Believe Romans 8:28

Romans 8:28: Brothers and sisters: we know that all things work for the good for those who love God, who are called according to His purpose. [por español: click here]

Wonderful. Do we believe it? Do we, in fact, know that all things work for the good of those who love God, who are called according to His purpose? Let’s ask ourselves two questions.

“We know that all things work for the good for those who love God.” We “know” this.  How do we know it?

Let us freely acknowledge that Romans 8:28 is not self-evident.  There are a lot of people out there who disagree.  Many of our brothers and sisters in this world look around at the way things work, and they despair.  They see nothing but selfishness, or the law of the jungle, or the slow arc of inevitable death and dissolution.  Some people think that the higher powers calling the shots are unfriendly, or even malicious.  And there are the poor souls who imagine there is really nothing except atoms—no angels, no truth, no love, no honor, no glory. Atheism.

Synod of Bishops 1967 Paul VI
Pope Paul VI addresses the Synod fathers of 1967

Exactly fifty years ago, in 1967, Pope Paul VI convened the first Roman Synod of Bishops of the modern age. The idea was to address the problem of atheism. The contemplative monks of the world sent a message to the Synod, about the great gift of Christian faith. The monks emphasized the work of the Holy Spirit, the experience of the Spirit’s gifts, through prayer and the sacraments.

The Holy Spirit enables us to know that Romans 8:28 is true by the gift of knowledge: our interior perception that God is in charge of everything, that there is a reason behind everything. As Pope-emeritus Benedict XVI frequently pointed out, one doctrine distinguishes true religion: the doctrine that God is reasonable, rather than arbitrary.  To be sure, right now our minds cannot quite grasp all of God’s reasons for doing or permitting all the things that He does or permits. So we need to abandon ourselves in faith when our human reasoning reaches its limit.  But when everything is said and done, we will understand it all, because God’s entire plan proceeds according to reason. When we get to heaven, please God, we will see it all clearly; we will understand everything completely.

The Lord wills good; He permits evil.  His plan is so magnificent, and His power so awesome, that He brings greater good out of the evil which He permits.  St. Paul pointed out earlier in his letter to the Romans the supreme instance of God bringing good out of evil:  From Satan’s temptation in the garden, the Fall of Adam and Eve, and the whole history of human sin, God brought about the infinitely greater good of the mission of His Son to the earth.  Jesus Christ—who suffered and died unjustly, then rose again—Jesus is the best possible thing that ever could have happened.  His goodness trumps all the evil that has ever been or ever will be; His goodness overcomes it all, and turns all evil into an opportunity for holiness, for good. Suffering the evil that God permits unites us with the Savior who suffered, for us.

So now we can answer our first question:  We know what Romans 8:28 says we know because: God became man, lived for us as a man, died for us as a man, rose again and ascended into heaven as a man, and He pours His Spirit out from heaven into our hearts to give us interior knowledge of Himself.

Holy Spirit dove sunQuestion #2: Things work for the good of those who love God, and who are called according to His purpose.  What is God’s purpose?

The answer is simple and obvious and impossible to fathom.  We know from the Gospel  that God’s purpose in everything is: that we would share the divine glory forever. Share in the divine glory forever.

Straightforward enough, yes. But: we do not yet see this glorious destiny of ours. As we will commemorate next Sunday, Saints Peter, James, and John saw for a moment the divine glory shining through Jesus, at the Transfiguration. But we have not seen such unique sights. In fact, the prospect of sharing the divine glory forever utterly transcends our capacities to feature. So for now our destiny must remain an interior mystery of faith.  Again, the Holy Spirit comes to our aid with a special gift.

Through prayer and the sacraments, the Lord pours divine wisdom into our souls, so that we can savor the sweetness of heaven a little bit now, even before we get there.  The sweetness we savor is nothing other than the sweetness of true love.  God’s purpose is: to love, and to love us above all.  The Holy Spirit lifts us up towards God so that we can have a little share in the divine love even now.

This heavenly wisdom even allows us to savor God’s sweetness in the midst of severe trials and tribulations, in the face of the evils God allows us to have to endure, so that we might grow in holiness.  Our pilgrimage is not easy, and we have to fight hard.  But through it all, we experience the Spirit’s gifts. Then we know—we even “feel”–that Romans 8:28 is true. All things are working together for our good, even and especially the crosses we have to carry as we follow in the footsteps of Christ.

Trying is Succeeding to Find the Pearl

Young Solomon prayed, “Lord, you have made me the king, but I do not know how to act… Give your servant, therefore, an understanding heart, so that I can judge right from wrong.”

St. Paul declared: “All things work for the good of those who love God.” Romans 8:28.

oysterThe treasure buried in the field, the pearl of great price: Wisdom. Sharing the divine mind. Understanding life. Knowing what to do and what not to do. Standing firm in the truth. The peace that passes all understanding. Union with God.

The wise person prays. The wise person begs God for help all the time. As Socrates had it, to be wise is to know that I don’t know anything. Compared to God, I don’t know much. I don’t understand much at all, compared to God. So let me pray like a madman.

By the same token: The praying person demonstrates great wisdom already, because to believe in God is the wisest act of the human mind. No thought, no knowledge, no Sherlock-Holmesian deduction can touch a more solid, a more sublime truth than the Truth we touch by simple faith.

And this all-encompassing Truth which we touch by faith: He became man to show us how good, and how kind, and how loving He is.

Continue reading “Trying is Succeeding to Find the Pearl”

Two Kinds of Evil

“While everyone was asleep, his enemy came.” (Matthew 13:25)

devil sewing taresDoes God sleep? Sometimes God appears to sleep, and the Enemy sows weeds.

One of the questions our contemporaries ask us: How can you believe? When bad things happen all the time, and God does nothing? How can you believe in such a silent, absent, sleeping God?

The Enemy has sown weeds up and down the face of the earth. Smog chokes the air. No jobs for people with Masters degrees. More refugees living in squalid camps right now than at any time in recorded history. More conflict, less understanding. Immigrant children unwelcome. Unborn children unwelcome. Gridlock here, bombs exploding there. Hope on the wane.

And all the while, God sleeps—as the Scriptures themselves, in a parable told by the Son of God, relate!

Do we have a sleeping God Who doesn’t care? Who lets good people get cancer, because He can’t be bothered?

Continue reading “Two Kinds of Evil”

Papa on Faith and Abba, Father

Pope-Francis-Lumen-Fidei“Do you believe in the Son of Man?” (John 9:35)

The Lord Jesus asked the man, who had been born blind, this question. Do you believe in the Son of Man?

Now, blindness of the eyes can sneak up on a person during life. The thickness of my own personal spectacles demonstrates how blindness has snuck up on me somewhat over the years.

But the Lord cured a man who had been born blind. The man had not grown blind by squinting at ancient Torah scrolls in dimly lit synagogues. He had not suffered an injury to his eyes in a battle or a fight or an accident. This man had been born blind.

St. Augustine interprets this in a mystical way: “The blind man here is the human race. Blindness came upon the first man by reason of sin, and from him all derive it.”

Whom can we not see? The most important Being of them all, our origin and the goal of all our striving. Can’t see Him. Can’t see the One upon Whom all the angels gaze, and it is all the food they need. We are blind from birth.

Continue reading Papa on Faith and Abba, Father”

ΠΡΟΣ ΡΩΜΑΙΟΥΣ 8:28

All things work for the good of those who love God. Tois agaposin ton Theon. Those who love God.

May that be us. May we love neither success nor failure. May we love neither riches nor poverty. May we long for neither a long life nor a short one. May we love neither the English language nor any other language. May we love neither tacos, nor hot dogs, nor spring rolls, nor pizza. May we love God. May we be “those who love God.”

Because tois agaposin ton Theon panta synergei eis agathon.

In the dialogues of Plato, one of the characters has the name Agathon. Because he is good. Real good. Beautifully good.

PantheonRomanExteriorSynergei eis agathon. Synergei sounds like… Synergy.

What a concept. Co-operation. Co-work. Effort made together for one goal. Synergy. Synergy for the good.

What synergei eis agathon? What works together for the good of those who love God? Panta.

Back in the day, what airline covered all of Am? Yes. Pan Am. What pagan temple held altars for all the gods? Yes. Pantheon.

Panta syunergai eis agathon. All things. All work together for the good. Spilled milk works for the good. Bruised egos work for the good. Language barriers work for the good. Missing coffee cups work for the good. Tough days work for the good. Piñatas work for the good. All things work together for the good of…

The God-lovers.

The Hugeness of Mass on December 21

Ecce Agnus Dei

Well, we’re still here.

St. Paul wrote that all of creation groans with labor pains, even until now. Longing for fulfillment, completion. Longing for, dare we say it: consecration.

The groaning of the world continues for one more day at least. The New Agers at the foot of the Mayan temples caught the wrong vibe, apparently.

Also the first day of winter today. What is winter, if not the great longing for spring? Hidden germinations rooting in the soil, longing for—aching, itching, yearning, reaching out towards—the sun.

doomsday comingAnd, as we considered yesterday, Our lady longs. The perfect, pristine bosom of love, the renewed Garden of Eden in a shawl—she longs to dar la luz. To bring to light the hale and hearty babe.

Because His birth will consecrate her. His birth consecrates the entire earth. The earth groans in labor pains until she brings forth…the Christ.

And the Church, too, longs to bring forth this Christ. The Church longs for the consecration.

Everyone watching for the final consummation at the end of the Mayan Long Count should have come to Mass instead. The final consummation can be found nowhere else.

Qua Church, we obey the Word of God in its entirety. We say like Our Lady: Behold, Your handmaid, Your Church. You speak; we believe. You command; we do.

And God satisfies all the longing by coming in the flesh on the altar.