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Thursday, May 26, 2016

Blindness And Sight

Armies of mystics could get lost in the spiritual metaphor of a blind man receiving sight from Jesus. I tend to see all of it in terms of God's gradually unfolding plan of covenant love. It goes together, of course. The better disposed we are toward God, the more we can participate, and help others to participate, in the plan of redemption and salvation.

I have always loved the creative tension of knowing that the other blind man (from John 9) didn't do anything personally to "deserve" the misfortune, and yet, we know that original sin is ultimately the cause of this, and other miseries.

There is no way that I am fully entering in to the mystery of that covenant love in Christ, but it unlocks the secret of suffering. No earthly misfortune can touch the glory we are to see in Christ! If faith gives you the eyes to see that, just take a moment to reflect on that.

My friend Jason Mraz (OK, I met him one time) sings in his first hit "The Remedy (I Won't Worry)" about a friend stricken with cancer, "And what kind of God would serve this?" It's a legitimate question, not easily brushed aside, especially in terms of its emotional resonance. Still, I would have to answer, "Love, who wills us to be with Him, to share in unfathomable joy." If Steph Curry or Kevin Durant knows that shooting 5000 free throws and running 6 miles in a day will win an NBA championship, they'll do it without a second's hesitation. And that's a glory, however great, that no one will remember, in a few weeks or months' time. What kind of glory compares to the tragedy of this life? I'll bet you never turned it around like that. In the darkest valleys, no one does. It's still true, and it's still a question worth turning around.

St. Paul in fact says the suffering isn't worth comparing to the glory. That raises the stakes even higher. But trust me, friends: Jesus has the cards.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

A Regular Day On The Path To Glory

I won't say I was completely distracted during Mass, but I think I'll be working this one off. I had a fleeting moment of intense joy, thinking about Pope Gregory VII, and Jesus. Maybe we won't know that we are saints until the testing comes.

And during the Angelus, I was keenly desirous of Our Lady's intercession. That is as good a time as any, I suppose.

If my days are filled with these pleasant mercies, I won't protest.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Bread Of Life, Revisited

I think it's fair to spend time on verses 52-58 when reading John 6, especially when faced with doubt about our Eucharistic faith. Yet let us never forget that we are dealing with Jesus. There is nothing contradictory about adoring Him in the Eucharist, and believing totally that He's our Savior, who died for us, and rose again to bring us to the Father. To whom else shall we go?

I don't understand "cultural" Catholicism. I suppose I don't understand the nominal practice of any religion. Religion pertains to the most important questions a person will ever ask. Do people just think "church" is the time a couple times a year when we wear nice clothes and try not to smile? Am I the only person who thinks that's weird and stupid? I would rather watch the Packers, and I don't even like the Packers.

If this is all true, though, everything changes. We start worrying less about impressing, and more about imploring mercy.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Necessary For Salvation?

Are the sacraments necessary for salvation? The Catechism says yes. St. Thomas (or in this case, one of his students) agrees. It seems to me that the first two objections encapsulate what would become the Protestant objections to the sacramental system.

The first objection is that receiving the sacraments requires bodily effort, and we know that striving profits little. The Thomist says that would be true on the natural level, but not the supernatural level.

The second objection is that the grace from the Passion is sufficient in an unmediated way. That is, "Why have this other thing as necessary, when the most important thing has already been done?" The Thomist says that man needs the grace that the sacraments offer.

 (We'll just call the writer "The Thomist.") The Thomist says that sacraments are spiritual, in their signification, and in their causality. (Reply to Objection 1.) It seems clear that one could consider them useful but not necessary if their purpose were signification alone. It also appears, based on the reply to Objection 3, that The Thomist doesn't see a conflict between the sufficient cause, (the Passion) and the sacraments, because the sacraments are the means by which the Passion is applied to people. You might be able to re-phrase Objection 3 as a question: "Can two necessary causes exist, even if one cause depends on the other cause?"

We can see that the true conflict at the Reformation concerned the freedom of the will. If man's will is not free in the sense of bondage due to sin, then the sacramental system, thwarted only in God's saving intent by a bad will, would seem like a cruel joke. One also gets around the problem of the will by suggesting that the elect have already previously been made alive. You could argue therefore that the sacraments would fulfill their function as signs of God's salvation already wrought, and that is  precisely what Reformed Protestants argue. The question is whether it is reasonable to believe that man's will is in bondage.