instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Ask for a sign from the LORD, your God

Very thoughtful of it to snow on the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord, when the first reading is oh so Christmassy (well, Adventy):
Therefore the Lord himself will give you this sign:
the virgin shall be with child, and bear a son,
and shall name him Emmanuel,
which means “God is with us!”
This is Isaiah 7:14, with the translation "God is with us!" taken from Isaiah 8:10.

Isaiah 7:15 is included as part of this reading in the Liturgy of the Hours; the NABRE gives it as:
Curds and honey he will eat so that he may learn to reject evil and choose good.
I always thought that was a strange prophecy to associate with Jesus, both because Jesus was sinless from conception and because eating curds and honey seems like an odd way of learning to reject evil and choose good.

The NABRE's note of Isaiah 7:15 states that curds and honey would be "the only diet available to those who are left after the devastation of the land."

We might, then, understand curds and honey to be a symbol of the consequences of living in a fallen world, and it's certainly true that Jesus experienced these consequences. We might even say that, Son though He was, He learned obedience from what He suffered, and what is obedience to the will of the Father but rejecting evil and choosing good?

I'll add that, if curds and honey is a simple diet, it's still food, and even in the devastation of the land the LORD sustains His people.


Monday, March 24, 2014

Hope confoundeth not

Before Mass on Sunday, I was noodling the age-old conundrum of hope -- viz, that it's all well and good to hope in God, but my salvation also depends on my own choices, and both Scripture and experience teach me the foolishness of hoping in me.

Then it occurred to me that yes, exactly! I'm not supposed to face the part of my salvation I'm responsible for with hope. I shouldn't spend another minute wondering how I could ever hope that I will cooperate with God's salvific will.

Instead, I should face the part of my salvation I'm responsible for with love. That's the thing I have control over, here and now. There's no point in worrying about what choices I might make tomorrow when I am making choices today. If I choose in love today, tomorrow's choices will take care of themselves.


Sunday, March 23, 2014

Lesson for the catechist

The topics today were the Sacrament of Matrimony, the Sixth Commandment, and the Ninth Commandment.

I sat in the back and kept my yap shut most of the morning, which is what I try to do when I don't have anything particularly insightful to add. On these topics, my insights don't run much deeper than, "Love your spouse sacrificially. Don't mess around. Don't even think about messing around."

Sure, marriage is a mystery, but it ain't rocket science.

I did, though, open my yap three times that I recall. The first time, in response to a comment that our fallen race doesn't properly value each other as persons, I said something like, "If you don't know what a thing is, you can't properly value it. It so happens that we can't know what a human person is apart from our intended relationship with God. And if you don't believe in God... you get cable television."

My second comment was some get-off-my-lawn gruff about how the "today's society" out of step with which the Catholic Church is, is intentionally misshaped by people who make money out of having society misshaped the way it is.

My final yap was just a prestatement of something the presenter was about to say, one of those stunningly obvious things I couldn't believe I hadn't noticed before. The presenter was making the point that the culture of death operates by dividing the human soul and the human body, pitting them against each other. I interrupted with, "Separating the soul from the body is 'dying.'"

It's not a culture of death merely per effectum, as a result of the acts of intentional killing the culture countenances or celebrates. The Manichean spirit that animates the culture is essentially a spirit of death and disintegration, separating the soul from the body, disposing of the former and despising the latter.



Tuesday, March 11, 2014

For those of us who are always a day late

A simple novena to St. Joseph.


Thursday, March 06, 2014

To help and enrich others by our own poverty

In this year's Lenten message, Pope Francis writes:
"For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich" (2 Cor 8:9)...

Lent is a fitting time for self-denial; we would do well to ask ourselves what we can give up in order to help and enrich others by our own poverty. Let us not forget that real poverty hurts: no self-denial is real without this dimension of penance. I distrust a charity that costs nothing and does not hurt.
In his Ash Wednesday homily, he preaches:
Fasting makes sense if it really affects our security, and also if a benefit to others comes from it, if it helps us to grow in the spirit of the Good Samaritan, who bends down to his brother in need and takes care of him.
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP, makes the same point in his Ash Wednesday homily:
Lenten denial is about making our gratuitous lives sacrificial.
A sacrifice is an offering of something, to someone, for someone. Catholics are pretty good, I think, about the of part of Lenten sacrifices. Can you imagine, though, asking someone, "So, who are you giving something up for Lent for?"

Even the to part might give us pause, sprung on us unawares.


Monday, March 03, 2014

Open reproof is good for everyone

Here's the sentence (Leviticus 19:17b) from last Suday's first reading that stood out for me:
Though you may have to reprove your fellow citizen, do not incur sin because of him.
Good advice for Catholic bloggers.

This is one of those cases where the Lectionary differs noticeably from the NABRE, which has:
Reprove your neighbor openly so that you do not incur sin because of that person.

The Douay-Rheims, meanwhile, makes a single sentence out of the whole verse:
Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thy heart, but reprove him openly, lest thou incur sin through him.
Hating thy brother in thy heart and openly reproving him are not as such contrary positions (by "not as such," I mean "hardly ever in practice"). Contrasting them in this way, though, the sacred author may be trying to get at the nature of just reproof, as opposed to the pepper spray in the face too commonly observed.

The open reproof commanded by God is, I propose, both revelatory and purgative. It shows what I truly think, and it purges my thought of any negative emotion or ill will.

Hating thy brother in thy heart without any sort of reproof is a sort of treachery. Brothers should love one another, and a brother may well trust that his brother loves him if he doesn't say otherwise.

We owe reproof of our brothers to our brothers to avoid duplicity. We also owe reproof of our brothers to God, Who has instructed us to correct each other. And when we've done what God commands of us, we have no standing to continue to be indignant or bitter on God's behalf. Indignation and bitterness on our own behalf is a sign of pride, which God has commanded us to overcome.

Moreover, open reproof is not only a matter of justice. Admonishing the sinner is a spiritual work of mercy, which is an act of charity. We are to love our brothers; to reprove in love is to correct them so that they may do good and not do evil. Doing evil and not doing good is good for you; "to act for the good of another" is the definition of "to love."

Love is, of course, incompatible with hate. The reproof commanded by Leviticus 19:17 is incompatible with hate, so we need to ensure our reproof is loving. You can model the whole process with the following steps, at each of which love for our brother should be at work:
  1. Observe your brother's behavior, without imputing unproven malice.
  2. Judge the behavior to be wrong, without condemning your brother.
  3. Determine that the behavior needs to be corrected, for the good of your brother.
  4. Evaluate the available means to correcting the behavior, always keeping that charitable end in mind (rather than, say, the therapeutic release of yelling at the bozo).
  5. Select the most prudent means available.
  6. Engage in the charitable, just, prudent act of reproof.
If you go through the whole process in love, there should be no residue of anger or hatred in your heart once you've reproved your brother, because you will have actively worked to uproot any anger or hatred that you discovered as you went through the process.