So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter (2 Thess. 2:15). Guard what has been entrusted to you. Avoid the godless chatter and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge, for by professing it some have missed the mark as regards faith (1 Tim. 6:21-22).

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Divine Mercy vs Diabolical Misery

A man does not know what he is saying until he knows what he is not saying.
—Gilbert K. Chesterton
We, all of us, tend to act on limited information. We...
assume too much or too little
take things personally... .
You get the idea. Or, perhaps you do not. That's the point.

It is far too easy to react to situations instead of choosing to act in a considered and charitable manner. That is, it is far too easy to act out of instinct rather than reason and love. Can you blame us? I mean, we are somewhat hamstrung by a limited perception of reality. We have a capacity to give and receive love, but we lack the ability to express love in a selfless manner at all times. So, we take love, we covet love, we box love up in neat little packages in an attempt to control and maintain power. Whose fault is that? God's, for creating us as were are? No, not really. God created us in perfect love to love perfectly. We'd better consider upbringing and the influence of our own choices made in a given social context rather than blaming God for our short comings. Besides, we can thank our first parents Adam and Eve for breaking a rule intended for our own good, a transgression which has led us to act on our short comings as if we—that is, if we believe the half truth of the serpent—are almighty God rather than His children created in His image and likeness.

That we are created in the image and likeness of God gives us certain powers. Prior to Baptism, however, the image of God is tarnished and our likeness to God is severely distorted. The supernatural grace that God gives in and through Baptism restores us to life. With the continuing aid of the Sacrament of Penance, we are strengthened in a process by which we begin to choose to create rather than destroy, love rather than lust after people, and by which we choose to be good stewards of the natural world rather than its destructive consumers. How is this all possible? Because Jesus Christ took upon Himself the sins of man and by His death destroyed death and restored man to friendship with God. The Second Adam restored what the First Adam lost. The salvation of mankind is a rescue mission that can only be carried out by God. Because of Jesus' sacrifice, we are spared the second death. We cannot save ourselves. We need a redeemer to whom we can surrender our lives, and that redeemer is Jesus Christ, True God and True Man.

Now, whether or not you believe in the Eden story—and, for the record, this blogger most certainly does think with the Church (sentire cum ecclesia) on the matter of original sin—one cannot deny an abundance of evidence which confirms that something is quite wrong in the world of human relationships. That world into which each one of us is born is saturated with an abundance of twisted or unloving behaviours. These behaviours are effects which in turn produce other effects. If we examine the nature of the effects, we can detect a progression and follow it to a point of origin: original sin.

One of the consequences of original sin is that we are fundamentally insecure, and that insecurity clouds our judgement. We tend to act on limited information, or we condition ourselves to react according to parameters that accord perfectly with a nature twisted by sin. If we would realize that we possess a limited perspective on any situation at any given time, we might temper our rush to judgement which leads far too easily to sin. Can we do this unaided by grace? To a point, yes, we can act fairly well with God given reason alone. We may have fairly well designed personal laws that inhibit the tendency to act rashly. However, while reason may help us to avoid unseemly behaviour because we may, through reason, seek to avoid the pain of the consequences due to bad behaviour, love impels us to consider the good of the other more than merely a loss of freedom as a motivation to live a life of virtue. Love, much more than reason, is willing to suffer for the good of another. The rational man, despite his practiced legal framework, will be overcome by irrational thoughts from time to time. He may well be trapped in a prison of his own making, a perfectly safe world constructed to exclude anything which does not fit into his conceptual framework. Barring the aid of grace to help restrain him, he will lash out at an annoyance or something which causes his fragile house to come crashing down. The rational man needs grace to quell the lingering effects of original sin that infect his soul. History is replete with rational men who were perfectly despotic. All the more reason to trust in the mercy and love of God. All the more reason to draw on the gift of God and live a life of self sacrificing love.

Man seems to be capable of great virtues but not of small virtues;
capable of defying his torturer but not of keeping his temper.
—Gilbert K. Chesterton

The law of the Gospel is the law of love of God and neighbour. It is the perfect law revealed perfectly in the person of Jesus Christ. The perfect law frees man because the Holy Spirit, working in the soul of the person open to His influence, imparts the power to live a life of love.
“Will you step into my parlor?” said the spider to the fly;
“’Tis the prettiest little parlor that ever you did spy.
The way into my parlour is up a winding stair,
And I have many pretty things to show when you are there.”
“O no, no,” said the little fly, “to ask me is in vain,
For who goes up your winding stair can ne’er come down again.”
If a person is baptized, the internal struggle against evil will be more acute. The battle against the world, the flesh and the devil is conducted on the battleground of the human heart. The war will be intensified because the battle against sin is exposed and the devil hates to lose to God. Satan's wrath intensifies against the soul that takes up arms against the world, the flesh and the devil.
“I’m sure you must be weary, dear, with soaring up so high;
Will you rest upon my little bed?” said the spider to the fly.
“There are pretty curtains drawn around, the sheets are fine and thin,
And if you like to rest awhile, I’ll snugly tuck you in.”
“O no, no,” said the little fly, “for I’ve often heard it said,
They never, never wake again, who sleep upon your bed.”
The man who has accepted God's invitation is a son of grace. He is no more a slave to sin, though he will face the wrath of temptations which attempt to lure him into oblivion. The devil, like the spider, has no need to bother with a fly already ensnared. The devil only concerns himself with souls that seek the truth, "flies" that know there is a trap nearby where flies frequently go missing. Flies that try to escape the web must contend with the added struggled of disentangling themselves from a pattern that is so sticky it requires added strength for the fly to break free. That added strength is grace given by God.
Said the cunning spider to the fly, “Dear friend, what shall I do,
To prove the warm affection I’ve always felt for you?
I have within my pantry good store of all that’s nice;
I’m sure you’re very welcome; will you please to take a slice?”
“O no, no,” said the little fly, “kind sir, that cannot be;
I’ve heard what’s in your pantry, and I do not wish to see.”
“Sweet creature!” said the spider, “You’re witty and you’re wise!
How handsome are your gauzy wings, how brilliant are your eyes!
I have a little looking-glass upon my parlor shelf,
If you’ll step in one moment, dear, you shall behold yourself.”
“I thank you, gentle sir,” she said, “for what you’re pleased to say,
And bidding you good-morning now, I’ll call another day.”
The devil spins a web of deceit that traps even the brightest minds, minds lacking the humility to ask for help, wisdom and mercy. The proud man does not see the danger of the web. He only sees a hammock upon which he thinks he can relax and be lax. Little does he realize that every strand of the web that sticks to him as he attempts to wriggle free transmits his presence to the spider who is lying in wait, ready to envelop him in a silken tomb. The devil, like the spider, slowly saps the moral strength of the trapped man until he is dead inside himself.
The spider turned him round about, and went into his den,
For well he knew the silly fly would soon be back again:
So he wove a subtle web, in a little corner sly,
And set his table ready to dine upon the fly.
Then he came out to his door again, and merrily did sing
“Come hither, hither, pretty fly, with the pearl and silver wing:
Your robes are green and purple; there’s a crest upon your head;
Your eyes are like the diamond bright, but mine are dull as lead.”
With the aid of the Holy Spirit and the Sacrament of Mercy, i.e., Penance, the rational man illumined by grace can know peace and gradually shed unholy desires which ensnare him. The hangover of original sin, from which we all suffer even after baptism, can be relieved by confessing one's sins. Confession disentangles us from the small world we create in our own minds, that web of deceit, so that we may live in the world of love and mercy designed by God.
Alas, alas! how very soon this silly little fly,
Hearing his wily flattering words, came slowly flitting by.
With buzzing wings she hung aloft, then near and nearer drew
Thinking only of her brilliant eyes, and green and purple hue;
Thinking only of her crested head — poor foolish thing! At last,
Up jumped the cunning spider, and fiercely held her fast.
He dragged her up his winding stair, into his dismal den,
Within his little parlor; but she ne’er came out again!
Sin can have a powerful hold on us because we have allowed ourselves to be drawn into that web that, for all its lure of pleasure and power, amounts to empty promises which trap us in a diabolical misery. Possessing a judgement that is clouded by the hangover of particular or personal sin, the process by which grace works might seem painfully slow. Again, a limited perspective can cause us to rush to judgement. We may feel our efforts to overcome habitual sin are proving less than effective. We are tempted to give up. It is precisely at this point that we are truly ready to fully embrace God's grace and change. It is the time to trust in God and obey the call to change.

And now, dear little children, who may this story read,
To idle, silly, flattering words, I pray you ne’er give heed;
Unto an evil counselor close heart, and ear, and eye,
And take a lesson from this tale of the Spider and the Fly.
—The Spider and The Fly—by Mary Howitt (1799-1888)

Sin's siren song luring us to the rocks of despair cannot drown out the angelic chorus calling us home. The heavenly melody is relentlessly irresistible. When we fully confront our inability to conquer sin by ourselves, we are really and truly ready for God's help, the help that has been gently nudging us closer to His mercy and offer of new life all along.

Don't give up! Call on God's help. Seek God's mercy and transforming love.

At the edge of the cliff of defeat, we should give in to God's ravishing love and mercy and jump into His everlasting arms! Fear no loss. Take that step. God is ready to catch us and free us from all fear.

The work of grace in one's heart is a work of mercy by God that leads each child of God beyond the frontiers of selfishness and the trap of self doubt into the promised land of self abandonment and deeper trust in Jesus Christ.
Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for God is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. Even if I am to be poured as a libation upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me.
Jesus, I trust in You!

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"A multitude of wise men is the salvation of the world(.)—Wisdom 6:24. Readers are welcome to make rational and responsible comments. Any comment that 1) offends human dignity and/or 2) which constitutes an irrational attack on the Catholic Faith will not go unchallenged. If deemed completely stupid, such a comment will most assuredly not see the light of day. Them's the rules. Don't like 'em? Move on.

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