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Tuesday, July 17, 2018

A source of contagious joy

In #52 of Gaudete et Exsultatae, Pope Francis reminds us that it is the Lord who always takes the initiative. He quotes others to affirm this truth. Then, in #53 he tells what the Councils have said to reinforce the truth that we cannot demand, merit, or buy the gift of divine grace.
In #54, the Catechism of the Catholic Church also reminds us that the gift of grace surpasses the power of human intellect and will.  "His friendship infinitely transcends us; we cannot buy it with our works, it can only be a gift born of his loving initiative. This invites us to joyful gratitude for this completely unmerited gift..."
55. This is one of the great convictions that the Church has come firmly to hold...we not only accept it intellectually but also make it a source of contagious joy....
56. "Only on the basis of God's gift, freely accepted and humbly received, can we cooperate by our own efforts in our progressive transformation. We must first belong to God, offering ourselves to him who was there first, and entrusting to him our abilities, our efforts, our struggle against evil and our creativity, so that his free gift may grow and develop within us..."

Monday, July 16, 2018

We dwell in God

We near the end of these many days looking at Pope Francis' Gaudete et Exsultatae. In #50 we are told that "the lack of heartfelt and prayerful acknowledgment of our limitations prevents grace from working more effectively within us...Grace, precisely because it builds on nature, does not make us super-human all at once. ... Unless we can acknowledge our concrete and limited situation, we will not be able to see the real and possible steps that the Lord demands of us at every moment, once we are attracted and empowered by his gift. Grace acts in history; ordinarily it takes hold of us and transforms us progressively. 

#51 "....we need to live humbly in his presence, cloaked in his glory; we need to walk in union with him, recognizing his constant love in our lives....God is the Father who gave us life and loves us greatly. Once we accept him, and stop trying to live our lives without him, the anguish of loneliness will disappear... So often we say that God dwells in us, but it is better to say that we dwell in him, that he enables us to dwell in his light and love....In him is our holiness."

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

In today's Gospel, Mark tells us that Jesus "summoned the Twelve and began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over unclean spirits. He instructed them to take nothing for the journey but a walking stick - no food, no sack, no money in their belts. They were, however, to wear sandals but not a second tunic."

I always stop there and wonder what it means to "take nothing for the journey" - it certainly is a call to me as I look around my room to get rid of more things. I do not need all that I brought out with me, but there is a little voice  in my head, which is no doubt a vice, telling me I might need it. Jesus only allows a walking stick and sandals - both essential helps for the dusty trails that his Apostles were to walk. 
It is a Gospel to meditate on and then get rid of clutter! I find it easier to say than to do. But I will begin again to throw out...

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Do what you can and ask for what you cannot

In #49 of Gaudete et Exsultatae, Pope Francis tells us: "Those who yield to this pelagian or semi-pelagian mindset...ultimately trust only in their own powers and feel superior to others because they observe certain rules or remain intransigently faithful to a particular Catholic style....They fail to realize that not everyone can do everything, and that iin this life human weaknesses are not healed completely and once for all by St. Augustine taught, God commands you to do what you can and to ask for what you cannot, and indeed to pray to him humbly:'Grant what you command, and command what you will.'"

50. "Ultimately, the lack of a heartfelt and prayerful acknowledgment of our limitations prevents grace from working more effectively within us, for no room is left for bringing about the potential good that is part of a sincere and genuine journey of growth. Grace, precisely because it builds on nature, does not make us superhuman all at once. That kind of thinking would show too much confidence in our own abilities....Unless we can acknowledge our concrete and limited situation, we will not be able to see the real and possible steps that the Lord demands of us at every moment, once we are attracted and empowered by his gift. Grace acts in history; ordinarily it takes hold of us, and transforms us progressively...

Friday, July 13, 2018

Contemporary Pelagianism

I hope my readers understand why I went through Chapters 3, 4, and 5 before going back to Chapter 2 of the Pope's wonderful exhortation on Holiness; I just do not like to deal with heresies! Now, in #47 the Pope tells us that "Gnosticism gave way to another heresy, likewise present in our day. As time passed, many came to realize that it is not knowledge that betters us or makes us saints, but the kind of life we lead. But this subtly led back to the old error of the gnostics, which was simple transformed rather than eliminated.

48. "The same power that the gnostics attributed to the intellect, others now began to attribute to the human will, to personal effort....It was forgotten that everything 'depends not on human will or exertion, but on God who shows mercy (Rom 9:16) and that "he first loved us" (cf. 1 Jn 4:29).

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Do not extinguish the spirit of prayer

We will finish with gnosticism today. In #45 in Guadete et Exsultatae, Pope Francis quotes St. John Paul II who warned of the temptation on the part of those in the Church who are more highly educated "to feel somehow superior to others members of the faithful."
The Pope also quotes St. Francis who wrote this to St. Anthony of Padua: "I am pleased that you teach sacred theology to the brothers, provided do not extinguish the spirit of prayer and devotion during study of this kind." We also get a quote from St. Bonaventure who pointed out that true Christian wisdom can never be separated from mercy towards our neighbor. "The greatest possible wisdom is to share fruitfully what we have to give...Even as mercy is the companion of wisdom, avarice is its enemy."

Tomorrow we will look at the other contemporary heresy: Pelagianism.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Different ways of interpreting many aspects of doctrine and Christian life

We continue with Chapter Two of Gaudete et Exsultatae:

43. "It is not easy to grasp the truth that we have received from the Lord. And it is even more difficult to express it. So we cannot claim that our way of understanding this truth aurthorizes us to exercise a strict supervision over others' lives. Here I would note that in the Church there legitimately coexist different ways of interpreting many aspects of doctrine and Christian life; in their variety, they 'help to express more clearly the immense riches of God's word.....' Indeed, some currents of gnosticism scorned the concrete simplicity of the Gospel and attempted to replace the trinitarian and incarnate God with a superior Unity, wherein the rich diversity of our history disappeared.

44. In effect, doctrine, or better, our understanding and expression of it, 'is not a closed system, devoird of the dynamic capacity to pose questions, doubts, inquiries...The questions of our people, their suffering, their struggles, their dreams, their trials and their worries, all possess an interpretational value that we cannot ignore if we want to take the principle of the incarnation seriously. Their wondering helps us to wonder, their questions question us."

The underlining is always mine!

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Let ourselves be guided by the Spirit...

We continue to now look at Chapter Two in Gaudete et Exsultatae as I had skipped this chapter to get to the Beatitudes, aspects of prayer, and discernment which were covered in Chapters 3,4, and 5. You can find all in the archives of my blog.

42. We cannot claim to say where God is not, "because God is mysteriously present in the life of every person, in a way that he himself chooses, and we cannot exclude this by our presumed certainties. Even when someone's life appears completely wrecked, even when we see it devastated by vices or addictions, God is present there. If we let ourselves be guided by the Spirit rather than our own preconceptions, we can and must try to find the Lord in every human life. This is part of the mystery that a gnostic mentality cannot accept, since it is beyond its control.

Monday, July 9, 2018

One of the most sinister ideologies

To continue with Gnosticism in #40 of Gaudete et Exsultatae, we are told by Pope Francis that "Gnosticism is one of the most sinister ideologies because, while unduly exalting knowledge or a specific experience, it considers its own vision of reality to be perfect. Thus, perhaps without even realizing it, this ideology feeds on itself and becomes even more myopic. It can become all the more illusory when it masks itself as a disembodied spirituality. For gnosticism 'by it very nature seeks to domesticate the mystery, whether the mystery of God and his grace, or the mystery of others' lives.

41. When somebody has an answer for every question, it is a sign that they are not on the right road. They may well be false prophets, who use religion for their own purposes, to promote their own psychological or intellectual theories. God infinitely transcends us; he is full of surprises. We are not the ones to determine when and how we will encounter him; the exact times and places of that encounter are not up to us. Someone who wants everything to be clear and sure presumes to control God's transcendence."

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Today's Gospel from Mark 6:1-6 tells us how Jesus went back to Nazareth and began to teach in the synagogue when the sabbath came. Many who heard him were astonished. They did not know where Jesus had learned such wisdom. They asked: "Is he not the carpenter, the son of Mary, and the brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?" And they took offense at him. Jesus said to them, "A prophet is not without honor except in his native place and among his own kin and in his own house." He was not able to perform any mighty deed there, apart from curing a few sick people by laying his hands on them. He was amazed at their lack of faith."

This Gospel is always a call to me to deepen my own faith. Jesus comes to us in so many ways. Am I able to recognize Him in the circumstances, the people with whom I am interacting, the events of each day? I am trying to discern His Presence in my life in so many little ways by making the examen of conscience with Him each day. I have a help to do this now as I go out after supper for a walk with one of community here and we look together at our day. I also still try to keep my daily journal. I was impressed by the Pope asking every Christian to make an examen each day in dialogue with Christ. St. Ignatius always said that, if there was some reason to shorten the time of prayer, a Jesuit should never miss the time for the daily examen. It helps me get in touch with what the Lord may be trying to do in my life. I do not always do all five points but mention them here: Prayer for light, gratitude for the gifts of the day, looking back over the day to see where I may have kept or not kept my particular examen, sorrow for any faults committed, and a look to see how the next day will be more pleasing to the Lord.
Some remember 5 Rs to recall the five points. I am not sure what the 5 Rs are, but here is a stab at this memory help: Request, Rejoice, Review, Renew, and Resolve. Do try it and see how much it helps us to be in touch with the Lord during our day! 
I mention the "particular examen" because it helps to have taken one aspect of your life to change or to affirm; I often have taken joy or gratitude, but at present I am trying to look to see if I choose what is pleasing to Jesus or just choose without consulting Jesus and so may just be pleasing myself. Pope Francis suggests a real dialogue with Jesus during the time of examen and I find this helpful!

Saturday, July 7, 2018

A Deceptive Attraction

Pope Francis thinks that gnosticism exercises a deceptive attraction for some people, "since the gnostic approach is strict and allgedly pure, and can appear to possess a certain harmony or order that encompasses everything." 
38." Here we have to be careful. I am not referring to a rationalism inimical to Christian faith. It can be present within the Church, both among the laity in parishes and teachers of philosophy and theology in centers of formation. Gnostics think that their explanations can make the entirety of the faith and the Gospel perfectly comprehensible. They absolutize their own theories and force others to submit to their way of thinking. A healthy and humble use of reason in order to reflect on the theological and moral teaching of the Gospel is one thing. It is another to reduce Jesus' teaching to a cold and harsh logic that seeks to dominate everything."

Friday, July 6, 2018

Contemporary Gnosticism

The Pope continues in Chapter Two of his Apostolic Exhortation on Holiness:
36. "Gnosticism presumes a 'purely subjective faith whose only interest is a certain experience or a set of ideas and bits of information which are meant to console and enlighten, but which ultimately keep one imprisoned in his or her own thoughts and feelings.'"

37. Thanks be to God, throughout the history of the Church it has always been clear that a person's perfection is measured not by the information or knowledge they possess, but by the depth of their charity. "Gnostics" do not understand this, because they judge others based on their ability to understand the complexity of certain doctrines. They think of the intellect as separate from the flesh, and thus become incapable of touching Christ's suffering flesh in others, locked up as they are in an encyclopedia of abstractions. In the end, by disembodying the mystery, they prefer 'a God without Christ, a Christ without the Church, a Church without her people."