Monday, June 29, 2015

Imago Dei and Cultural Collapse II


    
 The internal senses are powers of man’s rational soul, they are located in no particular place within the body. That is because the rational soul is immaterial in nature as a result the powers themselves are immaterial, they cannot be measured empirically. These powers work in harmony with the external senses. The four internal senses are a product of cause and effect. The existence of a effect can lead us to seek it’s effect. We discover the nature of a cause “by studying the effects that proceed from it.” The four internal senses are the common sense, the common sense, the imagination, sense memory, and the cogitative sense. The internal senses require a bit more fleshing out.

     The common sense is that sense which receives all of the sights, smells, and sounds and any other information from the external senses, brings them together and makes a coherent picture of the object being sensed. It knows the difference between sound and color. The mental image that I am sensing whether it be an airplane or a statue, is temporary and lasts only as long as the image is being sensed.

     The imagination is also an image making power, it comes from the latin word, imaginari, which 
means to picture oneself. The imagination unlike the common sense stores an image permanently. What we observe with the common sense can later be stored in the imagination. Another important difference is that quite obviously, the image in the imagination is not as vivid as the image when it is present. St. Thomas Aquinas considered the imagination to be an invaluable aid to the intellect in the discovery of truth. It aids the intellect in abstracting the essential nature of things in the visible world. 

     Sense memory is the internal sense that helps us to recall certain things or events of the past. It differs from imagination in that it always deals with past experience. They tend to be more factual and relative to our past experiences. Without the aid of this sense, every encounter with a thing would seem an entirely novel and new experience. Memory is invaluable when it comes to education. “To learn means to take permanent possession of an object of knowledge,” permanent possession is held in the memory. Without it, learning would not be possible. 

     The final internal sense is the cogitative sense. This sense is akin to the instinct in an animal. It is the sense that enables us to make an instantaneous judgement as to “helpfulness or harmfulness of something with we come in contact.” It provides a nearly immediate response to a stimuli. St. Thomas believed that it was difficult to draw a strict line between the “judgements of the cogitative sense and judgments of reason.” The judgements tend to be closely related to a rational deliberative judgement. 

     The highest powers of the soul are the intellectual powers. It is a necessity that the external and interior senses be understood, so that man can take his rightful place among the creatures. As St. Thomas says, “in God alone His action of understanding is His very being.” In the human person the intellectual powers of the soul, while they are the primary way in which we image God, they are simply powers. In God, however, “His intellect is His essence.”God gave man the intellectual capacity to know the truth and to choose the good, however, the process for man is more arduous and at times quite difficult. It requires the use of his body and his interior external and internal senses. With respect to man and who he is, if he begins to think to much of his ability to think and do, he may squander his freedom on choices that do not promote the common good of the culture. Though created with an intellect and a free will, Adam found himself in precisely this predicament.

     The intellect and the will are two insoluble powers. The will never operates apart from the intellect. Therefore, it is always in possession of a greater or lesser degree of knowledge. The will is ordered to action or doing the good that we know. It is dependent on the intellect. Man’s intellect is capable of taking things apart, so that he can come to a more profound understanding of what they are and how they fit together. The proper object then of the intellect is being or as St. Thomas reminds us, “being as revealed in the essential nature of things.” Another way to state it, is truth. The intellect is concerned with the discovery of the truth about things and their nature. The universe was created by God, therefore, while there are many moving parts, they amount to an integrated whole. This is not to say that the will cannot move the intellect. The will can cease any particular intellectual operation, guide it’s direction, encourage a lazy intellect, and assist the intellect in overcoming distractions. At times it is difficult to determine where when begins it’s work and where the other ends. Nevertheless, the work of the external senses in union with the internal senses give the intellectual powers the information they need to discover the truth about the created order and to act on that truth.

     In the loving providence of the Father, he forged us with the ability to know the and choose to love Him. He revealed His plan for our salvation over time, culminating in the Word Made Flesh, Jesus Christ. John uses describes the incarnate son as the Word, in an effort to clearly define His participation with the Father in creation. All of the powers of the human soul are ordered to this revelation and to the restoration, through grace of the life of God which was lost in the free choice of Adam in the garden. God the Father, through the Son, gives us His grace through His Son and the sacraments that he instituted, particularly the Eucharist. Jesus says in the gospel, “unless you eat the flesh of the son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life and I will raise Him on the last day.” (Jn. 6: 53-54) Jesus asserts implies that since the garden and until now, the divine life has been absent from the soul. His express desire is to elevate the nature of the human person to a participation in the divine life. This desire requires, the that the human person, recognize his dignity, accept Christ’s words, and receive his flesh with faith. This is new faith is a return to the harmony with God that was lost in the garden. God the source of eternal life through His Son restores the culture by making His dwelling within the human soul, which He has designed precisely for this communion.

     The nature of man is such that he is ordered toward truth and goodness. God has given him a share in His very own capacities in order that he might be a living representation of His attributes in the world. The loving communion of the Holy Trinity, is the image which man is made to aspire to and Jesus Christ gives us a share in that life so that the culture itself may be imbued with God’s holiness. However, in order for man to become the true living image of God, he must first accept who he is and reject any notion that he is the center of the universe, or that he is the source of all truth and goodness. The Kantian notion, sometimes referred to as Kantian idealism is that truth can be determined within our own minds and imposed on the world. This it seems is an extension of Adam’s philosophy, things are not actually what they appear to be. Adam’s moral relativism destroyed his culture, much the same way that it is destroying the current culture. However, God made man for more. His image of God and union with Christ are the key to the restoration of the culture. Man was created to know, love, and serve. As such he can be force for great good or the source of his own self destruction. If man is to flourish in harmony with Christ and one another, these fundamental first principles must once again be commonly accepted.

Those items in quotes if they are not expressly noted are taken from two books. The first is "Holy People, Holy Land" by Michael Dauphanais and Matthew Levering. The other is a book called Philosophical psychology by D.Q. Mcinerny. Brilliant men.

Keep Praying for me. I pray for each of you daily!
Pray the Rosary Daily!

Be Holy, Not Worldly!
Sacred Heart of Jesus, Have Mercy on Us!

Friday, June 26, 2015

Imago Dei and Cultural Collapse

     

What does it mean to be made in the image and likeness of God? Scripture and tradition tell us one thing and a culture in flight from God want us to believe another. What we believe about man, who he is, his capabilities, and his destiny, inevitably shape the culture. If man is simply a product of randomly shifting organisms and gases, could we reasonably expect from him a well ordered society? Could he even definitively know who he was? The answer it would seem is a resounding no. He would be a slave to those mechanisms of the body which he has no control over. Man’s fundamental misunderstanding of himself and his destiny, in every epoch has meant the collapse of the culture. When man discovers that he is made in the image and likeness of God and orders himself to that transcendent truth it is the first principle of a flourishing culture. 

     God builds the first culture as we are told, when he creates the universe and everything in it. However, He has no reason to do so. He freely chooses to bring forth the universe from nothing. (CCC 296). By His free life giving choice, he gave man a share in his divine life, though nothing in the universe, not even man will make Him more perfect, more holy, or loving. (CCC: 295) God simply is the perfect fulfillment of those attributes. The universe is the product of a well ordered mind free to choose. The design of the universe has written into it’s nature order and purpose. (CCC 283) All of which can be discovered by the Human person, whom is a part of the universe and was designed to definitively know his place in it and order his life to that placement.

     God brings forth as a part of creation the human person. It is at that moment that God himself tells us who man is: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said be fruitful and multiply.” (Gn. 1:28).  Fr. John Hardon  defines image as, “a representation or likeness of something…and implies that one thing (the image) is both a reflection and pattern of something else.” When we say that man is in the image and likeness of God, we mean that he really and truly represents God’s truth, goodness, and beauty in the world. 

     In the recounting of creation we discover the first culture. It was a culture that was and is governed by a moral law and the arbiter of that moral law is God. Adam and Eve knew that and initially chose to abide in God and His word. They were given the freedom to eat of any tree in the garden but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Of that tree, not even contact is allowed. In other words “the tree of knowledge of good and evil, indicates that God’s wisdom, not the decision of human beings, ultimately defines what is good and evil for human beings.” As long as they understood who they were and lived in accord with that truth, they reflected God’s love for them in the world. The result of their fidelity to what could be known by reason and what was revealed by God, was a profound holiness that sprang from union with God. This holiness was measured by a fourfold harmony, “between themselves and nature, between body and soul (no shame), between each other (one flesh), and between themselves and God.” As long as man freely chooses to abide by this design, they live “in the interior presence of God, a spiritual condition that elevates and perfects our bodily nature as well.”  When they lost sight of who they were, the culture of harmony was destroyed.

    In order to rebuild a harmonious culture there are certain facts about who man is that must be recovered. Man is a composite of body and soul. Hence his powers are below God and the angels and above the plants and the animals. Man is unique in that he has a body or matter like all of the lower forms of life, and yet his soul, his spiritual component is ordered to his eternal end, namely God. No other creature was created for God and for the high call of holiness, like man. Therefore, in His wisdom, God, formed man with a number of powers that correspond to his task of knowing and loving. St. Thomas Aquinas says of these powers, “the human soul abounds  in a variety of powers; -because it is on the confines of spiritual and corporeal creatures; and therefore the powers of both meet together in the soul.” The unique combination of a human body and a rational or spiritual soul require certain power if man is to attain union with God and complete the work set out before him as a result of that union. 

     Man is one. He is not a body and a soul glued together. He has a corporeal nature and a spiritual nature that are bound together and make him who he is. These two natures make “man a perfectly unified creature.” This does not mean that there isn’t a hierarchy of being involved. The soul is far more important than the body, we say that “the soul is subsistent.” Which is to that the soul enjoys the freedom of being able to exist on it’s own. The body on the other hand loses it’s essential nature when it loses the soul. It ceases to be a body and becomes a decaying corpse, while the soul maintains it’s essential nature and it’s rationality. 

     Within this unity is a complex set of powers that aid man in his pursuit of truth and goodness. St. Thomas Aquinas says that “there are five genera of powers of the soul.” Consideration will be given to three, his five exterior senses, the internal senses and the intellectual powers. 

     It is important to address the external senses because since about the time of the 17th century and Rene DesCartes, skepticism has been cast upon their reliability. The five exterior senses of man are sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch. Descartes thought it fitting to call into question whether the human ability of these highly specialized organs could be trusted. They were designed to put the human person “in contact with a particular aspect of the physical world in which we live.” As previously stated the world is ordered and knowable. The rejection of the universal human ability to trust the exterior senses is devastating to any culture. Yet, this epistemological view is widely hailed as a triumph in today’s culture, most notably, for example in the widespread acceptance of the theory that we cannot know for sure what a particular person's gender is or what marriage is. 


     Each one of these senses has a corresponding organ. The sense of sight is conducted by the eyes and is perhaps the most important to all of the other senses. It puts us in contact with actually existing things an aid to the other senses. Our ability to hear sound resides in the ear. Sound is also integral to the rational soul, as it is one of “the principal means by which meaning is conveyed.” The third exterior sense is the sense of smell, as conducted by the organ the nose. While not as meaningful for determining the meaning of things, for example smoke in a building. “Aristotle considered the sense of taste to be something of an extension of the sense of touch,” in order for us to taste something contact with that thing is required. Touch on the other hand tends to be acquainted with pleasure or pain. We know if something is to hot or to cold the moment that we handle it. One thing is for certain we know. On those few rare occasions we are uncertain, we can turn to our internal senses for aid. 

Those items in quotes if they are not expressly noted are taken from two books. The first is "Holy People, Holy Land" by Michael Dauphanais and Matthew Levering. The other is a book called Philosophical psychology by D.Q. Mcinerny. Brilliant men. Stay tuned for part two, the internal senses and the intellectual powers.

Keep Praying for me. I pray for each of you daily!
Pray the Rosary Daily!
Be Holy, Not Worldly!
Sacred Heart of Jesus, Have Mercy on Us!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Natural Justice..

     
The virtue of justice plays a central role in understanding the philosophical principles of Aristotle. He understood justice as a virtue that was imbedded so deeply in the existence of things, that he asserted it was of itself natural. Aristotle’s view that the universe is ordered and knowable lends itself to the idea that there are universal principles that apply to all. As such he believed that there were two types of justice. Natural justice and legal justice.
     
Aristotle used the word natural to describe the type of justice that is written into nature itself. It is a type of justice or law, that can be known by reason and does not require a written law. In 1134b20 he says, “The natural has the same validity everywhere alike, independent of its seeming so or not.” In other words, there is a law that it is written directly into the fabric of creation, which is universal. All human beings are bound to this law, whether they accept it’s existence or not. 
    
In 1134b25, Aristotle says “the natural is unchangeable and equally valid everywhere-fire, for instance burns both here and in Persia.” Another example that would manifest the truth of this statement is that the murder of an innocent human being is always and everywhere wrong. Our ability to know that is written into our ability to know things and to know ourselves. For example, as a reasonable man, I am capable of assessing my life. I can ask the question, “is my life valuable?” or “do I want to die?” The honest answer to the first question is yes and to the second, no. I value my life to the point that I do not wish for anyone to harm me or try to take it from me. It is therefore, reasonable to believe that ,if I, a human being, value my life, Dr. Shaw, a human being values her life as well. It does not take long to discover that human beings generally value their lives, and do not wish have it violently taken from them against their will. This natural law is universal. It is the same from every culture in every age. 
    
On the other hand, legal justice is that justice which is imposed upon a society or culture by means of those in authority. This is to say that a governing body has determined that some act  is wrong and in the process of this deliberation, they have enacted a law. Governing bodies often decide what is right or wrong in a society or a culture and enact laws. The problem that we face today is that “…everything just is merely legal.” (1134b25). This can bring about a great deal of confusion within society. 
     
To hold this position is to hold that everything just is subject to those who are in authority. There is no higher authority than those who hold power over society or culture. If this were the case, it would be possible at some point to deny that life is a universal good and right. For example a society might begin to ask the question when does life begin? Thinking that the answer depends not on nature or reason, rather, on the power of men to decide. The universal law governing the taking of innocent life may be called into question. When two zebras procreate, we do not wonder whether or not the thing growing in momma zebra’s womb is a human being or a platypus. When and eagle lays eggs, we do not wonder whether or not the contents of the eggs are human beings or elephants. We know that the thing contained therein is a zebra or an eagle. In the latter, case there is in fact a federal law prohibiting the destruction of the life within the egg at any stage. Nevertheless, we know that when a man and a woman procreate and the woman is with child. The thing in the womb is a human being. It has human DNA, it’s own. It is growing. A sign that the thing is alive. And therefore, in order to abort the continued growth of the human life, in other words to stop it’s growth, we have to end it’s life. This is contrary to the natural law that all life is valuable and no one has the right to take an innocent life. 

   
  It is important that the natural law be known and understood by all who are in authority to enact laws upon the governed. If natural law is rejected or held in contempt, those who make the laws, will begin the slow decent into tyranny. Tyranny, begins with the rejection of universal truth. Accepting that the only binding laws that exist are those who are enacted by those in rightful authority, is the acceptance of a reality that is relative to those who are in power at the moment. We can see this error in the one child policy in China or the killing of innocent Christians in the middle east. Does the fact that ISIS holds power, justify their elimination of Christians for simply being Christian? Even though laws may very from culture to culture, disagreement does not prove that there is no natural law. Disunity and disagreement exist. They are however, a sign that perhaps someone is right or wrong. If they are not than it seems to me that we are willing to accept that power determines truth. That truth itself is relative. If that is the case, one is left to ask simply what was wrong with Hitler, he had the legitimate power to make and enforce the laws?

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The Four Causes


In Aristotle’s work “Physics,” he asserts that the things of the universe are ordered and knowable.  Aristotle gives us insight into how these things ought to be understood  if we are to discover the truth which is written into it. Aristotle approaches things in a very systematic manner. He begins by discussing nature and the nature of things, which leads to his discussion on change or movement. This of course helps us to understand what things are. 
     
“Of the things that exist, some exist by nature, others through other causes. Those that exist by nature include animals and their parts, plants, and simple bodies like earth, fire, air, and water-for of these and such like things we do say that they exist by nature….”
     
     To begin with Aristotle claims that there are those things that exist by nature. Things that have a particular form. All things however, have an intelligible form, in other words, we are able to discover the essence of the thing. In this sense Aristotle believes that we can discover not only what a thing is, to know its form, but, why a thing is what it is. When we know what and why a thing is, we are more easily able to discover the purpose of the thing. We are able to discuss with greater clarity the true nature of the thing.
     
Can the nature of a thing change? Change in Aristotelean terms does not refer to the essence or nature of the thing necessarily changing. 

“…for each of them has in itself a source of movement and rest. This movement is in come cases movement from place to place, in other it takes the form of growth and decay, in still others of qualitative change.” 

The first example he gives of movement is really the only example he gives that involves moment as we tend to think of movement. Some things have local motion or move from place to place. The other two however, are not movement or change in location, rather, an actual change in the the thing itself. The second manner of movement is what he calls growth and decay and the third is an actual change in the qualities of the thing.
     
So, for example, if I had a bed frame made of solid oak. The frame itself would not have local motion, it would move only if I and my large friends decided to move it. Nor would the bed frame likely grow. Though, the wood, prior to being cultivated for the purpose of a bed frame, had the quality of growth, as it was an oak tree. The bed frame would not likely decay, rather, the wood, which the bed frame is made of would decay. When wood is used to make a bed frame it does not suddenly become something other than wood, nor does it cease being wood, when it begins to decay. But wood tends to decay when it is in the forest and not when has been cured and stained and made into a bed frame. It’s qualities changed during the process of being chopped down and used for a bed frame. They may change again, if I decide to paint the bed frame. But a bed frame is not a natural thing. By contrast, a human being is born, moves about from place to place of it’s own free will, matures, grows, acquires wisdom, and dies, because this is the nature of a human being. Aristotle believes that nature begets change and that if we observe it closely enough, as a result of it’s order and purpose we can come to a deeper understanding of what it is. 
     
As previously mentioned the what or form is important to Aristotle. However, a wise man knows not only what things are, but why things are. In order to discover reason or why of a thing, we can think of them in terms of four different causes, material cause, formal cause, efficient cause, and final cause. 
     
A material cause is easy enough, it is the stuff or substance of a thing. This is an important consideration. It goes directly to the form of the thing. Why is a statue what it is? Because it is made of bronze or gold. This directs us to the matter or material of the thing. It is relevant and helpful, but it does not get us entirely to the why.
    
Next we can look at the formal cause of a thing. In each thing there is something about that thing, which makes it this thing and not that thing. It’s form is what it is. Forms differ. In the case of the oak bed frame. It was prior, an oak tree. As a bed frame it still has the quality of oak, but, has the shape and form of a bed frame. We say that a zebra is a zebra in light of it’s stripes, four legs, long face, and short mane. We do not confuse it with a fish, which has no legs, rather, fins and survives primarily in water. In this sense the form of a thing is also determined by it’s shape, structure and ability to perform certain tasks. 
     
Once again, this is helpful, but perhaps a third cause will enlighten us further in regards to why a thing is what it is. Here we look at how the bed frame became a bed frame, when it was previously an oak tree. We call this the efficient cause. Perhaps there was a lumberjack, and a carpenter, and a designer involved in the oak tree’s transformation from tree to bed frame. In the case of the zebra, it certainly did not generate itself. Nothing brings itself into being. It was likely the product of a male and female zebra, we call them parents.
     
And the last of the these we will call a final cause. The final cause tells us the purpose of the thing. What does it do? In the case of the bed frame, it supports a comfortable mattress and elevates it from the floor. In the case of our friend the zebra, it runs from lions and begets baby zebras.

    
 In all of this Aristotle is trying to tell us that nature has order. The idea that natural substances are ordered to a certain end is called teleology. Aristotle’s view of the universe is that there is order written into it and we can discover it if we are willing to look closely enough at things and honestly observe not only what they are, but why they are, what they are. 

Monday, June 22, 2015

Pope Pius XI: Act of Consecration of the Human Race to The Sacred Heart of Jesus



“The kingship and empire of Christ have been recognized in the pious custom, practiced by many families, of dedicating themselves to the Sacred Heart of Jesus; not only families have performed this act of dedication, but nations, too, and kingdoms. In fact, the whole of the human race was at the instance of Pope Leo XIII, in the Holy Year 1900, consecrated to the Divine Heart.

We institute the Feast of the Kingship of Our Lord Jesus Christ to be observed yearly throughout the whole world on the last Sunday of the month of October–the Sunday, that is, which immediately precedes the Feast of All Saints. We further ordain that the dedication of mankind to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which Our predecessor of saintly memory, Pope Pius X, commanded to be renewed yearly, be made annually on that day.” Pope Pius XI

"We the Christians are the true Israel which springs from Christ, for we are carved out of His heart as from a rock." -- St. Justin Martyr (d. 165)

"Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls." -- Matthew 11:29

"There is in the Sacred Heart the symbol and express image of the infinite love of Jesus Christ which moves us to love in return." -- Pope Leo XIII

Recently this prayer has become a part of my daily devotional time. I usually pray it after mass and before my time set aside for meditation. The Church is in a dark period. That is no reason to leave, it is reason however, to pray, give alms, do penance, fast, stay close to the Sacraments and then wake up tomorrow and do it all over again. One thing I cannot suggest more strongly, is that you submit yourself to the Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ and His divine Kingship!

Most sweet Jesus, Redeemer of the Human race, Look down upon us, humbly prostrated before Thine altar.

We are Thine and Thine we wish to be; but to be more surely united with Thee, behold each one of us freely consecrates himself today to Thy Most Sacred Heart.

Many, indeed, have never know Thee; many, too, despising Thy precepts, have rejected Thee. Have mercy on them all most merciful Jesus, and draw them to Thy Sacred Heart. 

Be Thou King, O Lord, not only of the faithful who have never forsaken Thee, but also of the prodigal children who have abandoned Thee, grant that they may quickly return to their Father's house, lest they die of wretchedness and hunger. 

Be thou King of those who are deceived by erroneous opinions, or whom discord keeps all of and call them back to the harbour of truth and unity of faith, so that soon there may be but one flock and one shepherd.

Be Thou King of all those who even now sit in the shadow of idolatry or Islam, and refuse not Thou to bring them into the light of Thy Kingdom. Look, finally with eyes of pity upon the children of that race, which was for so long a time Thy chosen people; and let Thy Blood, which was once invoked upon them in vengeance, now descend upon them also in a cleansing flood of redemption and eternal life. 

Grant, O Lord, to Thy Church, assurance of freedom and immunity from harm: give peace and order to all nations, and make the earth resound from pole to pole with one cry: Praise to the Divine Heart that wrought our salvation: to it be glory and honour forever. Amen

Pray the Rosary Daily!
Sacred Heart of Jesus, Have Mercy on Us!
Be Holy, Not Worldly!

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Be Perfect....


The beatitudes are the beginning of the sermon on the mount. They signify the beginning of perhaps Christ’s most memorable moral teaching in the gospel as they convey a fulfillment of Moses teaching of the 10 commandments. They are however, not His last word on the moral law in the gospel. They are the epic springboard to a series of teachings on the moral life and it’s correspondence with holiness. There are to many chapters here for us to examine all of the them. We will examine chapter Mt. 5: 13-48. 
     
The first thing that we notice about the sermon on the mount is that there are several themes throughout the chapter. Jesus seems to root His teaching in a few principles and he routinely returns to them. There are four principles that are noticeable. The first is the interior disposition required of a person to enter the kingdom of heaven. The second recurring theme is the uprightness of intention as it regards religious practice. The third theme is trusting in the divine providence of God the Father, and the last theme is the behavior of an orthodox christian toward his neighbor. We find these themes throughout the sermon on the mount as well as in Mt. 5: 13-48.
     
The beatitudes begin the sermon on the mount with a discussion of the interior disposition required of a disciple of Christ. This theme is repeated throughout the sermon on the mount. It is an important aspect of the teaching of Christ. He makes it very clear that the kingdom of God is not for those who simply attempt to live by some exterior set of guidelines. Entry into the kingdom of God depends on more than just good behavior. It is more than just being nice. It is the purification of the heart. The Israelites were waiting for God to “take from them their stony hearts.” Christ has come to do just that. 
    
In the gospel of Matthew, Jesus “you are the salt of the earth, (Mt. 5: 13) the flavor of the world. Salt is used to give things flavor to make them more tasty. “You are the light of the world,” the light conquers the darkness. Salt disappears into food, it is not something that we necessarily see, light radiates from within. These things are inner dispositions which lead the soul to a joyful witness of the gospel. When salt loses it’s flavor “it is not longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trodden under foot.” (Mt. 5:13). In other words, when our interior disposition is not one of supernatural virtue, we become less effective disciples. Our exterior witness is no longer meritorious for us or for others. 
     
Jesus returns to this theme when he discusses anger. He says that we have all heard of the commandment prohibiting murder and then without warning he internalizes it, “but I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment..” (Mt. 5:22). There may be appropriate times to be angry, however, Jesus says that anger that is not justified is an offense against charity. Which can start with internal irritation and lead to utter contempt for the person.  Jesus is cautioning us always to be aware of our interior dispositions, they are the root cause of our exterior disharmony. He says that when we do not attend to the root cause we put ourselves in a position to be “liable to the hell of fire.”
     
Our interior disposition is the foundation for the second principle, that is the uprightness of intention as it regards our religious practice. If our religious practice is to be compelling it must find it’s origin in a heart of charity. One that is seeking ever deeper union with Christ. “for I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Mt. 5: 20), the scribes and the Pharisees put all of the emphasis on external, ritual observance. There approach to the religious precepts of the law stressed  perfection in practice as the path to salvation. They believed that righteousness, or holiness, was a product of the precise observance of the law. “If I do x, I will be holy, and therefore God will save me.” This approach leaves no room for God to work, it is man who is doing all of the work exteriorly. This principle can be applied to all of the teachings in the gospel of Matthew. The life of the disciple as the Church teaches is the extension of his religious life, or his life of worship, or his relationship with Christ. God the Father is love, Christ is God the Son. God the Son teaches that the moral life is a product of our inner union with His life. He makes this clear when he says “you therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly father is perfect.” (Mt. 5: 48) We will revisit that verse later.
     
As we have seen the right interior disposition will lead us to an upright or holy practice of the precepts of Catholicism. Our growth in holiness depends a great deal on the third principle, our trust in the Father’s providence. This theme runs throughout the gospel of Matthew, but hear it quite clearly when Jesus proclaims, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfill them.” (Mt. 5:17) There is a modern tendency to speak as if Jesus had an entirely different plan for salvation than that of His Father. In the loving plan of the Father, the law was revealed to Moses and the prophets spoke of the coming of the Messiah to fulfill the law. Jesus is not a discontented child. Rather, He is in communion with His Father, and shares an unbreakable unity of mind and action. What the Father revealed at an earlier point in salvation history has great purpose even now. It is to be trusted and embraced. It was in the Father’s providence that the incarnation of His Son fulfilled the plan of salvation history. We must therefore, trust the providential plan of the Father as revealed in the Old Testament and fulfilled in Christ. 
     
With a foundation for our interior disposition, religious practice, and faith in God’s plan, we can now turn to the fourth theme, How we are called to treat our neighbors. We spoke about anger. We are called to love God above all things and then to love our neighbor as ourselves. Sin devastates, eats way at, and severs our relationship with God, it has the same effect on our neighbor. The moral law requires once again that we understand the root interior cause of our sin. Jesus is a model of virtue for us. In other words, by His life, he shows us what moral behavior looks like. But He also teaches us what specific moral behavior is required of us with our neighbors. Jesus clearly defines marriage in Matthew 19, but in Matthew 5: 27 he tells that once we choose our spouse, that fidelity is imperative. The act of adultery is intolerable, however, in order to love our wife properly, we ought not even look at a woman with lust. (Mt. 5: 28) If we do we have already committed adultery with her in our hearts. Jesus also says that what is due to our spouse is a commitment to indissolubility, when he says, “every one who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, makes her an adulteress; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.” (Mt. 5:32) Jesus also demands that we love our “enemies and pray for those” who persecute us. (Mt. 5:44). There are a number of other clear teachings on the treatment of our neighbor but these suffice for now.

     
These four themes that recur in the gospel of Matthew share one overarching theme. That is the pursuit of a holy life. God has designed us for Himself and the human person can only find happiness when he freely orders his interior life to God and the right worship of God. When our interior dispositions are properly ordered, our worship of God becomes rightly ordered and meritorious. Which leads to a greater trust in the love of God the Father for  and necessarily a greater love of neighbor. The universal call to holiness is not a request but a command of God for those who wish to enter into the kingdom of God. Our sanctity in the end then depends on our willingness to participate in the life of Christ, to accept His divine love and mercy, and be living witnesses to that love and mercy in the world. “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Mt. 5:48) 

Pray the Rosary Daily
Sacred Heart of Jesus, Have Mercy On Us!
Be Holy, Not Worldly!  

Friday, May 29, 2015

Paradise Lost



Why are there so many broken relationships? Why does it seem that there is so much suffering in the world? Both of these questions can be answered only if we are willing to take a closer look at original sin. Original sin is a reality that cannot be escaped. It is the absence in the human person of what ought to be there. 

     Man was created in the image and likeness of God. Man’s very essence is derived from the generosity of God, who is being, the perfection of being, in Himself. Like God, Adam had a mind and a free will. In his creation he encountered a harmonious world. There was no disunity or disharmony, between Adam and God, his neighbor, nature, or between his body and soul. That fourfold harmony was a result of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit or sanctifying grace. As Long as Adam freely chose to accept who he was and his dependance on God, that harmony would remain.

     Adam was made for relationship. The fulfillment of relationship was the gift of sanctifying grace indwelling in his soul. The harmony of his relationships could only be disrupted by his own free choosing. If Adam, in humility, could continue to subordinate himself to the God who created him, harmony would remain. However, the moment that he sees something more in himself or  he rejects the fact that he is a creature in a created world or rejects the truth of the entire created order, the end result would be disharmony. Cardinal Ratzinger says of this rejection “Human beings who consider dependence on the highest love as slavery and who try to deny the truth about themselves, which is their creatureliness, do not free themselves; they destroy truth and love.” (Ratzinger, In the Beginning..., Pg. 70)

     This preference for autonomy and elevation to the throne of God is the very essence of sin. It is a rejection of the good of the created order and “in it’s essence, a renunciation of the truth.” (Ratzinger, pg. 71) This was the choice that Adam made at the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The natural moral law is subject to God alone. It is universal and immutable. In Adam’s haste he failed to accept that this law imposes upon him limitations. Cardinal Ratzinger says that those who “deny the limitations imposed on them by good and evil, which are the inner standard of creation, deny the truth.” (pg. 71) This denial caused a colossal break in his relationship with God. As a result there is a disharmony where there previously was none. The relationship between God and man is now damaged. As a result, man lost what ought to be present in his soul, the sanctifying grace of God. 

     Sin is not therefore, some abstract principle. It is the reality of the free action of an individual. The whole history of sin begins in chapter three of Genesis and it has it’s origin in the free choice of Adam to reject his dependence on God. (Pg. 71).  If men are to understand and to conquer the consequences of original sin, a deeper understanding of the human person is necessary. As was mentioned before, God made man perfectly. He gave him all that he needed in order to live in communion with Him and choose the good. Freedom is a necessary part of that goodness. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church says: “Sin is an abuse of the freedom that God gives to created persons so that they are capable of loving him and loving one another.” (CCC 387) 

     In this lies original sin. Given everything necessary to remain in communion with God, man is created in goodness. Everything that God has created is good. Everything in man is good. God gave him every gift necessary for goodness. However, in his narrow groping for the power to arbitrate truth, man rejects the goodness which has been bestowed upon him. In so doing, he severs his relationship with God. His free choice is the impetus for the entry of disharmony and evil to enter the world. It enters through the absence of sanctifying grace or the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in man. This is what ought to be there. It’s absence is the absence of the good that ought to  be present in man. 
     St. Thomas Aquinas affirms this in the Summa Theologicae. He says that there are three goods of human nature. They are the powers of the soul, man’s inclination to virtue, and the gift of original justice or holiness. He goes on to say that the last of these three goods, original justice, was lost in the fall, while the inclination to virtue is diminished as a result of it. In other words, what was originally a part of human nature is now absent due to the first man’s rejection of the God. All of this has led to an imperfect pursuit of the recovery of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit or justice. Which in turn has led to the presence of disorder and evil in the world. 


     The absence of the good, is as Ratzinger says the absence of truth. Which is the absence of love. For this reason original sin has led to a world in which relationships are damaged and the good is difficult to attain. Ratzinger says “God’s love can unify damaged human love and radically reestablish the network of relationships that have suffered from alienation.” (pg. 74) The suffering and evil that have entered the world through original sin, can only be remedied by the re-orienting one’s life to Christ and the sanctification in the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. 

Pray the Rosary Daily!
Be Holy, Not Worldly!
Sacred Heart of Jesus, Have Mercy on Us!