Only Thinking Makes It So

And so the unending debate rages on: knowledge and law Vs wisdom and mercy. The former providing information based on learning assimilated through access to large libraries and the storehouse of tradition. The latter, illuminating revelations to the mind, gateway to the heart and residence of the soul. Preference of one over the other would be tempered by cultural factors. Who are we to judge the primacy of one or the other? Happy are they who find a comforting balance.

Personally. I see knowledge as the product of human effort; burning the midnight oil, seeking references and carrying heavy loads of data (printed or on the web). Assimilation depending on one’s ability to access, store and compute information. Most of all one must be able to disseminate all this effectively and persuasively. However, knowledge cannot be absolute. No sooner is the thesis presented another scholar is ready to refute the premise and put forward another theory he/she considers more meritorious. The list of doctors and saints is unlimited. To preserve a legacy, institutions resort to clothing their position in dogma, constitutions – any stonewall that will inhibit dissension or challenge. At a time and place in our history this may have been necessary. Only thing lacking is the lesson from Prometheus, who stole the fire from the zealous Mt. Olympus to the betterment of humankind. It is part of human nature to question and challenge opinions, especially when they represent any form of authority. It is a form of purgation that prevents “one good custom from corrupting the world”. The fruit of midnight-oil burning labours, themselves, remain subject to the whimsical wind that continues to blow and threaten, and will not be shut out.

On the other hand, protagonists of the counter argument believe knowledge understates the quality of mercy. Wisdom cannot be contained by graying hair and heavy burdens of law. They are impatient with the furniture and sartorial splendour of high office that dictates what they must think, read; when to eat and the dress code etc. They stand, question, and decide if it is worthwhile participating in gestures and ceremonies that have no place for their own sentiments or opinions; arrived at what they perceive as justified positions. They turn to the Lord and ask, “Is this why you challenged the ‘doctors of the law’ in your time? Why You valued the wisdom given to children over the mill-stone of law?  Why Mary exalted the foolish over the wise; the weak over the strong?” They challenge the doctors of the law to show them their faith, and in return they will show them their actions.

With apologies to the bard, well may we may ask, “Where does true faith live; in the heart or in the head; how begot how nourished?”

Progressing Spirituality

Do not reduce my Church to a bunch of clichés that can be grasped thus. We are prone to jumping on the bandwagon of novel expressions. But, neither the Church nor the world is in danger of being liquefied. Truisms that stood as rocks of stability and security for the past millennium now show their fragility in the face of cultural and scientific advancements. We cannot shut the world out in a weekly retreat into aging gestures and symbolism, uplifting and beautiful though they are.

 

We return to realities that cannot be wished away. We live in a more pragmatic environment that scrutinizes all things with a microscope. More so, we question any signs of autocratic authority. We listen respectfully to Sunday sermons, but draw our own conclusions. Sometimes we are even critical of what we hear in the light of our own experiences.  Some are inclined to ask, “What does he know; he does not have the same experience as the flock he is pastor to?” Who is he to judge?”

 

So when one who is expected to be a pillar, in turn asks, “Who am I to judge?”, we are disconcerted. It shakes us to the very marrow. Being so used to the security found in papal utterances we are confused when we are given the responsibility to trust our own consciences.  We are being entrusted to be guided by rules, and not governed by them. Are we mature enough to handle our spirituality, and turn down the temptation to read this as an open cheque to a laissez faire society?

 

We are confounded by the open flouting of our moral compass. People are misreading the word “Freedom” as license to act as they please, where they please, regardless of consequences in relationships and the social bonds that make society safe and a place of nurturing. In realizing our individualism, the temptation is to become narcissistic. And, given our material advances, we can be become over ambitious and consumeristic. Like wanton kids, we revel in the openness of thought, uninhibited behavior, and experimentation with our sexuality. The negativity in this is so obvious. In such an environment, is it folly to be wise, or, do we see new challenges to “The Way”?Being disciples is to tread the narrow path that leads to the small gate. Discernment – as the Holy Father  advises

 

Let There Be Love

 

Fire. Once the prime means of illumination, heat and industry, has been replaced by more sophisticated means of heat transfer, and the everyday conveniences in our homes. Moral of the story? Our faculties and consciousness are progressing with an ever evolving macrocosm. We cannot say to the world “Let me down!”

Love of Bach and tradition are a luxury in a generation impatient with the “Old stuff”; and like a reckless infant, wants to experiment with new toys, new ideas and newly discovered sexuality. What is the point of lighting a candle when a new Caxton, Adam Smith and Einstein are born each minute? You cannot gather the benefits of scientific and technological advancements without picking up the flip side too. As they say in the East, the Ying goes with the Yang. Finger pointing and self-righteous disdain for the apparent slide in morality and the wilderness of our unbelief, can be at best be self-satisfying. But, it does not bring salvation for the self-centred righteous. For too long we have tried to use tradition to subject humanity to our own values and world vision. To what success? The moment we feel we have stamped down one thing in one place another sprouts up to mock us in another place. It is futile to use muscles. To persist is to one day find ourselves in the land of the dinosaurs.

Creatures of the mind can only be countered by a positive disposition and an open mind. Action, as the textbook says, every action gets an equal and opposite reaction. So, let us give passive resistance a chance. We cannot fight the devil without understanding what makes him so formidable. To turn our backs to him is to offer him a larger more vulnerable target.  Meeting him face-to-face will give an understanding of what gives him oxygen. Let discernment deliver more lasting alternatives. Let us give peace a chance, together with love and compassion.

Love That Makes Us Free

“What is Truth?” Pondered the Pagan, as he condemned Christ to the horrors of the cross. It was the interpretation of “truth” that brought Christ before Pilate for judgement – the Truth that came to set us free!

A Rabbi himself, Jesus was paradoxically a non-conformist too. He did not wish to change a letter of the law, yet transcended it with his gift of love. Love that truly sets us free. St Paul, St Augustine   etc etc were great minds, but they were also great servants of the Lord. The servant is not greater than the master: just a marker on the way. Their contributions, a crucible through which our own spirituality must be filtered and refreshed. Over emphasis and attachment to their words is like attachment to the world. Jesus exhorted us to view the world with all its wonderful manifestations; yet remain detached from it. God’s image is Omnipresent; it takes discernment to acknowledge and glorify Him through all things.

We take the world with us, with all its wondrous glory, for the sole purpose of placing it with gratitude at the feet of God. Our sole purpose being to love, serve and to glorify Him, as our Catechism says.

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Is Being Good Good Enough?

To be good is good enough for most people brought up and nurtured in our secular society. They shoulder-dress against “practicing” folks and affirm that they are as good – if not better than some. Morality, is the measure of their confidence. But, is being morally good good enough? Especially, when we see morality change forms with every generation and whim of fashion. The generation of my parents would shudder at our adopted social positions. Now, if you are “politically correct”, you have license to form your own judgements as to what is acceptable. But, are we not limiting our existence to the sum total of empirical measures and formulae? As Tennyson would say, “For what are men better than sheep or goats, if knowing God, they raise not hands of prayer, both for themselves and those that call them friend…”

We have that extra extension to our personalities that raises us above creatures that learn from traits, trials and errors. We conceive beauty and are able to admire and appreciate it. We form attachments that are above the level of survival and habit. We are able to conceive a level of consciousness that transcends worldliness. We are gifted with imagination that allows us to conceive a creative power that transforms all things in an ever evolving process towards a more perfect state. Since primal times humans have had this awareness. Like growing children, we forget our origins; where we came from, and the predetermined finishing point. If we ignore this, we are indeed no more than sheep that eat and bleat, and then they are no more. From slithering things to two legged things that raise their eyes heavenwards, we are co-creators in this symphony of evolving grace. Missing, therefore, in “goodness” are the forgotten seeds of humility, gratitude and love – the graces required to see ourselves as both human and divine.

The “Amoris Laetitia Debate

Dave Andrews (Ref Patheos, 24 Sep), respectfully, I do feel that for an apologist you do protest too much. I do not have the learning of the authors of the troublesome “Dubai”; nor that of the theologians, scholars, journalists, and faithful of various social strata proposing correct interpretations of the Pope’s exhortation on family values. But, as a simple Catholic who wants to develop his spirituality round “Amoris Laetitia” and “Laudato Si”, I find the storm a bit enigmatic.

I admit I am no fan of our anachronistic structure that promotes egotistical self indulgence, power and privilege. The authors, as I understand from the summary given in the “National Catholic Register”, are vexed by potentials of “divisions” or “conflict”, posed by the Pope’s expressed opinions on broken families. Strongly, in the interests of “justice and charity”, care for the “Universal Church”, and “according to a progressive/conservative paradigm” (whatever that means), they make, what they want us to believe is a filial correction. With, I might add, a bit of pressure through the media demanding a please explain from the Pontiff.

The prelates are wrong in their assertion to be acting as pastors. As pastors their duty lies in leading their flock, playing a nurturing role in caring for the flock’s spiritual needs; guiding them in the merits of dogma and Church values and practices. Nothing in the “Dubai” suggests spiritual considerations. Obviously, prayer and appeals to the Holy Spirit were absent. Priests and prelates are not paid for their personal opinions. When it comes to personal beliefs we are all equal. So. When the authors have been through their rhetorical maneuvering, we end up with a rather paradoxical situation; briefly, “(the Pope’s words) can be read in continuity with previous magisterium and do not contain a modification in the Church’s practice and teaching”. I believe that means that the Pope’s exhortation does not contradict Catholic Catechism. So, one questions the motivation.

Then we come to the part where journalists are miffed because the Pope has not offered a “please explain”. Here I salute the wisdom of Pope Francis. For, any “clarification” would amount to putting forward a different view- the very division the prelates wished to avoid. In our Pop culture, so used to instant gratification, Pop Catholics too expect instant solutions and gratification. The way of The Spirit is different. The Pope’s silence speaks louder than words. Time is providing answers (though maybe in an obtuse way). How do the Prelates respond to the LGBT question? In their response they will have the Pope’s answer. With a little more patience the future will be revealed in the forthcoming Synod. The Pope I feel will be vindicated. Those who made judgements on authority might find themselves being judged by their followers.

Worrying Thing About War

Struggling to contain the toey dogs of war, the world awaits in apprehension. Allies, half a globe away (comatosed by post colonial inertia), see familiar clouds gathering on the horizon, reminiscent of times when they went to policing and peace keeping missions all over Asia. The crusade is still inspired by the spirit of democracy. Democracy, seen by some as panacea for all our woes. But, while they peddle their opiates around the world, they seem indifferent to the millions staving at their door-steps. They are blind to the inequalities and squalor in the shanty towns across the globe. In their comforts they seem resigned to the destruction of our planet and its ecosystems. All too hard, and someone else’s problems. Am I my brother’s keeper? Detachment indeed!
Why don’t these prophets, newly inspired, first attend to their own backyards; cleaning up their problematic electoral systems and methods of good governance? Remove the log from your own eyes brothers, before scrutinizing what’s in the other’s eye. There is no one size to fit all cultures. Then, there is that lame excuse that this is the best system we’ve got! Surely those who suffered under authoritarian rules across the world were meant to believe something similar – “It’s as good as it gets”! Why should citizens, anywhere, accept politicians too lazy to work on, either perfecting their own systems, or, still better, work diligently to create a better, more efficient, and just system? If solutions are not found soon, we may become the “late” generation.