January 19, 2016

Following Jesus with Jugs of Water


One of Russell Kirk's favorites, the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius, took pains to educate his son Commodus in the Stoicism and virtue and asceticism, which completely and utterly failed to take. Edward Gibbon writes:
Nothing, however, was neglected by the anxious father, and by the men of virtue and learning whom he summoned to his assistance, to expand the narrow mind of young Commodus, to correct his growing vices, and to render him worthy of the throne for which he was designed. But the power of instruction is seldom of much efficacy, except in those happy dispositions where it is almost superfluous.
Gibbons's pessimistic line about the efficacy of instruction feels sort of truthy but I'm not sure how a Christian can subscribe to that given the pains Christ took to instruct us. I suppose it's a “both/and” - we need human and divine instruction but also Grace.

I found out who the priest is at our local St. Patrick's is, the one with the wonderfully and preternaturally calm voice and manner: Father Cassian Derbes. Turns out he was interviewed on National Review Online for the 800th anniversary of the Dominican founding. Makes me want to support NR more!

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On my way to UPS Store Saturday I listened to Catholic radio personality Jennifer Fulwiler on the radio talk about how when she was an atheist she found the argument against having children (i.e. that they're a lot of work, they annoy you, etc..) persuasive, but now she sees the meaning of life being to live with those who annoy you. That the only way to have a long-lasting, meaningful relationships is to be at peace with your plans being disrupted and being annoyed. Makes sense. The meaning of life is relationship since that's what God is (Father, Son and Spirit) and obviously humans have differing wills, priorities, personalities, peccadilloes.

Luke's gospel makes it sound so easy:  “Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell that ye have, and give alms; provide yourselves bags which wax not old, a treasure in the heavens that faileth not, where no thief approacheth.”

I love the nonchalance of the statement that it's God's pleasure to give us the kingdom, i.e. everything.

I like the archaic language in this version. “Sell what ye have” - and what do we have of value besides Christ? Thus the imperative to evangelize and “advertise” Jesus.

Luke 12:32 is a pretty awesome verse and it could stand up well as being anyone's fav in my opinion. Matthew chapter 7 has a verse that a confessor once told me to memorize, and rightly so: "Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for bread, will give a stone? Or if the child asks for a fish, will give a snake? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things…."

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I read In Cold Blood in high school. Does that even count? Does any classic I read then count given how completely different I am now after two trillion words read and innumerable experiences behind me? Was I so much in my own dream world then that Capote didn't really reach me, just as Moby Dick was a “non-experience experience”?

They say youth is wasted on the young but the classics were mostly wasted on me. I had not reached the depths of despair that I would on college - in high school I was still an innocent little burgher. The dark notes of classic books either played tunes too low to hear (like how humans can't hear dog whistles). To quote from Capote's classic, “Drama, in the shape of exceptional happenings, had never stopped there.”

The only thing I read then that resonated at all was Great Expectations. Would I be immune to its charms now? I think so, given I picked it up recently and wondered why it so captivated. I guess to every time there is a season, or a book. Great Expectations for the young, Bleak House for the middle-aged perhaps.

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Fun adventure Sunday - took the grandkids to a kids symphony concert. We got there around 2:30 for about 20 minutes of pre-concert goings-ons, specifically a temporary tattoo table. Tried out a violin as well.

Then we went into the concert and heard a good variety of great music and story-telling. “Pop Goes the Weasel” was a highlight, but by 3:20 the bloom was off the rose for the boys. Heck by 3:05pm Will was asking for my iphone, which I gave to him with the sound turned way down. So he got nothing out of it at all, other than a temp tattoo. Sam was initially enthused but soured and tired and by 3:35pm we were outta there. I think it was scheduled till 4 or 4:30.

The highlight for the boys was likely the escalators, which they enjoyed mastering. It was like a ride at King's Island.

All told a bit of a fail as far as introducing the boys to the joys of classical music. It was intended for ages 3-10, but kids of any age are pretty hard to entertain consistently, it seems to me.

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From a WaPo article:  "Voters 'do not want the truth,' Shenkman writes. 'We want hope. If the truth robs us of hope, we don’t want to hear it.'  With Christianity, truth and hope are conjoined.

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Ben Franklin: “The only thing that hurts about a rebuke is the truth.”

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Sighted on FB:
"I have no problem believing the Miracle at Cana. What's implausible is how there weren't people following Jesus with jugs of water for the rest of John's Gospel."
"Until about 200 years ago - and really until about only 85 years ago, most people were mostly drunk most of the time, for most of their lives.” [I was obviously born in the wrong age.]
“Christ turned water into wine, not wine into water. Too bad for Southern Baptist teetotalers.”
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Someone thought I'd be outraged by what Peggy Noonan wrote about Cardinal Law and the bishops who allowed abusers to continue their crimes in her collection of WSJ columns.  I don't get it because I don't see my job as cheerleading the hierarchy.  A misconception about the Church, I think, is that the misbehavior of its members somehow undercuts either her authority or her truth.

It's not “pro-Catholic” to defend Cardinal Law's inexcusable behavior around the sex abuse crisis. It's not “anti-Catholic” to excoriate him. Jesus was not being anti-Jewish when he excoriated the Pharisees in his own church – and he said they lost not one iota of their authority (“You must be careful to do everything they tell you to do,” he says in Matthew 23:3).

We live in a hyper-politicized culture, so it's natural to think of the church as just another political organization but: “If I see the Church only under the aspect of power, then it follows that everyone who doesn't hold an office is oppressed… If belonging to the Church has any meaning at all, then the meaning can only be that it gives us eternal life. We are not in the Church in order to exercise power as if in some kind of association,” as Cardinal Ratzinger wrote.

I have no problem with seeing the Catholic hierarchy in great need of change. But what I don't understand is seeing the Catholic Church as equivalent to the hierarchy. That would be like seeing America as simply the president and Congress and Supreme Court. If faith means anything, it means the Holy Spirit can act through flawed instruments. If America is much more than just Barack Obama, how much more is the Catholic Church, with Christ at the head using flawed instruments, than a mere earthly nation?

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From Scott Hahn's Catholic Bible Dictionary on sacrifice:
Sacrificial themes are not confined to the actions of Christ in the NT but are likewise applied to Christians. In one sense, this is implicit in the teaching of Jesus, who summons his followers to “take up the cross” in imitation of him (Matt 10:38; Mark 8:34; Luke 14:27). Once he describes his own crucifixion in cultic and sacrificial terms, it follows that the life of Christian discipleship would have this character as well.
This theme is developed mainly in the epistles of Paul, who uses sacrificial images and ideas to describe an array of Christian activities. For instance, he urges believers to present their “bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God” (Rom 12:1). This is an appeal for such things as chastity, temperance, mortification, and other actions of gospel morality and spirituality that surrender the body and its cravings to the will of the Lord. Other forms of sacrifice include monetary giving, such as the gift that Paul received from the church of Philippi, which he calls “a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God” (Phil 4:18).
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After reading the recent liturgical readings about Saul, I wondered why David was forgiven a much worse sin than Saul? St. Augustine said God isn't showing favoritism, but their results differed because their hearts differed, and we can't see their hearts, only God can. Not overly comforting, given my fickle heart.  Thank God for 1 John 3:20.

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I don't quite understand why Pope Francis is so polarizing in the Catholic community. I don't understand why some are giddy over him (if he was performing miracles of healing or drawing huge numbers of new people to Mass I might understand it better), nor why others think he's the anti-Christ or a heretic. He's human. (Update: I was reminded by someone that "Joy is contagious" concerning the giddiness. Yes.)

2 comments:

Jim Curley said...

Great Expectations - I have written about it before at my place. But this is a book I have read over and over (1st time in 7th grade). I find new things each time. A few years ago I decided to test it again in my 40's as it had probably been over 10-15 years. I discovered new things. (Wemmick - what can I say? Cheers

TS said...

Yeah in fairness I only read a paragraph or two of "Great Expectations" this second time I picked up recently so it's hardly a decent test!