Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Desert Fathers



A certain man said that there were once three men who loved labours, and they were monks. The first one chose to go about and see where there was strife, which he turned into peace ; the second chose to go about and visit the sick ; but the third departed to the desert that he might dwell in quietness. Finally the first man, who had chosen to still the contentions of men, was unable to make every man to be at peace with his neighbour, and his spirit was sad ; and he went to the man who had chosen to visit the sick, and he found him in affliction because he was not able to fulfil the law which he had laid down for himself. Then the two of them went to. the monk in the desert, and seeing each other they rejoiced, and the two men related to the third the tribulations which had befallen them in the world, and entreated him to tell them how he had lived in the desert. And he was silent, but after a little he said unto them, ' Come, let each of us go and fill a vessel of water '; and after they had filled the vessel, he said to them, ' Pour out some of the water into a basin, and look down to the bottom through it,' and they did so. And he said to them, ' What do you see ? ' and they said, ' We see nothing.' And after the water in the basin had ceased to move, he said to them a second time, ' Look into the water,' and they looked, and he said to them, ' What do you see ? ' And they said to him, ' We see our own faces distinctly '; and he said to them, ' Thus is it with the man who dwells with men, for by reason of the disturbance caused by this affair of the world he cannot see his sins ; but if he live in the peace and quietness of the desert he is able to see God clearly.'

Friday, September 8, 2017

Commentary on Sunday's Roman's reading

<snip> First, we need to remember that sin is a lack of love.  Ultimately, the popular sins of our society, which tend to be sexual in nature, are failures of love, failures to act in others’ best interest and to treat them with their full dignity as persons.  Masturbation, pornography, cohabitation, divorce, homosexual practice, contraception, abortion are acts of non-love, even if we mistakenly think, in the moment, that we are “loving” someone by committing or condoning one of these acts.

There is a common error, widespread in the contemporary Church, that love or mercy override the moral law.  This misunderstanding arises from a misreading of some things that St. Paul says in his epistles, in places where he contrasts "law" and "faith", for example.  The problem is, in most of these cases St. Paul means "the Old Testament Law" or the "Old Covenant" when he speaks of the "Law"; and "faith" means "faith in Christ" or simply "the New Covenant."  Now, the Old Law of the Old Covenant was not always loving.  Because of the "hardness of heart" of Israel, Moses permitted some things that were contrary to love.  For example, he permitted men to divorce their wives, even though this was contrary to love (Deut 24:1-4).  Jesus removed all these concessions that Moses introduced into the law of the covenant people in the Sermon on the Mount.  So Jesus says, "You have heard that it was said, 'Whoever divorces his wife, let him write her a certificate of divorce,' but I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for porneia, causes her to commit adultery ...."  What happens in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5-7), then, is that Jesus realigns law with love in the New Covenant, such that the moral teaching of Jesus (and by extension the Church) is never contrary to love.  Thus, for Christians, we can never say, "The right thing to do is X, but the loving thing to do is Y."  Nor can we ever say, "The moral thing to do is X, but the loving thing to do is Y."  Christian morality, or "the moral law", always follows love, and vice-versa.   If we think that there is a conflict between what is right and what is loving, either (1) we have misunderstood the nature of what is right, i.e. morality, or (2) we have misunderstood the nature of love.

Love has an objective aspect.  It has to be based on truth. It’s not just a subjective feeling.  You may really like someone, but if you mistakenly give them poison rather than medicine, your act is not objectively loving.  Society has completely lost sight of this fact.  Love is now confused with “niceness,” with complying with whatever a person wants. And Christians are viewed as unloving when they will not condone or cooperate with or agree to the delusions or falsehoods that some people in society want to insist upon. The Catechism is actually quite good about how the moral law follows love and vice-versa, and in its treatment of offenses against the Ten Commandments, it explains why different sins are actually a failure of love.

Secondly, a rebuke, when made with a correct intention, is also an act of love.  It is not loving to overlook the fact that people are in sin.  Of course, it is also quite possible to rebuke people out of arrogance and self-righteousness.  And, sometimes, we may have a right intention in offering a rebuke, and nonetheless be perceived as arrogant, which is painful.  Sometimes we want to avoid the risk of being perceived as self-righteous, so we avoid confronting others in love.  Sometimes our failure to rebuke is motivated by self-love.  We want to avoid the pain of possibly being rejected.  Truth and authenticity are sacrificed for the sake of social comfort.  If Pope Francis had shrunk from speaking clearly about chastity to young people in his address quoted above, he would have been failed to love them, because love tells the truth and points people toward goodness and beauty, not merely pleasure and physical comfort. <snip>

Dr. John Bergsma


Tuesday, August 29, 2017

A CONTEMPLATIVE THOUGHT

If I spend my life in
fracture-wordy-self-descriptions
which colour or define my surroundings,
Then loneliness or isolation
could be my lot.

But if by Grace I can own
and detach from my definitions of externals;

Then I can live in the present
and my soul can be:
like a tranquil lake,
whose waters well up from the purest sources of the spirit and,
untroubled by news coming from the outside,
like a clear mirror reflecting one image only,
that of Christ. 

Thursday, June 29, 2017