Universalis, About this blog

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

If not us, then who?

Listening recently to the song with that first lne in its Chorus, it occurred to me that a deeper question needs asking. Perhaps because I was recently listening to the excellent debate between the late Christopher Hitchens and William Craig at Biola University back, the question raised in my mind was this: if the good fight to right wrongs falls on whomever is so enlightened and inclined to it, there remain the crucial details of what exactly is the right thing to do in particular situations. Did God throw us into the fray to work out whatever system of ethics we wish to live by? What if we have serious and sincere disagreements about them? Is abortion wrong or not? Should the elderly and disabled be encouraged and aided in taking their own lives? Are these matters unnecessary to clarify and nail down? Even well-meaning people come from different, opposite sides in these and other important matters. Did God not intend any guidance that everyone can follow, even within their immediate communities?

The line from Elijah after he showed up the prophets of Baal struck me as apt and challenging: "How long will you go limping along with two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him. (1 Kings 18:16-40)"

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Seeking pardon is a positive

Scott Hahn posted this quote from St. Augustine n Facebook recently:

"Let us never assume that if we live good lives that we will be without sin; our lives should be praised only when we continue to beg for pardon."

My immediate reaction was "Oh, how negative!" But that's Man's thinking, not God's, because, come to think of it (by God's grace), such thinking is most positive indeed. How so? Well if one would instead say "when we continue to consult our life coach" or "accountant" or "fitness coach" and so on, we can see that such recourse makes sense if we admit our limitations while seeking help and pushing ourselves as far as we can go. Begging for pardon throughout our lives is seeking a remedy to what we know to be a constant in our lives: bad choices, rash judgments, selfishness, excess, neglect of our loved ones, shirking responsibilities, sloth, pride, a bit of this and that throughout our days and months and years. This brings to mind something that I am only recently learning to appreciate: God's mercy goes far beyond his pardon. His love is so gracious that, when he pardons, he moreover heals and makes more resilient. In bringing our weaknesses to him, he grants us strength.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Now reading: Dark Night of the Soul

As with my previous reading, this one hits me unexpectedly, where I had no idea I needed attention. For example, what St. John of the Cross calls "spiritual gluttony", i.e., (as I understand it, seeking emotional consolations). And once again I get the same message as in other sources, of recent reading or experience: smaller bites, slower pace, patience, please.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Time to Give up a Dangerous Security Blanket

I've always maintained a certain confidence in the idea that I can see even those hidden signs of God's plans because I had faith. But the penny dropped here:

.. there is no greater freedom than that of allowing oneself to be guided by the Holy Spirit, renouncing the attempt to plan and control everything to the last detail, and instead letting him enlighten, guide and direct us, leading us wherever he wills. The Holy Spirit knows well what is needed in every time and place. This is what it means to be mysteriously fruitful!

From The Joy of the Gospel:

Now that I reconsider it, I must now admit that it is far more reasonable that what I cannot see is far more than what I can see. It is, come to think of it, a perilous delusion to maintain such a source of security, like walking in the wilderness assuming that I'll never get lost. I can, and do, and the way out is not always clear to me. But there is true freedom from anxiety if I trust in whom is truly trustworthy, without the limitations that I do have. So much like.. a child simply trusting his/her Father rather than assuming that he/she, the child, must think of everything before proceeding. The latter sounds like how I feel too often, and so one has occasion to throw a tantrum and even an old Macbook Pro (thus cracking the screen)!

I do not ask to see the distant scene, one step enough for me. -- Bl. John Henry Newman.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Truth and Story

Today I heard for the first time a story about two characters named Truth and Story. It is a fascinating way to capture the way we are usually averse to being confronted by the cold, naked and harsh Truth, and may be better served by Truth wrapped in (a) Story. Story can attract more people to sit down with her, allowing her to impart Truth. Perhaps that is one reason why Jesus taught in parables in many instances, and why God became Man in the first place. It also suggests a similarity with the Old Testament notion of death at seeing God face to face, versus the intimate encounter with the Son of God in the flesh.

But I have recently been hearing this message, in prayer and reading, that my whole approach to sharing Truth has been harsh, cold, vulgar and .. ineffective. Sadly, my academic training has made it the typical approach I take, but as with my kids as with any, I must abandon it now, except in academic circles, I think.

Something else I learned in today's formation session (with the permanent diaconate programme) is that the sharing/preaching, while channeled through me, is about the Man, Jesus Christ. On the other hand, there is also the tension with not being dry and academic, so it must be human, if not personal (to me). This is an art I must learn, but perhaps it is both: it is about Christ and his expression and actions in my life. My life can be (not always) the Story that Truth is clothed in, and so God is clothed in my human story.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The Church in the world

The Church’s pastors, taking into account the contributions of the different sciences, have the right to offer opinions on all that affects people’s lives, since the task of evangelization implies and demands the integral promotion of each human being. It is no longer possible to claim that religion should be restricted to the private sphere and that it exists only to prepare souls for heaven. We know that God wants his children to be happy in this world too, even though they are called to fulfilment in eternity, for he has created all things “for our enjoyment” (1 Tim 6:17), the enjoyment of everyone.

Again from the Joy of the Gospel, Pope Francis gives a concise reason behind the need for the Church to participate. Rather than a private matter, our religion compels us to make the good news public and incarnate. Not imposing, of course, but certainly proposing (as Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has said years ago) with conviction and reason, and with good cause: if we truly love our neighbor, we must offer them what goods we have, including Truth, so that they, too, will benefit from all that God offers.