Tuesday, January 28, 2014
It’s not surprising. There is a yawning gap between the way many believers experience faith and the way that faith is presented to the world.
Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel described one experience of faith in his book “God in Search of Man”: “Our goal should be to live life in radical amazement...get up in the morning and look at the world in a way that takes nothing for granted. Everything is phenomenal. ...To be spiritual is to be amazed.”
And yet Heschel understood that the faith expressed by many, even many who are inwardly conflicted, is often dull, oppressive and insipid — a religiosity in which “faith is completely replaced by creed, worship by discipline, love by habit; when the crisis of today is ignored because of the splendor of the past; when faith becomes an heirloom rather than a living fountain; when religion speaks only in the name of authority rather than with the voice of compassion.”
There must be something legalistic in the human makeup, because cold, rigid, unambiguous, unparadoxical belief is common, especially considering how fervently the Scriptures oppose it.
And yet there is a silent majority who experience a faith that is attractively marked by combinations of fervor and doubt, clarity and confusion, empathy and moral demand.
For example, Audrey Assad is a Catholic songwriter with a crystalline voice and a sober intensity to her stage presence. (You can see her perform her song “I Shall Not Want” on YouTube.) She writes the sort of emotionally drenched music that helps people who are in crisis. A surprising number of women tell her they listened to her music while in labor.
She had an idyllic childhood in a Protestant sect prone to black-or-white dichotomies. But when she was in her 20s, life’s tragedies and complexities inevitably mounted, and she experienced a gradual erosion of certainty.
She began reading her way through the books on the Barnes & Noble Great Books shelf, trying to cover the ones she missed by not going to college. She loved George Eliot’s “Daniel Deronda” and was taken by Tolstoy. “He didn’t have an easy time encountering himself,” she says, sympathetically. “I was reading my way from darkness into paradox.”
She also began reading theology. She’d never read anything written before 1835. She went back to Augustine (whose phrases show up in her lyrics) and the early church fathers. Denominationally, she went backward in time. She became Baptist, then Presbyterian, then Catholic: “I was ready to be an atheist. I was going to be a Catholic or an atheist. “
Her lyrics dwell in the parts of Christianity she doesn’t understand. “I don’t want people to think I’ve had an easy time.” She still fights the tendency to go to extremes. “If I’d have been an atheist I’d have been the most obnoxious, Dawkins-loving atheist. I wouldn’t have been like Christopher Hitchens.”
Her life, like all lives, is unexpected, complex and unique. Her music provides a clearer outward display of how many inwardly experience God.
If you are a secular person curious about how believers experience their faith, you might start with Augustine’s famous passage “What do I love when I love my God,” and especially the way his experience is in the world but then mysteriously surpasses the world:
“It is not physical beauty nor temporal glory nor the brightness of light dear to earthly eyes, nor the sweet melodies of all kinds of songs, nor the gentle odor of flowers, and ointments and perfumes, nor manna or honey, nor limbs welcoming the embraces of the flesh; it is not these I love when I love my God. Yet there is a light I love, and a food, and a kind of embrace when I love my God — a light, voice, odor, food, embrace of my innerness, where my soul is floodlit by light which space cannot contain, where there is sound that time cannot seize, where there is a perfume which no breeze disperses, where there is a taste for food no amount of eating can lessen, and where there is a bond of union that no satiety can part. That is what I love when I love my God.”
Monday, January 27, 2014
The Proclamation of the Gospel in Today’s World.
Some of my quotes from the Exhortation
Whenever our interior life becomes caught up in our own concerns there is no room for others.
God never tires of forgiving us - we tire of seeking His mercy.
No one can strip us of the dignity bestowed upon us by this unfailing love
The Gospel, radiant with the glory of Christ’s cross, constantly invites us to rejoice.
Joy adapts and changes, but it always endures – for when all is said and done we are infinitely loved.
Benedict XVI said “Being a Christian is not the result of an ethical or lofty choice- but the encounter with a person.”
To this encounter with God we are liberated from our narrowness or self-absorption.
If we have received God’s love how can we fail to share that love with others?
If we wish to live a dignified and fulfilling life, we have to reach out to others.
The Gospel offers us the chance to live life on a higher plane.
Life grows by being given away, and it weakens in isolation and comfort.
An evangelizer must never look like someone who has just come back from a funeral.
To make the effort and to recover the original freshness of the Gospel is our goal.
The joy of evangelizing always arises from grateful remembrance.
What counts above all else is “Faith working through love.”
Works of love directed to one’s neighbor are the most perfect external manifestation of the interior grace of the spirit.
In itself mercy is the greatest of the virtues since all others revolve around it.
There is an imbalance when we talk more about
· Law than about grace
· More about the Church than about Christ
· More about the Pope than about God’s word.
Each truth is better understood when related to the harmonious totality of the Christian message.
All of the truths are important and illume one another.
Christian morality is not a form of
· Practical philosophy
· Or a catalog of faults and sins.
The Gospel invites us to respond to the God who loves us and saves us.
The deposit of faith is one thing –the way it is expressed is another.
Faith always remains something of a cross
All religious teaching has to be reflected in the teacher’s way of life.
The precepts which Christ and the apostles gave to the people of God are very few. St. Thomas Aquinas
God’s mercy has willed that we should be free.
Everyone needs to be touched by the comfort and attraction of
God’s saving love.
A Church which “goes forth” is a Church whose doors are open.
Often it is better to slow down.
It is better to put aside our eagerness in order to see and listen to others.
It is better to stop rushing from one thing to another and to remain with someone who has fallen along the way.
The Church is called to be the house of the Father with doors always wide open.
The Church must first, go to the poor and the sick, the despised and overlooked, “Those who cannot repay you.”
I prefer a Church bruised and dirty because it has been out in the streets.
In our time it is a turning point in history.
Lack of respect for others and violence is on the rise.
We also have to say, “Thou shalt not” to an economy of exclusion and inequality.
We have created a disposable culture which is now spreading.
The culture of prosperity deadens us.
The worship of the ancient golden calf has returned in a new and ruthless guise in the idolatry of money.
Man is reduced to one of his needs alone: Consumption.
We need to look at our city with a contemplative gaze.
The pain and the shame we feel at the sins of some members of the Church and at our own must never make us forget how many Christians are giving their lives in love.
I am aware that we need to crate spaces where pastoral workers can be helped and healed.
Three evils which fuel each other
1. A heightened individualism
2. A crisis in identity
3. A cooling of fervor.
We are falling into seeking to avoid any responsibility that may take away from our free time.
A tomb psycho9logy develops and slowly transforms Christians into mummies in a museum.
The evils of the world and those of the Church must not be excuses for diminishing our commitment and our fervor.
One of the more serious temptations is defeatism which turns us into “sourpusses.”
The Christian ideal is
· To overcome suspicion
· Habitual mistrust
· Fear of losing our privacy
· Defensive attitudes which today’s world imposes on us.
Spiritual worldliness hides behind the appearance of piety.
Evils of Spiritual worldliness
1. Ostentatious preoccupation for the liturgy
2. For doctrine
3. For the church’s prestige
There should be no warring among ourselves because of envy or jealousy.
Radiate a witness of fraternal communion/
Let everyone admire how you care for one another.
Let us ask the Lord to help us understand the law of love.
The reservation to males, as a sign of Christ the spouse who gives himself in the Eucharist is not a question open to discussion.
Indeed, a woman, Mary, is more important than a Bishop.
The Church is a mystery rooted in the Trinity, yet she exists in History for us as a model.
The Church’s ultimate foundation is found in the free and gracious initiative of God.
The salvation which God has wrought and the Church joyfully proclaims is for everyone.
We have to bring the Gospel to the people we meet.
The biblical text is the basis of our preaching.
The Church, guided by the Gospel of mercy and love for us, hears the cry for justice and intends to respond to it with all its might.
Sadly, human rights can be used as a justification for an inordinate defense of individual rights or the rights of the richer people.
We incarnate the duty of hearing the cry of the poor when we are deeply moved by the suffering of others.
St. Paul was approached by the apostles- the key criterion of authenticity which they presented was that “he should not forget the poor.”
God’s heart has a special place for the poor.
For the Church, the option for the poor is primarily a theological one rather than cultural, sociological or a political one.
God shows the poor, “His first mercy.”
Our commitment does not consist exclusively in activities etc. but above all in an attentiveness which considers the other as one with ourselves.
The poor person, when loved, “is esteemed as of great value.
Any Church community without helping the poor to live with dignity will drift into a spiritual worldliness camouflaged by religious practices, unproductive meetings and empty talks.
Among the vulnerable for whom the Church wishes to care with particular love and concern are unborn children.
The Church cannot be expected to change her position on the abortion question
We are also steward of creation as a whole.
Let us not leave in our wake a swath of destruction and death which will affect our lives and those of future generations.
Small yet strong in the love of God, like Saint Francis of Assisi, all of us as Christians are called to watch over and protect the fragile world in which we live and all its peoples.
It is the willingness to face conflict head on, to resolve it and to make it a link in the chain of a new process, “Blessed are the peacemaker.”
Our ethnic diversity is our wealth.
Realities are greater than ideas.
This rejects the various means of making reality.
We have politicians and religious leaders who wonder why people do not understand them and follow them because they are stuck in the realm of pure ideas and reducing faith or politics to rhetoric.
The global need not stifle nor the particular local prove barren.
The Church calls every baptized person to be a peacemaker
Through an exchange of gifts with other Christians the Spirit can lead us more fully into truth and goodness.
The Church which shares with Jews an important part of the
Sacred Scripture looks upon the people of the covenant and their Faith as one of the sacred roots of our own Christian identity.
Sacred Scripture looks upon the people of the covenant and their Faith as one of the sacred roots of our own Christian identity.
Interreligious dialogue is a necessary condition for peace in the world.
The respect due to the agnostic or non-believing minority should not be arbitrary imposed in a way that silences the convictions of the believing majority.
We need to recover a contemplative spirit to realize that we have been entrusted with a treasure which makes us more human and helps us to lead a new life.
A person who is not convinced of their faith is enthusiastic, certain, an in love, will convince nobody.
Intercessory prayer does not divert us from true contemplation since authentic contemplation always has a place for others.
Intercessory prayer becomes a prayer of gratitude to God for others. It is constant thankfulness.
The great men and women of God were great intercessors.
Intercession is like a leaven in the heart of the Trinity.
God’s heart is touched by out intercession, yet in reality He is always there first.
Isaac of Stella says.” In the inspired scriptures, what is said in a universal sense of the virgin mother, the Church, is understood in an individual sense of the Virgin Mary….In a way every Christian is also believed to be a bride of God’s word, a mother of Christ.”
Friday, January 17, 2014
The theological reflection presented here seeks to investigate various aspects of Christian discourse about God which, in the modern context, require specific theological clarification. The immediate reason for this clarification is the theory, variously argued, according to which there is a necessary link between monotheism and the wars of religion. Discussion of this connection has demonstrated a number of misunderstandings of religious doctrine, to such an extent as to obscure authentic Christian thought about the one God.
The purpose of this reflection can be summed up in a two-fold question: (a) How can Catholic theology respond critically to the cultural and political opinion which sees an intrinsic link between monotheism and violence? (b) How can the purity of religious faith in the one God be recognised as the principle and source of love between human beings?
Our reflection takes the form of a reasoned testimony, not an apologetic argument. The Christian faith, in fact, sees the incitement of violence in the name of God as the greatest corruption of religion. Christianity reaches this conviction from the revelation of God’s own life, which is brought to us by Jesus Christ. The Church of believers is well aware that witnessing to this faith demands a permanent readiness for conversion: which also implies a certain parrhesia, a courageous frankness in self-criticism.
In Chapter I, we seek to clarify the theme of religious “monotheism” as it is understood in various contexts of modern political philosophy. We are aware of the evolution that has resulted in a highly differentiated spectrum of theoretical positions nowadays, ranging from the classical background of so called humanistic atheism to more recent forms of religious agnosticism and political laicism. Our reflection seeks first of all to show that the notion of monotheism, which is certainly significant in the history of our culture, is nevertheless too generic when it is used as an indication of equivalence between the historical religions which confess the oneness of God (namely Judaism, Islam and Christianity). Secondly, we formulate our critical reservations with regard to a cultural simplification which reduces the alternatives to a choice between a necessarily violent monotheism and a presumptively tolerant polytheism.
In this reflection, we are sustained throughout by the conviction, which we believe is shared by the vast majority of our contemporaries, both believers and non-believers, that inter-religious wars and also wars in the name of religion are simply senseless.
As Catholic theologians, we then seek to illustrate, on the basis of the truth of Jesus Christ, the relationship between the revelation of God and a non-violent humanism. We do so by reconsidering various aspects of Christian doctrine particularly helpful for illuminating the modern discussion: regarding the proper understanding of the Trinitarian confession of the one God, and regarding the implications of the revelation of Christ for the redemption of the bond between human beings.
In Chapter II, we interrogate the biblical witness, with particular attention to the issue of its “difficult pages”: in other words, those in which the revelation of God is involved with forms of violence between human beings. We seek to identify the reference points which the same scriptural tradition highlights - within itself – for the interpretation of the Word of God. On the basis of that investigation, we offer an outline of an anthropological and Christological framing of developments of interpretation that were driven by the actual historical circumstances.
In Chapter III, we propose a deeper understanding of the event of the death and resurrection of Christ, as the key to the reconciliation of human beings. Oikonomia is essential here in the determination of theologia. The revelation inscribed in the event of Jesus Christ, which universally manifests the love of God, enables the religious justification of violence to be neutralised on the basis of the Christological and Trinitarian truth of God.
In Chapter IV, we strive to illustrate the approximations and philosophical implications of thought about God. Various points of discussion with modern atheism, broadly channelled into the theses of a radical anthropological naturalism, are considered first of all. Then – also for the benefit of interreligious comparison with regard to monotheism – we offer a sort of philosophical-theological meditation on the integration of the revelation of the intimately relational disposition of God and the traditional conception of God’s absolute simplicity.
Finally, in Chapter V, we summarise the specifically Christian elements which determine the Church’s task of witnessing to the reconciliation both of God and humanity and of human beings with one another. Christian revelation purifies religion, by restoring to the latter its fundamental role in the human search for meaning. For that reason, in our invitation to reflection we are very conscious of the particular need - especially in today’s cultural context – always to treat together the theological content and the historical development of the Christian revelation of God.
[*] While waiting for the translations of the document, here is an introductory Presentation
Monday, January 13, 2014
We are grateful for Lydia's decision to become a Poor Clare and follow St. Clare's gospel Way of Life.
May God be with her on her journey and may she always be with God. Those are the words of St. Clare.
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