May 14, 2008

Random Thoughts

There's something eminently practical in the Evangelical approach to things. You could call it quintessentially American since Americans are a practical people.

A local Protestant church, for example, distributed a book to all members with a title that echoes a famous phrase in corporate circles only instead of helping companies get better, this helps families. It looks "self-helpy" but I didn't delve too deeply. I can't imagine any Catholic church handing out free copies of any book, let alone one what improving your familial relationships.

Love seems primarily experiential, not something of a didactic nature, although that could be based on my heretical tendency to see love as a feeling rather than an act of the will. The word "knowledge" is used promiscuously as either book knowledge or street smarts, the learning of facts or the lived experience of those facts. Presupposing that facts = knowledge, I read of a biographer, certainly not alone in this, who says she knows her long-dead subject: "I've lived with so-and-so for five years during the writing of this book". On the other side of the fence we also speak of sexual intercourse as a form of knowledge preceded by the adjective 'carnal'.

In the bible God uses imagery that refers often to experience. He loves with a "father's love", a second-hand knowledge that is accessible to fathers and children, though many aren't fathers and some never knew theirs, thus requiring for them either first or third hand knowledge. Experience is of degrees, like relics which are first degree, second degree and third degree. You may have the experience of first hand, second hand or third hand. The trick, I think, is to be content with whatever level of relic to which God calls us to.

Thankfully God is in love with others, for that is our surety that He loves us. And which is why we're still here. If he loved only us, why would he make us endure the earth when we could be with Him? Heard a Protestant preacher this week say that proof that not everyone goes to Heaven is the continuing existence of earth. "If everyone goes to Heaven," he said, "then why doesn't He just end things right now and bring us all to Heaven? It would make God out to be monstrous if he kept us here suffering when we're all going to Heaven anyway. No, he gives us a whole lifetime to decide where we want to spend eternity."

The question comes up: What if we've already decided? The answer is help influence your neighbor's decision.

"Influence", though, is an interesting word. My experience - there's that word again - is that to attempt to influence creates an equal and opposite reaction. Influence seems little achieved with words for as Cardinal Newman said, "It is as absurd to argue men, as to torture them, into believing."

When my then-girlfriend (now wife) gave me anti-Catholic materials from her friend, I wasn't influenced towards Fundamentalism. In fact, it led me to Karl Keating's book and I began learning about and appreciating my Catholic faith.

But words are easy. Perhaps the Cross teaches that only the hard thing matters. And is the thing we can't understand:
It seems there is also a special message for us in the way the children of Fatima and Mother Mariana accepted and embraced the cross. The mystery of cross is such a very special grace that Eternal Wisdom only bestows it on His best friends. "It is a greater happiness for St. Peter" writes St. John Chrysostom, "to be imprisoned for Jesus Christ than to be with Him in His glory on Mt. Thabor; it is a greater glory for him to wear his prisoner's chains than to bear in his hands the keys to Paradise."

Eternal Wisdom tells us that the number of fools is infinite. That is, St. Louis de Montfort says, because the number of those who do not know the value of the Cross is infinite, and they carry it despite themselves. You should thrill with joy, he says, because the cross you carry is a gift so precious, it would arouse the envy for the Blessed if they were capable of envy (Love of Eternal Wisdom, p. 97).

No comments: