New Commandment of Charity

Charles Bosseron Chambers Sacred Heart of Jesus

At Holy Mass today, we read:

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. You shall love your neighbor as yourself. (Mark 12:30-31)

Some points on this, from the Catechism

1. Charity = love God above all things, and love my neighbor as myself, for the love of God.

2. We learn what charity is from Jesus. He showed the divine love by loving His own chosen ones to the end. “Love one another as I have loved you.”

3. We must love our enemies.

4. “Charity is patient and kind, not jealous or boastful, not arrogant or rude. Charity does not insist on its own way. It is not irritable or resentful. It does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Charity bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

5. Charity makes a Christian a child of God. We obey Him not out of fear, or for the sake of some short-term gain, but because we love Him as our Father.

6. Divine love makes us joyful, peaceful, and merciful. Also generous and friendly. And willing to correct others.

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Love and Duty

Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another. (Romans 13:8)

Have only one debt: love. Be obedient and law-abiding, so that all you owe your neighbor is love.

St. Paul makes things so easy for us. We have only one solemn duty to fulfill; we can let everything else go. It’s as if he said, “Don’t worry about exercising, except to train for a marathon.” Or “forget about school, except getting your doctorate.” Or “Just relax and watch tv, once you have built a chapel in the desert like Sidney Poitier in ‘Lilies of the Field.’”

Maybe we could say that human history has two kinds of eras. In the one kind, people constrict themselves so tightly that love has to teach duty how to behave. Everyone observes the basic laws of decency and religion, but joylessly. So love must enliven the dead routine of duty with its freewheeling fire.

Sidney Poitier OscarI’m actually just speculating about this, because I myself have never lived during such an era.

In the other kind of era, love gets so footloose and fancy-free, so unrestricted, wayward, and unfocused, that it becomes a kind of damp mop that picks up everything on the floor. Duty has to teach love its real business, has to help love get focused and organized, so that love can shine forth as something truly noble.

In the first kind of era, duty must learn that only love can really make it make sense. Why dutifully fulfill our obligations, if we have no love? But in an era like ours, I would say, love has to learn this: The only kind of love that really merits the name is dutiful, consistent, sober, humble, long-term love.

In the short passage of Romans we read at Holy Mass, St. Paul went on to review the second table of the Decalogue. Yes: all the laws of morality can be summed up with one word: love. Yes.

At the same time: Can the word ‘love’ really apply to anything that involves breaking any of the commandments? If I kill or defame or steal or cheat or lie or shirk or covet–can I say that I am loving? Can I do an injustice in the name of love? I don’t think so.

So: Let’s obey lovingly. And love obediently.

Trying Not to Misinterpret Christ

First: On Sunday we will read, among other things, the Parable of the Lost Coin. I learned something a few years ago that helped me understand it. Click HERE.

pancakes syrup

Love your enemies. (Luke 6:27)

Many people misinterpret this divine commandment like this: Christ preaches a sublime, otherworldly way of looking at things. Everyone knows both that this is the most beautiful doctrine ever and that in actual fact no one can follow it.

Because, in the real world, things get messy. God, of course, knows that. So we need Christ’s teaching to try to keep our ideals elevated. But then in the rough and tumble of actual events, we need a more practical approach. Christ meant to give us spiritual goals, for private cultivation.

The pivot point upon which this misinterpretation rests, I think, is this: When we get right down to it, what are the most fundamental facts?

No Signal staticHow about:

You have to fight to survive. Enemies lurk around most corners, and they have countless tricks up their dark sleeves. Beauty dies and fades away. Chaos overtakes order. The only place where anything noble can really dwell is in my own head, or in the heads of my like-minded friends, to whom I cling for dear life against the cold winds.

Christ teaches us, though, that these are not the fundamental facts. We don’t know from cold winds really. Because we cannot even conceive of the nothingness that would overtake us–were it not for the real fundamental fact.

The fundamental fact actually is: Everything exists because of the love of God. Why is there a today, when there could not be one? Reality could be a tv with a “No Signal” message bouncing around the screen forever. That could be it.

But it’s not.

Things exist, like pancakes and guitars. Today exists. For one reason: Because God is waiting, with infinitely patient love, for us to turn to Him, love Him, praise Him.

Every day He makes for that one reason. As far as He is concerned, what happened yesterday really doesn’t matter. Yesterday wouldn’t have existed if He hadn’t made it, to be sure. But He made it to be a today, not a yesterday. And now that yesterday is a yesterday, God is prepared to forget all about it. That, in fact, is why He made today. Yesterday was not perfect, so forget it. Today can be better. Today we can love. Today we can live in the truth.

That’s why it exists. That is the most fundamental fact. There is one decisive difference between planet Earth, equipped with leaves, a moon, spaghetti and people smiling with white teeth—one difference between this and nothing, between this and the eternal “No Signal” message—one difference. Eternal, omnipotent love.

Loving our enemies does not mean living in a dreamworld, a fantasy, a counterfactual delusion. No. Not loving our enemies means living in a dreamworld, a fantasy, a counterfactual delusion. When we wake up to the fundamental fact, we love our enemies. Because it is immediately apparent that any other approach is really quite pointless.

Merchant of Venice: Excellent Exegesis

What if the triune God never revealed Himself? Who would I worship?

Probably Virginia. Even if Virginia only included Augusta, Rockbridge, and Botetourt Counties, I would worship it. But it includes all the other counties, too! Especially Franklin and Henry.

Godlike in splendor. Idolizable if anything ever was.

…Had the opportunity to see a performance of Merchant of Venice at the American Shakespeare Center. The company executed the task with the usual aplomb. If they camped it up a bit, or indulged in tasteless physical comedy, they only did it to try to convey the humor of the text to their predominantly high-school-age audience.

The company also over-indulged, I think, in actually spitting on Shylock and Tubal. Does Shakespeare direct the actors to spit? No. The on-stage spittle only distracted us audience peoples. (Overheard in the bathroom: “Do they get paid extra since they spit on them?”)

The words, my friends! The words have more than enough bitterness of their own. The imprecations savor with plenty of verbal venom. Frinstance:

The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose.
An evil soul producing holy witness
Is like a villain with a smiling cheek,
A goodly apple rotten at the heart:
O, what a goodly outside falsehood hath!

or

Let me say ‘amen’ betimes, lest the devil cross my
prayer, for here he comes in the likeness of a Jew.

The key to the play? The fact that it explains the Parable of the Unforgiving Steward. (It explains the whole New Testament pretty well.) And Shylock’s humanity.

The usurer’s avarice, his malice against Antonio, his stubbornness: none of these are literally monstrous. His daughter breaks his heart by eloping–and taking the family jewels with her. He rails against the monetary loss with a lump in his throat. What really pains him? Jessica’s betrayal. And the fact that none of the other Venetian fathers can be bothered to give him the tiniest doit of commiseration. They think nothing of treating the Jew with hard-hearted contempt.

Of course, Shylock’s heart hardens to stone. His maniacal craze for vindication—for justice! my bond!—paints the perfect caricature of blinkered, zealous man: Absolutely dead to rights, within the point-of-view of the rifle-sight. Shylock’s bond has all the force of law, and who could really gainsay his legal reasoning?

But, outside what the scope takes in: an agent of justice stands with an axe, an axe that will fall on me, and his claim on me has much more to it than my claim does.

Where did the Venetian hard-heartedness begin? Did Shylock wrong a Christian first, or did a Christian wrong him first? The profoundest truth of the play rests on the fact that it has no interest whatsoever in answering this question.

In the end, the ladies turned lawyers, Portia and Nerissa, manage to turn the central theme of the tragedy—just retribution—into comedy. Their men, who protest their honor too much, wind up reduced to unimpressive and unconvincing stammerings to explain their own untruth.

Justice? Please. For man it is impossible. Better to try to make friends. With unassuming gentleness. Maybe even love.

Tolerance, Pentecost, and Love

We human beings have a tendency to get on each others’ nerves. Living in close proximity to each other can cause conflicts. We don’t see eye-to-eye. Each of us has our ticks. Sometimes we don’t co-operate very well. We annoy each other.

We need a way to coexist peacefully. Which brings us to the virtue that reigns supreme on today’s popular airwaves. We try to live together in peace by practicing the magnificent virtue of…TOLERANCE!

Continue reading “Tolerance, Pentecost, and Love”

Father W’s Lenten Resolution

Owing to my advanced age, I forswore road races a couple years ago. But I am weak-willed.

I will run 13.1 miles on Lazarus Saturday (the day before Palm Sunday). If I were a true penitent, I would run 26.2. Perhaps next year.

I would like to raise money for Pro-Life Across America.

You could sponsor me by the mile or for the whole race.

Send checks made out to “Prolife Across America” to: Father White Run, 115 Elm Ave., S.W., Apt. B4, Roanoke VA 24016.

If I don’t finish in under two hours, I will send your money back and cover all the funds from my own meager bank account.

Red-Bull Martini?

When someone strikes you on your right cheek, turn the other one as well. If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic, hand over your cloak as well…

…Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.

We believe that God became man. That is what we say every Sunday. “We believe in one Lord Jesus Christ…for us men and for our salvation, He came down from heaven…and became man.”

God—Who is perfect, Who is holy, Who is just—became man. God took our human nature to Himself—our human nature which is imperfect, which is given to impurity, which is frequently unjust. God made a union of the infinitely perfect with the imperfectly limited.

How did He do it? It seems impossible. I mean, let’s take an example. Don’t tell anyone, but I like an old-fashioned martini. Ice cold gin. Twist of lemon zest. Perfect.

On the other hand, I know people who drink those cans of Red Bull. Yuck. Tastes like what they drain out of your engine when you take your car in for an oil change.

Now if I poured a can of Red Bull into my perfect martini…it would be terrible. I am not capable of uniting the perfect with the imperfect and coming up with something perfect. We human beings simply cannot pull off such a combination.

So how did God do it?

Continue reading “Red-Bull Martini?”

“It is better for you that I go.”

(John 16:7)

From Article 1 of Question 57 of Part III of the Summa Theologica of St. Thomas Aquinas:

Objection: The Son of God took human flesh for our salvation. But it would have been more beneficial for men if He had tarried always with us upon earth; thus He said to His disciples (Luke 17:22): “The days will come when you shall desire to see one day of the Son of man; and you shall not see it.” Therefore it seems unfitting for Christ to have ascended into heaven.

Reply to Objection: Although Christ’s bodily presence was withdrawn from the faithful by the Ascension, still the presence of His Godhead is ever with the faithful, as He Himself says (Matthew 28:20): “Behold, I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world.” For, “by ascending into heaven He did not abandon those whom He adopted,” as Pope Leo says. But Christ’s Ascension into heaven, whereby He withdrew His bodily presence from us, was more profitable for us than His bodily presence would have been.

First of all, in order to increase our faith, which is of things unseen…For ‘blessed are they that see not, yet believe.’

Secondly, to uplift our hope: hence He says (John 14:3): “If I shall go, and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and will take you to Myself; that where I am, you also may be.” For by placing in heaven the human nature which He assumed, Christ gave us the hope of going thither; since “wheresoever the body shall be, there shall the eagles also be gathered together,” as is written in Matthew 24:28. Hence it is written likewise (Micah 2:13): “He shall go up that shall open the way before them.”

Thirdly, in order to direct the fervor of our charity to heavenly things. Hence the Apostle says (Colossians 3:1-2): “Seek the things that are above, where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God. Mind the things that are above, not the things that are upon the earth”: for as is said (Matthew 6:21): “Where thy treasure is, there is thy heart also.” And since the Holy Ghost is love drawing us up to heavenly things, therefore our Lord said to His disciples (John 16:7): “It is expedient to you that I go; for if I go not, the Paraclete will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you.”

Seven Deadlies Compendium, Etc.

blondie

I woke up this morning feeling basically okay with myself. But then I discovered that I agree with Ken Woodward…(If the comic strips appearing here are too small for you to read, you can see a larger size by clicking on it.)

stoning…According to the Law of Moses, capital crimes were to be punished by stoning to death.

The first stones were to be cast by the witnesses upon whose testimony the guilty party was convicted. Then everyone else could join in the stoning. By this violent act, the injustice of the crime would be purged from the nation.

God is perfectly just. He examines every heart. Before Him, no one is innocent.

But He has not cast a stone and done violence to the guilty ones. Rather, He subjected Himself to violence at the hands of the unjust.

By this violent act, our injustice is purged. We are not condemned to death.

devilGod restores justice; we are pardoned; we may live.

…Here is a little compendium of my sermons on the seven deadly sins…

Pride

Greed and Envy

Anger and Lust

Gluttony and Sloth

chaliceAlso, there are some new Bests above.

And I added a new feature above…a collection of the collections.

…I wish I could say that I am willing to take the sins of others upon myself, like our Lord.

I can say this, though: I do take the germs of others upon myself.

This is what communion under both species means for the priest: Taking the germs of the entire people upon yourself.

Greedy and Envious? Try Poverty and Love

He found in the temple area those who sold oxen, sheep, and doves, as well as the money changers seated there. He made a whip out of cords
and drove them all out of the temple area, with the sheep and oxen, and spilled the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables…At this the Jews answered and said to him, “What sign can you show us for doing this?”
(John 2:14-19)

The Lord Jesus drove the greedy merchants and money-changers from the Temple. The Jewish leaders envied Christ’s authority and power. So in the gospel reading, we have seen both greed and envy. These are two of the seven deadly sins.

cleansing
Continue reading “Greedy and Envious? Try Poverty and Love”