Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Two become One Flesh.

Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

In this Sunday's Gospel reading the Pharisees approach Jesus to "test" him with a difficult moral question. "Is it lawful for a husband to divorce his wife?" Although divorce was an accepted practice at the time of Jesus, if we search the Old Testament scriptures they nowhere command or directly authorize the practice of divorce. Deuteronomy 24 does prescribes how a "bill" of divorce was to be given for the protection of the woman involved, since it was the prerogative of the husband to initiate the procedure. The Rabbis were divided over the precise grounds on which a husband might issue a bill of divorce. One school argued that this could only take place on the grounds of marital infidelity, while the more common position advocated a no fault clause that allowed a man to divorce his wife for any reason. Faced with a moral dilemma created by culture and not Sacred Scripture, Jesus takes an unexpected position.

Jesus asks them, "What did Moses command you? Jesus use of the word "command" is noted and the Pharisees reply instead, "Moses permitted a husband to write a bill of divorce and dismiss her." The Law merely regulates the practice, apparently tolerating it. Jesus takes the debate a step further by noting that this concession was because of the "hardness of their hearts." He then turns the discussion back to the original nature of the human person "from the beginning of creation."

Our most fundamental understanding of the human person does not flow from cultural norms or common practice but from our nature as creatures created in the image of God. Pope John Paul II recognized a new horizon for understanding the nature of the human person based on the Genesis account, as did the fathers of the second Vatican Council. John Paul II's reflections on this theme are found primarily in a collection of catechetical address on the Theology of the Body. Recently Carl Anderson and José Granados have written an excellent introduction to this thought entitled, Called to Love: Approaching John Paul II's Theology of the Body.

In the first reading From Genesis the Lord says, "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a suitable partner for him" (Genesis 2:18). Even though creation is itself "good" the man is left in a state of aloneness or original solitude which is judged to be "not good." Although man's original solitude is in part resolved by the creation of Eve, "This one, at last, is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh" (Genesis 2:23), his solitude is greater than this. Anderson and Granados point out that "the term 'original solitude' underscores man's uniqueness when compared to other kinds of beings" and highlights "man's special relationship with the creator" (p. 27). Our first reading also points out that Adam's discovery of his original solitude comes about through his bodily experience of the world, it is revealed in the human body.

Before becoming the pope, Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, noted that while the whole of creation offers the "sacrificium laudis" (Psalm 66:4) or the 'sacrifice of praise' to God, man "becomes the living expression of the glory of God" (cf. Psalm 116:17; Hebrews 13:15). Man becomes the special means which gathers together "the homage paid to the Lord by the whole of creation" (Sign of Contradiction). Man takes on a priestly role as a spokesperson or sacrament who speaks on behalf of the created world. Later Pope John Paul II observes that the aloneness of man and the desire to create a helper or partner for him (Genesis 2:18, 20) point to man's existence as "a relation of reciprocal gift" (TOB 14.1). Adam does not only exist with someone but for someone. "Communion of persons means living in a reciprocal "for," in a relationship of reciprocal gift." (TOB 14.2)

The next aspect of man's nature revealed in these texts is our original unity. This is Jesus' primary point in Mark's Gospel account. Jesus quotes from both creation accounts, "God made them male and female" (Genesis 1:27) and in marriage "the two shall become one flesh" (Genesis 2:24). Jesus astounds his disciples concluding, "what God has joined together, no human being must separate." The indissolubility of the sacrament of marriage is based on the unity of the communion of persons experienced by a man and women in marriage. The two become one flesh. As Pope John Paul II points out,

So it is that there are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined let man not separate." That phrase, "let man not separate," is decisive. In the light of this word of Christ, Genesis 2:24 states the principle of the unity and indissolubility of marriage as the very content of the word of God expressed in the most ancient revelation. (TOB 1.3).

Man's original unity also points to our bodily constitution as either male or female. Masculinity and femininity are two different "incarnations" (TOB 8.1) in which the same human being is created in the "image of God" (Genesis 1:27). This again points to the communion of persons as "two reciprocally completing ways of 'being a body'" (TOB 10.1).

The original unity of the human couple points to the mystery of our unity with Christ. As the council fathers remind us, "The truth is that only in the mystery of the incarnate Word does the mystery of man take on light. For Adam, the first man, was a figure of Him Who was to come, (Roman 5:14) namely Christ the Lord."(GS 22). The unity and indissolubility of marriage is a sign of God's own gift of his Son. Sacred Scripture connects this to Christ, " . . . 'the two shall become one flesh.' This is a great mystery, but I speak in reference to Christ and the church" (Ephesians 5:31-32). Holy Mary Queen of the family. St. Joseph guardian and protector of the family. Pray for us.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Catholic Key: Online Edition Newspaper of the Diocese of Kansas City - St.Joseph

The Catholic Key: Online Edition Newspaper of the Diocese of Kansas City - St.Joseph

An opinion piece, entitled "Thank God it's Monday"

USCCB - (Office of Media Relations) Catholics, Lutherans, Methodists Mark Tenth Anniversary Of Historic Agreement

USCCB - (Office of Media Relations) Catholics, Lutherans, Methodists Mark Tenth Anniversary Of Historic Agreement

In this historic aggreement Catholics, Lutherans and Mothodists confess their common belief on justification reversing the misunderstandings of the Reformation.

The Finnish Lutheran school following Finnish theologian Tuomo Mannermaa (pictured above) have recently argued that we should distinguish between “Luther’s theology” and the “Theology of Lutheranism”. Many of our cartoons about Luther's beliefs are being overturned by more careful research.

Lutheran theolgian Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen notes;
"In contrast to the theology of the Lutheran Confessions, Luther does not make a distinction between forensic and effective justification but rather argues that justification includes both. In other words, in line with Catholic theology, justification means both declaring righteous and making righteous." [1]

[1]Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen, "Drinking from the Same Wells with Orthodox and Catholics": Insights from the Finnish Interpretation of Luther's Theology, Currents in Theology and Mission 34 no 2 Ap 2007, p 85-96.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Searching for Humility

Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

In this Sunday's Gospel, Jesus begins by modeling his leadership on the principle of being a servant. The disciples do not understand the connection between his mission as the Suffering Servant and authority. Jesus came, "not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Matthew 20:28). Jesus rebukes the apostles for debating among themselves "who was the greatest." Jesus called the Twelve and says to them, "If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all." Jesus is calling the apostles to look deeper within their hearts to examine the motives for their actions. The Gospel reading this Sunday is one of a number of passages which deal with the important topic of sincerity and humility. In the parable found in Luke 14 someone sits at a lower place than is their due at a banquet and is moved to higher place by the host of the banquet, while someone else is moved downward for exalting himself and thinking more highly of himself than he should. In Luke 18 we have the story of the Pharisee and publican. The Pharisee's pride and self-importance smother his prayers. In both cases selfish-ambition and desire "to be seen by others" is a sign that there is a lack of humility.

In her work, The Interior Castle, St. Theresa of Ávila defines 'humility' as self-knowledge. Humility is being truthful with yourself about who you really are. Not thinking more highly of yourself than you should, but also not thinking less highly of yourself than you should. St. Theresa describes humility as a mirror in which we see ourselves as we are, but which also helps us to realize that any good thing we do has its source not in ourselves alone but in God's grace. This mirror also helps us to see the depths of our sins and shortcomings. This type of self-knowledge is absolutely crucial to begin to make progress in the spiritual life. St. Theresa notes, "Self-knowledge is so important that, even if you were raised right up to the heavens, I should never like you to relax your cultivation of it." (IC, II)

The virtue of humility is defined by St Thomas Aquinas as "keeping oneself within one's own bounds, not reaching out to things above one, but submitting to one's superior" (Summa Contra Gent., IV, lv). Humility is a virtue in opposition to pride, and the virtue is exercised as a type of self-control. A false notion of humility often arises in which it is defined as "constantly putting yourself down." If someone met a famous painter and complimented the obvious beauty and profoundness of her work, it would not be humble of the painter to reply, "Oh, the painting is really not very good. I'm sure many others could do better." This is false humility. The humble response is simply to thank the person for the compliment and to give praise to God for bestowing these gifts on the painter. It would also be appropriate to acknowledge the discipline and hard work that went into developing these skills. Having said this, acknowledging what is true does not require us to begin boasting about our achievements. St. Francis de Sales warns of the false humility which causes us to "say we are nothing, that we are misery itself and the refuse of the world, but we would be sorry if anyone should take us at our word . . . On the contrary, we pretend to retire and hide ourselves, so that the world may run after us and seek us out" (Introduction to the Devote Life, III,5).

Our second reading from James reminds us that many disordered problems arise from "bitter jealousy and selfish ambition" and from a lack of truthfulness and sincerity and failure to control our passions (James 3:13-18). Humility comes from wisdom (James 3:13). It is not a lack of humility to seek professional prestige and to use the gifts God has given us to their fullness, even if this results in being noticed. To do less would actually be a failure to live up to the calling God has given to us. It would be a failure to use our gifts and talents for the glory of God. As the Catechism reminds us our human work is natural outgrowth of our being created in the image and likeness of God, it is a duty, it can be redemptive and it can be a means of sanctification, "a way of animating earthly realities with the Spirit of Christ" (CCC 2427). Having said this, it is not right work in order to seek fame for fame's sake. Even the Apostles fell into this trap. As Jesus notes in this Sunday's Gospel; "If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all." We are reminded of the title chosen for the Roman Pontiff, Servus servorum Dei, the servant of the servants of God.

Perhaps Our Lady is the greatest example of a disciple living the virtue of humility. After receiving the message of the Angel Gabriel at the Annunciation, Mary questions her own adequacy as the one chosen for this mission but resolves at the end of the passage, "I am the handmaid of the Lord, let it be to me according to your word" (Luke 1:38). Mary models complete abandonment to the divine will. Let us entrust ourselves to her maternal care.


Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Christopher Dawson on Technology and the Demise of Liberalism

Christopher Dawson on Technology and the Demise of Liberalism

This is an extremely interesting article by a leading Catholic thinker Professor Russell Hittinger. I was particular struck by his comment; ". . . in all of the western democracies today, the “liberal” party stands for a state managed economy. It did not succeed in its cultural mission of creating societies based upon freedom and persuasion, but rather succumbed to the militarization of state, and to the creation of new police powers and systems of surveillance."

This is exactly what has happened in Canada under years of the Liberal political party. All this with the added irony that the Prime Misters responsible were Catholics! Increasingly the state is imposing a "political correct" dogma on its citizens either by state imposed "education", official propaganda or the rule of law. I truely felt living there that my freedoms were being eroded.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Parents, educators ponder whether schoolchildren should be shown Obama address - Kansas City Star

Parents, educators ponder whether schoolchildren should be shown Obama address - Kansas City Star

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The controversy regarding President Obama’s address to school children causes me to reflect on how we can disagree with certain views and policies a politician holds, while still respecting the office that she or he holds. The Apostle Paul strongly admonishes;

Let every person be subordinate to the higher authorities, for there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been established by God. . . This is why you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, devoting themselves to this very thing. Pay to all their dues, taxes to whom taxes are due, toll to whom toll is due, respect to whom respect is due, honor to whom honor is due.” (Romans 13:1-7.

It is obvious from Paul’s own life, as we see it in the Acts of the Apostles, that he is quite willing to resist authority when it stands in opposition to the freedom of the Gospel. Paul is a virtually a jail-bird in Acts. Yet Paul’s world is not the situation we find ourselves in today. What is the proper response today in a democracy that has enshrined our religious freedom? Clearly we have the freedom to speak our mind and a responsibility to do so. We also have the responsibility to vote in harmony with a properly formed Christian conscience. What kind of respect is owned to those who hold legitimate office even if their political views are not always clear? What if the pattern of their voting record shows they lack integrity in key ethical areas? Clearly we can vote against them at the polls but in a pluralistic society they may still get elected to political office. Even if we think a particular politician lacks a well formed moral compass, we still owe them respect when they govern the nation or proposed laws which are in harmony with the dignity of the human person and the common good. In many political situations there are no easy answers. Paul’s admonition to the Romans suggests we still need to show respect for the person’s office. Perhaps the most fundamental way to show this respect is the pray for those in authority. Later in his letter to Timothy, Paul writes,
First of all, then, I ask that supplications, prayers, petitions, and thanksgivings be offered for everyone, for kings and for all in authority, that we may lead a quiet and tranquil life in all devotion and dignity (1 Timothy 1:1).