Wednesday, March 29, 2017

What is normal, anyway?

I've been rereading a book by Peter Kreeft today called "The Philosophy of Jesus" in preparation for a Philosophy class at the diocese this weekend.   It uses what my dad would call five dollar words.  Metaphysics.  Epistemology.  Philosophical Anthropology, and probably the most common familiar term to most today, Ethics.  All of those terms can be boiled down to simple questions.

  1. Metaphysics - What is reality?  
  2. Epistemology - Knowing what reality is, how do we know that it is real? 
  3. Philosophical Anthropology - Based on those findings, who am I? What does it mean to be me/human/etc? 
  4. And Ethics - With all of the above, how should we live based on reality and our selves? 
People have spoken for thousands of years now about these very topics.  Smarter men than I have wrestled one another intellectually to prove their points, defeat their opponents, and in many ways make our world much easier to live in and understand.  There is a simple answer though.  All of these questions are answered by one name: Jesus Christ.   He is God.  The basis of all reality.  That which holds us all together.  That word through which we were created, and are being sustained and recreated.  To know ourselves requires that we know Christ.  Who He is, and what His life was like.   He is the example of what it means to be fully human.  Who does that make me then?   His brother, adopted son of God, and fellow worker in the vineyard of the Lord.   Then our ethical nature becomes quite apparent.  To be true to ethics is to be true to God, who is all good, all love, all justice.   Therefor ethics derive directly from God, and it is from God that we end up with our inherent dignity and rights that no one can take from us, because they have no right to do so. 

CCC 679 Christ is Lord of eternal life. Full right to pass definitive judgment on the works and hearts of men belongs to him as redeemer of the world. He "acquired" this right by his cross. The Father has given "all judgment to the Son". Yet the Son did not come to judge, but to save and to give the life he has in himself. By rejecting grace in this life, one already judges oneself, receives according to one's works, and can even condemn oneself for all eternity by rejecting the Spirit of love.

In today's reading Jesus reminds us of that simple notion... that God has turned it all over to Him, His son.  Jesus is given the authority to judge all things.  This God-man is able to decide our eternal fate.  That could be a scary thing couldn't it?  Many see Him as some dour and angry gentleman, waiting for one of us to screw up so he can erase us vehemently from the Lamb's book of Life.   Others see Him as some pushover who doesn't care if we sin... and will simply hug us, regardless of what actions we commit here.  The problem with that is a failure to understand what sin is.  

CCC 1849 Sin is an offense against reason, truth, and right conscience; it is failure in genuine love for God and neighbor caused by a perverse attachment to certain goods. It wounds the nature of man and injures human solidarity. It has been defined as "an utterance, a deed, or a desire contrary to the eternal law."
Sin is an offense to the basic reality of who we are created to be, who we truly are.   When God saved us He gave us a new spirit.   To sin then is to hurt God, to take His image and run it through the mud... to offend Holy Purity itself.   A newborn child is the most innocent thing we know.  How vile and disgusting it is when someone abuses those children.   God is even more perfectly pure than that, and how many times do we hurt Him?  Do we take the image of Him residing in us and use it to profane, to be vulgar, to partake in things unclean and unholy?  I think the problem is that we see ourselves as being made as sinners and Sainthood as something superhuman, something so abnormal that only a select few get there.   Vatican II made it clear that all of us are called to Holiness, period.. not just the Priest, Nun, or Religious.. not just the Pastor or Minister.. not just the Deacon or Lector.. but every single person is called to Sainthood. 

Christianity adds two men to it's database that secular anthropology does not know: Adam and Christ, the only two innocent men who have ever lived, and Christianity judges fallen men by that norm.  Without that corrective, we inevitably think backwards and misunderstand our present sinfulness as natural and normal, and thus see innocence and even sainthood, as abnormal and unnatural, superhuman rather than human.   Peter Kreeft - The Philosophy of Jesus

I think this sums up Lent in a very powerful way.  It's a return to what should be normal.  A call for us to examine our lives and see if we are living as a child of the light.   Sainthood is what we were created for, and we are given the Holy Spirit to guide us, change us, and help us realize that life.  We've also been given the Sacraments.   One of the least popular ones is Reconciliation.   Why? Because of what I said above.. people see Jesus as angry... but we forget "God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him." (John 3:17).   That is the merciful mission of Christ.   To give us a way to relate to God and to see how our lives should look.  The Sacraments to come Face to Face with Him whenever we need in order to be forgiven for our failures, and to draw closer to God.  It's only in being completely filled with God, just as Jesus was, that we will ever truly be able to get out of the way and allow normal to flow through us.   Are you ready to be normal?  Are you ready to be a Saint?  It's not out of reach.. it just requires humility.. love.. trust and faith.  

His servant and yours, 
Brian Mullins 

"illum oportet crescere me autem minui"

A reflection on the readings for Wednesday of the Fourth Week of Lent: March 29th, 2017.