Universalis, About this blog

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.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Irony at an ecumenical visit

I overheard the remark from a visiting Protestant, made after the Mass, about how difficult it is to attain unity among such diverse opinions in Christendom. That was the gist of it, at least, and I had to smile and sigh with some regret at the same time (where I was tucked away washing mugs). She is correct, it is difficult indeed if all we see are those diverse opinions, with no ground upon which to argue that Jesus was The Truth, not the ghostly image of diverse opinions on what is true. As a favourite author succinctly taught me in his writings many years ago, the principal question really boils down to this question: "Who do you say that I am?", as it contrast starkly against the question that preceded it: "Who do people say that I am?" The latter is about opinions. The former is not, and is not meant to be. Jesus Christ is so central to everything, and the Christian mission so important, that it stretches the imagination to suppose that he sent us off on a mission to proclaim our good opinions to the world.

A second look tells me that the above comes off as harsher than it should be. Let me point out that I do not know all, most or even enough of the crucial truths, but we have the Spirit of Truth among us (all Christians), so there is cause for hope, but also cause to work towards unity.

"charity à la carte”

.. is not the response to the gospel, to God's love, that He is looking for. He who is Love, whose love was so self-sacrificing that it took him to the passion and death on the cross, gave first, loved first, that a greater response is proper. When The Joy of the Gospel goes into the social dimensions of evangelization, Pope Francis reminds us, it seems to me, that the salvation of the world is not the aggregation of the individual salvation. Such a model seems to lose that crucial social aspect that enriches the individual through the societal family.

(Trust, too, that reading an excerpt, as I did, likewise does injustice to the whole text:)

Pope Francis also cites the small gestures of charity, which I also fall into, and that makes sense if you consider that human beings, if we truly consider them as family, are worth more than cursory gestures. This goes into the heart of charity, at the core of the gospel: God's love for us, no mere gesture but a total self-giving, to which our response should largely involve self-giving to others. It's very challenging, even if I only consider my actual family. But gestures alone would make me a rather deficient husband and father, I think.

Friday, June 06, 2014

The principal proclamation

As the foundation of anything else I should ever tell my family:

On the lips of the catechist the first proclamation must ring out over and over: “Jesus Christ loves you; he gave his life to save you; and now he is living at your side every day to enlighten, strengthen and free you.” This first proclamation is called “first” not because it exists at the beginning and can then be forgotten or replaced by other more important things. It is first in a qualitative sense because it is the principalproclamation, the one which we must hear again and again in different ways, the one which we must announce one way or another throughout the process of catechesis, at every level and moment.

Just another piece of dynamite from the Joy of the Gospel. He later writes about catechesis as accompanying someone, and that is precisely, par excellence, what I should be doing with my family: accompanying them while they, too, teach me about the love of God in Jesus Christ.

Thursday, June 05, 2014

The primacy of conscience

Having recently heard this phrase recently, this defence of one's dissent from Church, it got me thinking about some boundaries for this concept. Without having done an in-depth study, my immediate thought is that such primacy applies to one's culpability. It probably cannot be the basis for developing or teaching doctrine.

I found this interesting primer on culpable sincerity at another blog, which goes in depth on this.