By Oswald Sobrino, J.D.; M.A. (Econ.); M.A. (Theo.); M.L. (Master of Latin), doctoral student, University of Florida.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Wisdom from William Blake

"A truth that's told with bad intent/Beats all the lies you can invent."

William Blake (1757-1827), Auguries of Innocence.

Blake can be puzzling. I think I get his drift: don't use good things with bad intent. I often emphasize in class the teaching that we cannot use bad means for good ends. Blake reminds me to also recall that you can't use good means or things for bad ends.

Here is an example. I recall someone trying to correct a speaker in public in an unnecessarily blunt and flippant way. It turned out that the attempted correction was superficial in nature and in fact was off-base. The "corrector" used something technically true to contradict the significantly true message of the speaker. We see that often: using something true in a Pickwickian sense to overthrow a much more significant truth. Practical lesson: Make public corrections kindly and with some modesty--you may turn out to be wrong when more research is done. Even better make corrections privately. Most Important Lesson: Do not use technicalities to fight a bigger truth, or else you may end up inventing a lie.

(By the way, the obligatory disclaimer for pharisees: I do not agree with the religious or marital views usually attached to Blake.)

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Francis Defines Bishops

"Since faith comes from proclamation we need kerygmatic bishops. ... Men who are guardians of doctrine, not so as as to measure how far the world is from doctrinal truth, but in order to fascinate the world ... with the beauty of love, with the freedom offered by the Gospel. The Church does not need apologists for her causes or crusaders for her battles, but humble and trusting sowers of the truth, who know that it is always given to them anew and trust in its power. Men who are patient men as they know that the weeds will never fill the field".

Text from page
of the Vatican Radio website

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Undeniably Cold, Hostile, Arrogant

Yes, all of us see those types of personalities everywhere. We see them in business, in academia, in government, in families--and, yes, in religious settings.

The cold, the hostile, and the arrogant--this wretched trinity is especially scandalous in Christian settings where the Blessed Trinity is one of warm compassion, of kindness, and of meekness. Yet, we Christians are faced with the scandal of Christians--some of whom make a career of working as professionals in religious settings--who incarnate the wretched trinity of coldness, hostility, and arrogance, rather than the Blessed Trinity of compassion, kindness, and meekness.

I think we have a duty not to enable this wretchedness. It is a favor to all concerned. We cannot duck rejecting what is so patently contrary to the Gospels. But, most importantly, we have to continue to be the opposite of this wretchedness which has no place in any setting, especially in a Christian setting.

I recall once that a conservative Catholic asked me why it seemed that some so-called "liberal" Catholics seemed closer to God than some conservatives. I really did not know at the time what to make of that observation since I rarely, if ever, encounter stereotypical "liberal" Catholics in person. But I do know now about what he implied about self-styled conservative Catholics who lack the "Jesus persona," so to speak. There is a pattern of smugness, condescension, habitual correctitis, and, frankly, lack of compassion in the personalities of not a few who consider themselves more Catholic than the Pope. Instead of the "Jesus persona," we get the "Pharisee persona." Not good. In fact, disastrous.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Habitual Cluelessness, Courtesy of Ideological Agendas

Yesterday, Pope Francis "revolutionized" (using the words of Reuters News--see the embedded Twitter feed to the right) the Vatican by establishing a Secretariat for the Economy, under Cardinal Pell, to take control of the Vatican's assets for the greater glory of God (A.M.D.G., the Jesuit motto). When I first saw the headline, I immediately knew by intuition that this move was another major stroke of genius by a pope who is not only (and most importantly) compassionate, open, warm, theologically profound, and very human but who is also immensely astute, shrewd, efficient, and energetic.

But the clueless on the internet just never get it. The ideological agendas of some, especially in the so-called traditionalist faction, create what I call "habitual cluelessness," a habit of looking without seeing, of reading without understanding, of hearing without listening: "Oh, what is a secretariat?" (There is already one in the Vatican called the Secretariat of State.) "What does he/the Pope mean by that in his remarks?" (What Scripture and Christian tradition have always meant by that.)

I am often astounded by the cluelessness of people who engage in so many devout practices. Is it possible to lack a Christian intuition and yet be immersed in devotional practices? Based on what I have observed, surprisingly, it is possible. I do not think this cluelessness is necessarily a matter of intelligence. Ideological agendas have a way of perniciously blinding us to what should be second nature for a Christian. And I remind my Protestant friends, as they well know, that this ideological blindness is not just a Catholic problem but a very ecumenical problem.

(Image in public domain)

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Francis: Do Not Act Like Courtiers and Remember the Existential Liturgy of Life

Here are the two most striking portions, in my view, of the Pope's sermon today in the Mass celebrated with cardinals, new and old (emphasis added):

May we always allow ourselves to be guided by the Spirit of Christ, who sacrificed himself on the Cross so that we could be channels through which his charity might flow. This is the attitude of a Cardinal, this is how he acts. A Cardinal enters the Church of Rome, not a royal court. May all of us avoid, and help others to avoid, habits and ways of acting typical of a court: intrigue, gossip, cliques, favouritism and preferences. May our language be that of the Gospel: yes when we mean yes; no when we mean no; may our attitudes be those of the Beatitudes, and our way be that of holiness.

The Holy Spirit also speaks to us today through the words of Saint Paul: You are God's temple God's temple is holy, and that temple you are (1 Cor 3:16-17). In this temple, which we are, an existential liturgy is being celebrated: that of goodness, forgiveness, service; in a word, the liturgy of love. This temple of ours is defiled if we neglect our duties towards our neighbour. Whenever the least of our brothers and sisters finds a place in our hearts, it is God himself who finds a place there. When that brother or sister is shut out, it is God himself who is not being welcomed. A heart without love is like a deconsecrated church, a building withdrawn from God's service and given over to another use.

Source link: Zenit

The idea of an existential liturgy is essential to understanding the Gospels. The temples which we are as individuals point to the entire world, created by God for good, as itself a temple. When the Pharisees attack Jesus for letting his disciples pick grain on the Sabbath, Jesus responds with the famous saying that the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. The entire world, including that field of grain in which Jesus and his disciples were walking, is the temple of God where acts of mercy like feeding the hungry even and especially on the Sabbath are called for. When the Good Samaritan enacts mercy, he was celebrating the essential existential liturgy that, ironically, the priest and Levite had bypassed. The work we do in the world as the temple of God is true liturgy--a "public work." The liturgy inside a church building imperatively and urgently points outward to the liturgy in the world, the existential liturgy, and empowers that existential liturgy with wisdom and grace to enact mercy in the world. The liturgy in the church building is a microcosm of the wider world.

(Image attribution: Gary Halvorson, Oregon State Archives)

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Speaking of Gates

We often speak of gates, the narrow gate to salvation, the wide gate to hell. But we should be very clear that God himself does not create narrow gates to salvation. As far as the God of love and mercy is concerned, the gate who is Jesus is very, very broad, for the will of God is the salvation of all, the all for whom Jesus died.

But, in the reality and experience of this world, there is indeed a narrow gate to salvation and a broader, easily entered gate to hell. What accounts for the dimensions of these two gates in our experience?

We do. The dimensions of the gate to salvation are in inverse proportion to the egotism in our hearts. The more egotism, the narrower the gate to salvation. The less egotism, and the gate to salvation widens.

The dimensions of the gate to hell are in direct proportion to the egotism in our hearts. The more egotism, the broader the gate to hell. The less egotism, the gate to hell is not so wide.

Given our endemic egotism, the gate to hell is indeed broad. Given our endemic egotism, the gate to salvation is indeed narrow.

We have to be careful about how we speak about the narrow gate to salvation and the broad gate to hell so that we avoid making God out to be a grudging, adversarial taskmaster (a role many of us have no problem playing). As far as God is concerned, the doors are wide open.

We are the ones who unnecessarily narrow the gate to salvation. The rich man is like the camel facing the eye of the needle because the rich man is the type of the arrogant and the selfish enamored with himself. The humble are not so encumbered.

(Image under Creative Commons License)

Sunday, February 9, 2014

The Emptiness Seeks to be Filled

Why do we seek so many things and especially raise up some things over others? We seek to fill the big hole within--the hole that desires affirmation, fulfillment, and to overcome a sense of inferiority.

Hence, we find a lot of arrogance grasping many idols:

1. My school is better than yours:

2. My team is the best;

3. I am a member of an exclusive club or organization;

4. My assets are the best (fill in for assets: job title, houses, bank accounts, real estate, even one's physical body).

This process is one of self-delusion. None of these things can actually make you more worthy of anything or truly happy. They are a delusion. Their greatest value seems to lie in the social participation of many others in the same delusion. Many may even believe in the same delusion that you embrace. The deluded leading and encouraging the deluded in mutual enabling of the absurd.

What then should we do?

Step outside these boxes and decline the delusions offered by our own complexes and by those of others. Step into freedom.

(Images under Fair Use Doctrine to illustrate our follies)

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Like Sailing

Here is the excerpt from the book at the Amazon link:

"The pursuit of Aristotelian virtue, like sailing, requires a constant adjustment according to changing geography and weather. When we are doing well we must be prepared for a change in fortunes, and when things are going badly we must hope for one. Alternation is the name of the game" (p. 105).

The excerpt comments on Horace's Ode 2.10 (ll. 21-4):

"In difficult circumstances show yourself spirited and brave; you would be wise too to pull in your swollen sails in a wind that is too favorable."

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Heard on the Street

Hispanic man: "We agree with Republicans on a lot of issues. But the problem is that they're racists." (My paraphrase--just reporting what I heard)