EG 240-241: Dialogue With the State

Vasnetsov_Maria_MagdaleneIn Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis describes the role of the state:

240. It is the responsibility of the State to safeguard and promote the common good of society.[Cf. CCC 1910; Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 168] Based on the principles of subsidiarity and solidarity, and fully committed to political dialogue and consensus building, it plays a fundamental role, one which cannot be delegated, in working for the integral development of all. This role, at present, calls for profound social humility.

And the role of the Church in concert with the state:

241. In her dialogue with the State and with society, the Church does not have solutions for every particular issue. Together with the various sectors of society, she supports those programs which best respond to the dignity of each person and the common good. In doing this, she proposes in a clear way the fundamental values of human life and convictions which can then find expression in political activity.

What the Church offers at times are less the solutions and more the measuring stick of what adheres to basic human values.

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Roll Over

BeethovenChuck Berry wrote it. The Beatles recorded it. But my exposure to the ELO cover in the 70′s sticks in my mind. My brother was really big into this band. I heard they blew the roof off with their concert rendition of it in the classic rock days. Here’s a smoother live version from 2001 I also like. Some music is just too much fun.

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Silence of the Wolves


Another lament about the state of the conservative blogosphere from Dr William Oddie at the Catholic Herald. Dr Oddie on his own writing:

More and more, my heart just isn’t in it; and I blog less than I did. Now, increasingly, I feel that silence is all. Under Benedict, there was vigorously under way a glorious battle, an ongoing struggle, focused on and motivated by the pope himself, to get back to the Church the Council intended, a battle for the hermeneutic of continuity. It was a battle we felt we were winning. Then came the thunderbolt of Benedict’s resignation.

Perhaps the battle was misdirected in recent years. I’ve always found the most challenging, subtle, and dangerous battle is the one within. Conservative Catholics made a cottage industry of calling other Catholics out: getting people sacked from jobs, wishing they would lose jobs, hoping for their excommunication, wishing they would die, and the like.

I’ll be honest: if some believers feel chastened, good for them.

But there was a lot of energy in the blogosphere during the Benedict Decade (“2001-2013″). Rather than sullen silence, I would hope that Catholics could put their verve to the task of evangelization and renewal. Can they offer a word that will inspire not just elder sisters and brothers of the household? Can they present the Gospel with joy, not just a wicked, narcissistic good cheer?

The jury’s out:

Now, we have a Pope who can be adored by such enemies of the Catholic Church as the arch abortion supporter Jane Fonda, who tweeted last week “Gotta love new Pope. He cares about poor, hates dogma.”

In other words, for Fonda and her like, the Church is no longer a dogmatic entity, no longer a threat.

Which all begs several questions … Why do people care what Jane Fonda thinks? Why are people considered enemies? Why is it a good thing for the Church to be perceived as a threat instead of a herald of the Gospel?

But whatever happens now, it seems, the glad confident morning of Benedict’s pontificate has gone, never again to return; and I (and it seems many others) have less we feel we can say.

Perhaps it was only a false dawn, the flare of distant artillery welcomed by soldiers in the culturewar. My mother used to remark, “If you can’t think of something good to say about someone, then it’s better to say nothing at all.” Is that the kind of silence we’re getting? Maybe a reflective, self-searching will do some of us great good.

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Reconciliation Lectionary: James 2:14-26

mary-the-penitent.jpgOne might ask what the discussion about faith and works is doing in the Reconciliation Lectionary. It’s a frequent Christian discussion, sometimes an unfortunate argument across our sad divisions, as to what Saint James means when he insists that faith is accompanied by deeds.

Today’s Christian lacks no opportunity to serve others. The question for the believer: is service rendered with the expectation of reward? Jesus addressed that point, didn’t he? Even the pagans and the hypocrites perform good deeds, fully expecting some reward, perhaps, for services rendered.

Is it a matter of sin for a believer’s faith to be “dead” in the way James describes it?

What good is it, my brothers and sisters,
if someone says he has faith but does not have works?
Can that faith save him?
If a brother or sister has nothing to wear
and has no food for the day,
and one of you says to them,
“Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,”
but you do not give them the necessities of the body,
what good is it?
So also faith of itself,
if it does not have works, is dead.

This portion suggests a good linking with Matthew 25:31-46, where Jesus preaches that he is to be found among the needy. He links judgment with the actions of charity and justice, so we must conclude that this is indeed material for virtue, morality, and sin. It’s a tough thing to challenge a believer: Is your faith dead?

Indeed someone might say,
“You have faith and I have works.”
Demonstrate your faith to me without works,
and I will demonstrate my faith to you from my works.
You believe that God is one.
You do well.
Even the demons believe that and tremble.

Ouch! Even evil ones acknowledge the existence of God. What distinguishes a believer from one of the damned?

We should keep in mind that James has a particular context for his teaching. He is not an adversary of grace, nor is he a pelagian. He sets up a contrast from the beginning of his letter of a righteous believer and one who is going through the motions. That theme continues in chapter two. James hopes his community, his listeners, will adopt the full sense of the Gospel.

James relies on Jewish style and approach. He gives the reader somewhat caricatured arguments in an attempt to urge believers to a greater virtue. He assumes a familiarity with the Torah, and he book of Joshua:

Do you want proof, you ignoramus,
that faith without works is useless?
Was not Abraham our father justified by works
when he offered his son Isaac upon the altar?
You see that faith was active along with his works,
and faith was completed by the works.
Thus the scripture was fulfilled that says,
“Abraham believed God,
and it was credited to him as righteousness,”
and he was called “the friend of God.”
See how a person is justified by works
and not by faith alone.
And in the same way,
was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works
when she welcomed the messengers
and sent them out by a different route?
For just as a body without a spirit is dead,
so also faith without works is dead.

My sense is that a shorter option might have been offered without this last section, verses 20-26. Without a good pairing, or a willingness to preach in depth on this passage, I think the message could go lost quite easily.

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17 Tammuz

Tuesday as a fast day for peace: Rabbi Arthur Waskow writes in The American Muslim:

What is 17 Tammuz about? It commemorates the day when the Babylonian Army broke through the walls of Jerusalem in 586 BCE, three weeks before the Babylonians destroyed the Temple.

So it is, among other things, a day of sorrow for the dead and self-restraint from killing.

My thought:  — It would be both a serious expression of commitment to peace and decency and also a serious memorial to Reb Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, who died last week, for us here as well in the USA to join with Muslims on 17 Tammuz in a Hunger Strike Against Violence, and to end the day together with Iftar, the evening break-fast.

Various commentary, including Steve Norman’s short essay on why he doesn’t pray for peace.

I’m not always convinced it’s worth the time. After all, God’s track record for responding to the prayers others have prayed for a particularly broken corner of the world appears less than stellar.

There’s that … maybe. I grow less convinced the powers-that-be in the Middle East want peace. They’re all addicted to vengeance, but there’s no way an oppressed citizenry (I mean the Israelis among others) will rise up and rid themselves of their duly-elected government. Where is Palestine’s Gandhi?

I also like Sheila Musaji’s compilation here.

Mr Norman suggests a middle section of Psalm 10, but I wouldn’t be so hasty about forgetting the opening salvo in that piece. Here are verses 1-4, NRSV:

Why, O Lord, do you stand far off?
Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?
In arrogance the wicked persecute the poor—
let them be caught in the schemes they have devised.

For the wicked boast of the desires of their heart,
those greedy for gain curse and renounce the Lord.
In the pride of their countenance the wicked say, ‘God will not seek it out’;
all their thoughts are, ‘There is no God.’

I think indeed there are forces in the world who, in the name of religion, openly mock God and attempt to crush the innocent they cannot ensnare.

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EG 238-239: Social Dialogue As A Contribution To Peace

Vasnetsov_Maria_MagdaleneWith this post, we turn to section IV of Chapter Four in Evangelii Gaudium, “Social Dialogue as a Contribution to Peace.” Three partners in dialogue are suggested: politics, culture, and non-Catholics. It’s not a Pope Francis idea here; the originator is Pope Benedict XVI. Let’s read:

238. Evangelization also involves the path of dialogue. For the Church today, three areas of dialogue stand out where she needs to be present in order to promote full human development and to pursue the common good: dialogue with states, dialogue with society – including dialogue with cultures and the sciences – and dialogue with other believers who are not part of the Catholic Church. In each case, “the Church speaks from the light which faith offers”, [Benedict XVI, Address to the Roman Curia (21 December 2012)] contributing her two thousand year experience and keeping ever in mind the life and sufferings of human beings. This light transcends human reason, yet it can also prove meaningful and enriching to those who are not believers and it stimulates reason to broaden its perspectives.

The dialogue from many Evening Prayer settings comes to mind: Light and peace in Jesus Christ our Lord. Is such a prayer sincere? Do we see it as a simple dialogue, or as an actual petition, recognizing that sometimes we desperately need light and peace? And not only for our own personal benefit, but as an offering we can share with the world?

239. The Church proclaims “the Gospel of peace” (Eph 6:15) and she wishes to cooperate with all national and international authorities in safeguarding this immense universal good. By preaching Jesus Christ, who is himself peace (cf. Eph 2:14), the new evangelization calls on every baptized person to be a peacemaker and a credible witness to a reconciled life.[Cf. Propositio 14]

Peacemaker: not the call of a diplomat, or even of a saint. It is part of the baptismal covenant we have been grafted onto.

Take up the modern culture on its stated desire for dialogue:

In a culture which privileges dialogue as a form of encounter, it is time to devise a means for building consensus and agreement while seeking the goal of a just, responsive and inclusive society. The principal author, the historic subject of this process, is the people as a whole and their culture, and not a single class, minority, group or elite. We do not need plans drawn up by a few for the few, or an enlightened or outspoken minority which claims to speak for everyone. It is about agreeing to live together, a social and cultural pact.

Such an agreement begins in our households, extends to friends and neighbors, and from there, when we are well-practiced, to people of politics and persons of the culture and also to non-Catholics (believers and non-believers alike).

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Getting Personal

Think much of a personal relationship with God? There’s an interesting discussion at the online version of Homiletic and Pastoral Review about it. Sherry Weddell takes some heat for her treatment of Catholics. But I think the treatment is suspect and Ms Weddell’s approach is sound, even if to some it sounds “Protestant.”

Dr Jay Boyd:

In the end, the phenomenological and personalistic construct of a “personal relationship with Jesus” leads to relativism. After all, implicit in the notion of a “personal relationship” with the Lord is the conclusion that one can define that relationship as one pleases. It’s personal, after all! This is a false notion of what a relationship with Jesus truly entails; it implies that one must “feel” something.

This conclusion is a big stretch. The writer has offered a long essay to make a case that the “Catholic” way is something beyond Protestantism and beyond what we “feel.” I’m unconvinced. There’s some grousing about the new evangelization, about bad-mouthing passive believers, and in the commentariat, some unchristian and unfounded accusations. I’m not surprised that Forming Intentional Disciples (reviewed on this site here) catches some bother from some Catholics. It takes a good and fair poke at many sacred cows. Thing is about Catholicism: we don’t worship cows.

All a personal relationship means is something that’s person-to-person. It usually involves affect. But there are other elements: service, sacrifice, conscious choice. There’s a serious misunderstanding when people misinterpret “personal” for being “emotional.” The truth is that many millions of non-Catholics have personal, spiritual, vibrant, engaging, true, and salvific relationships with God. If that rankles, I have a Luke 15 story to tell you that will bother you even further.

I don’t have a problem with people, including myself, having a personal relationship with God. I confess great surprise that some Christians would object.


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