Monday, September 01, 2003

A Call to Reform...it Begins With Each One of Us

I'm working on a number of talks that I have to give throughout this Fall in places like Chicago, Charleston, and Van Wert (OH). I am speaking a couple of times on the subject "living the Eucharist" with a sub-topic of how the new Mysteries of Light set out an agenda for personal reform. I am speaking on this latter topic exclusively in a talk that I'll give in October at a Diocesan rosary rally in the Diocese of Charleston, SC.

The first Lumionous Mystery is the Baptism of Jesus it brings to mind a number of passages of Scripture:

"It is you who should baptize me." "I am not worthy to unloose the strap of his sandals." "I must decrease, He must increase." "Prepare the way of the Lord." and "This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased."

Humility opens us to a true experience with God. Humility is a stance of openness to God.

I've heard a hundred talks on humility that all began the same way to the point that one would think that someone had gathered all of my teachers to some central location and said "teach humility in this way--start by writing the word on a blackboard and then point out the root of the Latin word 'humi' means 'on the cround' and then say so someone who is 'humble' has their feet on the ground." Big deal!

Humility is an attitude of expectation and it is exemplified by John the Baptist and his stance toward Christ in the Gospels in the passages quoted above.

How can we reclaim that stance in our own lives? By first repenting of the stance of Adam and Eve that we all have inherited from Original Sin. In the garden, Adam and Eve did not believe what God said, because their senses told them otherwise. The fruit on the tree looked good and desirable---this is true of every sinful choice that you or I can make in life. We need this drilled in our heads "looks good but is bad for you." Obesity is a problem in this country not because of the surplus of cakes but due to the lack of seeing the "cakes" as a bad thing to the point that they are literally poison for me.

So it is the case with just about every other type of sin you can think of inclucing sexual sins. The church proclaims the truth (often in spite of itself) and we are all in the garden of the world. Will we listen or will we "see that the fruit looks good to the eye?"

Just as an aside where does this truth come from and how can we know that it is from God?

1). Natural Law... God created the world and it was "good" so looking to nature is something that Paul in his letter to the Romans says is the "gospel" that is accessible to all people even the "unbelievers." There are many sexual sins that the Church claims to be a "disorder"of Natural Law. All sexual acts not open to procreation are considered disordered by the church.

2). Scripture...Father John Redman has written a massive work on the Gospel of John where the main thesis is that Rudolph Bultman is a modern Arius and that a large number of bishops have bought into a watered down version of the Scriptures robbing them of any real value. Anyone who has been exposed to 'pop-Scripture" study or "getting everyone to share their hidden bread and fish" knows how this leaves the authority of Scripture. However, I would say even if you accept this watered down version there are still fundamental teachings that it doesn't seem one can exclude as coming from Our Lord. Our Lord's teaching on "lust" would be one example. What does lust mean? It strikes me you can play the "culture of the time" deal with a lot of Scripture but you are still stuck with the prohibition of lust which is more sweeping than any of the individual condemnations.

Finally reclaiming a fundamental tenet of Christianity that is hardly ever mentioned. I recall a sacraments class where a bright student once asked the professor, "If baptism is all about 'inclusion in the community' then why should we ever baptize anyone in danger of death?" The professor had no answer, but did stammer for a few minutes.

3) Original Sin...The good world is in a fallen state, there is a basic "disorder" of the world that has chosen "created things" over God. Since this is ignored so much today and really the reality of Christ and the salvation offered by the church through Christ means nothing to many people including a fair number of Christians. It is interesting that several new books on the Creed mention this as the "forgotten truth" of our age.

If we don't remember that there is something basically disordered with the whole mess and the "fruit on the forbidden trees looks good" from where we are standing then we are doomed to remain part of the "fallen world" with little understanding of the salvation offered to us by Christ that can empower us to rise above it all!