If you obey the commandments of the Lord, loving Him and walking in His ways…you will live, and the Lord will bless you. If, however, you turn away your hearts and will not listen, you will certainly perish…Choose life then! (Deuteronomy 30:16-19)
Our beloved Holy Father has chosen to relinquish his pastoral office. He will not give us his promised encyclical on faith.
I will try to step unto the breach, dear friends. My Lenten-Vespers talks will attempt to convey the teachings of St. Thomas Aquinas on the virtue of faith. Let’s make a little start now.
We Catholics propose that Almighty God has personally commanded us to do certain things and avoid certain things. Sacred Scripture contains many explicit commandments. Pre-eminent among all of these commandments are, of course, the world-famous Ten. The wise man emblazons the Ten Commandments on his soul, like an interior tattoo, by frequent meditation on them.
But: Where in the Scriptures do we find the explicit commandment to believe in God? He says, “I am the Lord your God. You shall have no others.” But this is a commandment against false religion, rather than a commandment to believe.
St. Thomas points out: Anyone who makes laws makes them for those who fall under his or her authority.
Now, God knows perfectly well that everyone and everything falls under His authority. But that was not really His point when He made laws for us. He had no need to remind Himself that He is in charge. More to the point: The matter of those who are obliged to obey Him…
We strive to obey the commandments because we believe in the One Who made them. He does not explicitly command us to believe, because we would hardly be listening to Him anyway, if we didn’t believe.
Long and short of it: Man stands free before God. He has the authority; we do not. But His authority does not impose itself on us, like the authority of a driver imposes itself on a car.
To the contrary, we remain free either to embrace reality as it is—namely that God is God, and everything else He made for the purposes which He spells out in His commandments—or we may retreat into foolish fantasies of our own, in which we trick ourselves into thinking that we retain control.
Seems like it makes more sense to believe. And, when we believe, the only thing that makes sense is to obey.
SIDEBAR/PERSONAL NOTE/NOT OFFICIAL CHURCH TEACHING:
For the past couple of days, I have found myself drowning in a welter of paeans to the “fatherly wisdom” of Pope Benedict in his decision to resign. “This is his consummate act of love for the Church!” “He is teaching us how to hand everything over to God!” “Who willingly relinquishes power? What an act of humility!” “He has lovingly opened the door to a bright future for the Church!”
How does all this strike me? Allow me to tell you…
It can happen that a couple can decide to divorce. In the end, perhaps after much strife, they come to it calmly. They tell each other that they have become convinced that this is best. They might even come to think that God Himself approves.
The children, perhaps, are of an age where they understand the words they’re parents say to try to explain. They hear their parents, and maybe friends or family members, calmly discussing how much sense this decision makes. “It’s better for everybody.” The kids want to be grown-up, and understand, and agree.
But, underneath, every fiber of their being rebels. On the surface: calm reason. Underneath: Heartbreak unto death. Every child can rightfully protest: “You make this all sound so reasonable. But didn’t you get up in front of a lot of people and promise something along the lines of: I will stay with you until death? And that’s how I came into the world.
“Give me the shouting matches! Give me the household teapot-tempests! Just don’t walk out. Please, just don’t leave. Better a house on fire with mom and dad than an amusement park with mom and a stranger. Better a ramshackle, unkempt trailer than a mansion with dad and a stranger.”
…That’s how I feel about this papal resignation business. Can’t fly to World Youth Day? Then just don’t go. Can’t manage to finish writing the encyclical? Then let someone else write it, and let them say that you wrote it. Just sit in the Papal apartment and play the piano. We don’t really care. We just don’t want our Holy Father walking out the f’ing door.
You make it all sound so reasonable. But what about the fact that the percentage of popes who have resigned (approx. 0.02% of all popes) is lower than the incidence of the sickle-cell-anemia trait in the general public of the entire world (approx. 5.0%)? Doesn’t that suggest that: Popes are not supposed to resign, if there is any way possible to avoid it?
…I love the Pope. I will of course dutifully pray for him, and for the Cardinals, and for the unfolding of God’s Providence.
But I felt the need to go on record as saying: Your Holiness, I for one DO NOT appreciate this.