MORAL THEOLOGY (Notes of 2013)
Why did God create us? A Christian View—Part I
1. Let us try to reflect on why God created us—from a Christian point of view. For us, Christians, the
story of the beginning is related to the end. A kind of link puts both together. Well, it means that
there is a direction from start to end. The origin was started in view of an end—an objective. The
end is already, in silent form, found in the beginning.
2. We might need to read the story of creation—a very strange story, actually. What might be in that
story that can help us understand ourselves and our “end”?
3. By this time we all know that the stories of creation in the Bible are not “historical”…they are not
like the stories we read in modern books of history. The creation stories are very symbolic—but
the symbols are rooted in human experience. So, in way, human experience is real and true…and
historical. All humans have a common experience that is concrete—the experience of being
creatures, limited and making errors in life. The stories are attempts to symbolically express the
4. The creation stories are very old—and your studies in the introduction to the Bible may have shown
you how the Israelites borrowed from neighbouring cultures to weave their own creation stories.
So, Biblical experts tell us that there are elements coming the Babylon, Phoenicia, Egypt, and other
nations. The chaos at the start may have been related to the stories of gods fighting each other. But
there is something unique in the Biblical creation stories.
5. Let us begin with the first creation story (there are two, as you know). There are words that can be
used to describe “to create”—to make, to fashion, to make firm, to construct and even to beget.
In the Bible we read about a personal God—the Creator is a personal God. He takes the initiative
to create and he is not obliged to create. The Creator is beyond creation—in other words, God
is “transcendent”. He is not a result of creation. In one sweep God establishes time and space—
these constitute the universality of the world.
6. In the book of Maccabees we read: “I beg you, child, to look at the heavens and the earth and see
all that is in them; then you will know that God did not make them out of existing things; and in the
same way the human race came into existence” (2 Mac 7/28). Note that the verse emphasizes: God
did not make them out of existing things.
7. Our existence owes it to God. All creation originates from God—not from nothing. All creation
comes from God and creation is not God. This is important. We are creatures and never can we say
that we created ourselves. We cannot claim to be absolute!
8. Among some Jewish thinkers there was chaos, it was a kind of “nothingness”—it was chaotic. It
had no order, nor organization. God then put order in that chaos, and then God took a distance—a
Sabbath distance. God accepted to be distant—to take the “second place” and give the “first place”
to creation. It is like when we see the sea tide going down, we also see the wider sea shore and all
the things there. God took distance (on the 7th day) so that creation can glorify God and so creatures
can show themselves as creatures of God. It is now the turn of the creatures to say, “Here we are”.
9. Creation does not happen in “one click”. It is a process—it takes time. Finally God creates the
human person. God has prepared a created world and then put the human in it. Within the act of
creation we see a goal. Creation is a first step that leads the human being to happiness. God stars
with wonders and then places the human person in it. The human person is in the created world and
moves—advances each day.
10. Prophets and psalmists will re-read the story and make their own discernment and theologies. Of
course the New Testament will re-read the story and centre it on Christ.
11. But then there is a second creation story. This is in Genesis 2.
12. You may have studied this before in your introduction to the Old Testament. There are two stories.
There is the “Seven-day” story and there is the “Garden of Eden” story. Again, these are symbolic
expressions of the human experience. The authors of Genesis may have been taking from different
traditions from other cultures—and they wove their stories given their own particular theologies.
Biblical scholars would say that the second story—the “Garden” story—is older than the first story.
13. The “Garden” story seems to be more interested in the creation of the human person. There is the
garden—a nice garden with rivers that assure plentiful water. (Let us not forget that the authors
lived in a desert—or at least in a region where water was not very plentiful and trees were quite
14. So the garden seemed so much of a “paradise”. As for the creation of the human being, God is like a
potter fashioning from the soil.
15. The God breathes into the human creature. God gives the breath of life—God’s life. This is a free
and personal act of God.
16. Then the human person is placed in the garden. The garden symbolises the communion of the
human with God. A command is given: “You may eat from all the trees…but not from this one” (see
Gen.2/16-17). So there is an exception—do not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
So the human person is someone who has limits—and, again, just like in the first chapter of Genesis,
the human is not absolute.
17. A Church Father, Irenaeus, would say that God created the human in the beginning so that “…He
might have [some one] upon whom to confer His benefits” (Against Heresies IV 17 1). Maybe we are
still human now, but later, we will “partake of the glory of God. For you did not make God, but God
you. If, then, you are God's workmanship, await the hand of your Maker which creates everything
in due time; in due time as far as you are concerned, whose creation is being carried out” (Against
Heresies IV 39 2). So in due time we will be fully in the glory of God. Creation is good. Our Christian
belief holds this. We are in the process of glorification.
18. Another Church Father, Tertullian, meditates on the human being in terms of the human
as “modelled” after God. With creation, God is glad to have put order. And when God created the
human from clay…like you and me… “that poor paltry material, clay, found its way into the hands of
God, whatever these were, happy enough at merely being touched by them. …The truth is, a great
often then does it receive honour, as often as it experiences the hands of God, when it is touched
by them, and pulled, and drawn out, and moulded into shape. Imagine God wholly employed and
absorbed in it— in His hand, His eye, His labour, His purpose, His wisdom, His providence, and above
all, in His love, which was dictating the lineaments (of this creature)” (Resurrection of the Flesh VI).
It is interesting that Tertullian would add that “…whatever was the form and expression which was
then given to the clay (by the Creator) Christ was in His thoughts”. So when God was making each of
us, God was thinking of Christ already—he was modelling us in Christ.
19. Tertullian saw the love of God through the modelling and shaping of the human being. God showed
his love for us with a very particular attention in making us, modelling us. Just think…God was having
Christ in mind when he was making us. We were created in the image of Christ.
20. Creation, for Church Fathers, is a free act of God who loves us and wants to share with us his life. So
in a sense we have an idea of “why”—Why Did God Create Us.
21. Let us return to the Genesis story—in the garden. After having created the human being, the
Lord God placed the human in the garden. There the human can cultivate and “farm”. Some
commentators see this as “liturgical”—that in the garden we are so happy that give praises and
thanksgiving to God. This is our way of “farming” or “gardening”. We “embellish” the garden with
22. But God had given a “command”. God had given a signal: eat from all the trees butg not from this
one. Let us quote directly: “The LORD God gave the man this order: You are free to eat from any of
the trees of the garden except the tree of knowledge of good and evil. From that tree you shall not
eat; when you eat from it you shall die” (Gen.2/16-17).
23. What would this command mean? One element we see is that the human is created free and
responsible. The notion of freedom here is that the human is given the capacity not just to choose
but also to self-determine: I have the freedom to be who I want to be. We see this in our daily lives
where deciding and choosing is always part of what we do. We shape our lives—we shape our time,
our activities, our plans, our selves. This is human experience—this is the way things are with us. So
the command of God is actually a description of our human condition.
24. But notice also that part of the human condition is to learn how to make use of freedom.
We learn, day after day, what exactly our freedom is. Through life—with others and with our
different “experiments” we discover that freedom is not just what we want to do without restraint.
In fact, what we discover is that when we abuse our freedom, we become less free. This is an
experience we all have. We need to construct our freedom in a responsible way—otherwise
we “die”. So the command of God continues: “From that tree you shall not eat; when you eat from it
you shall die”.
25. There is a limit set to our freedom—do not abuse it, the command says. This is human condition and
the command is simply saying: if you want to be fully human, know your limits. Remember that we
are creatures and so we do not have hold of what is absolute. The human being is a great creature,
yes. But be careful, the human being is not an absolute.
26. Our freedom “likes” very much to extend itself. Philosophers have noted this: we desire a lot and
our desire tend to go indefinite. But our Christian tradition also tells us that we have a call—a
vocation. If we are created, it is because God wants to share with us his life—his joy and happiness.
This is a vocation that we welcome—but welcomed freely. So in freedom we respond to our
vocation. So we also need to manage well our freedom—to give it shape and responsibility in order
to respond to our vocation. Our liberty is not total, it is not absolute.
27. Our human condition shows that we are somehow “obliged” to construct our freedom—we are
somehow obliged to be free with responsibility. What is important here—and we are doing theology
here—is that we see this inn the light of the fact that we are created in the image of God. The
temptation—our temptation—is to refuse this. It is to refuse the fact that we are creatures—
images of God. There is the strong temptation to want to be gods. Let us read Irenaeus regarding
this. Remember what he says, God models us in time…and in due time, we shall have the fullness
of our glory. So Iraneus warns: “…by becoming hardened, you lose the impressions of His fingers”
(Against Heresies IV 39 2). The clay in us might harden—and we resist God. So we need to soften
up. We need to offer God our heart. And Iraneus concludes: “For it must be that you, at the outset,
should hold the rank of a man, and then afterwards partake of the glory of God. For you did not
make God, but God you. … For creation is an attribute of the goodness of God but to be created
is that of human nature.” (from the same citation). So Iranaeus is saying that we simply have to
accept the fact that we are created by the Creator. Our rank is human—creature. Our freedom is not
absolute—it is the freedom of the human creature.
28. The command of God to Adam in Gen.2/16-17 is designed to “structure” human freedom—give it
a framework. In the garden the human cannot do all. By refusing to eat from one tree, the human
is still giving priority to God. The symbol is quite clear. Not all trees give fruits of the “knowledge of
good and evil”. To God is reserved supreme and absolute knowledge—God always knows what he is
doing. When God makes a choice and decision, he knows his choice.
29. The human is different. The human does not have this full autonomy—this full self-mastery. When it
comes to what is good and bad, the human learns.
30. It may be interesting to look closely at this word: “learn”. (What is the word in your language?”).
Etymologically it has something to do with the "sole of the foot". Why? To learn is to endure, go
on… It is to continue and to carry out. So it implies following a track. We set our foot to follow a
track—like discovering a path in the jungle. As we move on, we leave footprints behind—we leave
marks of our footprints—the soles of our feet. So learning is a process—a matter of growth. We pass
through learning—through education. We do not learn in a flash. We even learn at times in making
31. The command of God is a description of the human condition of learning, growing, developing.
Is this not itself a mark of freedom? We cultivate our freedom to choose and decide by learning.
Without learning, how can we say we know and how can we say we are truly free?
32. Human freedom is set in the distance of the prohibited fruit. The human is given this signal. Do not
eat from that tree—if you do you will not learn. You will not grow. You will not be authentically free.
You will die.
33. In front of the prohibited fruit the human is faced with an option. In our Christian view, we see this
as a “fatherly” tenderness to us.
34. Notice that immediately after Gen. 2/16-17, we have the verse: “The LORD God said: It is not good
for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suited to him” (Gn 2/18).
35. For the first time, in Genesis, we have a mention of what is not good. To be alone is not good. So,
the story tells us that God lets the animals march in front of Adam and Adam names each of them.
None of the animals is a “helper”—none is a “face-to-face” partner. So what does God do?
36. The story continues to say that God lets Adam sleep and from the side of Adam God takes a rib and
then fashions the woman. Adam awakens and says: “This one, at last, is bone of my bones
37. This one shall be called ‘woman,’ for out of man this one has been taken. That is why a man leaves
his father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two of them become one body” (Gen.2/23-24).
38. The text is full of symbols. So many commentaries have been made. We cannot go into them. Let us
stick to the story. It tells us that the woman is part of the man, Adam. Adam recognizes it and says
it himself: bone of my bones. Yet at the same time, the woman is different from Adam. She is in a
face-to-face presence. She is “another face”, so to speak. The Hebrews say ish for man and isha for
woman. So there is similarity yet difference.
39. Now notice that the two of them become one body—and the man leaves father and mother. “One
body”, of course, would mean conjugal body—that each of them is reconstituted in a unity which,
still, remains double. “One body” would mean “one heart”. It is a conjugal symbol.
40. What we can notice here is that creation is like a “growing-up” process. There is the birth of the
human, then the giving of a lesson—the command—and the encounter with another in a face-to
face situation. It is all a creation story marked by learning….
41. How does it all happen—our existence? The human experience tells us that there is, indeed, a
mystery that is in the hands of God. In the book of Maccabees we see an appreciation of this
mystery when a mother says: “I do not know how you came to be in my womb; it was not I who
gave you breath and life, nor was it I who arranged the elements you are made of. … it is the
Creator of the universe who shaped the beginning of humankind and brought about the origin of
everything” (2Mac. 7/22).
42. A mother who gives birth may have all the right to say this—her body “cellularly” experienced our
birth. It is more than biology, of course. It is also about love and the future. When there is birth,
what do we immediately concern ourselves with? We project to the future—what will happen next?
How will this child be raised? What do we prepare for the child?
43. In the same way, creation has this image of projection into the future. There is creation—and it does
not just end with existing for the moment. There is a sense of looking forward to something.
Why did God create us? A Christian View
1. The first chapter of Genesis is a poem on creation. In this poem there are verses and strophes and
we notice the “refrain”: “the Lord God saw it was good”. This is, for example, what we notice when
God created the light, the separation of the sky from the earth, the separation of dry land from sea,
the creation of the vegetation, the creation of the sun and the moon, the creation of the animals,
the fish and then the birds, and then the animals on earth. It is a big and great expanse.
2. Notice that God is putting in order within the vast chaos—he makes separations and organizes
them. Once the separations are made, life is then put in—the plants and animals…and the human,
3. The poem also tells us how God looked at his creation. Meditate on the story and notice how God
is so fascinated and appreciative. We too are invited to look at the created world with the same
fascination and appreciation. There is no sign of suspicion and aggression towards the world. In the
poem we do not see any sign of mistrust about creation—no sign of struggling with the created
world, no sign of conquering and even destroying.
4. Again let us look at the creation of the human. It comes on the sixth day. The sixth day is when a
process has already been made—the separations and then the creation of plant and animal life. Just
before the sixth day God sees his works and says that they are good. Now it is time to create the
5. “Then God said: Let us make human beings in our image, after our likeness. Let them have dominion
over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, the tame animals, all the wild animals, and all the
creatures that crawl on the earth. God created mankind in his image; in the image of God he created
them; male and female he created them. God blessed them and God said to them: Be fertile and
multiply; fill the earth and subdue it. Have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air,
and all the living things that crawl on the earth. God also said: See, I give you every seed-bearing
plant on all the earth and every tree that has seed-bearing fruit on it to be your food; and to all the
wild animals, all the birds of the air, and all the living creatures that crawl on the earth, I give all the
green plants for food. And so it happened. God looked at everything he had made, and found it very
good. Evening came, and morning followed—the sixth day” (Gen 1/26-30).
6. The human—man and woman—look very royal. The better word is “steward” because they are still
part of the order established by God. Notice that the refrain is again mentioned in verse 30, that
God “found it very good”. The world in which we live is very good. It is not a bad world. It is a gift of
7. Look closely at the human as created in the image and likeness of God. The word “image” is
mentioned three times—and two times in link with the affirmation of sexual difference: “God
created mankind in his image; in the image of God he created them; male and female he created
them”. It looks as if this differentiation also belongs to the image and likeness of God.
8. Let us pause and reflect on this. Christian tradition has made a lot of reflections on this affinity
between God and the human being. In this affinity—in this intimacy—there is a design, a plan, an
objective. God creates—and it is a free act. It is from the initiative of God. There is no obligation
and there is no imposition made to God. The surrounding world is filled with blessings. God puts
things in order, then lets the living creature arise. It looks like a “preparation”. Then God puts in the
human. So there is a preparation—full of blessings—for the human.
9. The human is made as image of God. In other words, God has communicated and shared with the
human creature certain features that belong to God. So the human can think, has intelligence, can
reflect, has freedom…can love, can also be creative…etc. In flesh—in body—incarnated—as man and
as woman, relationship is oriented to love, which is also an image of the love of God.
10. From the start God blesses man and woman and tells them to multiply. In other words, they are
called to participate in the life of God. We are to be like God.
11. In the New Testament we see the theme of resembling God repeated: “Beloved, we are God’s
children now; what we shall be has not yet been revealed. We do know that when it is revealed*
we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope based on him makes
himself pure, as he is pure” (1John 3/2). Irenaeus of the 2nd century would reflect on the same
theme: “In the beginning, therefore, did God form Adam, not as if He stood in need of man, but
that He might have [someone] upon whom to confer His benefits. For not alone antecedently to
Adam, but also before all creation, the Word glorified His Father, remaining in Him; and was Himself
glorified by the Father, as He did Himself declare, Father, glorify Me with the glory which I had with
You before the world was. John 17:5 Nor did He stand in need of our service when He ordered us to
follow Him; but He thus bestowed salvation upon ourselves” (Against Heresies IV 14 1).
12. Irenaeus had to reflect on this notion of image and likeness of God. It was not easy, he felt, to
discern it exactly. How then can we see what it fully means? For iranaeus, the discernment is
clarified in Christ. The full notion of image and likeness is revealed when Jesus Christ became
man: “When, however, the Word of God became flesh, He confirmed both these: for He both
showed forth the image truly, since He became Himself what was His image; and He re-established
the similitude after a sure manner, by assimilating man to the invisible Father through means of
the visible Word” (same citation V 16 2). The human was created in the image and likeness of God
and so the Son of God can be human. There is a reciprocity of image. The Son, Jesus Christ, became
human in the image of human. By doing this he reveals fully to the human what is is to be God’s
image! The insight of Iranaeus is worth meditating.
13. Notice that what we have here is an affirmation, through Creation, not just of our origin but also of
our goal—our destiny. Creation has, within it, a grand project of God.
14. Ok, so we have very strong desires. We are inhabited too by the desire for something absolute.
As St. Augustine would say, our heart is restless until it finds rest in God. So deep within us is an
affinity—an intimacy—that we seek. It is revealed to us clearly by God.
15. The poem of creation ends with the seventh day—the day of Sabbath rest. God takes his Sabbath
rest. So we have creation stories about God and the human person—partners in creation. Not only is
the man and is the woman partner to each other—the human is partner to God.
16. Remember that the creation story—or stories—are not scientific and modern texts. In fact we can
appreciate it as a text for meditation and for giving a deeper understanding of ourselves. It invites
us to dwell into ourselves and investigate our experiences. Certain elements are clear and other
elements pose difficulties. The difficulties are invitations to deepen.
17. One thing is clear—there is the free initiative of God to create. Existence is grace. Like love, grace
does not explain itself. (When we love, it will be strange to have a reason for loving, right?. I love
you because I love you…not because you have this or that.)
18. What about stewardship? Notice that God prepares for the human presence. The “cosmos” is an
ordered world prepared for the coming and emergence of the human being. The human is called to
be master over this cosmos—to “dominate”. Creation is not a divine being that we must fear and
adore. This is not what creation story shows. Creation is the place where we can exert our human
freedom—one of which is the freedom to explore and even experiment. Science is not taboo.
19. Yet this domination and mastery is not absolute. The domination we have towards cosmos is not an
invitation to abuse. This is why we say that we are “stewards”—we manage respectfully the world.
As we manage we are accountable. This is already evident in the first story of creation. The order
that God gives is not for human abuse—it is for human management.
20. In the garden of Eden story, stewardship is also clear. There is a limit to human freedom—the limit
of responsibility. We sense here a kind of “theology of ecology” too. Stewardship means we are
concerned with the world—with nature. Today we are not aware of the destruction we make. We
use plastics, chemicals and we deplete nature of her forces and energy. Today we have a problem
that was, very likely, un-thinkable by our predecessors. In fact, the problem is open to debates
with “pros” and “cons”.
21. Let us go into the New Testament. For the New Testament creation is a work of God—who is
Father, Son and Spirit. The role of the Son is to be highlighted. Already in the earlier text of Paul we
read: “yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom all things are and for whom we exist, and
one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things are and through whom we exist” (1Cor. 8/6). For
Paul everything exists through Christ.
22. Later, in the letter to the Colossians Paul would write a hymn—a song: “He is the image of the
invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For in him were created all things in heaven and on earth,
the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers; all things
were created through him and for him” (Col 1/15-16). Notice again the notion of creation through
23. Let us go straight to the 4th gospel, and in particular the prologue of 1/1-18). The prologue calls Jesus
as “Word”—the Word of God. This Word is not just speech or “study”. It is a substance Word—a
real concretely existing Someone. With respect to the Father, the Word is a true partner: “In the
beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God,
24. and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came to be through him, and
without him nothing came to be” (Jn/1/1-3).
25. Later we read that the Word became flesh (see verse 14).
26. What might be in the mind of the author fo this gospel? He tells us that the Word of God is present
with God in the beginning. The Word is God. The Word plays a very important role in the foundation
of existence. The Word, for the fourth Gospel, is the prime “minister” of Creation. He contributed
to the realisation of Creation—he was there in ordering the space and the time, he was there in
bringing forth life of plants and animals and the human person. If we read the Church Fathers like
Irenaeus and Tertullien we will see fantastic reflections on this.
27. In other words, for Christianity over the centuries, the Word is person—it is Jesus Christ, Son of God,
who is concerned with the human being.
28. In more recent times we read about reflections on creation. Take Vatican II as an example. “For
man, created to God's image, received a mandate to subject to himself the earth and all it contains,
and to govern the world with justice and holiness; a mandate to relate himself and the totality of
things to Him Who was to be acknowledged as the Lord and Creator of all. Thus, by the subjection
of all things to man, the name of God would be wonderful in all the earth” (Gaudium et spes #34).
Notice the mandate given to us, humans, and also the place of Christ considered as “Lord and
Creator of all”.
29. Vatican II invites us to see the human in terms of origin—to recognize that the human is created by
God—the human does not self-exist. In our origin there is the free giving—the gift—without which
we are nothing.
30. In the Christian point of view we are situated between God and cosmos. God organized things and
let life emerge. So the created world “carries” life. Our Christian faith tells us that it is good to live. It
is good to exist. Our faith tells us that God really did want us to exist. He has crowned our existence.
31. This is a very optimist point of view. It should not de-mobilize us! We have things to do—
stewardship to fulfil.
32. Today we have theologians like Pierre Teilhard de Chardin who reflected on the value of creation
and eternity. He admired creation and he praised God for it. He saw the beauty of it all—and saw a
sense of eternity in it.
33. Creation is an “opening line”—the first step. It leads us to success in life and to happiness. This is,
in simple terms, what “salvation” means. Creation is a gift to us that will condition all our lives.
If creation is the “starting line” it is also the “supporting line”. It is constant throughout life—
throughout history. The cosmos is always there. We are invited to take a serious look at what is
good for us.
1. It is no secret that the stories of Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel end with “failures”. Well, let us then start with “failures”. The Biblical Authors might have had a reason for starting the whole Bible with “failures”. Maybe to make us realize that the Bible does not propose a kind of “ideal”. So the authors felt that maybe, again, maybe, we better start with being realistic: failure is as real as it can get. There is a “royal road” to fail. Better start this way so as not to fall into illusions.
2. Be successful in life? Be successful in relationships? It is never that easy. There are traps here and there. If we see the traps…or at least have an idea…maybe we will have better chances of success. The OT, and Genesis in particular, does not fix an ideal. It tells us that “the road is long”….very long. Be happy? Sure. But “the road is long”….very long. Be successful? Sure, but “the road is long”….very long.
3. We take the hard road, at times. They are roads filled with failures. But they are unique roads. There is no “one road for all”. Each one has his/her steps to make.
4. So in Genesis, we read about many stories like that of Abraham and Sarah. We read about Jacob and Esau. Also we read of Joseph. Notice there is no “ideal” type here. We are, in fact, invited to take our paths with open eyes in view of possible traps. We keep our eyes open because there are risks…and failures. There are also impasses.
5. We all know how to handle the Adam and Eve story. It is not a “historical story”. It may be evident, but it is better to mention it. In fact, it is like a “legend” story, or even a myth. But surely the story invites us to reflect on human life. It invites us to look at our relationships. It invites us to look at the relationships we have with God.
6. The Adam and Eve story can help us reflect on our ways of being humans. The goal of the story is not to do a history of the past. It is not to give an “ideal” of how we should be. Let us say that the main goal is to help us think—think about us. Let us start reading with the Creation story in Chapter Two. Notice what God is doing, according to the story. God is preparing a place for the human being.
7. The human being is situated in an environment. The human being is linked to it. God pulls out from the humus vegetables (or plants), the human being and the animals. Two of these creatures are made by God’s own hands—the human and the animals. The human, however, receives something more—the “breath” of God. This is particular only of the human being. Some from God’s own “lungs” goes to the human. Something special is made with the human, therefore. The human goes “out” of being just “natural”. Well, the human can speak like God, for example. Yet the human is also mineral, life, animal life, etc. So the human is both in and out of nature. A strange creature indeed.
8. With language the human is given a responsibility. The human is in the garden to work and to keep. It is a responsibility with nature…or rather “for” nature. In today’s theology we would read about “stewardship”.
9. So the human is in relationship with God, with nature and with oneself. How is the human related with oneself? Through a law. It is not an arbitrary law. It is a law that structures the human. The human being is made as “open to relationship” and is therefore given a law….a command. See Gen.2/16-17.
10. Notice how positive is the law. You may…. So the human is given the opportunity to enjoy the garden. So human desire is awakened. You are in the garden, enjoy it. Have fun with the creation of the Lord God.
11. The first part of the command awakens desire. It is a desire that interests all that God has given. Yet, God puts a limit. The human can eat all, but not from a specific tree. So yes, we can eat all…but not all. Accept that there is a lack. Accept that there is a limit. What is being emphasized here? Say no to the unlimited quality of desire! If the human does not do this, if the human cannot say no to the unlimited tendency of desire, the human will die!
12. Death? Well, for the culture of that region, death would mean more than just physical death. For us we might think of physical death. The heart stops beating. Lungs stop inhaling and exhaling. Our ecg goes flat. Dead! Dead! Dead! It is quite biological. But for the region—semitic region—death signifies the relational aspect of the human person.
13. The human being is woven for relationship. From birth to death we are filled with relationships. Even before we were born, relationships were taking place. (Well, what did mama and papa do?) Death is really more of the end of relationships. Finished, no more others in life. Starting with this, anything that threatens relationships is “murderous”. The threat does not allow us to live! So let us look at the command of God. We may eat of all…but there is a limit. Just think: not limits to my desire. This spells death! What does it mean to leave desires unlimited? In this case we “covet”.
14. To covet is to desire without limits, without structures, never controlled. It is a desire that invades! Anyone who does not accept a limit to desires engages in a path of death! Remember: Death means end of relationships, no more future. Just think: if we “covet”, say two persons “covet”, what happens? One scenario: the other person becomes object of desire. I want you for me. Another scenario: the other person can be seen as obstacle to my desires. As one philosopher would say, “the other is hell”. The other person prohibits me from having what I want. I want something, it is mine, but the presence of the other person is an obstacle. The other person is a rival. Another scenario: the other person becomes an instrument of my desires. I can “use” the other person to satisfy my desires.
15. Notice then: the other person is “object” or “rival” or “tool”. Is this not a good way “to die”? Never is my treatment of the other person reverential and respectful. To use a modern language, never is the other person “subject” (or source of initiatives and choices). The other person is never a partner—never a “brother” or “sister”. I do not exchange nor share with him/her. The other person is always in the function of my desires.
16. Furthermore, in my relationship with the other person I have no obligation to be true nor speak truthfully. Truth has no place between us.
17. Let us say that the other person is “object” of my desire. I cannot say, “You are a thing”. I will fail in making him/her object of my desire. So I will pretend: “I love you”. Let us translate this: I love you for me because you are my private property.
18. Let us say that the other person is my “rival”. Do I tell him/her this? Of course not. If I am truthful and honest, the other person can use the truth against me. “Aha”, he/she might say, “so you consider me a riva….I shall defend myself”. It will not work. SO I must be smart enough to pretend: “You’re nice”.
19. Let us say that the other person is a “tool” of my desire. Will I say, “You are my hammer” and “hen I need you I will use you”? Of course not. So I must pretend: “You are a good partner”, or “we are a team, without you I am nothing”. Ah, so much about telling the truth. Is this not what happens to us in daily life?
20. In principle, speech or speaking is what builds community. But what happens if we cannot rely on the words of one another? What happens if we really only “pretend” to one another? What life is this? Surely it is a life built on sand, not on rock. Each time we do something together, we are not sure if we can fully trust each other.
21. Telling a lie is not healthy. We hold each other through our “talk”. We speak to each other, we communicate to each other. If talk is not true can we build a community—a “fraternity”? So we see the risk of “coveting”. It is to take the path where our relationships lead to death! We prohibit each other to have relationships that can make us “bloom”.
22. Now we can appreciate why God has given the command a limitation. The second part of the command, “but…” is to prohibit us from coveting—it prohibits us from taking the road of death.
23. Well, we grew up in a mentality that might wonder about this command of God. The tree of the knowledge of good and evil has always been a source of difficulties. Why did God order not to eat from it? God gives that prohibition in view of relationships. It is important to accept that there are limits to what we know. In terms of knowledge, there is a level of ignorance.
24. Who really knows 100% what is good or bad? It is not often too easy, right? Do we not sdo things that we think are good…only for us to realize they are harmful and bad? Sometimes we avoid doing things we think are bad, only to later realize they are good.
25. One big difficulty in our relationships is the belief that we always know what is good for others. We always know what is bad for others. Just imagine community life…or marriage and family life. Think of how many individuals look at others and say, “I know what is good for you, so do it” or “I know what is bad for you so do not do it”.
26. Starting with myself I know what is good or bad for you. There is a risk, right? I imprison you.
27. In relationships this can happen. We imprison each other. So God has given the order. It is better to accept that we do not know all. To think I know all that is best/worst is not healthy in relationships. Why is “ignorance” here important? When we admit: “I do not know” I also admit that I must have confidence in you. Ignorance leads to confidence in the other.
28. Confidence? What is this? Just think. I say, “I do not need to be confident in you because I already know”. Because I know, I do not need you. Or at least I do not need to place confidence in you. (The etymology of “confidence”: from com-, a prefix and fidere "to trust". It means to have mutual trust).
29. Let me now say, “I do not know”. This means that I face a challenge, and I need to opt for confidence in the other person. What can he/she say? I need to know too. So confidence prepares the path to get to know each other more! Of course, I get to know myself too, in the process. In relations of confidence we learn to know ourselves. We open up to know more.
30. Let us go back to the command of God. God does not prohibit knowledge. Instead God prohibits “short cuts”. God prohibits that I know all, that I know the other person so much, there is no need to grow with him/her. This is unhealthy. I think I know all, but what I really know is what I have here in my head. I have not opened up to the other…I fail to know. Confidence is not prohibited. What is prohibited is to refuse confidence. What is prohibited is to refuse to know more, refuse to open up, refuse that I have no control over everything.
31. God’s command teaches us to “abandon ourselves” in confidence to each other. Why? Because confidence presupposes this abandon, this putting ourselves in the hands of the other. We both discover—we “adventure” gradually one another as we move on and live in this world. Life, in relationship, becomes a life of “adventure”. So do we want to “bloom”? If we want, we need to accept a “lack”, a “limitation”. We cannot live according to the rule of coveting. We do not know all, we do not control all. We need to accept an “unknown”. We need to trust each other in confidence. We adventure together. We learn together.
The Human according to the Bible
Taking inspiration from André Wenin
1. What is the response of God to the question of putting in front of us life and death. “Choose life in order to live” (Dt.30/15).
2. I will try to discuss with you “the human according to the Bible”…. The title is a bit tricky because in the Bible there is not one image of the human. There are many models. There are many ways of choosing life. These ways of choosing may have a meeting point that we can see clearly in Jesus whom Pilate called “Ecce Homo", “Here is the man”. Jesus was not in an ordinary situation when the gospel of John mentioned the affirmation (Jn.19/5).
“In the image of God”
3. I would like to share with you my reflections or present to you my actual lecture. “Actual” because it is still in movement, it is still changing regarding what the Bible says about the human. It is something that has inspired me….
4. The human in the image of God is the first affirmation of Chapter 1 of Genesis, when God proposes to create the human. “Let us make the human in our image and likeness” (Gn I, 26). I would like to work this text with you to show you how I read it and how I perceive it. Throught this image of the human in Genesis there is something very fundamental on the way by which we have to build our human existence, if we want to choose life!
5. When we read that man is in the image of God we have to translate it correctly as the human being in the image of God. It is not about a man but about “a man and a woman”. The expression: “Let us make the human in our image” is not a definition. For me, it is a project. This project is placed in a text of a particular style. It is a text about origins” “In the beginning”. It is a mythical text which speaks of the permanent human experience, that which stays in time and in cultures and in places.
6. The author must have had this in mind when he wrote: “In the beginning”. The author wants to tell us something fundamental and essential.
7. (Read Genesis 1/26-31).
Some strange elements
8. We are in the sixth day after the creation of the earthly animals. God says: “Let us make the human in our image and likeness”. It is worth noting that after God says this, the verb that follows, as I translate, is “that they have mastery”. So it is not about making a man but to make humanity—all humans—which is why it is in the plural. They must have mastery over the fishes, the birds, and all that crawl on earth. The word humanity is bot collective and singular. What is written is about each human, about human groups and all humanity.
9. Let us start superficially when reading the text. I have a teacher who told me that to be deep we must also be shallow. We must also look at what is shallow.
10. Verse 26 presents the project of God regarding the human. Verses 27-28 are about the realization of the project. The author tells us about what God does following his project. Notice that there can be strange things here. What is planned in verse 26 is different from what is realized in verses 27-28.
11. What is interesting is that the first manner of speaking about the human is strange: “Let us make the human in our image and likeness”. Look at the text. Notice three differences between what God plans to do and what is realized.
12. God has the project: “Let us make….” What happens next is, “God created”. So the first is “let us make” and the second is “he created”.
13. The differences in the verbs—to make and to create—might not mean much for us. Yet, note that the word “create” is exclusively attributed to God in the Bible.
14. To create is not “to make something out of nothing”. Rather it is “to make something unheard of and something unexpected”. Only God creates. The verb “to make” has a wider scope. It can apply to others—like humans. So why does the narrator of the story say “God created” while also saying “let us make”.
15. Here is another difference. “Let us make” is in the first-person plural. “God created” is in the singular. Why say “let us make”? Who is God talking to? The other strange thing is that God says “Let us make the human in our image and likeness”. The author then writes: “God created the human in his image, in the image of God”. This time, the word “likeness” is avoided. What happened to the “likeness”?
16. The third difference corresponds to the “blank” in the intention of God when the author says that God created the human “male and female”. The terms “male and female” are used for the reign of the animals and for the humans. Why does the author use the expression for the humans?
17. There is one last question. Let us read the whole text and note the refrain “And God sees that it is good”. Now, after the creation of the human, there is no mention of “it is good”. This makes us ask: is the human not good? The “very good” comes after God giving food to the human, which is vegetal.
18. If we read the Chapter, we will notice that there is one time when, even after having mentioned that God created, there is no mention of “it is good”. This is one the second day.
19. On the first day, God separates the waters. Remember that the text is symbolic.
20. In the beginning there is the chaos—a bunch of water, an immense ocean without reference. From the second day God organizes space. He creates the dome of the sky—a solid dome that separates the waters above from the waters below. It rains when the waters above fall. The waters below form the ocean on which, in the third day, God makes dry land appear.
21. In the second day, when God created the dome separating the waters, we do not read it said: “It was good”. It is only on the third day when God let dry land appear that we see, “It is good”. Why does not God say “It’s good” on the second day?
22. Jews would say it is not good because space has not yet been fully managed. Chaos is still unmanaged too in such a way that life is not yet possible. As soon as dry land appears, God puts there the green plants and the animals. On the second day, when God created the dome separating the waters, he does not say “it’s good” because the work is not yet complete. Not everything has emerged from chaos to allow a welcoming space for life.
23. If after having created the human God does not say “it’s good”, it is because the human is not yet achieved. The human is still incomplete. The human is not yet fully emerging from the chaos. The human is from the hands of God like a “draft”. This can make us understand the strange elements.
The human is just starting
24. What does it mean to say “God created”? It means that in the “making” God has his part—which is “to create”. Only God creates. “To make” has a wider scope, it has something else. It is the human to whom God speaks when he says “let us make”. It is the human in front of God that God has a plan of creating. In fact God is saying: “Let us make, you human and me, the human”. The human comes out of God’s hand, still un-achieved. The human is still incomplete. The human is still, partially, in chaos. The human—as individual and as collective—still have to work for realization—fulfilment. God has just done his part—create. The remaining work of “making” is in the task given to the human. The human is invited to collaborate for the human’s edification. This explains why we read: “God made the human in his own image”. The “likeness” is not added. The human is created in the image of God and must work for the likeness with God. The “likeness” is not given. The mission of the human is to make resemblance—be a likeness—of the image of God.
25. Why then add that the human is “male and female”? It is precisely to say that something is not yet achieved. The human is male and female like an animal. Starting with that, the human must construct his/her being “man and woman”. The human must uproot from the character of male-female which is the animal, un-achieved and not yet human. Work out the brute to become man-woman. It is like a potentiality that must be deployed—deployed as human and not just as animal.
26. It is not by chance that sexuality is noted in the text. The human is an un-achieved creature to whom God shows a path (verse 28).
Mastery over mastery
27. God says, “Let us make the human in our image and likeness”. Then God makes it clear, “That he has mastery over the fishes of the sea, the cattle and all the earth and all crawling creatures of the earth”. As soon as God creates the human, God gives a blessing and opens a path saying: “Be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth and submit them and master over the fishes of the sea, the birds of the air and the animals crawling on the earth”.
28. Created in the image of God, how can the human self-realize and self-achieve? By being master—by mastery. The human self-achieves by mastery. The project of God applies to all the earth—and, of course, to the animals. The human self-realizes by having mastery over mastery.
29. Let us explain.
30. The first image we have of God in Genesis is that of his mastery over chaos. He has mastery over the darkness and from that he makes emerge a world that is coherent and in harmony. If we speak of mastery, we need to clarify what this means exactly. In the text, note that God does not create out of nothing. “When God started to create the heaven and the earth, the earth was ‘tohu and bohu’, that is, empty ad formless on an abyss. The wind of the Lord blew over the face of the waters”.
31. There is a chaos formed by three elements: a ‘tohu-bohu’ formed from the abyss—that is, from very inhospitable mass of water. It was dark and there was a great wind. What does God do witht his chaos? He organizes gradually so that it becomes more hospitable to life. God makes light without, however, deleting darkness. One and the other are, from now one, in alternate morning and evening. The alternation is good!
32. God then makes to emerge dry land. From this space, life is allowed to come out. Here God does not eliminate the chaos of the waters. It is part of the assembly in harmony. Space is now structured. The ocean has its place, it is not anymore everything. When God masters over chaos, he does not destroy. He organizes and he lets negative elements have their places.
33. What about the great wind? It is related to what God says in the beginning: “…and God said”. This to say that it is necessary to mater the breath. It is not to eliminate it but to use it so that it can form articulated speaking: “…and God said let there be light”. The three elements of chaos, namely darkness, the mass of water and the great wind of God are all together in the act of creation—they are respected and not eliminated.
34. God puts to effect mastery that does not destroy anything. He assigns each thing to its proper place. The first manifestation of mastery here seems fundamental: organize to allow life. The second element comes as a refrain: “…and God sees it is good”. We have here something telling us about the way God looks at his creation. But when we say “looking” we also mean distance. The look of God to the different elements that come one after the other is a look of marvel. God is marvelled at what he is not…something in the act of creation that we do not see. To exist, one must be considered by someone else. If one is not looked at, one does not exist. The look opens up space where a person exists.
35. God takes the distance, looks and, sometimes call. The creation of God is not just a “doing” it is also a “looking”, a “letting be”. This gives the object its place—the place of the admired. To create is also to stand back, to show tenderness, to “let it be”.
36. The text ends with the Sabbath of God. On the 7th day, God takes a rest. The author tells us that God achieves creation by resting. God finished the 7th day by taking a rest. The achievement of creation is the fact that God stops. God puts a limit to his mastery.
37. During six days, he structures space. He fixes space. He lets living things come out. On the 7th day, he stops the deployment of his force. Note that on this 7th day God masters his own mastery. He shows that he is stronger than his force. The mastery of God is a mastered mastery. This also tells us that his mastery is not destructive—it destroys nothing. The mastered mastery is the all power of someone who is powerful because he limits himself.
38. Why is the power of God limited? God pulls back from the world in allowing the other to develop. He leaves a space free for the world and for the human. God pulls back leaving the other a space to develop its own autonomy.
39. One sense of Sabbath is giving a limit so that the other has the chance to develop autonomy. So we see that the mastery of God is a mastered mastery.
40. If the human is called to have mastery, it is to realize in the human the image of God. The human is called to a certain type of mastery. In verse 28, the human receives the command to have mastery over the earth, and over the animals in particular. The human receives, in general, two types of food: cereals and fruits from trees. This is vegetal food. This is strange too. It signifies that the human must know how to be master over the animals. The enigma proposes a way of living master of the animals. If the human eats vegetables and not the animals, it means that the human cannot just go all the way dominating the animal by eating the animal after killing it! When God tells the human to eat vegetal food, God proposes a manner of living—a mastery that leaves space of life for the other. There is a limit so that the other can have life. The respect of the other is the limit of my mastery. To realize my being image of God is by mastery, but it is a mastered mastery without violence. It limits itself for respect of the other—be the other human or animal.
41. What we see here is mastery that masters itself—it is gentle. It is not the gentleness of the weak but of one who controls his/her force to the point of limiting it and leaving space for the other to live, to breath, to develop, to grow. Leave space for the other too.
42. Verse 30 shows that the animals are also vegetarians! Of course this is not exactly the case—it is a text to interpret. It is a metaphor. If the human—group or individual—is made vegetarian, it is to say that the human must have mastery over things and others in a limited way. There are limits to mastery. Leave space for the other to live. This implies a peaceful coexistence in a strong sense. People can exist together in the same space without eating each other.
43. If the human is master, mastering mastery, it is to allow life for the other. So animals do not also eat each other—or that we do not eat each other.
44. We find echo of this in Isaiah 11 where we read that each one has a space without taking the space of others. Under the auspices of the weak, the children, the animals themselves, that they do not eat each other. This happens when justice is installed.
45. In Genesis 1, justice is that each one has a space without invading the space of others. Each one self-masters mastery. Be a master of your own mastery. The human must preside over such an order. If the human respects the other—animal or human—the human gives up totalitarian power which is installed by the imagination. In this way the human can preside over “living together” peacefully.
46. God puts and order in the chaotic forces of the world. The human, when created still has chaos and still is dis-ordered. The human still is male-female, this is the animal in the human. There is still chaos in the human. The human must therefore master this chaos—the chaos within. Just as God put order in the chaos, the human must put order in the chaos within—collectively and individually.
47. In the human there is the male-female, something of the animal, something of the in-human. This is not yet humanized.
Divine word and human word
48. In his book, “Civilization and Its Discontents”, Freud wrote: “Here is a truth that we cannot deny. The human is not this chic creature with a soft loving heart that defends itself under attack. Instead, the human is a being that must consider aggression. The human is tempted to satisfy aggressive desires against the neighbour, exploit the work of the other, without compensating the other, to use the other sexually without the consent, to appropriate the goods of the other, to humiliate and make the other suffer, to martyrize the other and kill the other. Homo homini lupus. Who has the courage in front of engagements of life and history, to say that this is not true? It is a general rule this cruel aggression, this provocation…. Aggression manifests spontaneously and shows the human as a savage beast who loses all regard for the human species”. This was written in 1929. Even after that year many cruel things have happened. So there is something chaotic in the human in the animal sense. In the human—group and individual—there are animal and inhuman forces that the human is called to master. It is to master without killing.
49. How can we master without killing? We master without killing just like God. Be just like God. How, by speech, but speaking. “And God said”. The animal in the human can be mastered without killing and without violence by a word that recognizes it and names it. It is a speaking that gives names.
50. To give names is to recognize the existence of things. To name violence within is to allow it to spread out. The human, in this text of Genesis, is invited to have mastery over forces without destroying the forces but by setting a limit. In this way the life of the other is respected and given space.
51. It is important to show this “being in power” of the human. It is given to the human at the same time that food is given to the human. Limiting power is necessary—like limiting eating. Do not eat the other. Do not eat your fellow human. Do not open to the possibility of having violence in your mastery.
52. To eat is, symbolically, the transformation of the non-human to the human by assimilation. Humanization pass through the mastery of mastery—and this is symbolized by the image of eating.
53. Notice that sin is presented through this symbol of eating. The command that accompanies the giving of food is also the command of life. The command tells us that we do not just live by bread alone but by the word. In verse 31 God adds, “It is very good”. There is a kind of invitation to live together with others. Be master over mastery is to reconcile with oneself and with others—as individual and as group. This is our evaluation of how we use our power.
54. Knowing how to manage our desire is also knowing how to manage power without using power to fulfil frustrations and dominate over others. A gentle mastery in respecting the lives of others is in respecting their other-ness.
55. Let us look at Jesus. He is the “man in the image of God. In Colosians I/15 we read that he is the image of the invisible God. Jesus is the gentle being, deeply reconciled with himself and master of his own mastery. He is such a master that he is able to put his power in the service of others, in the service of life, in the service of the liberty of others. Jesus is this image of God who, up until death, shows what this image really is, the image of God.
Gn 9/8-17 Gn 17 Ex 20 Jr 31/31-34 Ez 16/6-14 Mk 14/24 Lk 22/20 1 Co 11/25
1. In the mass we say “lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world have mercy on us”. In a way this can also summarize the whole Bible—that now with Jesus, after a long history, salvation has come. The history of the Bible can be understood as a history of covenant that deepens along the way. In the early pages of Genesis we read about the covenant with Noah (Gn 9/8-17). Abraham also got involved in a covenant with God (Gn 17). Moses on Sinai also concluded a covenant with God (Ex 20). Later on we read about the prophets (Jr 31/31-34 ; Ez 16/6-14).
2. But finally it is really the blood of Christ that a definite covenant is made. See Mk 14/24 ; Lk 22/20 ; 1 Co 11/25. In all cases God has been taking the initiative to call people to covenant.
3. According to those who know Hebrew, b’rit means “between two”. When a covenant is concluded the Hebrew would say “cut between two” karat b’rit. This expression also has a ritual sense. An animal is cut in two sections and shared between the partners of the covenant. This implies that both share the same animal—they share the same covenant—and so no one should break the covenant. In Genesis 15, we read the God concluded a covenant with Abraham and there was the ritual of animal sacrifice. God told Abraham, "‘Bring me a three-year-old heifer, a three-year-old she-goat, a three-year-old ram, a turtle-dove, and a young pigeon.’ He brought him all these, split them in two, and placed each half opposite the other” (Gen.15/9-10). The ritual implied a relationship between the two—a relationship of solidarity.
4. The covenant was part of the experiences of Israel and it was also very juridical. Agreements had to be made between partners to assure peace and cooperation. Clans and tribes concluded covenants with one another. Each side had to respect the agreement—the covenant. Fidelity was proof of loyalty and, again, solidarity.
5. In those ancient times, there was the practice of the vassal. A nation would rule over another nation—this was to make one nation a vassal of another. It may even be the origins of our modern treaties and pacts—especially today in terms of economic agreements. In the vassal system the king of the stronger nation would sign a pact with the king of the weaker nation. The stronger would accept to be protector of the weaker. But such an agreement implied recognizing the sovereignty of the power of the stronger. The weaker would accept subjection of the stronger in order to protect itself from other enemies. So there were “agenda” other than just being in solidarity. But culturally the style of concluding covenants between nations found its way to the covenant between God and Israel.
6. The biblical notion of “covenant” is marked by the style of the culture at that time. Like the treaties of vassalage we see the Lord God expecting Israel to be faithful—like for example, “You will not have other gods”. The whole idea behind it is that the people of Israel belong to God. In a general way we can say that the agreement in the covenant would leave the people free with what they want to do: You may do all, except…. Live as you want, but there is a limit and the limit is provided by the covenant. Does this not remind us of what we were saying in Genesis 2/16-17. You may eat all, but not from this tree. Does this not remind us too of what we saw in Genesis chapter one. Be like God. Have mastery over the world around, but master that mastery. There is a limit to that mastery.
7. All of life—even aspects of daily life—would now belong to God. Everything will centre on God. This includes social behaviour—the way people treat each other. We can understand why prophets have been so severe in their criticism of society: social life, they would say, was not longer a life of being “fraternal” and “neighbourly”. Injustice reigned. Social behaviour was distorted. Such was a proof that the covenant with God was violated. The violation of the covenant with God led to renewed slavery. The slavery experienced in Egypt returned in a new way among the people of Israel.
8. Let us tie this up with chaos. If we refuse to be faithful to the covenant, what happens? We start re-living the chaos of slavery. So the covenant is really an agreement to liberation—we engage in an agreement with God so that we will not be stuck in slavery. The covenant is a “refuge” from the temptation to fall into injustice and perversion. Obey the covenant signifies blessings—happiness. Disobey signifies slavery—an unfortunate life. “I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Choose life, then, that you and your descendants may live” (Dt30/19).
9. So covenant and liberation are linked closely to each other. You may eat from all the fruit trees—but not from the tree of slavery. You may have mastery over all, but do not be enslaved by your own powers! See the relationship between creation and covenant?
10. So we can see the idea of the severity of the prophets. They wanted a renewal of the covenant….and it had to be also juridical. Of course underneath all that was still the love of God—freely given. Israel was always asked to respond.
11. As we know in history, the people of Israel did not always stay faithful. But the history would still be a movement—like a preparation—for the definite covenant with God through Jesus Christ. We see what, for example, the prophets have been saying in terms of the future: a new covenant will be made and hearts of stone will be transformed to hearts of flesh. This was to be realized in Jesus.
In front of the Commandments of God: some comments
Think about the so-called “Ten Commandments”, or sometimes called the “Decalogue”. The Decalogue is found in Chapter 20 of Exodus and Chapter 5 of Deuteronomy. In a sense, even Chapter 5 of Matthew has something of the Decalogue in it. Let us try some comments or observations :
1. What is principal is not the Law but the Covenant. This is the gift of God which is already in the very
start of the Decalogue: “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery” (Dt.5/6). God has liberated Israel and has given Israel the opportunity to stay away from slavery. God has proven his love. And so the people cannot anymore live in any way they wanted.
2. Once realizing you are loved, how can you live in a different way? This tells us that for us, we do not just behave with “moral conduct” following rules and regulations. Central to the Christian is the personal link with Christ. First is love, then next is moral conduct. The commandments are like “safeguards” or “parapets”. The commandments indicate the minimum without which we might have to ask if there is any Covenant at all. If there is love and respect, if there is Covenant, then there is an accepted minimum of rules.
3. If we look at the prophets, and Jeremiah in particular, we notice that it is important to interiorize the Law. “See, days are coming—oracle of the LORD—when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. …I will place my law within them, and write it upon their hearts; I will be their God, and they shall be my people” (Jer.31/31-33).
4. For Ezekiel not only is the place of the Law in society changed, it is society itself that is changed. “I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put my spirit within you so that you walk in my statutes, observe my ordinances, and keep them” (Ez 36/26-27).
5. If we go straight to the New Testament, we read about Jesus giving commandments too. See Mt 5/17-48, Mk 10/17-22, Mt 18/21-22 ... etc. Having commandments is a minimum of live. We might say there is an “at the least” when we love.
6. The commandments are “references” rather than consignments to be applied to the detail. The problem with the Pharisees is that they perverted the Law. They went too far into the “letter” of the Law as if by simply doing the gestures all is ok. The commandments do not dispense us from discerning what we must do. In many situations we need to discern. This is part of Christian maturity.
7. Part of this maturity is also to ask, “what does God really want me to do?We can look at rules and regulations because they can serve as references. But to live under rules and regulations without discernment is to disrespect the rules themselves. We can understand why Jesus is critical of the ancient Laws. It is because by simply following them without reflection and discernment is not healthy at all. In the
8. Sermon on the Mount in Matthew we see Jesus saying “you have heard it said…but I say to you”. This is another way of saying that deep within the rules is a heart. Go beyond the letter…go into the heart. The commandments are meant to make us live! In the book of Genesis, when we read about the creation, we notice the mention of “God said”—it is mentioned ten times! Ten words of God created the world and put the world in order. In the same way, we can consider the commandments—like the Ten Commandments—as putting things in order, trying to arrange life so as not to fall into slavery.
9. The Ten Commandments can be seen as putting things in order—an order into social life that allows each one to structure properly his/her ways. The rules and regulations do not aim to enclose us. On the contrary they are designed to help us grow and build our freedom. Remember what Jesus has always been saying: the Sabbath is made for us, not us for Sabbath. The Law is meant to help us. It is not meant to enslave us. (see Mk 2/27).
10. The commandments are designed to help our conscience whenever we are in the dark about decision. Let us admit it, there is also something “objective” in rules and regulations. (Objective means “not simply dependent on our tastes”). Of course rules and regulations can be disturbing too. They question our behaviour and our desires. They force us to verify our motives!
11. So we can appreciate the commandments of God as “signals” whenever we find ourselves in dangerous positions—when decisions are risky, for example. Today we might read about people who quickly decide on abortion or euthanasia. When we are in a situation that calls for decision regarding a sick relative or a pregnant woman, what do we make of the commandment “Do not kill”? would it not help us? And we try to listen well to the Beatitudes of Jesus and the rules he made on the Mount, could we not be forced to question ourselves when we want to make hasty decisions?
12. The commandments emphasize the love of God—his desire to liberate us. By looking at the commandments, we might want to open up more to the grace and help of God. We say we want to love just like Jesus. We say that we want to follow him. Well, we need to be serious about the demands of love too. And we see how hard it is to really love just like Jesus, right? We might be asking the same question: “Who can be saved?” (Mk. 10/23-27). Do we not feel the need also to ask God to help us to love like Jesus.
13. If we think we “have it all” in our rules and regulations, that we have already made all the necessary laws and all we have to do is follow the gestures, we fall into a pretention. We pretend that we can realize all. In fact, with this pretention we might stay away from God! We really discover that we need God—we do not have it all in our rules and regulations.
The meaning behind the Decalogue is the liberation of living in Covenant with God
1. To be free, it is to do what we want to do. Ok, fine. But we need to think about this well enough. If I am so free I can do what I want, my neighbour will also claim freedom—and doing what he/she wants to do. If my neighbour wants to steal my computer, because my neighbour is free, how will I react?
2. Reflecting about this about freedom, we see that freedom is linked with rules and regulations—with “shoulds”. Look at musicians. They play well their musical instruments, and they play the instruments freely. Yet, we know that to be able to play well like that means the discipline of entering into the rules of playing. Look at persons in sports. Think of Manny Pacquiao. To be able to box like that—with so much freedom in throwing those hands—a lot of discipline is needed. Pacquiao had to enter into the rules of training. Also we know that even inside the sports of boxing, there are also rules to follow—like no hitting below the belt or no head butting. These too are part of boxing, and they are rules.
3. Rules, norms, laws—they are necessary to fix the framework of acting and behaving. As we said before, they are “parapets”. They give us a sense of discipline and also security. We feel free inside the parapets. We know we will not fall. We see this in Exodus 20/1-17—known as the “Decalogue”.
4. When God led the Hebrews in the desert after years of slavery in Egypt he wanted to give chance to people to be in-charge of their lives and be happy in their freedom from slavery. But we know the story. The people were not able to appreciate the liberty given to them.
5. The people were so familiar with their life of slavery in Egypt, they needed to have a new familiarity—familiarity with liberty. The habit of slavery was marked by the sense of “being nobody”, “having no real identity”, “without autonomy and choice”. So that the people learn to live in new freedom—away from slavery—God gave them a reference—a parapet: the Decalogue.
6. Remember that when God freed the people of Israel God also concluded a covenant with the people. I am your God, you are my people. Inscribed inside the covenant is a set of rules, laws, commandments—the Decalogue. Do not forget this. The Decalogue is fruit of covenant. The Decalogue may look like “external rules” but interior to it is the covenant—the love relationship that God initiated with the people of Israel.
7. We might have grown up with the idea that the “commandments” are just rules to follow. They might even look like controlling our behaviour. “God is watching you…so obey him in what he wants”. But notice the starting point of the Decalogue: God is liberator who pulled the people out of slavery. A God watching each move we make is not a liberating God. He might be a policeman…but not the liberator from slavery.
8. God gave the Decalogue to help people gain a new sense of life and not return to slavery. To be able to live this new freedom, the people received the Decalogue. The Decalogue would serve as a guide for living—a common reference that can make the people “someone” and not just “slaves” of Egypt.
9. The new liberty of the people is very much marked by the sense of “mastery” but a mastery that must be mastered. Be master of your land, have power over the nation…but remember to be like God…control your powers and live in justice. The new liberty of the people would mean also “you may do what you want, feel free to eat from any tree…but there is a limit…you are not to eat from this one tree”. Notice the very close link between the Creation story and the Decalogue. The Decalogue is that “but”. Do what you want but do not return to slavery.
Where does joy come from?
POPE BENEDICT XVI
The crucial factor is . . . based on faith:
I am wanted; I have a task in history; I am accepted, I am loved . . . Man can only accept himself if he is accepted by another. He needs the other's presence, saying to him, with more than words: it is good that you exist. Only from the You can the I come into itself. Only if it is accepted, can it accept itself. Those who are unloved cannot even love themselves. This sense of being accepted comes in the first instance from other human beings. But all human acceptance is fragile.
Ultimately we need a sense of being accepted unconditionally. Only if God accepts me, and I become convinced of this, do I know definitively: it is good that I exist. It is good to be a human being. If ever man's sense of being accepted and loved by God is lost, then there is no longer any answer to the question whether to be a human being is good at all. Doubt concerning human existence becomes more and more insurmountable.
Where doubt over God becomes prevalent, then doubt over humanity follows inevitably. We see today how widely this doubt is spreading. We see it in the joylessness, in the inner sadness, that can be read on so many human faces today. Only faith gives me the conviction: it is good that I exist. It is good to be a human being, even in hard times.
ON HAPPINESS AND THE BEATITUDES
BY PETER KREEFT
Ancient and Modern Concepts of Happiness
1. My topic today is Jesus' concept of happiness. And we must begin with the dullest and most necessary preliminary: defining our term. Nearly everyone, from Aristotle to Freud, agrees that we all seek happiness, and that we seek it as an end, not as a means. No one seeks happiness for any other reason. We argue about other things, but not about happiness. We may say, "What good are riches if they don't make you happy?" But we don't say, "What good is happiness if it doesn't make you rich?" This is clear, to both ancients like Aristotle and moderns like Freud.
2. But there is a very significant difference between the typically ancient and the typically modern meaning of happiness. Ancient words for happiness, like eudaimonia, or makarios in Greek or beatitudo in Latin, mean true, real blessedness, while the modern English word happiness usually means merely subjective satisfaction, or contentment, so that in modern English, if you feel happy, you're happy. It makes no sense, in modern English, to tell someone, "You think you're happy, but you're not."
3. But that is precisely the main point of the most famous book in the history of philosophy, Plato's Republic: that justice, the all-inclusive virtue, is always profitable, that is, 'happifying'. And injustice never is. Thus, that the just man, even if like Socrates, he has nothing else, is happy. And the unjust man is not, even if he has everything else, like Gyges, or Gollum, with his ring of power and invisibility. Thus, we should distinguish the ancient concept, which is really blessedness, from the modern, which is really contentment. I shall be talking about blessedness here.
4. Blessedness differs from contentment in four ways, all of which can be seen by analyzing the Greek word eudaimonia. First, it begins with the prefix eu, meaning good, thus implying that you have to be good, morally good, to be happy.
5. Second, daimon means spirit, thus implying that happiness is a matter of the soul, not the body and its external goods of fortune. The word happiness, by contrast, comes from the Old English word hap, meaning precisely fortune, luck or chance, which was the one Pagan thought category Christianity subtracted. In all other cases, Christianity added to Paganism. As Chesterton said, summing up all spiritual history in three sentences: "Paganism was the biggest thing in the world. Christianity was bigger, and everything since has been comparatively small." If blessedness is spiritual, it is free. You are responsible for your eudaimonia, but happiness just happens.
7. Third, eudaimonia ends in ia, which means a lasting state, something permanent. Contentment is for a moment, blessedness for a lifetime. So much so that Aristotle in the Nicomachean Ethics could not make up his mind whether to agree or disagree with the saying "call no man happy 'til he is dead." That is, wait for the end of the story to judge it.
8. Fourth, and most important of all, the state of eudaimonia is objective, whereas contentment is subjective. When we say happiness, we usually confuse these two meanings, the ancient and the modern. And that is not wholly unwise, because within the ancient concept of happiness, in a secondary way, there is also present the modern one: the need for some contentment, peace of mind, pleasure and at least a modicum of the gift of fortune. While within the modern concept of happiness, that is, within subjective contentment, there is also present, in a secondary way, a feeling for the need of something of the typically ancient ingredient, the need for at least some virtue and the feeling that the happiness, to be deep and lasting, ought to be real and earned and true happiness, whatever that may be.
9. We are about to explore Christ's concept of happiness. It is typically ancient (blessedness) but it also includes the above ambiguity or doubleness of meaning: subjective satisfaction as well as objective perfection.
Our Concept of Happiness
10. Let's look first at our concept of happiness. When I speak of our concept, who is us? I mean our culture, the mental landscape we all inhabit, even when we feel like aliens here, most generally the modern, post-Christian West, but most specifically contemporary America, as it would appear on opinion polls.
11. If an opinion poll were to ask Americans to list the nine most important ingredients in the happy life, they would probably give an answer pretty much like the following: First, the most obvious, though not the profoundest ingredient, is probably wealth. If you notice your friend has a big smile on his face today, you most likely would say to him, "What happened to you? Did you just win the lottery?" If that's what you'd say, it must be because that's what would put the biggest smile on your face. And let's face it; money can buy everything money can buy, which is a lot of stuff.
12. Second might be our culture's most notable success, the conquest of nature and fortune by science and technology, allowing each of us to be an Alexander the Great, conqueror of the world. Third would probably be freedom from pain. I think few of us would disagree that the single most valuable invention in the entire history of technology has been anesthetics.
13. Fourth would probably be self-esteem, the greatest good, according to nearly all of our culture's new class of prophets, the secular psychologists — and secular psychologists are among the most secular of all classes in our society. Fifth might be justice, securing one's rights. Justice and peace summarize the social ideals of most Americans, the ideals they want for themselves and for the rest of the world.
14. Sixth, if we are candid, we have to include sex. To most Americans, this is the closest thing to heaven on Earth, that is ecstasy, mystical transcending of the ego — unless they're surfers. Seventh, we love to win, whether at war, at sports, at games of chance, in business, or even in our fantasies. Our positive self-esteem requires the belief that we are winners, not losers. We want to be successful, not failures.
16. Eighth, we want honor. We want to be honored, accepted, loved, and understood. In our modern egalitarian society, we are honored, not for being superior, but for being one of the crowd. In most ancient societies, one was honored for being different, better, superior, excellent. But we still crave to be honored. Some even want to be famous. All want to be accepted.
17. Ninth, we want life, a long life and a healthy life. Thomas Hobbes is surely right in saying that fear of violent death, especially painful and early death, is very, very powerful. Your life is not happy if it's taken from you, obviously.
18. This all seems so obvious and so reasonable as to be beyond argument. Higher ideals than these are arguable. Some of us seek them and some of us do not. But these nine would seem to be firm and impregnable, universal and necessary. Whoever would deny that they form a part of happiness would be a fool. Whoever would affirm that happiness consisted in their opposites would be insane.
Christ's Concept of Happiness
19. Let us now perform a fantastic thought experiment. Let us suppose that there was once a preacher who did teach precisely that insanity, point for point, deliberately and specifically. Perhaps you cannot stretch your imagination quite that far, but I'm going to ask you to stretch it even one step farther. Imagine this man becoming the most famous, beloved, revered, respected, and believed teacher in the history of the world. Imagine nearly everyone in the world, even those who did not classify themselves as his disciples, at least praising his wisdom, especially his moral wisdom, especially the single most famous and beloved sermon he ever preached, the Sermon on the Mount, the summary of his moral wisdom, which begins with his 180 degree reversal of these truisms.
20. Perhaps you find this far too incredible to be imaginable. It would be a miracle harder to believe than God becoming a man. It is hard enough to believe that anyone would believe the strange Christian notion that a certain man who began his life as a baby, who had to learn to talk, and ended it as an executed criminal, who bled to death on a cross, and in between got tired and hungry and sorrowful, is God, eternal, beginningless, immortal, infinitely perfect, all-wise, all-powerful, the Creator.
21. But it is even harder to believe that anyone would believe his utterly shattering paradoxes about happiness. Perhaps we do not really believe them after all. Perhaps we only believe we believe them. Perhaps we have faith in our faith rather than faith in his teachings.
22. For, of course, I am referring to Christ's eight beatitudes which opened his Sermon on the Mount, the most famous sermon ever preached, and the one part of the New Testament that is still held up as central and valid and true and good and beautiful even by dissenters, heretics, revisionists, demythologizers, skeptics, modernists, theological liberals, and anyone else who cannot bring himself to believe all the other claims in the New Testament or the teachings of the Church. These people strain at the gnats but swallow the camel. So let's look at the camel that they swallow. Perhaps they only seem to swallow it. Perhaps they swallow only their own swallowing, gollumping like Gollum.
23. To our desire for wealth, Christ says, "Blessed are the poor in spirit." To our desire for painlessness, he says, "Blessed are those who mourn." To our desire for conquest, he says, "Blessed are the meek." To our desire for contentment with ourselves, he says, "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness." To our desire for justice, he says, "Blessed are the merciful." To our desire for sex, he says, "Blessed are the pure in heart." To our desire for conquest, he says, "Blessed are the peacemakers." To our desire for acceptance, he says, "Blessed are the persecuted." And to our desire for more life, he offers the Cross. And now this man carrying his cross to Calvary even dares to tell us, "My yoke is easy and my burden is light."
Blessed are the Poor in Spirit
24. We say how blessed we are as individuals or as a nation when we have wealth. He says no, you are blessed when you are poor. Poor not only in your bank account, but even more than that, not less, poor down to the depths of your heart, poor in spirit, detached from riches, whether you are physically rich or poor.
25. When Harvard University invited Mother Teresa to give a commencement address, she shocked them by taking issue with the gracious invitation they sent to her, as "the most famous person in one of the world's poorest nations, to address the world's richest nation." She said no, "India is not a poor nation; India is a very rich nation. She has a wealth of riches, true spiritual riches. And America is not a rich nation. She is a poor nation, in fact, a desperately poor nation. She slaughters her own unborn children."
26. Why? Because the mother fears those children will be poor, or will make her poor. The mother fears that she will not be able to afford to have these children, as if children are like cars or computers, calculable items in the household's economy, consumer goods rather than consumers, objects rather than subjects, part of the circle rather than the center of the circle.
27. The supposed insanity of Christ's saying thus turns out to be an illusion of perspective. In a lunatic asylum, from the lunatics' point of view, it is the sane outsider who is insane. How useful to have a continual supply of outsiders, the saints, to remind us of where we live: east of Eden, in a lunatic asylum. Christ gives us a map to show how far east of Eden we are. The poor in spirit, of course, are not the weak-spirited; they are exactly the opposite. They are strong enough to be detached from riches, that is, from the whole world. They are those who are strong enough not to be enslaved to their desires for the things of this world.
Blessed are Those who Mourn
28. Well, what could Christ possibly mean by his second beatitude? Weeping and mourning is certainly not an expression of contentment, of the painless state that we all long for as part of happiness. Yet Christ tells us that those who mourn are blessed. How ridiculous for some Bible translations to translate makarios by 'happy' in this verse, in a society that means by 'happy' simply subjectively satisfied or content. That translation would make Christ say, "Those who weep are content," which is not a meaningful paradox, but a meaningless self-contradiction.
29. Mourning is the expression of inner discontent, of the gap between desire and satisfaction, that is, of suffering. Buddha founded an entire religion on the problem of suffering, or dukkha, and its cause, tanha, or greed, and its cure, the Noble Eightfold Path leading to nirvana, the abolition of both suffering and its source.
30. Unlike Buddha, Christ came not to free us from suffering, but to transform its meaning, to make it salvific. He came to save us from sin, and he did so precisely by embracing the suffering and death that are the result of sin. It must sound as absurd to a Buddhist to say that suffering is redemptive, as it would sound to a Christian to say that sin is redemptive. Each religion must accuse the other of the most radical practical error: confusing the problem with the solution.
31. The reason Christ gave for declaring mourners blessed is that they shall be comforted. For in hope this future is made present. It's true that "one foot up and one foot down, that's the way to London Town," whether one is going to London to be crowned king or to be hanged on Traitor's Gate. But the future destiny of the journey makes everything in the journey itself different, not just accidentally, but essentially, and not just extrinsically, but intrinsically. A journey to be hanged is tragic, even if it is in a comfortable coach. A journey to be crowned, even if it is in an uncomfortable wagon, is glorious.
32. St. Teresa said, "Looked at from the viewpoint of heaven, the most horribly painful earthly life will turn out to be no more than one night in an inconvenient hotel." And Christ has the viewpoint of heaven. Christ is the viewpoint of heaven. Christ is heaven. In giving us himself, he gives us heaven, and its viewpoint, that is, his.
Blessed are the Meek
33. The meek who will inherit the earth, whom Christ calls blessed — who are they? They are not well-known. They do not thirst for honor, fame or glory, and do not usually have it.
34. We all want to be known. But God, who is supremely blessed, is anonymous. He works by nature most of the time. He hides instead of constantly showing his glory. He came as a baby, and died as an executed criminal, and lets himself be ignored. He lets himself be eaten daily, as what looks like a little piece of bread. He is utterly meek, and utterly blessed. If we are utterly meek, we will be utterly blessed. If we are half meek, we will be half blessed. If we are not meek, we will not be blessed, for God is the source of all blessedness, and God is meek. And the effect cannot be the opposite of the cause.
35. The meekness that Christ calls blessed in his third Beatitude is indeed in sharp contrast to the desire to conquer nature that Francis Bacon declared to be the new summum bonum, the new meaning of life on earth, and to the desire to conquer fortune that was Machiavelli's new summum bonum. But it is not the contrast that the world thinks. It is not a blessing on wimps, sissies, dishrags, wallflowers, shrinking violets, worry-warts, Uriah Heeps, nebbishes, nerds or geeks. The meek are those who do not harm, who do not see life as competitive, because they understand the two premises from which this conclusion logically follows.
36. First, that the best things in life are spiritual things, not material things. That life's meaning is to be found in wisdom and love and creativity, in understanding and sanctity and beauty, rather than in money or power or fame or land or military or athletic conquest.
37. And they understand the second principle, too, that spiritual things are not competitive. That they multiply when shared, while material things are divided when shared. Since happiness depends on understanding the best things in life, and since the best things in life are spiritual, and since spiritual things do not diminish when shared, and since what does not diminish when shared cannot be obtained by competition, and since competition is the alternative to meekness, therefore meekness makes for happiness.
38. We should not be surprised that Christ the Logos is at least as logical as Socrates. Or that we are not. That's why his pure reason sounds outrageously paradoxical to us. As Chesterton said (it's impossible to stop quoting Chesterton; that's like stopping eating potato chips), "It is because we are standing on our heads that Christ's philosophy seems upside down." We are looking at the earth and kicking up in rebellion against the heavens.
39. Christ's fourth beatitude, "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness," cuts to the rotten flesh at the heart of the modern world.
40. It shows a striking difference between our culture and all others, especially our own culture's past. As Solzhenitsyn said in his great and shocking 1978 Harvard commencement address, nothing more conspicuously distinguishes us than our lack of courage, our lack of passion.
41. You see this strikingly when you live in another culture, or even when you read the writings of another culture, like the Middle Ages or ancient Israel. Kierkegaard says in Either/Or,
42. Let others complain that our age is wicked; my complaint is that it is wretched, for it lacks passion. Men's thoughts are thin and flimsy like lace; they are themselves are pitiable like lace makers. The thoughts of their hearts are too paltry to be sinful. For a worm it might be regarded as a sin to harbor such thoughts, but not for a being made in the image of God. Even their lusts are dull and sluggish, their passions sleepy. They do their duty, these shop-keeping souls, but they clip the coin a trifle. ... They think that even if the Lord keeps a careful set of books, they may still cheat Him a little. Out upon them! This is the reason my soul always turns back to the Old Testament and Shakespeare. Those who speak there are at least human beings: they hate; they love; they murder their enemies, and curse their descendants throughout all generations; they sin.
43. The greatest good, according to our culture's primary prophets, is self-esteem, self-satisfaction. Christ shocks us by blessing dissatisfaction, not the dissatisfaction with our place in the world, not worldly ambition, the profit motive, the American Dream, hunger for glory, honor, fame, power, wealth or success, but hunger and thirst for righteousness, for sanctity — dissatisfaction with our sins, passionate thirst for a sanctity we know we do not have, and know we must have.
44. There is one thing in the lives of all the saints that turns us off, and cuts of off, from perhaps the single most effective evangelistic weapon in the Church's arsenal — using the lives of the saints — and that is the saints' passionate insistence that they are great sinners, and their insistent passion for holiness. It's not that we do not admire holiness; it's that we do not admire the passion for holiness, the hunger and thirst for righteousness.
45. What Christ blesses, we curse as fanaticism, our soft, sophisticated culture's worst insult. But this is Christ's blessing. More than a blessing, it is a requirement. It is what our Lord requires us to be in order to be his, that is, to be a saint, that is, a fanatic, to love one thing infinitely, to put all our eggs in his basket. It contains only one pearl of great price. He uses a shocking word for our Laodicean niceness: "Because you are neither hot nor cold I will spit you out of my mouth." He is content with us only if we are discontent with ourselves.
46. Freud wrote that our civilization's success in seeking contentment has produced instead greater discontent — a profound question, but he did not know the answer why. I think that was the profoundest thing he ever wrote, only one step from Augustine's great answer, that our hearts are restless until they rest in God.
47. Pascal, on the other hand, knew why, for his patient, unlike Freud's, was himself, and his psychoanalyst, unlike Freud's, was not himself, but Christ. And therefore he knew why we multiply our passions for little things, and decrease our passion for great thing, why we multiply diversions, and cultivate indifference, especially to death and our eternal destiny. He knew where this disease came from. He wrote,
48. The fact that there exist men who are indifferent to the loss of their whole being and the peril of an eternity of wretchedness is against nature. With everything else they are quite different: they fear the most trifling things. They foresee them and feel them. The same man who spends many days and nights in fury and despair at losing some office, or some imaginary affront to his honor, is the very one who knows that he is going to lose everything through death, but feels neither anxiety nor emotion. It is a monstrous thing to see one and the same heart at once so sensitive to minor things and so strangely insensitive to the greatest. It is an incomprehensible spell, a supernatural torpor that points to a supernatural power as its cause.
49. Many thinkers have written sentences that begin like this: "There are only two kinds of people" or "There are only three kinds of people". In fact, one version goes like this: "There are only two kinds of people, those who believe there are only two kinds of people, and those who don't." But Pascal's version is the best I have ever heard. He writes, "There are only three kinds of people: those who seek God and have found Him — these are wise and happy; those who seek God and have not yet found Him — these are wise and unhappy; and those who live without either seeking God or finding Him — and these are both unwise and unhappy." You see, it is the seeking, the hungering and thirsting, that makes all the difference, in fact, the eternal difference. Jesus said it even more succinctly than Pascal (Jesus spoke more succinctly than anyone ever): "Seek and you shall find," implying that non-seekers do not find.
50. The Pharisees were non-seekers, like the pop psychologists, full of self-esteem. Therefore he said to them that he had come on earth to save everyone but them. He said, "Those who are sick need a physician, not those who are well. I came to call not the righteous, but sinners." Socrates said the same thing: on the intellectual level, there are only two kinds of people, fools who believe they are wise, and the wise who believe they are fools. Pascal says: "There are two kinds of people: sinners, who believe they are saints, and saints, who believe they are sinners." Jesus says that the wise "fools" and the saints are right, and the clear empirical test for the difference between them is the hunger and thirst, the passion, the discontent.
51. When Christ says that those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, that is, for sanctity, shall be satisfied, does he mean they shall be satisfied only in the next life? I think he means they will begin to be satisfied even in this one. Already in this life the saints have a peace and a joy that the world cannot give. They are at the same time dissatisfied and satisfied, like Romeo with Juliet, like you listening to a great symphony, or watching a great storm at sea.
52. By a wonderful paradox, the refusal to accept self-esteem turns out to be the highest self-esteem. To accept the title "sinner" means you are the King's kid acting like an ape. To refuse that title and accept yourself as you are means that you are only a clever, successfully evolved ape, even when you act like a prince. What a privilege to sing, "Amazing grace! How sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me!" No ape, however evolved, can rise to the dignity of being a wretch. Only one destined for infinite, unending, and unimaginable ecstasy in spiritual marriage to God can bear the dignity of being a wretch. Only the betrothed is wretched until united with the Spouse.
Blessed are the Merciful
53. Fifth, we want our rights. That's why, if we are moral, we work for justice, for others' rights. We are practicing the Golden Rule, the Categorical Imperative. This is justice. Christ does not condemn it, but he does not call this "blessed". Because that is only a minimum, not a maximum; that is only the beginning, not the end; the foundation, not the house. It is not enough. Justice alone cannot ensure peace — in the world, in the family, or in friendships. Only mercy can.
54. Our hope should not be that we will get justice — my goodness, what would become of us if we did? Our hope is "under the mercy". It was mercy that created us. How could we justly deserve the gift's existence if we didn't even exist? It was mercy that redeemed us from the justice that we deserved by our sins. And it is mercy that will gratuitously and graciously raise us higher than the angels in uniting us with the divine nature. Christ did not become an angel, and no angel will ever become hypostatically united with God.
55. We are told by one who always meant exactly what he said that "it is more blessed to give than to receive." The mere act of giving is necessarily best, including the act of giving mercy. We do not give mercy in order to obtain mercy; that is justice, not mercy. We give mercy in order that the other may get mercy. And only thus, only by giving without the intention of getting mercy, do we get mercy — not from the human we give it to but from God, who started this chain of mercy givers by the mercy of creation, and ends it with the mercy of redemption and glorification. The Book of Revelation should not be called The Last Judgment, but The Last Mercy. It ends there: "Let him who wills come and take the water of life without price." That's the Gospel.
Blessed are the Pure in Heart
56. Sixth, when we hear the word 'purity' in the beatitude "Blessed are the pure in heart," we immediately think of sexual purity. Perhaps Christ had that primarily in mind, perhaps not; but our reaction tells us something significant about us, namely that sex is, quite simply, our society's new god, our new absolute. Anything is done, tolerated, sacrificed, justified, sanctified, or glorified for this god. A third of our mothers murder their own unborn babies in sacrifice to this god. Of course abortion is about sex; the only reason for abortion is to have sex without babies. Abortion is backup contraception.
57. Or look at the acceptance of divorce. Families, the one absolutely necessary building block of all societies, are destroyed for this god. Half of all America's citizens commit suicide for this god, for divorce is the suicide of the "one flesh" that love had created. No one justifies lying, cheating, betraying, promise-breaking, or devastating and harming strangers; but we justify, we expect, we tolerate, doing this to the one person we promise most seriously to be faithful to forever. We justify divorce. No one justifies child abuse, except for sex. Divorce is child abuse for the sake of sex. Even all the churches justify divorce, except one, the one that does not claim the authority to correct Christ — and she is accused of being 'authoritarian'.
58. Why is purity of heart blessed? It doesn't seem to be. Well, because lust gives such an immediate thrill of delight, Christ's beatitude that blesses purity of heart, that is, purity of desire, strikes us a paradox. But anything that is natural is happier and more blessed in its pure and natural condition. St. Thomas Aquinas deduces from this principle that sexual pleasure was far greater before the Fall
59. When Christ specifies the reward as "seeing God", he does not mean merely in the next life. He does not mean merely that we will get box seats instead of bleachers in heaven's stadium as a just reward for paying more for the tickets here on earth. The reward can be experienced in this life. St. Thomas himself exemplified it. His wonderful clarity of mind came partly from his purity of heart, a gift which was supernaturally given to him at one specific point in his life, when he resisted his brothers' attempt to seduce him out of the Dominican order by a prostitute. So his mind became free from his passions, free for the high vocation God planned for him.
60. Most modern readers are very surprised to find all the great Doctors of the Church, including St. Augustine, St. Thomas and St. John of the Cross, locating the chief harm of lust in its blinding of the reason, a remarkable narrowing and skewering of vision, of perspective.
61. Surely there is an intimate connection between the impurity of the desires of most modern students and the impurity of their motivation for education; between the decline of the sexual love of the other for the other, and of the intellectual love of the truth for the truth; a connection between the contemplative wonder and respect towards the body's mate, and the contemplative wonder and respect towards the mind's mate, truth. To love truth primarily for itself is one thing; to love it primarily for your own sake, for some further utilitarian, instrumental, pragmatic, personal end, is another thing. That is a form of impurity of heart, a sort of intellectual prostitution. And it has cursed modern philosophy ever since Bacon.
62. The blessing Christ promises here is verifiable in this life, in experience, though perfected only in the next. How many theologians fail to see God, to understand purely, because of impure desires? Almost all theological 'dissent' in our age — we used to call it heresy — astonishingly focuses on sexual morality. It looks suspiciously like addicts obsessing about their drug and not really caring about much else. Is that why most homilies are so bland and why we never hear a homily on sexual morality, even though that is the single most controversial and divisive issue in our Church and in our culture today?
63. Could it be that the reason we lack the blessing of understanding God, and that our children suffer an incredible absence of basic theological education, is because the educators, the writers of those stunningly dull CCD and RCIA textbooks, have not the pure desire for truth that Christ specifies as the virtue that draws to itself that reward. If we analyzed the blood that their hearts pump into their brains, might we find it mixed with fluids from their lower organs? Could it be that our liturgical language, and especially our liturgical music, is so fascinatingly dull and brilliantly dumbed down and passionately wimpy because our liturgists' passions are disordered?
Blessed are the Peacemakers
65. Seventh, Christ blesses not peace, but peacemakers. Peacemakers are not pacifists. Peacemakers are warriors, but they are spiritual warriors, warriors against war. Sometimes war can be conquered only by war. Everyone speaks highly of peacemaking. How, then, is that countercultural, except to terrorists? Because the peace that Christ blesses is the peace the world cannot give. It is peace with neighbor, self, and God; not with the world, the flesh, and the devil. It not a peace with greed, lust, and pride, but the peace that comes through poverty, chastity, and obedience, three most countercultural virtues. These two kinds of peace are in fact at war with each other.
66. Our world's peacemakers will embrace Christ's peace, but only if they do not have to give up the world's peace and only if they do not have to fight for it. Thus, paradoxically, we lack true peace because we are reluctant to war against the enemies of peace, and also because we do not put the three ingredients of Christ's peace in the proper order. We preach incessantly about peace with neighbor, but seldom about peace with God. Thomas Merton reminds us of this necessary order in three wonderfully simple sentences when he says, "We are not at peace with each other because we are not at peace with ourselves, and we are not at peace with ourselves because we are not at peace with God." Christ does the same in putting the first table of the law first, as Moses did. We need to relearn lesson one.
67. Christ blesses peacemakers, but when you are at war, you can make peace only by waging and winning war. Christianity is judgmental and repressive and negative. For Christianity says to us that we are at war, ever since a certain incident in Eden, and war judges the enemy (that's why a war is fought: because a judgment is made about an enemy) and represses the enemy (that is what defense is: repressing the enemy's offense) and negates the enemy, destroys the enemy (that is what offense is, destroying the enemy's defense). Our enemies are real, just as real as flesh and blood; they are principalities and powers. They are not men; they are demons. And they are also our own sins.
68. Our Lord told us that he came into the world to bring a sword to wage and win this war. The sword is a cross. Happiness does not consist in pacifism; happiness consists in peace, and peace can be obtained only by waging and winning a war to make peace. The cross is like a syringe; it gives us a blood transfusion. It is the opposite of a normal sword. What Christ does is exactly the opposite of what Dracula does. Dracula, like the demons, takes our blood, our life. Christ gives us a blood transfusion. We are on a battlefield between Christ and Dracula.
69. When Christ says that peacemakers are blessed because they "will be called the sons of God," he does not mean that peacemaking is the cause and being a son of God is the effect. The other way around: only the sons of God can make God's peace, do God's work. Peacemaking is the effect. But peacemakers are called sons of God. They are known to be sons of God because we recognize the cause by the effect.
Blessed are You when Men Persecute You
70. The eighth beatitude blesses not just pain or suffering, but persecution, that is, suffering imposed by rejection and hatred. This is the only one of the beatitudes that Christ repeats, both to emphasize it as the final and most outrageous beatitude of all, and to emphasize that it is not merely the pain, but the rejection, the reviling, the slander, that is blessed.
71. But how can this be? Everyone wants to be loved. How can it be blessed to be hated? One possible explanation is utterly inconsistent with Christ: a kind of sneering superiority, as if it were blessed to say to those who hate us, "I wouldn't want love from worthless fools like you." Surely it is great grief that the persecutors are fools. Of course they are not worthless fools; if they were, there would be no reason for our grief for them. And therefore grief on our part that they are not blessed is real, if we love our persecutors as Christ does and commands us to: "Love your enemies." Notice that he does not say, "Do not use the word enemy, it is not nice." We have enemies, but we must love them.
72. The reward that makes persecution blessed is the same as the one that makes poverty blessed: the kingdom of Heaven. Persecution has the same blessing as poverty because persecution is a form of poverty, poverty not of money, but of love, that is, of being loved. Both money and love are blessed only when they are given: "It is more blessed to give than to receive."
73. We desperately crave love from the world. But the world is not Christ. The world is fallen, fallen into the knowledge of good and evil. The world is therefore afraid of Christ as the cavity is afraid of the dentist or as the liar is afraid of the light. (I use the word world here in the scriptural sense: not as the planet (Gaea, matter), which God created good, but as the time word, eon, that designates the era of sin, the kingdom of the devil.
74. Persecution is not blessed in itself, but it becomes blessed if it is persecution "for righteousness' sake", for the sake of God, not only explicitly, but also implicitly, that is, if you are persecuted for being that which God is: for being Godlike, for being righteous. Thus the righteous pagan like Socrates is also blessed when he is misunderstood, hated, rejected, persecuted, and killed, like Christ.
75. Just as your peacemaking is a sign that you are a child of God, and thus blessed, so being persecuted for the sake of your righteousness is also a sign that you are a member of His kingdom and thus blessed. Blessing comes only from what is good, and persecution, poverty, etc. are not good in themselves. Christ is not a Stoic or a Hindu or a Buddhist; blessing does not come from not caring about the good things of this world, which God created, nor from seeing through this world as an illusion, as maya, nor from the clever device of spiritual euthanasia by which our desires for things are quenched so that we can avoid the suffering that they bring. No, the Christian knows something real and good in itself that the Stoic, the Hindu and the Buddhist do not know (even though they may implicitly long for it and even attain it in the end), and that something is, simply, Jesus Christ. He makes blessed even the nails in His cross. And only He makes them blessed.
He that Loses His Life for My Sake shall Find It
76. Our ninth desire is for life, and the ninth blessing is death. Death contains all the other paradoxes. Christ teaches us this blessing of death not in words only, but also in deed — by his cross, which sums up all the beatitudes.
77. And the cross reveals the hidden source of all eight beatitudes: the historical fact, not the abstract principle, that God, out of sheer love for us, became incarnate, died, and rose to save us from sin and death. As Dorothy Sayers said, "The dogma is the drama." By this dramatic judo, death itself was turned into an instrument for life, as an earthen dam is overwhelmed by the waters of the flood that conquers it, and the dam is swept along and made into a part of the flood itself. So the flood of God's infinite life, when it entered our world, not only conquered death but turned death itself into life's most powerful instrument. In the words of the old anthem "Open our Eyes", "Thou hast made death glorious and triumphant, for through its portals we enter into the presence of the Living God."
78. We anticipate that final death, and its final blessing, in all our little deaths now. Our participations in Christ's eight beatitudes are those little deaths. We not only anticipate it, we actually participate in it, in these little deaths, the real little (or large) dyings that we do every day. And we also anticipate and actually participate in the final blessing, "the presence of the Living God," every time we "open our eyes" and see who it is that is really present there. Where our eyes see only the most undramatic little wafer of bread, look who is present! How absurd that we find it easier to get up off our knees than to get down!
79. The secret of happiness is very simple. It is Jesus. Not just the philosophy of Jesus, but Jesus, his real presence. He actually comes to us in such unlikely vehicles as poverty, pain and persecution. He has weird taste in vehicles. He came to Jerusalem on a donkey. And when he comes, he acts with power, though usually also with subtlety and not bombast. He really works!
80. I am haunted by my memories of a few precious hours in the company of two happiest groups of people I have ever met in my life. In both cases I was supposed to speak to them. In both cases, they spoke to me — with very few words, like Mother Teresa, like Jesus. One group was in fact Mother Teresa's nuns, in Boston's worst slum. Another was a convent of contemplative Carmelites in Danvers, Massachusetts. What they said to me, simply by being who they were, was unmistakable: "See how happy I am; see how happy Jesus makes me!" This is how happiness happens: it is not so much taught, like math, but caught, like measles. The Church is in the business of spreading the good infection, like in "The Invasion of the Body Snatchers", only this is a good infection. And that is "the new evangelism". And it is also the old evangelism that won the world two thousand years ago. It will do it again, for there is no argument against real happiness. The smiles of the saints are the arguments that will win the world for Christ again. They are unarguable. Only one thing, then, is necessary to create a world of happiness from pole to pole. And it is not doing any of the many good things that Martha did, but doing the one thing that Mary did: just sit at Jesus' feet; just be in his presence, know his love, all day. That is the scandalously simple secret of happiness.
“Fine tuning-in”: Some notes on the sermon on the Mount
1. One of the longest “speeches” of Jesus is in Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount (Mt 5-7). What is striking there is the idea of “opposition”: “You have heard that it was said… But I say to you….” (see Mt 5, 184.108.40.206.38.43). It is an opposition which does not abolish the past laws but a “going beyond” them. What is important here is that the person speaking—Jesus—is God with a human face. God is now concretely present in the midst of people. The authentic message of the Law is now present, actual and presenting.
2. Matthew calls the “speech” of Jesus as “teaching”: “He began to teach them, saying….” (Mt.5/2). “When Jesus finished these words, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as their scribes” (Mt.7/28-29).
3. The Sermon opens with the Beatitudes. It concludes with the “two houses”, one built on sand and the other built on rock.
4. For the disciple of Jesus, there are certain things assured. First, the Law and the Prophets are not really abandoned. All the teachings of the past are deepened. “"Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill” (Mt.5/17). The other assurance is what have already been said by the Law and the Prophets: “Do to others whatever you would have them do to you. This is the law and the prophets” (Mt.7/12). The disciple need not hesitate making moral choices—the tradition of the Law and the Prophets are guaranteed their value. And here is something even better, this is the very presence of Jesus himself.
5. Note that right at the center of the Sermon is a prayer—the Our Father. (See Mt.6/9-15). So really, what more can we ask for? The Sermon is really solid!
6. Jesus, the incarnate presence of God, is here in front of us speaking—giving a “Sermon”. In Matthew he is presented with such an authority. In the exodus/ Deuteronomy texts, we read about God the liberator—he who freed the people from slavery. When the Decalogue was initiated, it was the Lord God who was doing the initiative. Now here in Matthew we see Jesus. he is the one speaking and he is the one doing the initiative. He is not abolishing what the Old testament has revealed—he is now deepening it. He radicalizes it and brings it to the level more of the heart. To appreciate this radical approach, let us look at strange ideas of Jesus. See Mt.5/21-otice the strange things Jesus say—such as anger as linked with murder and love of friends extends even to enemies!
7. Let us look at the anti-theses.
8. In the Decalogue we are told “do not kill”. Also “do not bear false witness to your neighbor”. In Mt.5/22, Jesus goes radical.His fiorst anti-thesis goes this way: “But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment, and whoever says to his brother, 'Raqa,' will be answerable to the Sanhedrin, and whoever says, 'You fool,' will be liable to fiery Gehenna. Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Settle with your opponent quickly while on the way to court with him. Otherwise your opponent will hand you over to the judge, and the judge will hand you over to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison” (Mt.5/22-25). Already what goes on in the heart is already something we are accountable for.
9. The 2nd anti-thesis goes this way: “You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit adultery.' But I say to you, everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Mt.5/28). This is already stipulated in the Decalogue, actually. Do not covet!
10. Look at the other anti-thesis: “ "Again you have heard that it was said to your ancestors, 'Do not take a false oath, but make good to the Lord all that you vow.' But I say to you, do not swear at all” (Mt.5/33). Again the Decalogue has this,, but in another form. “Do not swear the name of the Lord in vain”. Leviticus has this too (see Lev.19/12; see Dt.23/22.)
11. Look at the anti-thesis on divorce (Mt.5/31following) and the anti-thesis on revenge (Mt.5/38following). Theses are in the Law of old (see Dt 24/1 Ex 21/24, Lv 24/20 and Dt 19/21). But again notice how they are made deeper and more radical.
12. Look at the last anti-thesis on love of enemy. “You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the tax collectors 28 do the same? And if you greet your brothers only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same? So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt.5/43-48). Leviticus has it, Lv.19/18.
13. Jesus does not invalidate what is in Tradition. He deepens it and shows the basic principle underneath. God is love, and the Kingdom is the reign of this Love. Now with the presence of Jesus, this reign is so clearly visible and present. Here is Jesus deepening the tradition.
14. So we understand what it means when Jesus says: “…and I say to you”. He is assuming an authority far more solid than how the people of the past had it!
15. Jesus allows us to take the more visible path of God’s love. Notice how radical it gets—even enemies must be loved. Remember the notion of fraternity—even my enemy is my brother or sister, so I should love him/her just as My Father in heaven loves.
16. Strange for a cultural-sociological viewpoint. But this is revelation.
The Our Father in the Preaching of Jesus
Edouard Cothenet (Biblical expert and parish priest of Bourges)
1. From always, the Our Father is the fundamental prayer of all Christians. …
2. The Our Father is given to us from different contexts: Matthew puts it in the center of his Sermon on the Mount inside the teaching regarding the rejection of hypocrisy in alms giving, prayer and fasting. Act for the Father who sees all in secret. The Sermon forms a frame to understand the Our Father in Matthew.
3. Luke situates the Our Father during the trip of Jesus to Jerusalem. It is in the frame of teaching of Jesus on the life of the Church. After the return of the 72 disciples Jesus is happy under the action of the Holy Spirit (Lk 10/21). After a time of solitude and prayer of Jesus, the disciples ask him to teach them how to pray just as John the Baptist taught his own disciples (Lk 11/1). Jesus then teaches the Our Father in a short form: five requests instead of seven (in Matthew). Luke offers a key to understand that Christian prayer becomes a configuration to the Son-ship of Jesus, under the guidance of the Spirit.
4. In Mark, we see indications of mutual forgiving during the last week of Jesus in Jerusalem (Mk 11/25). As for John, he develops the requests of the Our Father within the context of a long prayer of Jesus before his passion (Jn 17).
5. We may recognize some fundamental themes in the Our Father.
General Plan of the Our Father: Part One
1. The Our Father of Matthew begins with a curious phrase which is common in Judaism of the 1st century: “Our Father in Heaven”. In Jewish prayers God is referred to as Father of the Fathers—of the Patriarchs. This is related to the fact of being a chosen people.
2. In Luke, the address is limited to a cry of the heart: “Father”.
3. Let us recall that in the Old Testament there is a lot of care in considering the paternity of God with the title of “Father”. ….
4. Let us cite some Old Testament passages on the paternity of God:
The king as adopted son of God (2 Sam 7/11-14; Ps 2/7;89/21-30)
The paternity of God in front of the people (Ex 4/22s; Dt 32/5s; Is 1/2; Mi 1/6)
Invoking God as Father (Si 23/1; Sg 2/16)
Our Father who is in heaven
1. This address unites the different respects for the transcendence of God and the sense of intimacy. This is very dear to Matthew (15 times in his Sermoin on the Mount at times in the form of the heavenly Father and at times in the form of the Father in heaven. It is not about a locality … but a way of opposing the Father from the earthly fathers (see Mt 7/9-11). There is a particular and unique goodness in the heavenly father, and it gives foundation to the confidence in the prayer. God is the good Father who makes the sun shine to good and even to bad guys (Mt 5/45). His perfection is to be a guide for the behavior of his children (Mt 5/48). He sees in secret (Mt 6/4.6,18). He is attentive to the needs of all creatures (Mt 6/26 etc).
2. When Jesus calls God Father and he even says: “My Father” (Mt 16/17), which he add when he says “your Father” (Mt 5/48;6/8; Jn 20/18).
3. The fact of mentioning “heaven” invites us to think. For the Jews of that time, to speak of the heavens would also meant mentioning angels who sing praises in a great liturgy. The first blessing recited in the synagogue during the celebration of the Shema Israel takes from praises of angels. … Jesus then speaks to us of angels who remain in the presence of the Father who is in heaven (Mt 18/10). Are we not invited, too, to unite our praises with the inhabitants of heaven in accomplishing the will of the Father?
Father: Abba !
1. This is an invocation unique to Jesus. He says this under the action of the Holy Spirit, as Luke says in the context of the prayer of joy. Jesus reveals his intimacy with the Father and the privileged love of the Father for the small and humble ones: “At that very moment he rejoiced (in) the holy Spirit and said, "I give you praise, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike. Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father. No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him." (Lk 10/21-22).
2. The word pronounced by Jesus is “Abba”. It is said in the sad prayer in Gethsemani : “Abba, Father, all is possible, take this cup away. But, it is not what I want but what you want” (Mk 14/36). Many studies have been made about this “Abba”. It comes from the ordinary language of daily life—like that in the family when a child addresses the father. It is absent in Jewish prayer because it is too familiar. In calling God his Abba, Jesus shows his close link of unity with his Father. He is the Son. It also show his deep dependency on the Father.
3. According to St. Paul, in this prayer, the baptized Christian opens up to the action of the Holy Spirit—the Spirit of Adoption and Liberty. The baptized as led by the Spirit of God. We are not slaves led by fear but led by the Spirit who makes us adoptive children. Through that Spirit we are able to say “Abba, Father! (see Rm 8/15; Ga 4/4).
4. In the gospel of Luke, the character of the Father is merciful. In Matthew there is the demand for perfection (Mt 5/48). In Luke what corresponds is mercy: “Be merciful as your Father is merciful” (Lk 6,36). Be generous as the Father. In Judaism mercy is a basic feature of God. Chapter 15 of Luke is to be read in this perspective. (xxx)…
5. The Our Father is God-centered. The prayer makes us turn to God. We do this first before we even make known our needs. The phrase is in passive voice: that your ame be sanctified. It is a Jewish style of respect to avoid being too direct with God. We see the same: that your Kingdom come. That your will be done. During each time we ask the Father to intervene on our behalf. Holy Be your name. It can mean “that you be known to all”. But first let us see the role of name in the tradition of the Jews.
6. In the theophany of the burning bush we read about the name of God as invoked: YHWH. It is like a memorial (see Ex 3/13-15). After the idolatry of the golden calf God himself presents himself as rich in mercy (Ex 34/6). The name representing someone is charged with power. This is why it is prohibited to use the name of the Lord in vain (Ex 20/7).
7. The text that can help us most in appreciating the Our Father is from Ezekiel. The prohet goes against the profane use of the divine name among the Israelistes dispersed among the nations (Ez 36/22). The prophet mentiones the liberating intervention of God who will lead the exiled people. God saves by the glory of his name.
8. …. So it is to God whom we ask intervention so that he makes himself known and makes his holiness manifest. We ask that the holiness of his name be revealed to all. The orientation is eschatological…..
9. In the 4th gospel we see something of this. The interventaion would happen through the paschal sacrifice of Jesus. We read the prayer before the passion: “Father save me from this hour. I have shown your name to those you have given to me” (Jn 17/1-6.26). The prayer is said in the decisive moment during which God will reveal ultimately his Father-hood.
The intervention of God does not remove our cooperation. Rather it awakens our cooperation. We cannot recite the Our Father without being aware of our duty to respond to the revelation of Love, the revelation of our Father. Already in the Old Testament we read that we should be holy just as God is holy (see Lv 17/26). This is such a motivation. Be holy as the father is Holy. As St. Peter himself would say, behave as holy and respectful while on earth (see 1 P 1/15-17;3/16; Jc 2/7)
That your Kingdom come.
1. Make your reign happen. … The announcement of the Reign of God has been in the preaching of Jesus: “"This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel." (Mk.1/15). … The word “kingdom” (basileia) is reign. In the Psalms we read about the reign (Psalms 93,96-99). They are sung for the advancement of the reigh of YHWH. The decisive intervention is expected and Jesus presents it as imminent—it is so close to happening . God is not insensitive to the sufferings of people he will come to intervene. This is what we sense in the Beatitutdes. …which is linked to the proclamation of fulfillment….
2. The signs of the fulfillment of the reign are evident. There are healings, deliverances from evil, and the defeat of the Prince of this world (Lk 11/20). And of course, the good news is preached to the poor (Mt 11/4-6; Lk 7/22etc). Jesus invites to the discovery of the signs of the Rign of God (Lk 17/21). Many bible experts emphasize the eschaltological orientation of the Our Father when thinking of the reign.
3. The request of the Our Father, that “your kingdom come”, takes a new color. In the last meal Jesus calls for the definite coming of the reign of God (Lk 22/16). This comes with the sacrifice of his blood. After the Pentecost Christians wait for the return of Christ and the definite establishment of the reigh: Maranatha, Our Lord come! (see 1 Co 16/22; Rev 22/20…). In the letter of James we are called to persevere in waiting (Jm 5/7-11).
We need to ask for the coming of this reign. Might we not be repacing it with our own needs and our own ideas? As Christians we must live in the spirit of the Kingdom as defined by the Beatitudes of Matthew: poverty of heart, mildness, pursuit of peace, etc. (Mt 5/3-12). St. Paul would say: the reign of God is not about eating and drinking…”it is justice, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rm 14/17).
That your will be done.
1. Make your will happen on earth as in heaven. We might pray this like a matter of resignation. It is actually a vow, an ardent vow. That God will please make his plan happen. As his lets his reign come, may he please make his will happen.
2. The Will of God is not arbitrary. It is his own desire in the sense of salvation (see Es 42/l;44/28;46/10s; Ac 22/14). Already announced by the prophets this will is revealed to the little ones by Jesus (see Mt 11/26;18/14). This desire is expressed especially in the call for sinners. Remember the call of Matthew. Jesus takes from the Scriptures: “Go understand what is written, it is mercy and not sacrifice that I want” (Mt 9/13 taking from Hosea 6/6). (See also Mt 12/7 and Lk 19/10).
3. God’s desire is not about the suffering of innocent people. It is more about the humble submission of the Servant who stays faithful to his mission all the way. During his agony Jesus would take the words of the Our Father in the light of saying yes to the suffering: “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me. But no, it is not my will but your will” (Mt 26,42). The letter to the Hebrews would take the same theme: “All as Son as he was, he obeyed even with his suffering…” (He 5/8).
In heaven as on earth
1. ….In our very human-centered view of the world, we risk to minimize this conclusion. But should it not even enlarge our vision? The heavens symbolize the place of God. There he is fully recognized as he is, God, Father of all creation, in heaven and on earth (Ep 3/15). This plan of God is realized in the intervention of Christ who, by blood on the cross, obtains universal reconciliation (Col 1/19etc).
The divine plan carries our sanctification and requires our courageous search for justice (Mt 5/6.20). Without this—which is so implicated in the Sermon on the Mount—there is really no access to the Kingdom. (see Mt 7/21). We need to assume our places in the flow of history of salvation, where we are.
On the Perfection of the Father
38 "You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.'
39 But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil. When someone strikes you on (your) right cheek, turn the other one to him as well.
40 If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic, hand him your cloak as well.
41 Should anyone press you into service for one mile, go with him for two miles.
42 Give to the one who asks of you, and do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow.
43 "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.'
44 But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you,
45 that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.
46 For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the tax collectors do the same?
47 And if you greet your brothers only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same?
48 So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.
1. One reaction that we might have when we read this text of Matthew is: “Oh, this is asking too much from me…it is not possible for me to just turn the other cheek or love my enemy! Does this mean I will not defend myself?” The reaction can be quite expected. How can I love someone who really hurt me and wounded me…or someone who has deeply wounded the family? Then, in the end, Jesus would even say that we be perfect as the Father! Is this not too much? How can we be perfect like that?
2. The difficulty is in our understanding of the word “perfect”. Let us see. Jesus is not starting from zero in his presentation. In fact, in Leviticus 19/17-18 we already read: “You shall not bear hatred for your brother in your heart. Though you may have to reprove your fellow man, do not incur sin because of him. Take no revenge and cherish no grudge against your fellow countrymen. You shall love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD”. The basis of this can be seen in the following: “The LORD said to Moses, ‘Speak to the whole Israelite community and tell them: Be holy, for I, the LORD your God, am holy’” (Lev.19/1-2). The people are called to be holy. The people are told to break away from the life-style that is enslaving. The life-style of the people of Israel are to manifest the greatness of God. By being holy, the people witness to the holiness of God.
3. We know that God is loving and tender, “slow to anger and full of love”. This loving God, already in the Old Testament, requires a good life which is lived not just externally but internally. In other words, behave with a purified heart. Make the heart sincere and open even to the stranger. (See Lev. 19/33-34). During the time of the Leviticus, the idea of loving the enemy was not yet quite admitted. Slowly, people had to learn this.
4. It will come with Jesus. In the Old Testament the obedience requires a strict observance because the people of Israel have been elected—chosen—by God. People have to align themselves morally and religiously—they are to be holy like God. But people felt that it is a life within the nation of Israel. Be fraternal to each member of the nation. What about the “enemy”—those from other nations who come and destroy? Well, do not mix with them. Be careful. They are “the enemy”. It needed time for Israel to realize that actually fraternal life is meant not just within the nation but throughout. Israel had to realize that the nation had a mission for the other nations. Hence even enemies had to be loved. But Jesus had to make this clear.
5. With Jesus something strange enters the picture…he deepens the tradition. He gives it a more solid basis. Love your enemy. This is a new form of relationship. It is not about penalties against others. Jesus reveals that this justice is the justice of the Father. The Father makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.
6. Jesus emphasizes dis-interestedness. For example, “should anyone press you into service for one mile, go with him for two miles”. It is ok, it is alright to go two miles. Do not be interested in what you prefer.
7. Jesus is actually consistent with his notion of the heart. Tradition and culture can make us discriminative about relationships. The heart is universal—it is what is inside all of us. So live according to the universal dimension—do not limit on what culture and tradition say. The heart is characterized by openness to others…even the “enemy”.
8. What we see is that instead of returning hatred with hatred, return it with love! This is a form of freedom that is fantastic. It is open to anyone—it is not preferential to just “my family” or “my friends”. Give up reactions born of exclusivity, hatred and violence. Jesus went up the cross and showed the possibility of living like this. He even went as far as forgiving those who put him up the cross! (see Lk 23/34). Jesus had known human limits. He knew how harmful it was to get enclosed in doing bad things—like violence. He had confidence in the human.
9. Let us put it this way. Jesus knew that we are greater than our violence and harm. We are greater than our selfishness. We are greater than our exclusivity. Jesus opened up to us the space that is properly human. Jesus leads us to something more rooted in our humanity. No, do not go for violence. Do not choose hatred. Do not choose harm. Do not choose revenge. Do not choose the neglect of others. Do not choose having an enemy in life. Be truly human. (Do you have an expression like this in your language? “Be truly and fully human”.)
10. Observe Jesus. He was open to everyone. He was open especially to the sinners and tax collectors. His behavior was so much a surprise to the persons around him. During his time it was impossible to mix with sinners. Jesus allowed himself to be touched by a sinful woman. Far from condemning Jesus welcomes. Instead of resisting the presence of others, Jesus faced them. Encountering Jesus motivated the disciples to follow him. They too have seen the new form of relating with others.
11. In our Christian life we too are called to follow Jesus in this particular way. We “deconstruct” relationships built on prejudice, separation, discrimination, exclusivity, hatred and violence. We live according to the wisdom of God in Jesus.
12. The holiness—the “perfection”—of the Father is a loving perfection. It is not a “mathematical perfection”—something that we tend to assume when we think of our perfection. If we are children of the Father, then we are called to be fraternal to others. We are to be like the Father. Already this was hinted in the Genesis book. Chapter 1 tells us: Master your mastery—take some distance from the ability to “dominate”. Give space for others. Be fraternal. Chapter 2 tells us: Fulfill your desires, but remember the limits. Structure your freedom, do not abuse it. Learn and adventure with others. Be fraternal.
13. The perfection of the Father allows us to love and be “salt of the earth” and “light of the world” (see Mat.5/13-14). So when Jesus says that we be perfect as the Father, we are called to be part of this project of the Father—the project of communion with everyone. Just like the Father we love. Just like the Father we live in justice and mercy. Jesus has shown how. Because we have seen the love of the Father for us and for all humanity, how can we refuse loving?
14. No, Jesus is not asking too much from us. He is not giving us something that we cannot do. He is telling us what is means to be fully human!
Claiming our Reconciliation
How do we work for reconciliation? First and foremost by claiming for ourselves that God through Christ has reconciled us to God. It is not enough to believe this with our heads. We have to let the truth of this reconciliation permeate every part of our beings. As long as we are not fully and thoroughly convinced that we have been reconciled with God, that we are forgiven, that we have received new hearts, new spirits, new eyes to see, and new ears to hear, we continue to create divisions among people because we expect from them a healing power they do not possess.
Only when we fully trust that we belong to God and can find in our relationship with God all that we need for our minds, hearts, and souls, can we be truly free in this world and be ministers of reconciliation. This is not easy; we readily fall back into self-doubt and self-rejection. We need to be constantly reminded through God's Word, the sacraments, and the love of our neighbours that we are indeed reconciled.
The Our Father in the Preaching of Jesus
Edouard Cothenet (Biblical expert and parish priest of Bourges)
We can say that the last requests we make in the Our Father take us through time. For the present we ask for bread. For the past we ask for forgiveness. For the future we ask for divine protection. Just like in the first part, it is the whole community addressing our Father.
Give us today our daily bread. Give us the bread that we need each day. We have needs for each day, please address them. …Is the bread material bread? It seems obvious. But it opposes the fact that we should not worry about tomorrow (Mt 6/34). Jesus also said, during the temptation that “man does not live by bread alone but by the word of God” (Mt 4/4 citing Dt 8/3 in relation with the manna). Greek Fathers apply directly the text to spiritual food. Latin Fathers, however, maintain the right to ask for material food.
Material bread? Whoever begins to be Christ’s disciple and gives up all must ask for daily food—and not be preoccupied by long dates. The Lord said, “Do not worry about tomorrow, tomorrow will take care of itself. Each day is enough” (from Cyprien).
Spiritual bread? The interpretation of the Greek Fathers rely on the exhortation of Christ himself. “Work not to obtain food that will perish but food that will stay in eternal life (Jn 6/27). As shown in the theme of the “bread of life” … the bread we ask for is the Word of God, the divine Wisdom, the bread that is Christ who gives his life for the life of the world (see Jn 6/51etc.). The true bread is that which nourishes us created as image of God. We eat this bread until we become more and more ressembling our Creator. That which really nourishes us is the Word—Christ.
Leave the text open. In Matthew the eschatological orientation is probable, with the desire for the bread of the Kingdom. Happy who eats the bread of the Kingdom of God. In Luke …there is a strong sense of daily life. How can we avoid looking at what Jesus says regarding the concrete needs of the sick, the poor, the hungry? Christian prayer cannot be “dis-incarnate”. The request for bread, day after day, invites us to have confidence in God (see Mt 6/25-34) and to limit our desires to the essentials (see 1 Tm 5,6 etc). The prayer is also community prayer—give us our daily bread. This tells us about the needs of a world that suffers so much of hunger (see Catechism of the Catholic Church # 2831).
By reciting liturgically the Our Father before we take Holy Communion—the bread from heaven—we see that this Bread cannot be received without the willingness to share.
Forgive us our sins. Forgive our shortcomings to you Lord. This is as we forgive those who have their shortcomings to us. Forgive our sins since we too forgive those who sin against us. In Mk 11/25 we read: “Forgive so that you Father will forgive you too”.
…. What is the link between the forgiveness of God and the forgiveness of the one praying? … In the Our Father, there is a strong link between the forgiveness of God and mutual forgiveness. … Jesus insists on the necessity of reconciliation and mutual pardoning (see Mt 6/14 etc.;18/21etc.; Mk 11/25). Jesus must have seen the divisions due to bitterness—like in the family (see Lk 12/13-15). Let us add also that love of God and love of neighbor are always together. There is no love without forgiveness and reconciliation!
We must also be in the same level—we must be in the sphere of divine forgiveness. … The faith in God our Father is held in all our behavior. Towards God we ask for forgiveness. To our neighbor we forgive them their shortcomings. How can we not see the relevance today…when we consider the rearranging of debts of poor countries?
Do not bring us to temptation. Do not let us fall in to our temptations. …Do not lead us to temptation. Deliver us from evil. … This demand reminds us of what Jesus warned his disciples: “stay awake and pray so that you will not fall into temptation” (Mt 26/41). What is this temptation? It is not just the temptation of abandoning the Lord. It is more of the temptation of losing faith in the Lord whose death on the cross can discourage (see 1 Co 1/21). The prayer of Jesus for Simon allows for facing the scandal and standing up after a fall: “Simon, Simon, behold Satan has demanded to sift all of you like wheat, but I have prayed that your own faith may not fail; and once you have turned back, you must strengthen your brothers.” (Lk 22/31-32).
We see here an “eschatological temptation”. It is the decisive trial before the time of salvation. The passion of Christ marks the beginning; then other events will come next. We see this in the eschatological discourse: “And if those days had not been shortened, no one would be saved; but for the sake of the elect they will be shortened” (Mt 24/22). This is a way of saying that God will never abandon his chosen ones at the hour of temptation.
How do we understand the negation of “do not bring us to temptation?....It says do not let my heart be inclined to doing wrong (R. Tournay). (Church Fathers would say:) Do not allow us to be seduced by the tempter (Tertullian). The prayer says that adversary cannot have anything against us without the permission of God; our fear and piety and attention should be turned always to God because during temptation the power of the Evil-One still depends on the power of God (Cyprian).
God does not tempt anyone. “No one experiencing temptation should say, ‘I am being tempted by God’; for God is not subject to temptation to evil, and he himself tempts no one (James 1/13). God even offers grace to anyone in temptation. …St. Paul would write: “God is faithful and will not let you be tried beyond your strength; but with the trial he will also provide a way out, so that you may be able to bear it” (1 Co10/13).
…Jesus, did he not experience temptation too? “Temptation” is a word that tells us that in life there is combat. We have to choose between the “easy” way or the demanding way of the Gospel (see Mt 7/13etc.).
The Our Father, when viewed … tells us about the daily invitations to do wrong, and the scandals are strongly condemned by the gospel (see Mt 5/29etc.;18,6-9). The daily trials can put faith in danger…. So we ask God not to abandon us defenseless at times of trials. This is what this prayer is.
Origene, a Church Father, interprets this. He says it is not about asking God to take us away from all temptation. This cannot happen. What the prayer is saying is that we ask God to keep us fram falling when we are tempted.
Deliver us from ev il. Deliver us from the tempter. Prayer and fasting help (see Mt 17/21). Is it possible that the devil is everywhere? But maybe we are also making an alibi when we refuse to accept that the cause of our wrong doings is from inside of us. “For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, unchastity, theft, false witness, blasphemy” (Mt 15/19). When we pray that we be delivered from evil, we must also ask for the purification of our hearts.
NATURAL LAW: From some Church documents
A. From Pope Leo XIII’s ecyclical: Rerum Novarum
6. For, every man has by nature the right to possess property as his own. This is one of the chief points of distinction between man and the animal creation, for the brute has no power of self direction, but is governed by two main instincts, which keep his powers on the alert, impel him to develop them in a fitting manner, and stimulate and determine him to action without any power of choice. One of these instincts is self preservation, the other the propagation of the species. Both can attain their purpose by means of things which lie within range; beyond their verge the brute creation cannot go, for they are moved to action by their senses only, and in the special direction which these suggest. But with man it is wholly different. He possesses, on the one hand, the full perfection of the animal being, and hence enjoys at least as much as the rest of the animal kind, the fruition of things material. But animal nature, however perfect, is far from representing the human being in its completeness, and is in truth but humanity's humble handmaid, made to serve and to obey. It is the mind, or reason, which is the predominant element in us who are human creatures; it is this which renders a human being human, and distinguishes him essentially from the brute. And on this very account - that man alone among the animal creation is endowed with reason….
7. This becomes still more clearly evident if man's nature be considered a little more deeply. For man, fathoming by his faculty of reason matters without number, linking the future with the present, and being master of his own acts, guides his ways under the eternal law and the power of God, whose providence governs all things. Wherefore, it is in his power to exercise his choice not only as to matters that regard his present welfare, but also about those which he deems may be for his advantage in time yet to come. …
Comment: Notice that the Pope makes a distinction between the human and the brute animal. In the human person there is something proper—a “natural law”. “Natural law” is clear in the passages we highlight.
B. From Pope John Paul II in his encyclical: Solicitudo Rei Socialis
29. … However, in trying to achieve true development we must never lose sight of that dimension which is in the specific nature of man, who has been created by God in his image and likeness (cf. Gen 1:26). It is a bodily and a spiritual nature, symbolized in the second creation account by the two elements: the earth, from which God forms man's body, and the breath of life which he breathes into man's nostrils (cf. Gen 2:7).
Thus man comes to have a certain affinity with other creatures: he is called to use them, and to be involved with them. As the Genesis account says (cf. Gen 2:15), he is placed in the garden with the duty of cultivating and watching over it, being superior to the other creatures placed by God under his dominion (cf. Gen 1:25-26). But at the same time man must remain subject to the will of God, who imposes limits upon his use and dominion over things (cf. Gen 2:16-17), just as he promises his mortality (cf. Gen 2:9; Wis 2:23). Thus man, being the image of God, has a true affinity with him too. On the basis of this teaching, development cannot consist only in the use, dominion over and indiscriminate possession of created things and the products of human industry, but rather in subordinating the possession, dominion and use to man's divine likeness and to his vocation to immortality. This is the transcendent reality of the human being, a reality which is seen to be shared from the beginning by a couple, a man and a woman (cf. Gen 1:27), and is therefore fundamentally social.
Comment: Notice the dimension specific and proper to the human person. The human person has two elements. The human person is like the other creatures but is more also…. What makes the human person “more than” the creatures? Look at the passages we highlight.
C. Here is a document, Donum Vitae, from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (1987)
signed by JOSEPH Card. RATZINGER
5. TEACHINGS OF THE MAGISTERIUM: On its part, the Magisterium of the Church offers to human reason in this field too the light of Revelation: the doctrine concerning man taught by the Magisterium contains many elements which throw light on the problems being faced here. From the moment of conception, the life of every human being is to be respected in an absolute way because man is the only creature on earth that God has "wished for himself " and the spiritual soul of each man is "immediately created" by God; (17) his whole being bears the image of the Creator. Human life is sacred because from its beginning it involves "the creative action of God" (18) and it remains forever in a special relationship with the Creator, who is its sole end. God alone is the Lord of life from its beginning until its end: no one can, in any circumstance, claim for himself the right to destroy directly an innocent human being. Human procreation requires on the part of the spouses responsible collaboration with the fruitful love of God; the gift of human life must be actualized in marriage through the specific and exclusive acts of husband and wife, in accordance with the laws inscribed in their persons and in their union.
Comment: In this document we see the importance given to the value of the human being—the dignity proper to the human being. How does the document show this dignity? We cannot destroy this dignity—we should not violate it. Now the document touches on what is natural in marriage. Natural Law specifies the true nature of marriage. What is it? Look at the passages highlighted.
D. From Pope Benedict XVI in his meeting with the members of the general assembly
of the united nations organization (2008)
This reference to human dignity, which is the foundation and goal of the responsibility to protect, leads us to the theme … of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This document was the outcome of a convergence of different religious and cultural traditions, all of them motivated by the common desire to place the human person at the heart of institutions, laws and the workings of society, and to consider the human person essential for the world of culture, religion and science. …It is evident, though, that the rights recognized and expounded in the Declaration apply to everyone by virtue of the common origin of the person, who remains the high-point of God’s creative design for the world and for history. They are based on the natural law inscribed on human hearts and present in different cultures and civilizations. Removing human rights from this context would mean restricting their range and yielding to a relativistic conception, according to which the meaning and interpretation of rights could vary and their universality would be denied in the name of different cultural, political, social and even religious outlooks. This great variety of viewpoints must not be allowed to obscure the fact that not only rights are universal, but so too is the human person, the subject of those rights.
Comment: Look well at the passage. It tells us about what is proper to the human person. The document on human rights, Universal Declaration of Human Rights, talk about what is natural and common to all humans. Respect of human rights is itself natural to the human being. Remove human rights, we fall into “relativism”. What is that?
Again, check on the passages we highlight. Notice that at the end of this paragraph the Pope emphasizes that rights are not enough. Something is more basic. What is that?
NATURAL LAW: Taking from St. Thomas Aquinas
Do not worry if you do not understand the texts of St. Thomas. We will explain them in class.
As you read the following, note:
a.There is God’s eternal law and natural law participates in that. b. Natural Law implies doing good and avoiding evil. This is natural in accordance with the nature in common with a. all substances, b. animals, and c. reason.
From St. Thomas Aquinas’s Summa Theologica First Part of the Second Part question 91
From St. Thomas Aquinas’s Summa Theologica First Part of the Second Part question 94
I answer that… every agent acts for an end under the aspect of good. Consequently the first principle of practical reason is one founded on the notion of good, viz. that "good is that which all things seek after." Hence this is the first precept of law, that "good is to be done and pursued, and evil is to be avoided." All other precepts of the natural law are based upon this: so that whatever the practical reason naturally apprehends as man's good (or evil) belongs to the precepts of the natural law as something to be done or avoided.
Since, however, good has the nature of an end, and evil, the nature of a contrary, hence it is that all those things to which man has a natural inclination, are naturally apprehended by reason as being good, and consequently as objects of pursuit, and their contraries as evil, and objects of avoidance. Wherefore according to the order of natural inclinations, is the order of the precepts of the natural law. Because in man there is first of all an inclination to good in accordance with the nature which he has in common with all substances: inasmuch as every substance seeks the preservation of its own being, according to its nature: and by reason of this inclination, whatever is a means of preserving human life, and of warding off its obstacles, belongs to the natural law. Secondly, there is in man an inclination to things that pertain to him more specially, according to that nature which he has in common with other animals: and in virtue of this inclination, those things are said to belong to the natural law, "which nature has taught to all animals" [Pandect. Just. I, tit. i], such as sexual intercourse, education of offspring and so forth. Thirdly, there is in man an inclination to good, according to the nature of his reason, which nature is proper to him: thus man has a natural inclination to know the truth about God, and to live in society: and in this respect, whatever pertains to this inclination belongs to the natural law; for instance, to shun ignorance, to avoid offending those among whom one has to live, and other such things regarding the above inclination.
Case studies in Moral theology: Group work
The class will be grouped in four. Each group will handle one issue. A group paper will be submitted at the end of the semester. For the final exam, the group will be asked to work on another issue—not the issue they worked on. The point here is to see how you can use the “tools” of moral thinking. What are the tools? Well, there is Biblical reflection, there is natural law and there is conscience. There are many more but we can focus on these three. You can be right or wrong in your views—this is not our main interest. What we want is to see how we can use the tools.
Case #1: Is it ok to watch “porn”?
1. Pornography shows sexual materials using many media like photos, drawings, videos, etc. Today we see the growing attitude of tolerance of sexuality. In fact doing pornography has become a formal industry. There is a big industry for the production and consumption of pornography. With plenty of home video and with the Internet, pornography has become so accessible. The industry generates lots of money.
2. There are critics against pornography. They say that it can become addicting. It can harm relationships because of the influence of sexual fantasies projected to others. Pornographic ideas influence minds and make some people do crimes of sexual nature.
3. Many may agree with this criticism, but they do not want pornography totally removed. In fact they will say that pornography can be used to teach young people about “how to do” sex. They will say that pornography is also a means for calming modern stress. A few moments of watching “porn” video can help stressful people regain some composure in their work or study. Also, the pornography industry gives employment, so why remove an important area of income making? So people who are in favor of pornography will say that it must be regulated and not abolished. They will propose ways of checking that only mentally healthy people can have access to it.
4. What do you think? What does your discernment using the Bible say? What will natural law and conscience say?
Case #2: Is it ok to try “live-in” before marriage?
1. This is about “trying marriage” even before marriage itself. A couple experiments before permanent engagement. So those who do this say that it is a way of knowing if the man and the woman are really meant for each other. It is better to discover earlier before they make a final and definite decision to live together permanently. It is better to experience success or failure before marriage. So live-in trial marriage can avoid the major problems that might happen when they are married.
2. Marriage is not a joke; it is serious. Those who fail separate—and in some countries they are allowed to divorce. The families are deeply wounded. So, why not “experiment” before doing the serious decision? Do not yet make a permanent commitment. Make instead a “temporary” commitment.
3. Also one argument would say that living-in with someone before marriage is a good economic move. The couple will separate from their parents—and this will help reduce the economic dependency on the parents. The live-in partners will learn early how to manage their financial and professional lives. So live-in before marriage is ok in this sense.
4. There are people who will disagree. They say that the way of living together “on experiment” is different from living together permanently in marriage. If the relationship is permanent—in marriage—the couple will be obliged to do things so that the marriage will work. This is not exactly found in the “experimental” relationship. So the “experiment” does not really help; it is just a different way of living and cannot reflect true married life.
5. Those who do not agree with the experimental relationship will ask, “What’s wrong with living with your parents?” Yes, money is a real problem. It is a problem for young people who can already work. Getting married without a stable job is not a joke. But young couple can also get married while economically dependent on their parents. Why make economics a factor for marriage?
6. What do you think? What does your discernment using the Bible say? What will natural law and conscience say?
Case #3: Is it possible to admit abortion in the case of a “handicapped” baby?
1. There are cases in which a woman gets pregnant…and she does not like it. Take an example. A woman goes to the doctor to have her check-up. She is pregnant. Today medical science can know in advance (before birth) the conditions of the baby by studying the “echo” in the womb. The doctor tells the mother that the baby has a defect and will be severely handicapped when born. All the life of the child will be handicapped. The mother does not want this.
2. Of course in our countries abortion may not be legal—but we hear stories of the practice. The woman might want the baby aborted. She is thinking of the future of the baby—when the bay will become a child then move to adulthood. Is it ok to let the child live with the handicap? Why let the child be born and suffer all life? Is it ok to abort then?
3. But the mother does not want to add more possible suffering in the world. She is really thinking of what is best for her child—and she thinks that it is best that the child does not have to suffer so much. The child might suffer more than necessary—the child better not be born. So the mother wants abortion.
4. Also the mother is thinking of her other children. She knows that she will have to put extra effort and expenses on the handicapped child. This will make her focus on the family less. The handicapped child will be non-productive in the future and will be a burden to the family in the long run.
5. There are people who will say no—do not abort. It is stupid to dream of having a life without suffering. So the child, handicapped or not, will face suffering anyway. It is also wrong to say that a handicapped child will be unfortunate. In fact, we will never know, maybe it will be happier than any of us. Maybe the child might even be beneficial to the family. We can never say what is in the future. So do not abort.
6. What do you think? What does your discernment using the Bible say? What will natural law and conscience say?
Case #4: Is it ok to use contraceptives?
1. There are people who say that we should allow citizens to choose the method of family planning and sexual education. The government must protect people by allowing freedom of choice regarding the sizes of their families.
2. Think of very poor couples. They must have with options for planning their families and improve the lives of mothers and children. If a family is so filled with family members, life becomes difficult. The quality of living is poor. In fact a big population causes bad economy. So it is best to really help reduce the population.
3. People who like to use contraceptives talk of the “natural planning”. It is without the use of artificial means like condoms and pills. They say that natural planning is not effective. It is not a sure way to plan family size. In fact it can make parents depressed when they see that they are unable to control their family sizes. So they might even try illegal abortion to reduced family sizes. Natural planning can force couples to opt for illegal and unhealthy abortion.
4. So is it best to use contraceptives? Those who favor this say that contraceptives effectively help limit family sizes and they can prevent unwanted pregnancies.
5. Of course there are people who disagree. They do not want contraceptives promoted among couples. Contraceptives, they say, are not always reliable and effective in preventing pregnancy. The availability of contraceptives can also encourage irresponsible sexual practices among the youth.
6. What do you think? What does your discernment using the Bible say? What will natural law and conscience say?
Conscience in Some Documents of the Church
From Vatican II Gaudium et Spes #16:
1. 16. In the depths of his conscience, man detects a law which he does not impose upon himself, but which holds him to obedience. Always summoning him to love good and avoid evil, the voice of conscience when necessary speaks to his heart: do this, shun that. For man has in his heart a law written by God; to obey it is the very dignity of man; according to it he will be judged. Conscience is the most secret core and sanctuary of a man. There he is alone with God, Whose voice echoes in his depths. In a wonderful manner conscience reveals that law which is fulfilled by love of God and neighbor. In fidelity to conscience, Christians are joined with the rest of men in the search for truth, and for the genuine solution to the numerous problems which arise in the life of individuals from social relationships.
2. Commentary: Notice what the document is saying. See how conscience is a “sanctuary” and there we are “alone with God”—we are directly in front of God. Conscience shows us our full human dignity. We human have a vital openness to God. We are capable of going beyond ourselves—and God is wanteing to meet us always. Where can this happen? In our conscience.
From Vatican II Gaudium et Spes #50:
3. #50. “…in their manner of acting, spouses should be aware that they cannot proceed arbitrarily, but must always be governed according to a conscience dutifully conformed to the divine law itself, and should be submissive toward the Church's teaching office, which authentically interprets that law in the light of the Gospel. That divine law reveals and protects the integral meaning of conjugal love, and impels it toward a truly human fulfillment. Thus, trusting in divine Providence and refining the spirit of sacrifice, married Christians glorify the Creator and strive toward fulfillment in Christ when with a generous human and Christian sense of responsibility they acquit themselves of the duty to procreate”.
4. Commentary: This text is for lay Christians, and notably for the married couples. Notice the emphasis here. Couples must be guided by conscience. Why? Because conscience is connected to God’s will. Note also that couples must be “submissive” to the teachings of the Church. Those teachings have a strong sense of revelation and the Gospel—which are definite guides for conscience. There is one point to note: the duty to procreate is part of the call of the conscience of married couples.
From Vatican II Dignitatis Humanae #2-3
5. 2. This Vatican Council declares that the human person has a right to religious freedom. This freedom means that all men are to be immune from coercion on the part of individuals or of social groups and of any human power, in such wise that no one is to be forced to act in a manner contrary to his own beliefs, whether privately or publicly, whether alone or in association with others, within due limits.
6. The council further declares that the right to religious freedom has its foundation in the very dignity of the human person as this dignity is known through the revealed word of God and by reason itself. This right of the human person to religious freedom is to be recognized in the constitutional law whereby society is governed and thus it is to become a civil right.
7. It is in accordance with their dignity as persons-that is, beings endowed with reason and free will and therefore privileged to bear personal responsibility-that all men should be at once impelled by nature and also bound by a moral obligation to seek the truth, especially religious truth. They are also bound to adhere to the truth, once it is known, and to order their whole lives in accord with the demands of truth. However, men cannot discharge these obligations in a manner in keeping with their own nature unless they enjoy immunity from external coercion as well as psychological freedom. Therefore the right to religious freedom has its foundation not in the subjective disposition of the person, but in his very nature. In consequence, the right to this immunity continues to exist even in those who do not live up to their obligation of seeking the truth and adhering to it and the exercise of this right is not to be impeded, provided that just public order be observed.
8. 3. Further light is shed on the subject if one considers that the highest norm of human life is the divine law-eternal, objective and universal-whereby God orders, directs and governs the entire universe and all the ways of the human community by a plan conceived in wisdom and love. Man has been made by God to participate in this law, with the result that, under the gentle disposition of divine Providence, he can come to perceive ever more fully the truth that is unchanging. Wherefore every man has the duty, and therefore the right, to seek the truth in matters religious in order that he may with prudence form for himself right and true judgments of conscience, under use of all suitable means.
9. …Moreover, as the truth is discovered, it is by a personal assent that men are to adhere to it.
10. On his part, man perceives and acknowledges the imperatives of the divine law through the mediation of conscience. In all his activity a man is bound to follow his conscience in order that he may come to God, the end and purpose of life. It follows that he is not to be forced to act in a manner contrary to his conscience. Nor, on the other hand, is he to be restrained from acting in accordance with his conscience, especially in matters religious. The reason is that the exercise of religion, of its very nature, consists before all else in those internal, voluntary and free acts whereby man sets the course of his life directly toward God.
11. Commentary: In these texts conscience is the obligation to seek the truth. It is natural for humans to seek the truth—it is in human nature to seek. There should be no constraint to this seeking—religious freedom must be recognized. If people express themselves from a religious perspective—in their conscience—this expression must be respected. In conscience people move to God. So there should be no obstacle to this. Human-religious freedom must be respected.
From Pope John Paul II: Veritatis Splendor #60
(If you have the time, read the whole section from #57-#64)
12. 60. Like the natural law itself and all practical knowledge, the judgment of conscience also has an imperative character: man must act in accordance with it. If man acts against this judgment or, in a case where he lacks certainty about the rightness and goodness of a determined act, still performs that act, he stands condemned by his own conscience, the proximate norm of personal morality. The dignity of this rational forum and the authority of its voice and judgments derive from the truth about moral good and evil, which it is called to listen to and to express. This truth is indicated by the "divine law", the universal and objective norm of morality. The judgment of conscience does not establish the law; rather it bears witness to the authority of the natural law and of the practical reason with reference to the supreme good, whose attractiveness the human person perceives and whose commandments he accepts. "Conscience is not an independent and exclusive capacity to decide what is good and what is evil. Rather there is profoundly imprinted upon it a principle of obedience vis-à-vis the objective norm which establishes and conditions the correspondence of its decisions with the commands and prohibitions which are at the basis of human behaviour".
13. 62. Conscience, as the judgment of an act, is not exempt from the possibility of error. As the Council puts it, "not infrequently conscience can be mistaken as a result of invincible ignorance, although it does not on that account forfeit its dignity; but this cannot be said when a man shows little concern for seeking what is true and good, and conscience gradually becomes almost blind from being accustomed to sin". In these brief words the Council sums up the doctrine which the Church down the centuries has developed with regard to the erroneous conscience.
14. Certainly, in order to have a "good conscience" (1 Tim 1:5), man must seek the truth and must make judgments in accordance with that same truth. As the Apostle Paul says, the conscience must be "confirmed by the Holy Spirit" (cf. Rom 9:1); it must be "clear" (2 Tim 1:3); it must not "practise cunning and tamper with God's word", but "openly state the truth" (cf. 2 Cor 4:2). On the other hand, the Apostle also warns Christians: "Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect" (Rom 12:2).
15. Paul's admonition urges us to be watchful, warning us that in the judgments of our conscience the possibility of error is always present. Conscience is not an infallible judge; it can make mistakes. However, error of conscience can be the result of an invincible ignorance, an ignorance of which the subject is not aware and which he is unable to overcome by himself.
16. The Council reminds us that in cases where such invincible ignorance is not culpable, conscience does not lose its dignity, because even when it directs us to act in a way not in conformity with the objective moral order, it continues to speak in the name of that truth about the good which the subject is called to seek sincerely.
17. Commentary: Conscience must be obeyed, according to the Pope. Why? Because it bears witness to the truth about God and the truth about his Will—as seen in the eternal law. Now, conscience can be mistaken. It can be in error. It is not infallible. But, because it is directed to the truth and because it obeys God, it remains in dignity even in error.
18. (Also if you have time, you might want to read Article 6 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church)
NATURAL LAW AND CONSCIENCE
Natural Law in Church Tradition
1. In the tradition of the Church we read a lot about “natural law”. Moral theologians have been
discerning as to where there is moral living that is applicable to all—not just for Christian believers.
Catholics theologians and other thinkers have used the notion of natural law in many areas of life—
politics, economics, sexuality, human-rights, medical issues, etc. But still, even if the notion is widely
used, understanding it is not easy.
2. Let us look at the word “natural”. It is from the root “to be born”. So it implies something innate and
essential to a thing. Natural means the properties intrinsic to a thing. If we remove the natural, the
thing stops being what it is. If we apply this to us, humans, it is natural for us to have bodies, to have
desires, to think, to reason, etc.
3. Let us look at the word “law”. In natural law the word “law” does not mean rules and regulations. So
this word is not related to things like “laws of the country”; it is not related to civil law. No. The word
“law” in natural law is moral law. It concerns our capacity to think and to decide—it is innate in us
to think and decide. So “law” here means—it is a fact that we cannot deny and delete. We are, by
nature, moral creatures and we simply have to recognize this (and revere it).
4. (Check the documents of the popes given to you earlier.) Notice how the popes view natural
law. a. The popes would say that there is a natural way of doing things. There is an innate way of
doing things—in social life, in marriage, etc. We are doing what is proper to human beings when
we do things as natural to us. b. If we do not act and live according to what is natural in us, we
contradict God. God created us and gave us properties natural to us. If we refuse to comply, we are
rejecting what God has given to us. c. We cannot just do anything we want. We have to consider our
human nature. If we step beyond our nature we abuse ourselves. We do harm. d. Notice also the
importance given to reason…the use of the “head”. Think, discern, decide.
5. In the Bible there is no explicit mention of “natural law”. This term is not found in the Bible. But
some passages indicate the sense of natural law. See for example Wisdom 6/12-14 and 13/4-9.
By contemplating the universe we sense a plan of God—that God’s will is integrated in creation.
Creation is given a nature coming from God.
6. In the New testament we have the writings of St. Paul. Also he did not use the term “natural law”.
But he spoke os what is very natural to all humans. There is a law inscribed in the human heart—and
it is in all humans. See Rom.1/20-23 and 2/14-16.
7. In the gospel texts, we read about the parables of Jesus. They too indicate something of the natural
law. The parables show what is natural in us. There are basic human values, for example. Check out
8. In the Church tradition, a lot is taken from St. Thomas Aquinas. He has largely marked the idea of
“natural law”. In fact, the documents we read from the Popes are heavily influenced by the ideas of
St. T.A. The book he wrote, Summa Theologica, has many parts dealing with natural law. (See the
texts assigned earlier in class).
9. For St. T.A. there is first the creative design of God for all. This is what he called as “eternal law”.
This is in God himself. When God created the world he gave properties to his creation. Creation
participates in the eternal law of God. This participation is what St.T.A. calls as “natural law”.
10. We, humans, are creatures of God. We are rational-thinking creatures. So what is natural for us is
our reasoning capacity. This capacity regulates and ordains our lives. Let us be more clear with this.
11. As creatures, we have natural properties to common to other creatures. For example we have
desires and inclinations—just like the other animals. This is natural to us. But, added to this, we have
reason. We can think, discern and make up our minds. We make plans and goals. We coordinate our
actions in view of the plans we make.
12. We do not simply make plans and goals out of nothing. We have a base: our desires and inclinations.
Already the inclinations influence us, they orient us. We cannot remove them, they are natural to
us. So we need to know these inclinations—discern them. This discernment is the work of reason—
a property natural to us humans. Reason relies on what we already have and at the same time
it makes its own moves too. God has provided us our inclinations (like he has provided to other
creatures) and God has provided us with reason, which is unique to us. So what is natural to us?
Well, we have both levels—the inclinations and reasoning capacity.
13. If we look closely at these two, we will notice a moral orientation. Basically, we are naturally
oriented to do good and avoid evil. It is a “natural law” in us. It is in our nature to do good and avoid
evil. How do we do good and avoid evil? a. We preserve and conserve our being b. We look for (and
apply) what is proper to us—like education and reproduction. c. We make sure that truth and justice
are in our social lives.
14. We do make efforts to attain these three. Yes, our reasoning capacity may not be so accurate and
clear when we apply our efforts but, according to St.T.A., the three (above) are definitely present
and are definitely in our nature. They are the base for all other things we do. When we consider
moral demands we may have many difficulties and we may not be so sure as to what to do. But, the
three have to be the base: conserve being, seek out what is proper to all of us, and live in truth and
15. In the perspective of St.T.A., reason is given a high importance. Morality is possible because we have
reason. We can think and discern. Each person—no matter who he/she is—is a moral being thanks
to the reasoning capacity. For St. T.A., God really wanted us to be like this. This is the nature he has
given us. We have an innate moral nature.
16. Over the centuries the ideas of St.T.A. have been tested and even questioned. Some moral
theologians note that there are unclear elements that are difficult to apply in our modern times.
Still, in general, the ideas of St. T.A. remain accepted in the Church. There are, however, some
refinements to consider. What are some of them?
17. In modern times we have realized more and more the complexities of humanity. We are not simple
beings. We have many elements in us—psychological, sociological, cultural, etc. When we speak of
what is “natural” today we must recognize the complexity. When we look at our reasoning capacity
we cannot over-simplify it and say that we are very lucid and clear with reasoning. No. We also have
deep seated complexities—like the “sub-conscious” as discovered by the science of psychology.
This is what makes discussion of natural law more difficult now. Many theologians are struggling to
determine what exactly is the most natural in us.
18. Another point that the Church is emphasizing today is that natural law is objective. It is not just
a result of what we imagine or what we want. It is not arbitrary. In fact the notion of natural law
furnishes us discernment against the arbitrary. For example, today we see major issues about
human rights and human dignity. The human being is naturally gifted with reason, thinking, deciding
capacities. These should be respected. Human rights violations are often in the neglect of people’s
capacity to think and decide for their lives. So the Church will emphasize on the objectivity of human
rights. These rights are not to be arbitrarily accepted and dismissed. They are there, natural, present
and cannot be removed.
19. There is one final point we might find interesting. In the tradition of the Church, following the
thoughts of St. T.A., natural law is applicable to all humans. No it is not just for us, Christians. All
human beings are marked by the natural law. Now, today the Church is very interested in dialogue
with other cultures, traditions and religions. Through the idea of natural law the Church engages
in dialogue. The Church sees the natural law as one good area of dialogue. It is possible to have a
universal ethics—a sharing among all peoples.
Conscience in Church Tradition
1. We have a kind of self-knowledge, right? We more or less know ourselves. We know what we want and what we do not want. We have memories of our past. We have plans for the future. The human is reflective. We think. We can think about our past or future, about ideas and decisions. We can think of what judgment to make regarding a situation.
2. Now, when does moral conscience come in?
3. Moral conscience has something to do with our capacity to confront ourselves and evaluate ourselves—am I doing good or bad? In conscience we confront ourselves and we judge according to what is good or bad. We might look back at things we did or look forward to things we will do. Then we evaluate: “Hey, that’s not good, that’s going to harm my neighbor”.
4. Now, in Theology, conscience has a reference: God. So if we look at the New Testament, and notably St. Paul, God is in the picture. Conscience is not isolated from God. It is always in the context of dialogue with God. God is present in our lives and he is there in our conscience. (See, for example, 1Cor.4/3-5; 1Cor.8/7-13). Conscience, for St. Paul, is a basic human reality. All humans have conscience. It is imprinted in everyone by God: “…the Gentiles who do not have the law by nature observe the prescriptions of the law, they are a law for themselves even though they do not have the law. They show that the demands of the law are written in their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even defend them” (Rom.2/14-15).
5. Let us focus more on Church tradition. Let us look at the documents I sent you earlier.
6. In GS16 we have a very compact explanation of Conscience. It is in the heart of the human person—in the innermost “sanctuary”. There we are in front of God.
7. In the other documents we saw (in DH), conscience puts us right in front of God too. We make our decisions in front of God. Conscience is a responsibility we take—and as we obey conscience we translate the will and love of God in our actions. This is why in conscience we are obliged to seek the truth. We are obliged to allow ourselves to be under the truth. In the documents we read from Vatican, notice that conscience must be guided by Christian wisdom. What happens then?
8. Let us go to the Veritatis Splendor of Pope John Paul II. The pope says that conscience can be mistaken—it makes mistakes. Conscience is not infallible. It is not a “fix-all” manual. Conscience still needs to be formed.
9. Conscience, even if it is within us, still has to be guided by the light of Revelation. It must still be inscribed in natural law. It must still be obedient to something objective. Yes, conscience is personal. Yes, it is where we are one-on-one “alone” with God. Yet, this does not mean we are isolated in conscience. Conscience witnesses to an objective order which is beyond us.
10. We might ask what is this “objective order”? To put it simply, in conscience we work for full humanity. We just do not do what we want to do. We are still obliged to make sure that our choices and actions are oriented to making us fully human, truly human as image and likeness of God. So we stay vigilant about obeying things—laws, rules and norms—that assure us of full humanity. We decide and act according to objective norms that promote human dignity, human fulfillment and human sanctity. So conscience needs to ask always if a choice and action is for the good of the human as willed by God.
11. At this point we realize that conscience is not just a feeling. Maybe there is feeling involved. But notice that in the Church conscience is more of a rational activity. We discern and we act according to discernment. To help us, we can always take references from objective truths already revealed to us. There are the teachings of Jesus on the Sermon on the Mount. There are the Ten Commandments. There are Church Doctrines. These are anchored in revelation. They are enlightened by the will and love of God. So, they are, “absolute”.
12. So is it enough to follow one’s conscience to decide well? When it concerns moral questions the Church consistently says that conscience is the immediate norm of personal morality. It means that always we must regulate our judgments, decide and act according to our conscience.
13. Conscience is the norm for decision making and action. And this is to be done always. Let us cite from an encyclical of Pope John Paul II: “…the judgment of conscience also has an imperative character: man must act in accordance with it. If man acts against this judgment or, in a case where he lacks certainty about the rightness and goodness of a determined act, still performs that act, he stands condemned by his own conscience, the immediate norm of personal morality”(Veritatis splendour # 60).
14. This statement of the Pope is in line with the notion of conscience stated by Vatican II. Let us look at this one. Conscience, as we saw in Vatican II “… is the most secret core and sanctuary of a man. There he is alone with God, Whose voice echoes in his depths” (Gaudium et Spes # 16).
15. Yet, the Church insists also that we form our conscience. Conscience is not something fixed and stable, it needs maturity. This means that conscience is not a perfect help. Conscience can make a mistake too! Again Pope John Paul II has this to say: “Conscience, as the judgment of an act, is not exempt from the possibility of error. As the Council puts it, ‘not infrequently conscience can be mistaken as a result of invincible ignorance, although it does not on that account forfeit its dignity; but this cannot be said when a man shows little concern for seeking what is true and good, and conscience gradually becomes almost blind from being accustomed to sin’. In these brief words the Council sums up the doctrine which the Church down the centuries has developed with regard to the erroneous conscience” (Veritatis Splendor # 62). Notice what the Pope is saying. Conscience can be erroneous. There is such a thing as erroneous conscience. This can lead to confusion and paradox. We are to rely always on our conscience which can be mistaken. Strange is it not? What does “forming conscience” involve? Well, let us first try to appreciate conscience itself. The question about conscience has an important place in Christian morality. The Church has given such an important status to conscience, so much so that conscience must not be violated. Nobody can force somebody else to go against conscience. In the Church we say that when we somebody follows his/her conscience, that person’s choice and decision should be respected. Conscience is integral to our being human and persons. If conscience is violated, then human dignity itself is violated.
16. To help us appreciate further the question of following conscience—and the question of an “erroneous” conscience, let us look at classical theology. In traditional theology (and philosophy) conscience is said to have “levels”. First there is the “habitual” feature or, for St. Thomas Aquinas, it is called “practical intellect” (synderesis—which is Greek for “habitual conscience”). This practical intellect knows that "evil must be avoided, good must be done". It is obvious for our reasoning. Conscience is the capacity to know the good. It is the capacity to see the principles of moral life which is to do good and avoid evil. It is this capacity in us that cannot be taken away from us. It is the light given to us by God even if we are creatures and sinners. So even the most hardened criminal has this capacity to know good and avoid evil. St. Thomas Aquinas will insist: it is in each and every human.
17. We say that “of course” we "do not do to others what you would not wish to be done to yourself". Obviously we should honor our parents. Obviously “we should live moderately and act justly". According to medieval theologians like St. Thomas Aquinas, these are self-evident truths…they are “obvious moral truths” that we know habitually. We all simply admit how true they are without doubt and question.
18. Second, there is the “reasoning” or “discerning” conscience. We have the capacity to deepen our knowledge of what is good for us and what is evil. We can reason morally. Given particular situations we are in, we can discern our values and we can discern what is good and what is bad. We can think morally and we can decide morally. We can see when we are telling a lie or stealing.
19. Ok, so we know some obvious moral facts. But when we come to certain situations, we still need to We can judge our actions and decisions and we act them out. Not only can we understand and evaluate what is good (or bad), we can also act. We can engage for the good and against evil. After having weighed the elements of a situation, we have the capacity to move, to act, to get involved for the good. It is on this level when we say, “Now I act following my conscience”.
20. So this is discernment on what to do. Ok, so we say that we should live moderately, we should not abuse ourselves and we should act justly…but there are problem situations when we also need to discern. Maybe we need to spend big money, so we discern if it is a modest or immodest thing to do. The decision component says: “I will do it”. After weighing our options we decide.
21. Notice then that the first feature is the most basic—it is always present in us. The other two depend a lot on how we will think and decide. All three of them, according to Medieval theologians, are features of (moral) conscience.
22. In the tradition of the Church, levels # 2 (reasoning morally) and # 3 (acting morally) are called “actual conscience”. Sometimes we might read the term “practical reasoning”…which is the same. (Level # 1 is often associated with “natural law”).
23. We can make a mistake in our reasoning and in our action. (We are never mistaken in level # 1. The assumption in that level is that ingrained in us is the natural option to really seek for the good.) We can make mistakes (levels #2 and #3) by ignorance or by negligence. We may be insensible to a certain issue. We might not realize that the ideas we assemble and the actions we make might do more harm than good. During past centuries, for example, many Christians have lived accepting slavery. The modern idea of “human rights” was absent in the thinking of centuries ago—a limit to level #2. So Christians were involved, level #3, in the slave trade. We cannot say that the Christians involved in slavery were intrinsically evil and wanted to do evil. They just lived according to an “erroneous conscience”.
24. So we see that conscience has an important role in moral life. It clarifies. It cuts with decision. It allows or it prohibits. It can blame or encourage. It is like a compass. Yet, it needs to be regulated and “formed”.
When Making A Decision
1. When deciding, always follow your conscience. The Church has, over the centuries, respected this. Pope John Paul II said this: “…the judgment of conscience also has an imperative character: man must act in accordance with it. If man acts against this judgment or, in a case where he lacks certainty about the rightness and goodness of a determined act, still performs that act, he stands condemned by his own conscience, the proximate norm of personal morality” (Veritatis splendour 60).
2. But be careful. There are certain possible errors involved when we follow the conscience. One error is conformism. We may be saying “I follow my conscience”—but this is so influenced by the opinions of others, we decide according to what others will say. “Oh, let me see if other will agree first”. One other error is legalism. This is blind obedience to authority and the laws without putting in any form of discernment. “Because authority said it, so I agree, period. No need to ask.” This too is quite an error because, indeed, there are times when even authority and laws make mistakes. Then there is solipsism. Here we say, “I alone”. So here we do not even see the need to refer to others. Modern psychology has shown the dangers of solipsism. The “subconscious” has a strong influence on us, so even if we think we can make choices “alone”, the subconscious can still be at work in us and we do not know it.
3. So the Church will insist that even if we follow conscience, it must be a formed conscience. We must form the conscience. We must enlighten it. Conscience itself will recognize this—it will ask to be formed. It is a responsibility.
4. From a secular level, we form our conscience to see how we are in-charge of our decisions and actions. Each time we make decisions, we make decisions. Sometimes a person might say, “I decided because others said so”. Well, it is true that there can be other people involved and we conform with them. But in the end, we too have a part in the decision. We have our roles. Sometimes someone will not decide. The person decides not to decide. It is still a decision—and the person is still the author behind it. Not to decide is also a decision. So formation is to help us recognize our roles and responsibilities behind decision making. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: “The education of the conscience is a lifelong task. From the earliest years, it awakens the child to the knowledge and practice of the interior law recognized by conscience. Prudent education teaches virtue; it prevents or cures fear, selfishness and pride, resentment arising from guilt, and feelings of complacency, born of human weakness and faults. The education of the conscience guarantees freedom and engenders peace of heart” (CCC 1784).
5. Formation is also to help us see how humanizing our choices are. Are we really constructing a human world when we decide? Are we true to the dignity and beauty of being human? Or maybe my choice dehumanizes—it destroys and harms. So we need to be enlightened here.
6. Underneath this formation is the concern against selfishness. We need to be formed to step out of the narrow confines of egoism and self-centeredness. There are people out there—they too have their own thoughts and feelings. They too have their own lives and their own dignity. If I am too full of myself, it lose touch of the dignity of others. My decisions will be always about “me”. So formation is to help us move out of this and reach out to respecting the reality of other people. We form ourselves to seek for the good—my good and the good of others. Life is not all about me.
7. Let us go to a more Christian perspective. We saw that a basic result of redemption is the fact that we have all become brothers and sisters to each other with Jesus as our Brother and the Father as Our Father. So formation helps us to recognize that in our actions we stay fraternal. Formation helps us to move and live as brothers and sisters to each other—as children of Our Father.
8. The Pope John Paul II saw the need for some kind of “norms” guiding conscience. Here is what he says. He says that conscience is a voice inside of us that derives from truth “…indicated by the ‘divine law, the universal and objective norm of morality” (Veritatis splendour 60). The Pope continues to say that “the judgment of conscience does not establish the law; rather it bears witness to the authority of the natural law and of the practical reason with reference to the supreme good” (Veritatis splendour 60). Conscience, for the Pope, “is not an independent and exclusive capacity to decide what is good and what is evil. Rather there is profoundly imprinted upon it a principle of obedience vis-à-vis the objective norm which establishes and conditions the correspondence of its decisions with the commands and prohibitions which are at the basis of human behaviour” (Veritatis splendour 60). Notice what the Pope is saying. Conscience must obey something objective—and this objectivity corresponds to certain commands proper to human behaviour. Conscience still is a witness to something more solid.
9. Ok, so there is formation to keep us from folding back on ourselves in our egoism. Formation is to open us up to the solid truths that God has established for all humans. We behave humanly and we treat others humanly—this is objective. Conscience needs formation to realize this.
10. It is important to say that formation is moral formation and not cultural formation. In our societies and culture we might find wise laws and wise precepts. They can help in our formation of conscience. But remember we follow them because they are moral. For the Church this will mean that we are interested in the natural law. We follow what is for the good and not just what is being said by culture.
11. For the Christian, there is need to be formed by Revelation. Yes, we use reason—this is part of the natural in us. But reason still must be guided by the light of Revelation. We need to be attuned to what God revealed. So we look to Christ. We look to the Scriptures. We look to the Ten Commandments. We look to the Magisterium of the Church—which is in our tradition. In other textbooks of moral theology there is the notion of “moral absolutes”. This means that whether we like it or not, some norms hold as “absolutely true”. We need to attune conscience to those absolute norms. In fact. Pope John Paul II mentioned it.
12. Pope John Paul II wrote an encyclical Reconciliatio et Poenitentia. He wrote of a precept: "there exist acts which per se and in themselves, independently of circumstances, are always seriously wrong by reason of their object." He based this on the Decalogue and on the preaching of the Old Testament, and of course the preaching of the Apostles based on what the Apostles learned from Jesus.
13. In April 10, 1986, Pope JPII gave a talk which was his "Discourse to the International Congress of Moral Theology". There he said that "there are moral norms that have a precise content which is immutable and unconditioned . . . for example, the norm . . . which forbids the direct killing of an innocent person."
14. So Pope JPII affirms the existence of moral absolutes. They stand independent of what our conscience says. They do not rely on our conscience for them to be true. In fact the whole Veritatis Splendor of Pope John Paul II revolves around this. He assumes, of course, that he is simply articulating the constant teaching of the Church. The moral absolutes are so absolute that even God could not dispense with them! To do so would be to deny his very own being.
15. In traditional theology (and philosophy) conscience is said to have “levels”. First there is the “habitual” feature or, for St. Thomas Aquinas, it is called “practical intellect” (synderesis—which is Greek for “habitual conscience”). This practical intellect knows that "evil must be avoided, good must be done". It is obvious for our reasoning. Conscience is the capacity to know the good. It is the capacity to see the principles of moral life which is to do good and avoid evil. It is this capacity in us that cannot be taken away from us. It is the light given to us by God even if we are creatures and sinners. So even the most hardened criminal has this capacity to know good and avoid evil. St. Thomas Aquinas will insist: it is in each and every human.
16. Second, there is the “reasoning” or “discerning” conscience. We have the capacity to deepen our knowledge of what is good for us and what is evil. We can reason morally. Given particular situations we are in, we can discern our values and we can discern what is good and what is bad. We can think morally and we can decide morally. We can see when we are telling a lie or stealing.
17. Now, when we come to certain situations, we still need to We can judge our actions and decisions and we act them out. Not only can we understand and evaluate what is good (or bad), we can also act. We can engage for the good and against evil. After having weighed the elements of a situation, we have the capacity to move, to act, to get involved for the good. It is on this level when we say, “Now I act following my conscience”.
18. In synderesis we are never erroneous. Always, by nature, we want what is good for us. But when it comes to discerning and acting, we are not always clear. We make mistakes a lot too often. We have levels of ignorance. Conscience is not infallible, it can still be erroneous.
19. But this is not reason for saying, “Ah, so I make mistakes….so no need for penalties”. No, we are also responsible for our errors. If synderesis is faithful to what is good, then it is responsible. Once we see we make a mistake, we need to repair.
Let us now be more concrete in our discussion: Making concrete decisions
1. If we will decide, what do we do?
2. Here is the possible first step:
· Check the object chosen—the action that will be done. Is it a good action? Does reason recognize it to be good or not? So, is theft really good or bad? Just check what your ideas say.
· Next, check the intention of the person making the choice acting. Why does the person do it? Is the goal “good” or “bad”? The end-goal indicates the purpose of in the action. Does the intension aim at achieving something good? Mr. Q steals money. Why? What does he want to happen? What is his goal?
· Check the circumstances, including the consequences of the action. Do the circumstance and the consequence diminish or increase the goodness of the act. Mr. Q steals. Maybe the circumstance is that he is so poor. What will be the consequence of that act?
3. Now, start reflecting with the help of the following. As you consider the good and bad in the action/decision, in the intention and in the circumstances, see how the following can help.
4. Start with the universal. We look at general moral principles that hold for all people, for all culture and for all time. A German philosopher can help us here: “act and decide in such a way that what you do will also be done by everyone”. So when we decide we see if the decision is allowed for all humans and for all times. For example, is stealing something that we want applicable to all people? Let us take a more Christian perspective. Loving others is a universal element. It is true for all people, in all cultures and in any time of history. Honour your Father and Your Mother. Do not Kill. These universal elements seem valid.
5. Then move to the particular. The general-universal may look ok, but when we move to more concrete cases, things get more difficult to discern. If we say “love one another”…will we allow or not allow divorce? So in the particular we try to investigate the norms, laws and rules operating in society and in Church. How do the laws of society apply? Well, this is a course in Theology. So look at Church norms. What do they say? This is the particular level. Keep in mind that the assumption with the particular is that the norms and laws are oriented for the good of humanity. Be sure that when we look at these norms for reference, we seek the morality they contain—the morality and not just the cultural.
6. The particular level serves to question the conscience. What does society say—what do the rules and laws say? This is not just about what I say and what I want. What does society say about divorce? Maybe I want to divorce my wife. But what about society? My conscience must look at this too. Of course from a Christian perspective we ask: What does the Magisterium say? Is the Magisterium in favour of divorce? This helps conscience.
7. Then we more to the singular. Here we come face-to-face with the actual situation. Let us say Mr. X and Miss. Y love each other—so they claim. We agree that “love one another”. Society may allow this love to be expressed. But now in the actual case, both persons want to live-in without marriage. Ah, this is the actual choice they make. What is our evaluation? We are now interest not in lovers in general, not in couples in general but in Mr. X and Miss. Y. in the concrete, singular unique situation.
8. Let conscience be the “conductor of the orchestra”—combining the universal with the particular and with the singular. But one thing we must not forget—and this is never to be forgotten. Pray. The spiritual dimension must always be there.
9. Now that we will have to decide on a singular cases. Maybe we can refine our strategy of moral discernment. Here is one strategy:
a. Consider the absolutely non-conditional: What is the “no-no” in the situation. Well, rape, is a “no-no”. Torture is a “no-no”. So when we look at a singular case, immediately we do not open doors to the unconditional
b. Consider the possible case of the “lesser evil”: Maybe a certain amount of harm and damage might have to be done. So what is the lesser harm? What is the lesser damage?
c. Consider the totality of the situation. A part is within a total whole. The good of one part must aim for the good of the whole. A doctor might have to remove a part of a body—amputate—for the survival of the patient. So the singular case will affect the total life of the person involved. Part of discernment will be to evaluate this.
d. Consider “equality”: In some cases we might need to break the existing law. Maybe the law does not apply to this singular case. Stealing is prohibited by the law. But someone wants his gun back to kill another person. So I do not return his gun—I “steal” it.
e. Consider the “double effect”: In some cases both good and bad effects might happen. We need to ask how much good and how much bad will happen? Squatter families have been living in an area for some time, and you, government official, must decide on evicting them or not. It is bad because families will be affected. It is good because it is justice for the rightful owner of the property. Sometimes we need to refine this:
· Will the bad choice really do harm or not? If no one gets hurt and no one is harmed, then we might decide in favour of the bad choice.
· Can we avoid doing something bad for the sake of the good? A woman with cancer needs operation. But she is pregnant and the baby might die in the operation. So, do we continue with the surgery?
A Major Moral Question: Does the end justify the means?
Does The End Justify the Means?
1. Many would propose that good and bad depend on results. We do good to bring about the happiness and well-being of others—as many others as can be. You can see this in your countries too. Maybe there are government decisions that might be unjust now but will bring good fruits later. Think of the global institutions. The IMF would advise poor countries to cut back on basic social services such as health care in order to maximize economic growth. The result of reducing services will be good.
2. In today’s moral discussions, this is sometimes called “consequentialism” or “proportionalism”. “Consequentialism” means that the “consequence” (or end result) of an action is most important. “Proportionalism” means that an action has value in proportion to the results or ends. Good action means “useful” action is in its results or end. Notice the general idea of all these. Let us call them “end-justifies-means-mentality”. Do what you want so long as the result is ok. The end outweighs the process.
3. This mentality would propose that the foundation of morality is in the outcome.
4. In terms of conscience, this mentality will say that if conscience tells us to do bad now for the sake of a good result later, then follow the conscience. It is the conscience that will tell us the consequences. Anyway, we have good intentions.
5. So notice then the stand of “end-justifies-means-mentality”: we intend always the most effective means to bring about the good, fine, and so long as the good outcome outweighs any undesired evil.
6. There is, however, a problem here. We can never know always that what we do now will result in a greater good later. We cannot know with absolute certainty the future consequences. We therefore have to rely on something else. Our foresight is really limited. We cannot presume that we are all-knowing gods.
7. The premise of “end-justifies-means-mentality” is that we can always have good intentions. This is enough. The actual human act is morally neutral. The action becomes moral once it is linked with an intention for the good result. What I actually do is irrelevant, as long as the intention is ok. This is the “end-justifies-means-mentality” way.
8. In the Christian tradition—and in the Church—the dignity of the human person is absolute. The human is image of God. The human person can never become a means to an end. The “end-justifies-means-mentality” makes the human person a means—do something wrong now…anyway the end will be ok later. “end-justifies-means-mentality” would say that human rights can be violated…anyway later all will be ok. But, for the Church, human rights should not be violated at any moment.
9. So in our Catholic moral theology we have absolute norms. We have to stick to some absolute realities that will tell us, at each moment of a moral action, when we are still doing good or already doing bad.
10. In the New Testament we have seen this struggle with “end-justifies-means-mentality” thinking. Remember that the religious authorities and the romans were worried about the popularity of Jesus. So “it is necessary that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation should not perish” (John 11/47-50). Jesus must be killed—it is a “means” to protect the life of the nation. This thinking helped the Romans put Jesus to the cross. It was a form of “end-justifies-means-mentality” thinking.
11. As we said at the start of our semester, an action has plan or intention, steps and the attitude we have to the conditions we are in. If any of the three is bad, then we drop the whole action. A good plan, for example, does not always make the steps good. Cheating is immoral. Maybe I cheat because I need to pass the exam for a good future. The physical act—the steps—in the carrying out of the plan is wrong. So do not cheat at all.
12. Moral decision is not easy, but conscience alone is not enough. Result is not enough. For Catholic moral theology, we need to consult absolute norms. Not everything can be determined by a single standard. Because we are a Catholic school, we need to look at our Catholic moral tradition. But, right now we need to say: Does The End Justify the Means? No, not in Catholic Moral Thinking.
CASES in Proportionalism:
1. Blondie was not able to study for her coming exams because she was so busy with many other things, so urgent. Her family needed her to do some errands that only she could do. She needs to pass the exam in order to finish school and then find work to help her family. Exam day comes and she cheats. She says, “I cheat for a good result. I will finish my college and then help my family. One day, nobody in my family will be forced to go hungry. So my cheating helps my family”. Is Blondie correct?
2. Popeye knows that Olive is a daughter of a rich capitalist. So Popeye visits her, he gives her flowers and chocolate candies. He gives her the impression that he loves her and wants to marry her. But deep within, he is really interested in the security and wealth of having her as his wife. Finally, he marries her after a year of courting. Is this ok?
3. A pregnant mother discovers that she has some cancer cells in her uterus. She goes to the doctor. The doctor says, “We have to abort the baby first to save the uterus”. The mother starts to think. “Well, if I save my uterus, then I can have more babies later. Abortion cannot be avoided…so I will say yes to the doctor”. Is the mother correct?
Telling a lie: Case Studies
Let us try this in class
Telling a lie is a message, often stated, that really intends to deceive. This can include doing nothing in response to a question, knowing that doing nothing will deceive the questioner.
It can include 'living a lie'. This is on the level of behavior when a person behaves in a way that misleads the rest of us as to the real nature of the behavior.
Case 1: Sam is married. He has a wife and two children. He comes home, sometimes early and sometimes late. Once he was unfaithful to his wife…he had an “affair” with another woman. The affair happened for many months. He kept it a secret. During that time he was going home late. He gave the excuse of being very busy at work. But he felt guilty about what he was doing. So he stopped his link with the other woman and started to be very faithful again to his wife.
One evening his wife asked him, “Have you ever been unfaithful to me? I want to know, maybe it is part of married life to ask. I am sorry if I ask this question, it is not to hurt you.” She asked the question because when she was washing clothes she saw a woman’s earrings among Sam’s clothes. The earrings did not belong to her.
Sam knows the personality of his wife. She can be quite jealous. But he knows that she is also a serious woman—a serious wife and a serious mother. Yet, Sam does not want to disturb the family, anyway he has repented. So he answered, “No, I have never been unfaithful”.
The wife then asked, “Why do you have a woman’s earrings in your pocket?”
Sam replied, “Oh, it is for our daughter…I forgot to give it to her”. Evaluate the morality of Sam’s reply.
Case 2: Bro. Pyopyo is a school administrator. He is, in fact, the man in-charge of hiring and firing personnel. In that school there is a lady, Mrs. Morphe. She likes her work as a teacher, and she needs the job to feed her granddaughter. She has been teaching there for fifteen years. Her style of teaching has always been the “old style”—chalk and blackboard. She speaks with a low voice and it bores young students. Things are new and students are more interested in technological styles of learning—like studying with the internet, using power point etc. Young students what a lively classroom setting.
Mr. Pyopyo noticed that over timed, students have shown discouragement with Mrs. Morphe. They have been reluctant to attend her classes. They do not do well with her, they sometimes miss their classroom duties. One day the students protested to the office of Bro. Pyopyo. They want her changed. But because Mrs. Morphe is a close friend of the school, she has been appreciated by the other administrators. It is difficult for Bro. Pyopyo to decide. But then he also thought of the educational growth of the young students. Maybe Mrs. Morphe is not anymore effective. Maybe she should be told to go. Bro. Pyopyo however does not say anything to Mrs. Morphe. He just allows the situation to continue. Evaluate the action of Bro. Pyopyo. (After this evaluation, what do you think can Bro. Pyopyo do?)
The “Law of Graduality”
1. There is a tension between the demands of moral norms and human weakness. So there is the “law of graduality”. It is the continuous growth in time as we find ourselves in time. Pope John Paul II explains it.
2. First of all, moral norms are really for our good—they cannot harm us. They are meant for our happiness. It is really in the service of our full humanity. “Since the moral order reveals and sets forth the plan of God the Creator, for this very reason it cannot be something that harms man, something impersonal. On the contrary, by responding to the deepest demands of the human being created by God, it places itself at the service of that person's full humanity with the delicate and binding love whereby God Himself inspires, sustains and guides every creature towards its happiness” (Familiaris consortio 34).
3. The Pope says: “What is needed is a continuous, permanent conversion which, while requiring an interior detachment from every evil and an adherence to good in its fullness, is brought about concretely in steps which lead us ever forward. Thus a dynamic process develops, one which advances gradually with the progressive integration of the gifts of God and the demands of His definitive and absolute love in the entire personal and social life of man. Therefore an educational growth process is necessary, in order that individual believers, families and peoples, even civilization itself, by beginning from what they have already received of the mystery of Christ, may patiently be led forward, arriving at a richer understanding and a fuller integration of this mystery in their lives” (Familiaris consortio 9).
4. We are creatures in time. We experience limits. We live in concrete situations. The Pope recognizes this. “But man, who has been called to live God's wise and loving design in a responsible manner, is an historical being who day by day builds himself up through his many free decisions; and so he knows, loves and accomplishes moral good by stages of growth” (Familiaris consortio 34).
5. Now, in many situations we cannot expect ourselves to immediately apply moral norms proposed by Scriptures and The Church. We find it hard to apply the universal and the particular in the singular. We need to consider certain important elements.
· What is important is to keep the value of the norms.
· What is important is to want to apply and live according to the norms.
· We want this as soon as possible.
· What is important is that we will make the necessary steps to be more and more faithful to the moral norms.
6. If the immediate application to the norms is not always easy—and perhaps not applicable in the singular level—the tension towards making the application is always present. The tension is always applied. The law, the moral norms…these are not gradual. They are validly true and real here and now and at any given moment of time. But applying them may be gradual. The role of the norms—found especially in the universal level—are made to orient conscience.
7. And there is one more thing. The universal are designed never to justify what is wrong in the singular. We have no right to say we are doing good even if we are really doing bad. The universal—such as what Scriptures say and what the Church says—are designed to make us always vigilant about our relationship with God; so that we may always move in the direction towards God even in the difficult singular cases.
8. So, when we say that telling a lie and deceiving others is wrong and the universal indicates this, we cannot say that in the singular we are not doing wrong. We must admit that, for practical purposes we tell a lie, but we are still doing something wrong.
Is TELLING A LIE always bad?
For your reflection…and will be in your final exam too
1. Lying can have different colours. There is telling a lie that harms. There is telling a lie as a joke. Well, in a joke we cannot really say there is lying because the joke is to amuse. There is no malice. When there is malice, and when there is the intention of deceiving, then telling a lie is bad. The intention is to say what is false. Then there is the “white lie”. It does not harm, it is just an excuse. We cannot really call a “white lie” bad.
2. We are concerned here with lying for the intention of deceiving and harming others. So let us drop amusing lie and white lie. We will focus on the deceiving lie.
3. Ancient Greek Philosophers have been debating on this. One Greek Philosopher would say that we should never lie at all. This was Aristotle. Another Greek philosopher would allow room for lying. This was Plato. Plato would say that a medical doctor can lie for the sake of the health of the patient. In modern philosophy, one philosopher refuses all forms of lying—this was I. Kant.
4. So notice there are two approaches to deceiving lying. One approach would say to never lie. Lying in any form is wrong and bad. The other approach would say it is possible to lie—within certain limits.
5. Look at what Pope Innocent II would say: “Holy Scripture forbids us to lie even to save a man’s life”. This is a hard-line! St. Thomas Aquinas has had his view. The human, he said, is rational and social. In thought and in relationships the human should be truthful. Now St. Thomas Aquinas would conclude that telling a lie is wrong: “…it is not lawful to tell a lie in order to deliver another from any danger whatever”. But Thomas Aquinas would add: We can “hide the truth prudently, by keeping it back” (II:110:3).
6. From the 1700’s onwards, some would admit that in general a lie is intrinsically wrong, yet there are exceptions to the rule. We might kill someone in self-defense. So we can tell a lie in self-defense.
7. In more modern times, we might add that telling a lie is something we might do to someone who has the right to truth. If the person we are talking to has the right to know the truth and we do not say the truth, then we lie and we are doing something bad. A lie made to someone who does not have the right to know the truth will not be a lie. This looks ok, but let us not forget the malice involved. When we lie with malice then we do bad.
8. In general, however, the Catholic Church is more strict with telling a lie. Traditionally, lying at all cost should not be done.
9. Do you agree or not agree? Look at what Pope John Paul II would say about “intrinsic evil” of actions. A good intention does not always make an intrinsically evil action good. Do you think this applies to telling a lie too? Try reflecting a lot. This is a challenging topic. Enjoy thinking.
1. Why is there evil? Why do bad things happen to good people? Why must we suffer? The questions are tough to answer. The idea of evil can even create crisis in us. But there is no doubt that they are true questions coming from real experiences. Some experiences are really tough ones—like extreme experiences of injustice and organized extermination of lives. How is it possible that humans are capable of doing such horrors? And why are innocent people victimized?
2. Then of course there are the experiences of tragedy due to…say, nature’s wrath. People are killed by a tsunami or by an earthquake. Properties are destroyed by storms. In such situations we feel powerless to help victims. Here so many innocent people are affected. We feel scandalized.
3. The experiences are not rare. They point to something so real: evil. So we might wonder if there is something—or someone—“who is evil” causing these to happen. Or is there some kind of “evil substance”? We might be led to ask: how is it possible that the GOOD GOD allow the existence of evil and bad things? If God is so powerful, why is there evil? Why does he not remove this? This kind of questioning is sometimes called “theodicy”. This has two roots: one is from Greek, namely theos "god". The other is also from the Greek dike or "judgment, justice, usage, custom".
4. The bad things people do is what we call as “moral evil”. This is what we will focus on.
5. When we say someone did something bad, we imply that that person is responsible for the action. He or she can be accused. He or she can be blamed . A penalty might have to be given against that person.
6. Let us call the person who receives pain as “victim”. The person to whom pain is inflicted is a “victim”. Pain is put on that person. The victim might “lament”.
7. Notice that the “moral evil” and the situation of being a victim can meet! How do they meet? Well, they meet in the occasion when the person doing evil can receive pain too—he or she can be victimized too by the penalty. A pain will be inflicted on that person. (The person might be put to jail. He or she might be forced to pay a fine. Sometimes there is the “death penalty”.)
8. This makes us raise a question. The idea of pain…could it not also be a bit foggy? There is the pain that someone does on someone else and there is the pain of the victim. Do we use pain also for the person who harms others? If yes, then do we accept victimizing others too? Or do we say that penalty and punishment really victimize the wrongdoer? It is foggy, actually.
9. Well, ok. We say that the person harming others should receive a punishment—a pain. Could this mean that the person who harms can be, this time, a victim? (He/she might be punished by the court and the prison. He/she might also be punished by guilt feelings.) How far do we say that punishment is “just”?
10. Let us talk about the victim. The victim experiences pain inflicted upon him/her. The suffering is a result of what someone else does. Can we say that all suffering is a result of “someone else” known or unknown?
11. Sometimes we might think this way. I suffer now because I am paying for whatever wrong I did in the past. Or maybe my ancestors did something wrong and the penalty falls on me. My suffering now is a “pay back”. Look at our experiences. We say, “It hurts” or “I am suffering” or “the family is suffering”…. We might try to make sense of our experiences. And so we try looking for “explanations”. But they all underline the same basic question: Why suffer? Why is there evil? Why pain?
12. There are “solutions” proposed in history that try explain evil. They are: a. myth, b. wisdom, c. Agustinian approach, d. theodicy and e., broken) dialectic. Let us look into them. (We take inspiration from Paul Ricoeur, from his Le Mal).
13. In the very ancient times, people used myths to explain their world. They had narratives. Look at your own cultures. Notice the myths ancient people have made. They have myths of the origins of the world…and they have myths about evil, how evil came into life.
14. Maybe we all are familiar with the myth of Adam and Eve. There we have symbols—like the snake, the prohibited fruit, the eating of the fruit….etc. Evil came into life because of the disobedience of Adam and Eve. It is interesting to note that myths try to say why there is evil. But they do not have a strong help in saying “why me”? Why do I have to experience bad things happening to me? Somehow myths still talk of general things—evil happening to all. But when we want to understand evil, do we not also need to ask: “Why me”?
15. After mythical times, a new form of literature emerged. This was “wisdom” literature. In wisdom literature, there is an attempt to see “why me”. It is possible to have a closer look at evil and the experience of evil in my singular case. What does wisdom say? (Check out the “wise sayings” in your cultures.) Sometimes we are told: “If you do good, the bad will not happen to you”. The wise literatures and sayings in our cultures can have a strong explanation for our experiences. “You are suffering now….” There is a “why me” here. There is a closer explanation—closer to “me”. The sayings and the literatures can talk about my singular experience.
16. But what about the people who harm us? What about the unjust? Wisdom may be ok—about “my pain”—but it does not seem to be a good consolation for the question of “what bout the bad guy?” Is there justice? Wisdom literatures may not have the clear approach to this.
17. Let us look at the book of Job. There we read about the friends of Job explaining the unique experience of Job himself. There are explanations given for this singular case. God has a plan for this suffering. There is a possible purification in this singular suffering. Job may have done something in the past and so he is having this pain.
18. But notice that the story does not have a clear explanation of justice. It does not fully help in answering the question of evil. Ok, I see “why me”. But, still, why suffer? Why is there evil? Why is there pain?
19. During the early centuries of Church history, some heresies emerged. Many of them touched on the question of good and evil. St Augustine was an important figure then. He tried to address the issues. His theology went this way.
20. We are creatures…not God. We are not the creator. So there is a wide gap separating us from God. We are so unlike God. So, we tend to be more inclined to do bad. Because we are not absolute, we are inclined to choose bad and not good. Now, a concept was introduced here…and it influenced our mentality for many centuries. This was the concept of “original sin”. Bad things happening because there is original sin. Suffering and doing bad things are all results of original sin.
21. We are not God. So we are powerless over this. There is something intrinsically wrong and evil preceding us. We cannot remove it. It is “already there”. We inherited it from Adam and Eve. We have “original sin”.
22. So there is an explanation about evil. Right? With this approach we can see why there is evil. Evil is a result of the transmission of original sin. But this approach has a big handicap: where do we see our responsibility? Sure, we inherit “original sin”. So, how responsible are we? Also, do we see here a solution to facing the issue of “why me”? Why me, suffering? If original sin is not originally from me, why me?
23. Next came what is called “theodicy”. It supposed that God is so good, he cannot be source of evil. If he is good, he cannot contradict himself. He cannot do evil at all, not at all. So, how do we explain evil if God is so good? Theodicy would put it this way: When God created the world, he had many ideas of what world to make. He make the best possible world. This best possible world meant that it had the least possible errors. A philosopher name Leibniz introduced this. God is good…so do not put any blame on God for evil things. Leave God clean. So whatever God has created is the best. God could have created other things—or another world. But he created this one…so this is the best. God cannot contradict himself and do something less to the best.
24. How then does this help explain evil? If bad things happen, it is the least that could happen. Something worse and more evil can happen…but because of the goodness of God, we have the least bad. Who knows, maybe there is really nothing bad in it. Maybe there is a hidden goodness behind it…we just have to wait and see. So this approach makes us accept bad things happening to us—it makes us more “optimist” and have a more “positive attitude”.
25. But, really? This looks like an intellectual approach. When it comes to real “hard-core” suffering, “hard-core-injustice”, theodicy does not console.
26. Here is a more modern approach. It is a rejection of theodicy. Here we say that evil is…”hard to understand”. There is not a single understanding we can have as to why there is evil. We cannot know any source. All we can do is…accept. Our capacity to understand…our reasoning…does not have enough resources to explain evil.
27. Usually, we try to explain why bad things happen. This is the attempt of the approaches above. But really…let us admit…we do not know. We might say we will understand somehow—someday, maybe. But perhaps, we will never understand.
28. This has a consequence—and a very modern one. We are never in the position to judge anyone. We are never in the position to say: this person is evil. we have no explanation of evil. Modern science can show us that even the most hardened criminal is affected by many forces—psychological and sociological—so much so that we cannot absolutely blame that person for a wrongdoing.
29. So, maybe it is true that evil is so hard to explain…and we probably do not have all the explanations. But this does not mean that we stop living and we resign to evil. Instead of trying to explain evil, maybe we can do something else…Act. What can we do? Ok, there is evil People do harm each other. Ok, so there is injustice. Ok, but what do we do?
30. One way is…to mourn. No, this is not the romantic way. Remember what Jesus said: blessed are you who mourn. There are people who mourn because they see evil. They see injustice. They know that there are bad things happening. This is why they mourn.
31. To mourn is to respect ignorance. We cannot explain everything. So we need to detach from the illusion of being able to explain all. Then also, we need to admit that even if we have no perfect explanation for evil, we can still continue walking with God. We continue with God in spite of the reality of evil.
32. We can continue to love God without expecting anything in return. No, God might not give us explanations about the strange and painful experiences we have. But we can continue loving God. To mourn is to give up the illusion of being exempted from evil and pain and suffering. We will have these during different moments of life. Yet, we mourn. We will be consoled… even without explanations.
Sin: A short reflection
Surely you have many conferences and lectures told to you
about sin. Let us not add to what you already know. Lt us
look at sin from the perspective of Creation.
1. Now we can talk of sin. It is a theological notion. It is a serious break from God. In sin we refuse God and we refuse linking with God. In doing this we refuse to be true to ourselves. Sin is a fault we do with respect to who we are and who we are in front of God. Sin is the refusal to admit that loving God is possible. It is a refusal to admit that we can ever respect ourselves, our humanity, our human dignity.
2. Let us be careful. All sin is transgression—it is a disobedience to God and to our human nature. But not all transgression is sin. We might be in error of conscience, for example. We may be ignorant of some important details. So we act with transgression. We might be doing an intrinsically evil act. But it does not mean we sin.
3. Again, we say that sin is theological. We can talk of an immoral action…but we do not have to jump in saying “it is a sin”. Sin is an object of revelation. Our principles and laws do not make a wrong doing sinful. It is God who reveals when a fault is sin or not.
4. Look at Adam and Eve. Their position was a direct refusal of God. By eating the prohibited fruit they show—they affirm—that God is not good, that God has the idea of putting them down and making them inferior. They accuse God of being a pervert.
5. So what happens? They cannot face God…they do not ask for forgiveness. Then of course, they cannot face each other too. They cannot “stomach” the presence of God and their presence to each other. Then, all creation becomes hostile. Work is a struggle. Birth-giving is painful. Relationships turn sour. Brother kills brother. Etc.
6. Sin is a “de-creation”. It is the action of Adam and Eve. (The pilgrims to Emmaus show the meaning of re-creation.)
7. In the garden, we know God. He is the center of life. The garden, the partner, the animals, etc., all are known in and through God. The eating of the prohibited fruit signifies a “separation”—a de-creation—from God and all life in God.
8. Let us go to the New Testament. Look at the story of the temptation of Jesus in the desert. Jesus shows re-creation. What exactly is Satan trying to tell Jesus? For example, hunger. Turn the stones to bread. Hunger is truly a human experience.
9. If Jesus accepted the challenge of Satan, then he would be doing a de-creation. He would be admitting that there is something wrong with the human being. Humanity is no-good. The human being si something—someone—to be suspicious about. To be hungry is wrong. Human life is a waste. It is too tough. So change the stones to bread. Do not fool yourself. It is useless to be human. Deny this humanity. Renounce the project of God—deny his plan to share his life. God the Creator is only joking. His motives are suspicious. Go eat the prohibited fruit! The parallel between Adam and Eve and Jesus is clear.
10. Christ chose to love humanity. He chose to be faithful to who we are. He chose to be faithful to the sense of our creation. He chose to be faithful to the project of his Father… How? We know the story, he chose to continue his mission even if it meant the cross.
11. The Bible is full of stories of sin and forgiveness. Notice that they revolve around the refusal to stay in covenant. It is the refusal to accept the communion of God. It is a de-creation. Israel continue to “prostitute” itself with “idols”. But the Lord continues to be faithful by always renewing Covenant.
12. In confession—or before going to confession—we ask God to show us where we really sin. It is like looking thought the window…and seeing the stains on the glass. We ask God to show us the stains. God loves us…so let us take the courage to let him love us. Let him show to us where we de-create from God and from ourselves.
Human Dignity is inalienable
1. Human dignity is from God. God created us with dignity. How can we say this? We are created with dignity because we are made in God’s own image and likeness. This is what defines our dignity…we are made in God’s image and likeness (Gn 1:26-27). The human person is most obvious image and likeness of God among all creatures. Human dignity is not based on any quality that we might have: Am I handsome? Am I rich? Am I healthy? Etc. Human dignity is not even given by the laws of our countries. We do not need the constitutions, for example, to have dignity. Human dignity is not based on our achievements or accomplishments: Did I finish a diploma? Did I get a good job? Did I write a book? Our human dignity is inalienable.
2. What does this word “inalienable” mean? Just look at the word. It has a root word “alien”. To be alien means to be foreign…it is to be “another” and to be “someone else”. An alien “does not belong”. But the word “inalienable” also has the prefix “in”, and this signifies “not”. This means that when something is “inalienable”, it cannot be “another”. It cannot be “foreign”.
3. Human dignity is not foreign, it is no another, it is “inalienable”. Human dignity is an essential part of each of us, it can never be separated from us. It cannot be something foreign to us. It cannot be something “another” from us. Our dignity as humans can never be separated from our other aspects.
4. This belief in human dignity is fundamental in Christian morality. Human dignity is basic in Catholic moral principles.
5. Pause for a while and see how serious this is. In front of someone—another person—and with the belief in human dignity, we come to a realization that this person in front of us is image and likeness of God—whoever this person is.
6. Human dignity is due to our relationship with God. We did not earn this dignity. It is really what we are! We are dignified creatures of God. The reality of our human dignity is really based on revelation.
7. The biblical vision is our source of revelation. But then of course, the Church herself makes reflections on revelation—the Church does her “theology” or study. Over the centuries, the Church adapts different languages and forms of expressions.
8. Look at one verse. Vatican II had its document, GS #27: “Any human society, if it is to be well-ordered and productive, must lay down as a foundation this principle, namely, that every human being is a person…precisely because s/he is a person, s/he has rights and obligations flowing directly and simultaneously from her/his very nature”. What is the Vatican II saying here? It says that we are PERSONS—humans—who have rights and obligations. These rights and obligations are inalienable because they are directly flowing from the fact that we are persons. It is incorrect that human rights are given more to some people and less to others. No. Each and every person must be treated as person—as fellow human. Therefore, rights and obligations can never be separated—inalienable—from persons.
9. Here is a verse from the encyclical Pacem in Terris, #9: “It is a question, rather, of building a world where all persons, no matter what race, religion or nationality, can live a fully human life, freed from servitude imposed on them…; a world where freedom is not an empty word and where the poor Lazarus can sit down at the same table with the rich”. Remember the story of Lazarus and the rich man? The rich man never paid attention to the sick Lazarus.
10. Here is a document from the American Bishops’ Conference Economic Justice for All, #1: “The basis for all that the Church believes about the moral dimensions of economic life is…the sacredness of human beings. The dignity of the human person, realized in community with others, is the criterion against which all aspects of economic life must be measured”.
11. Here is a verse from Pope JPII in his encyclical Centisimus Annus #11: “The human person is the clearest reflection of God’s presence in the world; all of the Church’s work in pursuit of both justice and peace is designed to protect and promote the dignity of every person. For each person not only reflects God, but is the expression of God’s creative work and the meaning of Christ’s redemptive ministry”. The Pope recalls the Genesis notion of “image of God” which is the basis of our dignity. The Pope adds his reflection coming from the New Testament. Not only are we “image of God”, we are also the very reason why Christ came!
12. We can seek around the internet and books to find expressions of the Church regarding the dignity of the human person. Just keep in mind the fact that, for the Church, human dignity is rooted in revelation and it is inalienable.
A Reflection on Luke’s Temptation Story
1. Surely in your study of the Synoptic gospels, you have learned about the styles of writing of the authors. The temptations of Jesus were to illustrate all the temptations of Jesus throughout his life. The temptation stories were literary devices to put in a capsule all the struggles Jesus had. The three gospel authors—Mark, Matthew and Luke—placed the temptations in the starting point of the story of Jesus. The event of temptation is a kind of “announcing” of what will happen next in the story.
2. In the temptation story Matthew has 11 verses, Mark has two and Luke has 13. Matthew and Luke are inverted. Both of them use verses from the Old Testament. Luke mentions Jerusalem—a very important theme for him. (Jerusalem is the place of fulfillment).
3. All three synoptic writers have a central point: Jesus versus the devil. There is a decisive combat. Yet, as your synoptic studies have shown, each author used details to show their respective theological views.
4. Mark was discreet… The Holy Spirit leads Jesus to the desert. Matthew and Luke seemed to show a “deuteronomical” theme: the infidelity (of Israel) to God and the fidelity of Jesus. In Matthew Jesus is a true teacher and a true interpreter of the word of God. In Luke Jesus is Lord, the sovereign Son faithful to the Father. Each author shows us a perspective—a profile—of Jesus.
Let us try focusing on Luke.
5. In Luke the highest point of temptation is the hour of passion. Jesus does not call for some higher powers to escape his executioners. Remember that at one point the authorities mocked him: “the rulers, meanwhile, sneered at him and said, ‘He saved others, let him save himself if he is the chosen one, the Messiah of God’” (Lk. 23/35). In the desert, the devil tempted Jesus. “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written: ‘He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you,’ and: ‘With their hands they will support you, lest you dash your foot against a stone.’” (Lk. 4/9-11). Jesus won against the devil. He won over all evil on the cross. He put all in the hands of the Father—in full confidence.
6. The devil said to Jesus, “If you are the Son of God”. Just in the baptism story we read that the voice from heaven states: “And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased” (Luc 3/22). So the devil tried to put Jesus in front of an alternative. For example he tells Jesus to change the stone to bread and prove his divinity…that he is truly Son of the Father. If Jesus would not follow the devil, how can he be sure he is really Son? Maybe there was a mistake somewhere! The devil was smart.
7. Jesus did not play the game. What did he do? He put himself in the hands of his Father. That’s all. He placed confidence in his Father. He countered the devil with a passage from Deuteronomy: “Jesus answered him, ‘It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone’” (Lk.4/4).
8. In the second temptation, we note an element in the Jewish world at that time. Remember that at the time of Jesus there was a strong expectation for a Messiah—a liberator. The Jewish people were fed up with foreign domination…they just had the Greeks and now they had the Romans. The Romans were already too much. So the devil tempted Jesus about Kingdom and Power. The devil tempted Jesus with triumph.
9. But that was far from the interest of Jesus. Jesus was not at all interested in power and force. What was the reply of Jesus to the devil? Worship God…and that’s all: “Jesus said to him in reply, ‘It is written: ‘You shall worship the Lord, your God, and him alone shall you serve’” (Lk.4/8).
10. So Jesus has always been taking support from the word of God. So the devil next used the Scriptures to tempt him. The devil cited from Psalm 90/11-12. The devil used the Scriptures—and it was a common strategy. Many would use the Scriptures to manipulate others. The devil cited from verses to see the experiment on the confidence in God.
11. But must one fall into danger and peril just to check the confidence of God? Jesus did not fall for that trap.
12. Did Jesus win completely against the devil? Yes…and no. We say no because the devil “departed from him for a time” (Lk.4/13). In other words, the devil will return one day. That would be in the Passion.
13. What can we learn from the three temptations and from the way Jesus replied? Jesus became “one with us”—one with humanity. He therefore was not alien to temptations. If he could face the temptations, we too can. Jesus has empowered us. How are we empowered? a. Have confidence in God. b. Worship God. c. Have confidence in the human too.
14. These three are not impossible to do, right?
Thesis Sheet for Oral Exam in Moral Theology
1. God created us so that we may have a share in God’s life. We are also “God’s people” and God is our God. We were created with the blessing to be masters of the world. But this mastery is not abusive, it is also “mastering mastery”. If we do not accept this, we will have a very dark life.
2. Jesus explained to us that we are meant to be happy—that is, “blessed”. He showed how we are children of God and how we are brothers and sisters to each other.
3. We live a moral live because we recognize the plan of God to make us participate in his life. We live a moral life because we have seen that God wants us to be happy. What is more important in moral life is this recognition of God’s love…and less on just following rules and norms. Moral life is a response to God’s love.
4. If we look at moral rules and norms, we need to understand them more in the light of God’s love and less in the light of impositions upon us.
5. In the tradition of the Church, morality is associated with “natural law”: we conserve life, we transmit life and we let life grow. We can think—we are rational creatures. We do good and avoid evil. This is natural in us. Immorality is what goes against this natural law.
6. In the Church tradition we also have the notion of “conscience”. We evaluate our actions according to “good and bad”. Conscience is more of our discerning capacity and less of psychological feelings.
7. We must always follow our conscience. But conscience is not infallible. It can also make mistakes. This is because there are actions we might choose to do but the actions can be intrinsically evil. So it is necessary to follow conscience and to form conscience.
8. Discernment of the morality of an action can be helped by looking at the universal, which includes understanding natural law, the Scriptures and Teachings of the Church. We can be helped by looking at the particular, which includes the laws and norms of the Church. But then there is still the important level of the singular or unique. This is the actual situation we find ourselves in.
9. In the actual situation we consider the action, the intention and the circumstance.
10. Sin is a de-creation. It is a refusal to recognize the creation of God in us. It is my refusal to be truly myself and my refusal to be happy as Jesus wants me to be happy. Jesus, however, has shown the way of re-creation. He did not, for example, change the stone to bread.