calls “festive” Catholics who attend Church on social occasions, like baptism or matrimony.

Roughly similar numbers are found in most European countries today. Italy is slightly better off. And now, if history teaches us anything, Malta, once the most Catholic of all, will soon join the trend of declining faith and practice. It’s all really easily understood if we properly grasp what faith actually is and how conscience relates to faith

Let’s begin with an anthropological fact: conscience is a function or act of practical judgment, that is, a function of the human intellect and not some imaginary mystical power of the soul. Thus, conscience, like other intellectual functions, has to be educated and informed from outside. It is not self-informed or innately informed. It has some innate first principles, just as the theoretical or speculative intellect does, but even these principles, except for a very few absolutely primary ones, are often clouded in the intellect.

 

The problem, as we learn from revelation, is our fallen nature: the intellect has been weakened and darkened. Fallen man’s lower powers, the appetites and passions, are often rebellious toward the higher ones, i.e., the practical intellect and the will.

Our wounded conscience, therefore, needs to be educated, informed by truth. We are not born with innate scientific truths. They have to be learned. So, too, we have to learn moral truths and norms in order to make correct judgments about how to act. Otherwise, conscience will act blindly and come to false judgments in many instances, especially where self-interest is involved.

Even unbelievers need to form conscience via teachers of great wisdom, great moral figures, past and present, whose reason is more perfected – though not infallible, since errors are found even among the greatest philosophers.

But for those who claim to be Christians, correctly educating their consciences, requires the whole person’s obedience to God’s teaching – the God Who teaches us through his designated representatives.

For Biblical Protestants, properly forming one’s conscience entails conforming one’s conscience to the teachings of sacred Scripture as interpreted by great teachers through the ages. But again, they have no infallible teaching authority.

Now, for Catholics, correctly forming one’s conscience means submitting to the teachings of Sacred Tradition and Scripture as interpreted by the great doctors and fathers of the Church, and as authoritatively handed on and developed by the Church’s Magisterium, the heirs to the apostles to whom Christ said: “he who hears you, hears me.” Reason also comes into play in the faithful application of moral norms to particular situations, but reason itself must also be subjected to faith, that is, to guidance of the Magisterium.

Anything else is to withdraw from what St. Paul calls the obedience of faith. Some may argue that a Catholic could, in a rare case, be in good conscience while dissenting. But it would be absurd to argue that the dissenter could also still be in full communion with the Church.

The truth of almost all of the Church’s moral teaching is guaranteed by the Holy Spirit simply because it has long been taught via the Universal Ordinary Magisterium, as Vatican I and II clearly taught. A few moral issues that have arisen only in recent times, and have not yet been authoritatively taught, may be open to discussion and disagreement. But these do not include teachings on matters like contraception or divorce and remarriage (a form of adultery), any more than on theft, fornication, murder, etc.

Not being in full communion of faith with the Church lies at the heart of the prohibition of the divorced and remarried from receiving Communion. And it ultimately has even more serious consequences: the loss of Catholic faith. It is this loss of faith that has emptied our churches and will continue to do so, until this false notion of conscience is firmly and clearly corrected.

YEA! and AMEN!

Trump administration to repeal transgender school bathroom order: ReportTop of Form

By Bradford Richardson – The Washington Times – Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The Trump administration will rescind an Obama-era order compelling public schools nationwide to permit restroom and locker room access on the basis of gender identity, the Washington Blade reported.

The Blade cites Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, who says she heard from “reliable sources” that President Trump has authorized the Education and Justice Departments to revoke the guidance.

The Obama administration issued an edict in May forcing public schools nationwide to allow transgender students to use the restrooms, locker rooms and shower facilities of their choice. Noncompliant schools risked losing federal education funding.

Twelve states filed a lawsuit challenging that interpretation of Title IX, the federal statute barring discrimination in education on the basis of “sex.” A federal court in Texas blocked the order nationwide in August.

 

The Obama administration filed an appeal challenging that ruling, but it was withdrawn this month by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

 

A New Jansenism.A Pessimism that would Canonoze All” by Jessica M. Murdock [reblogged]

A NEW JANSENISM

….. A PESSIMISM THAT WOULD CANONIZEZ ALL

BY Jessican M. Murdock [in FIRST THINGS 02/21/2017]

One of my students, in a paper concerning the Church’s doctrine on the four last things, made the curious comment that God had not “incentivized” salvation appropriately, and thus human beings could not be at fault for their sins. Had God, the student argued, developed an appropriate system of (earthly) reward, salvation would be much easier to achieve. I confess I chuckled at this very utilitarian assessment of the divine plan. And yet, my young student’s remark is emblematic of a deep suspicion of the sufficiency of grace pervasive in our present moment. Underlying this student’s assessment is a way of thinking that plagues many and is particularly germane to the debate surrounding Amoris Laetitia: namely, that God is somehow at fault when we sin.

Within weeks of the public presentation of the dubia concerning Amoris Laetitia by four Catholic cardinals, Michael Sean Winters charged the cardinals with “Jansenism” in an article in the National Catholic Reporter. Across the pond, Piers Paul Read of the Catholic Herald criticized the cardinals in an article titled “The Return of Jansenism.” It is curious, even ironic, to see this old heresy resurrected in modern debates. For it seems that many who have criticized those seeking clarification of Amoris Laetitia are themselves guilty of a new kind of Jansenism—a Jansenism emerging from the twenty-first-century experience, one rooted in presumption rather than despair, but sharing the same pessimism concerning the human condition and the efficacy of God’s love.

Jansenism takes its name from Cornelius Jansenius, a Dutch theologian who died in 1638. His writings gave rise to a complex movement in Catholic thought and practice that prevailed, principally in France, in the seventeenth century. Its adherents adopted a view of Original Sin, grace, and predestination that was said to arise from the teachings of St. Augustine but was ultimately condemned by the Church. The Jansenists rejected free will and man’s ability to cooperate with God’s grace. Their pessimistic view of the human condition led to a rigorist approach to participation in Holy Communion. They taught that most people, even those free from mortal sin, were unworthy to receive Communion. This rigorist position concerning reception of the Sacrament, although not central to Jansenist thought, came to typify Jansenism in the public mind.

Fast-forwarding the controversy to the twenty-first century, Michael Sean Winters writes:

How many times in these pages have I observed that a key hermeneutic in understanding both Pope Francis and his critics is to grasp that he is an old Jesuit and that old Jesuits contend with Jansenists. That is precisely the dynamic at work with these four cardinals. … The problem, I think, is that the four cardinals believe Pope Francis is muddying the waters by reclaiming the church’s long standing teachings on conscience, on the difference between objective and subjective guilt, on the application of the church’s twin teachings on marital indissolubility and God’s superabundant mercy to the human details of a situation, that is discernment, and perhaps most especially, that the Eucharist is not a prize for the perfect, the most Jansenistic of the positions put forward by the critics of Amoris Laetitia. They want to look upon the world through the lens of church teaching and see only black and white, but human lives are grey and when seen through the lens of church teaching, that human greyness should invite compassion not judgment from a Christian pastor. Their approach works for an accountant but not for a pastor (emphasis added).

In propositions, we might summarize Winters’s comments thus: 1) God is superabundant in mercy. 2) The proper interpretation of Amoris Laetitia holds in view that human lives are morally “grey”; hence, it is not realistic to expect actual human beings to conform their lives to moral norms of the faith. 3) The reception of Holy Eucharist, when understood in view of God’s mercy and pastoral compassion, should prescind altogether from any question of moral “worthiness.” 4) Those who seek clarity in the doctrine set forth in Amoris Laetitia, or root themselves in the Church’s revealed understanding of sacramental readiness, are merciless “accountants” who reduce the faith and Holy Eucharist itself to mathematical sterility.

Read’s accusations of Jansenism in the Catholic Herald expressed a similar viewpoint:

Is there a faint echo of the Jansenist controversy in the current dubia drama? No one would suggest that Cardinals Burke, Brandmüller, Caffarra, and Meisner believe in predestination, but they are clearly closer to Antoine Arnauld in their belief that the Eucharist is something so sacred that it should only be given to those in a state of grace; while Pope Francis’s view that it can be regarded as a medicine for ailing souls would seem closer to that of St Margaret Mary and St Claude de la Colombière. (emphasis added)

Laying aside speculation concerning Pope Francis’s viewpoint, which has not been publicly expressed, one sees in Read’s contrast the same concern that animates Winters’s article. Winters objects to restricting Communion to those who have already reached “perfection,” while Read suggests that only a Jansenist would reserve Communion to those in “a state of grace.” Contrasting the twofold exigency of Holy Eucharist—reward and medicine—seems facile at best and disingenuous at worst.

Instructive here would be a glance at a pope whose primary interest was to lower the age of first communion and to affirm daily and frequent communion amidst a climate of lingering Jansenism: Pope Pius X, who writes: “[T]he poison of Jansenism, which had infected even the souls of the good, under the appearance of honor and veneration due to the Eucharist, has by no means entirely disappeared.” With this in view, Pius X instructs that it is “the desire (indeed) of Jesus Christ and of the Church, that all the faithful of Christ approach the sacred banquet daily” in order to receive strength, precisely because Holy Eucharist is not “a reward or recompense for their virtues.” Yet, this same pontiff declared: “Let frequent and daily communion … be available to all Christians of every order or condition, so that no one, who is in the state of grace and approaches the sacred table with a right and pious mind, may be prevented from this.” Pius X clearly sees himself in opposition to the Jansenists, whom he calls by name, and yet he judges that in order to receive Holy Eucharist worthily, “it is enough, nevertheless, that they be free from mortal sins, with the resolution that they will never sin in the future.”

Thus, the criteria governing the worthy reception of communion are freedom from mortal sin and a firm purpose of avoiding sin in the future. Nothing more, nothing less. Pace Read, neither St. Margaret Mary nor St. Claude de la Colombière believed that a person who is in mortal sin should receive Holy Communion. Both Read and Winters level the false accusation of Jansenism against those who merely uphold the perennial teaching of the Church on the worthy reception of the Sacrament. However, they have, even if unwittingly, put their finger on something that is of crucial importance in the Church today.

It takes little inquiry to determine the true heirs of Cornelius Jansenius. Jansenius was himself heir to the debate that had raged for decades between two groups with opposing conceptions of the interrelation between grace and free will: the Baianists and the Molinists. The Baianists began with Luther’s belief in the invincibility of concupiscence and ended by collapsing the order of nature and grace. They believed that there was no such thing as natural virtue, because sin could not be avoided. It was a grim view, which found no virtue even in the noble. The Baianists’ was an alternate universe where Homeric heroes were not courageous, Platonic philosopher-kings were not just, and Stoic orators were not equanimous. Interestingly, the Baianists, for all their pessimism concerning the capacities of ungraced nature, were actually naturalists. For they held that had our first parents never sinned, they would have merited heaven as part of their natural condition. The final and indefectible bond of charity in which heaven consists was, according to the Baianists, owed to human beings as their natural end.

Whereas the Baianists emphasized the role of grace at the expense of free will, the Molinists opted to highlight human freedom. For the Molinists, grace anticipates free will, in that God gives a person efficacious grace precisely because he foresees that the person will consent to it and act virtuously. Jansenius, for his part, sided with the Baianists, composing a volume supposedly founded on the theology of grace in the thought of St. Augustine. Though he died before the volume was completed, Jansenius’s followers extended and popularized his beliefs.

Among the tenets held by the Jansenists were the following, the substance of which had been condemned two hundred years earlier by the Council of Trent:

    • “Some of God’s precepts are impossible to the just, who wish and strive to keep them, according to the present powers which they have; the grace, by which they are made possible, is also wanting.”
    • “In the state of fallen nature one never resists interior grace.”
    • “In order to merit or demerit in the state of fallen nature, freedom from necessity is not required in man, but freedom from external compulsion is sufficient.”

From this we can see that for the Jansenists man has no control over whether or not he sins. He acts from necessity based on what he loves, that which attracts him irresistibly. There are two such loves, or “delectations”: one oriented towards virtue, the other towards vice; one grace, the other concupiscence. Thus the Jansenists reduced morality to meaninglessness. There is no hope here—one inescapably acts according to a delectation that does not in any way correspond to one’s free will. Both merit and damnation are possible without true freedom.

By rendering the will passive, Jansenius removes the very essence of love—freedom. For love under compulsion is hardly love. In the view of Jansenius, our storm-tossed souls merely crest and fall with no possibility of self-control. The upshot: Sin is ultimately God’s fault, rather than ours, because God could place the irresistible love of virtue in our souls, yet chooses not to.

The Church’s response to Jansenism has been a robust theology of grace that emphasizes the grace merited by Christ as necessary for any supernatural act, thus underscoring the distinction between the order of nature and the supernatural order. The Church further maintains that with grace it is possible to avoid each and every mortal sin, that if we fall it is the result of our own misuse of free will, and that grace assists and does not destroy human freedom. God does not command the impossible. Rather, God’s grace is truly sufficient for us—grace that really gives us the power to advance in virtue and overcome sin. Granted, most human beings do not at each and every moment cooperate with this grace, so this “truly sufficient” grace is rendered only “merely sufficient,” as grace fails to have the supernatural effect for which it was intended. In other words, no one sins because he is incapable of doing the good, as the Jansenists said. For Jansenius, there are only two eventualities: Either grace is present in the soul—and it is necessarily efficacious—or grace was never given, and the person could not help sinning. The logical consequence is that if anyone is damned, he is damned unjustly. Such a claim is wholly antithetical to Scripture and tradition.

Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus arose to counter the effects of Jansenism. Naturally, as Read indicates, the Jansenists were vociferously opposed to this devotion, and in this they had a sort of native understanding of it. For the doctrine of the Sacred Heart is, as Pius XII put it, “not only the symbol but, in a sense, the summary of the whole mystery of our redemption.” In the heart of Christ we find the mystery of the two natures hypostatically united in the one divine Person, Our Lord’s humility in submitting himself to our fallen nature, and the sheer intimacy with which God approaches humanity. If in Deuteronomy Moses could exclaim, “For what great nation is there that has gods so close to it as the LORD, our God, is to us whenever we call upon him?” how much more can we say this after the Incarnation?

In his encyclical on the devotion to the Sacred Heart, Pius XII writes: “[I]t] is only under the impulse of love that the minds of men obey fully and perfectly the rule of the Supreme Being, since the influence of our love draws us close to the divine Will that it becomes as it were completely one with it, according to the saying, ‘He who is joined to the Lord, is one with the spirit’” (emphasis added). Of importance is this: God’s love re-creates our own hearts and conforms them to Himself. This doctrine was intolerable to the Jansenists, who found it offensive both that God’s love was universal and that God’s boundless love did not leave the sinner where he was, but rather raised him up to a new life.

St. Thomas Aquinas offers a useful theological foundation for this understanding of the Sacred Heart. Taking up the question of whether or not God loves all things, St. Thomas writes: “[T]he love of God infuses and creates goodness.” Here he underscores that God’s love effects something new in us that was not there before. God causes love to be in us, raises us to the status of being lovable and of loving Him in return. St. Thomas is careful to note that God’s love is unlike human love in this regard. When human beings love, we merely behold what is lovable in another, affirm it, and desire that it be preserved. But when God loves, He causes goodness and love to exist in the beloved. He raises us up to the level of love: Grace, after all, elevates and perfects nature. This ontological statement can be transposed to the moral order: God’s love causes the soul to be conformed to Him, and this is precisely in what grace consists. Grace makes the moral life possible. In freedom, we can cooperate with the invitation to love and be drawn into the heart of God. This is the essence of the devotion to the Sacred Heart, and an intimacy intolerable to its Jansenist opponents.

Winters and Read (and those who share their view) have this much correct: God is superabundant in mercy. But moral and anthropological pessimism do not do justice to God’s mercy. For God’s superabundant mercy extends to redemption in Christ, who takes on our very nature in the hypostatic union and truly sanctifies our nature interiorly. By sanctifying us in a startlingly intimate way, the merciful God creates love in us—makes us lovable, draws our hearts into his own, and makes us fully free and capable of living the Christian life with vigor and joy. The moral norms of the Church are grounded, therefore, in what we might call a supernatural realism. Contrary to the sentiments of our age, realism is not found in an anthropological pessimism that settles for the “grey” of continually “missing the mark” and denies God’s transformative love. Rather, through faith we know that God’s grace makes us capable of virtue, even at times heroic virtue, as we see in the lives of the saints, who we might say are the most real among us.

 

We are, indeed, plagued by a new sort of Jansenism, one rooted in presumption rather than despair. The “old” Jansenism arose from both anthropological and theological despair—the Catholic absorption of total depravity, and the loss of hope in the possibility of salvation. Ironically, those who criticize the four cardinals—and anyone who believes that Amoris Laetitia is in need of clarification—often fall into a new form of Jansenism. This “new” Jansenism is marked by a similar pessimism with respect to human nature—total depravity under a new name, whether “weakness” or “woundedness” or “greyness.” And like what preceded it, the new Jansenism articulates a loss of hope in the power of grace to regenerate the soul. The difference is that the new Jansenism tends towards presumption. Whereas the Jansenism of old despaired that anyone could really be loved by God, be good enough to receive Holy Communion, or be saved, its newer version has so little faith in the power of God to change hearts that it presumes God does not care for something so insignificant as the human heart. No, God is too busy to care about my paltry sins. None are loved personally as they are, but rather all are loved in a great, amorphous mass of humanity that could not but be saved. One need not be in a state of grace to receive Holy Eucharist, because the state of grace is not a real possibility for most people.

At first blush, the new Jansenism sounds encouraging—none are guilty, all are saved! In truth, however, a pessimism that would canonize all is only a shade less pessimistic than one that would condemn all to hell. As St. Thomas notes, both despair and presumption are sins against hope.

The supernatural realism espoused by the Church overcomes Jansenism, old and new. It overcomes the human tendency towards pusillanimity, whether born from despair or from presumption, which would shrink back from that life of love that demands conformity—real life. What the Sacred Heart shows symbolically, and revelation confirms, is that God is a jealous God indeed—drawing all men to himself, to be purified in the fire of the heart of God in order to become nothing less than fire. Today we hear much about how arduous the Christian life is, how burdensome its morality, how unyielding its demands. In truth we are in the midst of a crisis of love. For once we are plunged into the fire of God’s love, what else could satisfy? Surely, neither our own paucity, nor any sin.

Jessica M. Murdoch is associate professor of fundamental and dogmatic theology at Villanova University.

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Are “ALL” Faiths Equal? by Patrick Miron

 

Are all Faiths “Equal”?

By Patrick Miron

 

The short answer in truth is “NO.”  …. WHY?

Ps.145 Verses 17 to 18

The LORD is just in all his ways, and kind in all his doings. The LORD is near to all who call upon him, to all who call upon him in TRUTH.”

Dictionary Definition of “Truth”

  1. The trueor actual state of a matter:

conformity with fact or reality; verity: the truth of a statement                   2.  a verified or indisputable fact, proposition, principle, or the like                   mathematical truths.

  1. the state or character of being true.
  2. actuality or actual existence.

.                                   5. an obvious or accepted fact; truism; platitude.

  1. honesty; integrity; truthfulness.
  2. (often initial capital letter) ideal or fundamental reality apart from and

transcending perceived experience:

  1. agreement with a standard or original.

9.. accuracy, as of position or adjustment.

  1. Archaic. Fidelity or constancy.

TEN REALITES of a single truth

I have had more than one person share in a faith-discussion that that “there can be you’re truth and my truth;” which I first scoffed at, but upon more reflection came to admit for some folks that almost literally has to be the case. Otherwise they would have to make major changes in their life and beliefs.

Pope Benedict XVI, in his inaugural address spoke to the issue of truth with extreme clarity: “There cannot be your truth and my truth or there would be no truth.” …. Such a lucid, such a logical, such a moral reality ought to be sufficient to end the discussion on “what is the truth?” But such is not always the case when discussing “One True Faith.”

[Saint] Pope John Paul II, shared “That even stupidity is a gift from God. But it must not be over used.”

I’m not making fun of our Christian Brethren; but pointing out the often futile effort at trying to carry on a logical dialog with them in a One True Faith based discussion.  Which is why one hears and sees the mantra of “all faiths are equal” [one assumes this means to include in God’s ‘eye’s’ specifically.]

And yet morally, logically, and theologically, “truth” can be nothing other than singular per defined issue. No other possibility exist. All this confirms that “faith-conversions” are, and can only be God’s private domain. Sure He may choose to use me and you at times for an assist; but in the end, it is always God the Holy Spirit, that at long-last grants right understanding. It is this reality; that right understanding is withheld by God as a penalty for choosing to accept competing sets of faith beliefs; which many are not even aware that they are doing so. They seem unable to connect “different” faith beliefs being competing faith beliefs, seeing them as only “dissimilar,” yet some =how of equal merit. Assuming that they are right, and everyone else is wrong. This last statement sounds like Catholicism vocalized; but is that really an accurate assumption?

[1] Isaiah 55:8 -9 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the LORD. As high as the heavens are above the earth, so high are my ways above your ways and my thoughts above your thoughts.

[2] Eph.11: “13-14  “In him you also, who have heard the word of truth, the [singular] gospel of your salvation, and have believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, [CONDITIONAL ON ACTUALLY KNOWING , BELIEVING AND  THEN ACCEPTING HIS TRUTHS] which is  the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.”

[3] 1Kgs.4: [29] And God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding beyond measure, and largeness of mind like the sand on the seashore

[4] Luke.24: [45] Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures

[5] Acts.4:[13] Now when they saw the fidelity of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, ignorant men, they wondered; and they recognized that they had been with Jesus.

[6] 1John.5: [20] And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, to know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life.

[7] Eph.4: [18] they are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart

[8] 2nd Peter 1:19-21 “And we have the prophetic word made more sure. You will do well to pay attention to this as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. First of all you must understand this, that no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, [21] because no prophecy ever came by the impulse of man, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.

Rightly understood, the above eight passages explain the ever-increasing numbers of Protestant Faith and churches; understanding that NO-CHURCH can be separated from its chosen set of faith beliefs. Indeed, it is precisely their set of beliefs that give the church its identity, and separates it to varying degrees from ALL other churches.

  1. This then is the evidence that NOT ALL churches [FAITHS]are equal

 

  1. Truth can only be singular per defined issue; so if the RCC is not Christ One True church; then which of the multitude of Protestant churches is; and on what evidence?

 

  1. The multiplicity of competing Protestant churches; both with each other as well as the RCC alone is sufficient evidence; or ought to be, to make apparent that this cannot be God’s desire; God’s Divine Will.

 

  1. There is disagreement on critically important theological and philosophical issues,

 Mt .16:18-19

Jn. 17:17-20

Mt. 28:18-20

John 6: 47-58

John 20: 19-23

Eph. 4: 1-7 as examples

 with salvation quite possibly hanging in the balance, that can only exist because of man’s pride and in an absolute sense, a literal blocking of right understanding of the bible by the Holy Spirit as a penalty Eph. 4:18, for choosing to believe mortal men NOT chosen by God, and denial of the men and the Church [singular] desired, instituted, guided and guarded by God Personally, as evidenced in the above passages. Please pay close attention to the Divinely inspired [2 Tim. 3:16-17], singular tense words the authors choose to use to further right understanding.

 

  1. Logic alone ought to be sufficient to comprehend that God has always had just one Chosen people [now Church Mt. 16:18], and that even God can have no more than one set of Faith beliefs. And with no evidence that the RCC somewhere, sometime lost its Godly promised protection: Add to this the historical evidence that the RCC has existed from the times of Christ Visitation, with not a shred of evidence that God’s commitment to be with His Church for ALL times [Mt 28:20] & that Satan would never PREVAIL over Her [Mt 16:18], and that TRUTH, has to be; can only be; singular per defined issue, and it is clear that NOT “all faiths” are “equal.

 

  1. One True God

One true Faith

One True Church as desired, and as instituted & protected by God: …. todays Roman Catholic Church

Matt.16:18 And I tell YOU, you are Peter, and on this rock [YOU PETER] I will build MY CHURCH [singular], and the powers of hell shall not prevail against it”

 

          Eph. 2: 18-22 “18] for through him we have access in one Spirit to the      Father. So then you are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow      citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, [singular] built         upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself           being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure is joined together and grows             into a holy temple [singular] in the Lord; in whom you also are built into it      [singular] for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit. “

God Bless you & may He grant you the necessary Wisdom to rightly understand His Divine Will

Patrick

Never Underestimate the Powers of GOD! renamed & reblogged

 

Little boy born without a brain can now speak, count, and attend school

So much for what the experts said!

ZOE ROMANOWSKY

FEBRUARY 19, 2017

 

When Noah Wall was born, the doctors said he probably wouldn’t survive and if he did, he would be severely physically and developmentally disabled. Born with only 2 percent of his brain to a family in Cumbria, England, Noah had no hope — at least according to the doctors.

In utero, Noah had developed a rare complication of spina bifada where his skull filled with fluid, crushing his brain down into a “thin sliver of tissue,” according to the UK’s Mirror. His parents — Shelly and Rob — were advised to abort him on five occasions. They refused. After Noah’s birth, an open wound in his back was closed and a shunt was installed to drain the fluid from his brain.

Shelly and Rob picked out a baby coffin for Noah, but they also never stopped believing he was anything less than a great gift. They took him home and the entire family surrounded him constantly with love, affection, and 24-7 care. Noah’s brain began to grow. And grow. And grow some more.

When he was 3, a brain scan showed that his brain “had expanded to 80% of a normal brain.” Now a movie on Britain’s Channel 5 called The Boy Who Grew A Brain documents just how far Noah has come.

The family continues to keep Noah’s brain stimulated to aid his neurological growth. Dr. Claire Nicholson of Newcastle’s Great North Children’s Hospital in England — Noah’s neurosurgeon — calls him “a remarkable child with two remarkable parents.”

Noah, who’s always smiling and shows empathy and love in his words and deeds, is learning to read and write, can count, and attends school. His brain continues to develop beyond anyone’s wildest dreams and after some surgeries on his hips, Noah’s family believes he may actually walk one day. Given how this story has unfolded so far, you should probably bet on it.

 

Zoe Romanowsky

Zoe Romanowsky is Lifestyle and Video Editor at Aleteia’s English edition

– See more at: http://aleteia.org/2017/02/19/little-boy-born-without-a-brain-can-now-speak-count-and-attend-school/?utm_campaign=NL_en&utm_source=daily_newsletter&utm_medium=mail&utm_content=NL_en#sthash.MqrehTFg.dpuf

For our benefit: reblogged

Long, but terrific and so encouraging! What a GREAT and holy Shepherd!!

http://rorate-caeli.blogspot.com/2017/02/new-bishop-athanasius-schneider-video.html?m=1

rorate-caeli.blogspot.com
Today, along with our Spanish-language partners “Adelante la Fe,” we release a video interview with His Excellency Athanasius Schneider, Au…

Bible Proofs that Jesus IS GOD: reblogged

 

50 Biblical Proofs That Jesus is God

Jesus is God the Son. He is the eternal, all-powerful, all-loving, self-existent Creator God.

Dave Armstrong

We apologists hear every fable, myth, and tall tale regarding theology that anyone could ever imagine. I’ve heard for over thirty years that “the Bible never says that Jesus is God.” In fact, one of my first research projects in the early 80s, after I started taking up apologetics (back in my evangelical days), was to collect biblical passages that provide evidence for the Holy Trinity and deity, or divinity of Jesus Christ.

I’ve compiled this information in one of my books, called Theology of God (if anyone is looking for a handy guide on the issue). Presently, I’d like to highlight a few of the more obvious, undeniable, plain passages, in order to counter those who make such negative claims.

John 1:1, 14 (RSV) In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. . . . [14] And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father.

This is one of the most well-known “proof texts”. Jesus is eternal (here, “beginning” means “eternity past”). He was with God the Father, and is God the Son. To make sure that the reader has no misunderstanding, John (v. 14) reiterates that the “Word” referred to is the Son, and notes that He “became flesh” (the incarnation). Only the Son has a body. The Word = Jesus = God.

John 10:30 I and the Father are one.

Jesus’ hearers, unbelieving Jews, certainly understood His intent in saying this, because they tried to stone Him, as the next verse informs us, since they didn’t believe His claim, which, if indeed untrue, would be intolerable blasphemy. 10:33 informs us that they tried to stone Him because (in their words) “you, being a man, make yourself God.”

John 20:28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!”

This had to do with the famous “Doubting Thomas” incident. Thomas didn’t believe Jesus had risen, so Jesus appeared for His sake and told him to touch the wound in His side. Then Thomas believed and said this. If it were untrue, Jesus would have corrected him, but He didn’t; He commended Thomas because he “believed.”

Colossians 1:19 For in him all the fulness of God was pleased to dwell,

In context, it is the Son Who is being described (1:13); He is eternal (1:15, 17-18), the Creator (1:16), and the unifying principle of the universe (1:17; cf. Heb 1:3): all attributes true only of God. Paul makes the notion even more explicit in the next chapter:

Colossians 2:9 For in him the whole fulness of deity dwells bodily,

2 Peter 1:1 . . . our God and Savior Jesus Christ:

St. Paul uses the same phrase in Titus 2:13 as well.

Hebrews 1:8 But of the Son he says, “Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever, the righteous scepter is the scepter of thy kingdom.”

This is a remarkable passage, in which God the Father calls His Son “God.” It is a reference to the Old Testament passage, Psalms 45:6-7.

In Hebrews 1:6, God the Father also says that all the angels should worship God the Son. Worship can only be rightly applied to God, as we know from Exodus 34:14 and Deuteronomy 8:19. Yet Jesus accepted worship of Himself on many occasions (e.g., Mt 14:33; 28:9) and stated that He should be honored equally with the Father (Jn 5:23). In Revelation 5:8, 12-13 and Colossians 2:6-7, we find that Jesus is worshiped in every way that the Bible specifically describes worship of God the Father, with all the same words used (see: Rev 4:9-11, 5:13; 7:11-12, and Rom 11:33).

Jesus is omnipotent (possesses all power):

Philippians 3:20-21 . . . the Lord Jesus Christ, [21] who will change our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power which enables him even to subject all things to himself.

He’s omniscient (all-knowing):

Colossians 2:2-3 . . . Christ, [3] in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

He’s omnipresent (present everywhere):

Ephesians 1:22-23 the church, [23] which is his body, the fulness of him who fills all in all. (cf. Col 3:11)

Another astonishing passage along these lines is one where Jesus speaks about historical events described as being done by God the Father in the Old Testament. He casually applies them to Himself (what might be called “the Divine ‘I’”):

Matthew 23: 34, 37 Therefore I send you prophets and wise men and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from town to town, . . . [37] O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, killing the prophets and stoning those who are sent to you! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!

Many attributes that are said to belong only to “God” are applied to Jesus in Scripture. God the Father said, “besides me there is no savior” (Is 43:11; cf. 1 Tim 4:10). Yet Jesus is called the “savior” of mankind in passages like Luke 2:11 and many others.

God the Father stated, “To me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear” (Is 45:23). The same exact description is also applied to Jesus (Phil 2:10-11).

The Bible teaches that “God” is judge (1 Sam 2:10; Ps 50:6; Ecc 12:14; many others). But so is Jesus (Jn 5:22, 27; 9:39; Acts 10:42; 2 Tim 4:1). Therefore He is God.

God the Father sits on His throne in heaven (1 Ki 22:19; Ps 11:4; 47:8). Jesus is on the same throne, too (Rev 7:17; 22:1, 3).

At every turn in the Bible, only one conclusion is possible, to make sense of all these statements, taken together as a whole: Jesus is God the Son. He is the eternal, all-powerful, all-loving, self-existent Creator God.

END QUOTES

“Simply following the Ten Commandments isn’t enough” Reblogged

 

Simply following the Ten Commandments isn’t enough

Jesus expects us to reflect on our actions and motivations and to look deeper within ourselves.

by: SILAS HENDERSON, S.D.S.

FEBRUARY 11, 2017

 

Whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do so will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
—Matthew 5:19

When you think of the saints, who comes to mind? Is it great missionaries like Saint Paul or Saint Patrick? Do you think of the founders of religious communities like Saint Benedict, Saint Francis of Assisi, or America’s own Saint Elizabeth Seton? Perhaps you think of great champions of the poor like Saint Anthony of Padua, Saint Peter Claver, or Saint Teresa of Calcutta. For those of us a bit more oriented toward theology and philosophy, great figures like Saint Augustine, Saint Thomas Aquinas, or Blessed John Henry Newman might top our list.

We don’t often think of those Christian women and men whom we honor as saints as unremarkable or simple. In fact, those are often the people in our day to day lives whom we quickly overlook. And yet, as we consider models of holiness, we can’t help but be struck by the number of “little” saints, including Saint Dominic Savio, Saint André Bessette, and, of course, Saint Thérèse of Lisieux.

When Thérèse Martin died in the Carmel of Lisieux, France, in 1897, no one would have imagined that only a few years later another saint, Pope Pius X, would call her “the greatest saint of modern times.” And, anyone who knows anything about Saint Thérèse knows that she is most especially known as the “Little Flower” or the “Saint of the Little Way.”

The “secret” of Thérèse’s holiness is found in today’s Gospel. In this passage, which is a continuation of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells us that he expects his followers to go beyond the demands of the Law—we can think of the basic rules of the Ten Commandments—and to focus on those little things that can build up or damage our relationships with God and those around us.

We can see this in the way Jesus addresses the commandment “You shall not kill.” We understand that. But Jesus doesn’t stop at this basic level. He continues:

I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment, and who ever says to his brother, ‘Raqa,’ will be answerable to the Sanhedrin, and whoever says, “You fool,” will be liable to fiery Gehenna. Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that brother has anything against you, leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother.

Jesus is telling us that a simple obedience to the Commandments isn’t enough for his followers. He expects us to reflect on our actions and motivations and to look deeper within ourselves. Rather than focus on preventing murder, Jesus wants us to look at the anger that we often hold deep within ourselves and which can destroy relationships, even if it might not lead us to physically assault another person.

The same can be said about Jesus’ comments about adultery. Instead of just condemning this sin and defending the rights of spouses or the dignity of the human person, Jesus wants his disciples to reflect on the lust and emptiness that can lead us to objectify others or to use them for our own pleasure or benefit.

Ultimately, as the First Reading of this Sunday’s Mass reminds us, each of us has been endowed with freedom from God to choose good or to choose evil. God, of course, wants us to always choose what will strengthen our relationship with him and with our brothers and sisters. This is the path to holiness and the way we can grow in our union with God. This is also how we can build up the Church and help promote justice and peace in our war-weary world. As the example of Saint Thérèse reminds us, obeying the words of Jesus in this Sunday’s Gospel doesn’t necessarily require that we do extraordinary acts of penance or charity. Instead, in the end, we will best serve God and those around us through the little sacrifices of our attentiveness, intentionality, kindness, and love.

How do I show my love and faith in small acts of kindness?

When have the small kindnesses or attention of others helped ease my suffering or worry?

How do you use the gift of your freedom as a human person for the good of others and to promote peace and justice?

Words of Wisdom: “Miss no single opportunity of making some small sacrifice, here by a smiling look, there by a kindly word; always doing the smallest right and doing it all for love..” –Saint Thérèse of Lisieux End Quote

 

Br. Silas Henderson, S.D.S.

Silas S. Henderson, S.D.S., is a member of the Society of the Divine Savior (the Salvatorians) and currently serves as the managing editor of Deacon Digest Magazine. He is the author of Lights for a Waiting World: Celebrating Advent with the Saints and dozens other books, reflections, and articles. Brother Silas can be found at www.Facebook.com/SilasSHendersonSDS and www.Twitter.com/SilasSHenderson.

– See more at: http://aleteia.org/2017/02/11/simply-following-the-ten-commandments-isnt-enough/?utm_campaign=NL_en&utm_source=daily_newsletter&utm_medium=mail&utm_content=NL_en#sthash.EczLtJjU.dpuf