Sunday, 20 April 2014

Why Evil, Suffering and the Cross?


After the horrors of the Crucifixion this Friday it is useful to contemplate why had this all to happen with Jesus entering into His glory. Why indeed all this evil and suffering, especially of the innocent in the world from the beginning, and seemingly endless and accumulative?



 



A helpful treatise is given by Fr John L Mckenzie SJ, see Reference below, in his chapter "The Mystery of Evil". So often we hear about the suffering of so many in this world with doctors helpless to stop the pain and the horrors of violence, crime and war. Every day the news blights our day with its offering of seemingly mindless evil. Many have in the past and are today turning against God and denying that He loves us or is indeed good. So what can we say when faced by those thinking us stupid to continue to believe in a just God or even in a God at all?






First we need to accept the fundamental truth that evil came into the world and deformed it and remains embedded in it because of original sin, and continuing sin is piled up on that every moment and will continue to do so until God calls "enough". So we are all suffering the consequence of our sins and the sins of others, and especially the innocent suffer.

 
 

 

Secondly, if Jesus as God wept over the consequences of evil, cured so many and delivered others from the grip of evil, why could He not remove it completely from the face of the earth? He as God seemed powerless. It would appear that, at the bottom line, in order to do so He would have to remove our "freedom" and this He would never do. So all Jesus can say - and this is repeated throughout the ages - "Repent and sin no more: I will not judge you". We in fact bring judgement onto our very selves and others by the lives we lead.




 

Isaiah Chapter 53 provides us with clues of how we might go about living and benefitting from evil in its multivarious forms. One of the greatest and most heroic actions of Jesus was that throughout His unbearable sufferings and crucifixion He never for one instant sinned Himself and only prayed for those sinning against Him. This very heroic act of not sinning and total obedience to God overthrew original sin and its consequences of barring man from Heaven into which as man He was the first to enter into that glory. This act also redeemed those who repent allowing them to follow Him. Please do note the one term which is most ignored and maligned today within Jesus' church and without: OBEDIENCE.




 

It is now worth reminding ourselves of Isaiah 53 so familiar to us in describing the Suffering Servant:


A prophecy of the Passion of Christ, Isaiah 53: Douai Version
[1] Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed? [2] And he shall grow up as a tender plant before him, and as a root out of a thirsty ground: there is no beauty in him, nor comeliness: and we have seen him, and there was no sightliness, that we should be desirous of him: [3] Despised, and the most abject of men, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with infirmity: and his look was as it were hidden and despised, whereupon we esteemed him not. [4] Surely he hath borne our infirmities and carried our sorrows: and we have thought him as it were a leper, and as one struck by God and afflicted. [5] But he was wounded for our iniquities, he was bruised for our sins: the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and by his bruises we are healed.

[6] All we like sheep have gone astray, every one hath turned aside into his own way: and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. [7] He was offered because it was his own will, and he opened not his mouth: he shall be led as a sheep to the slaughter, and shall be dumb as a lamb before his shearer, and he shall not open his mouth. [8] He was taken away from distress, and from judgment: who shall declare his generation? because he is cut off out of the land of the living: for the wickedness of my people have I struck him. [9] And he shall give the ungodly for his burial, and the rich for his death: because he hath done no iniquity, neither was there deceit in his mouth. [10] And the Lord was pleased to bruise him in infirmity: if he shall lay down his life for sin, he shall see a long-lived seed, and the will of the Lord shall be prosperous in his hand.

[11] Because his soul hath laboured, he shall see and be filled: by his knowledge shall this my just servant justify many, and he shall bear their iniquities. [12] Therefore will I distribute to him very many, and he shall divide the spoils of the strong, because he hath delivered his soul unto death, and was reputed with the wicked: and he hath borne the sins of many, and hath prayed for the transgressors.

Underlined are the repeated reminders that it was for our sins that Jesus suffered.

Now let Fr McKenzie provide us with that missing piece of the puzzle: why evil, suffering and the Cross:

"The prophet has seen this truth, that through the suffering of men other men can be spared from suffering. Evil still remains an irrational factor in human life; but man can meet it in such a way that what he does is the greatest thing he can do. There is no reason why this should be, and the mind of man does not easily accept it; but the Servant of the Lord, as conceived by the prophet, is the final answer of the Old Testament as to how men shall meet the evil which they cannot overcome except by surrendering to it, by becoming its victims.........

Christianity has always seen in Jesus the "fulfilment" of these words of the prophet; He is the ideal Israel, who sums up in Himself the religious gifts, the mission, the destiny of the people of the Lord. And this destiny was to die. His words and His life reflect the same spirit which we believe we see in Job, in Jeremiah, in the Servant of the Lord: that there is no answer to the problem of evil, and no way to meet evil in the concrete, except suffering and death. We have seen men in all the ages try to shake off the burden by the most varied and ingenious devices, and they have all failed. Jesus alone came and said: Take up your cross. If you wish to live, die. If you wish to find joy, suffer. He did not explain it. He simply lived that way. If there were a better answer to the problem, if there were a better way to meet it, it is hard to think that the Incarnate God would not have chosen it. He did not make evil easy to understand or easy to bear; He showed only that it is possible to live with it, and to live well, to live heroically, without doing anything about evil except to suffer it. This is the mystery of the Servant, the mystery of the life and death of Jesus, that it is in yielding to evil in becoming its victim, in being consumed by it, that man has his only hope of overcoming it; and, by the solidarity which links Jesus with all men and all men with each other, this victory over evil can be communicated to others who are ignorant of what happens on their behalf."


 
Surely this must be the most reassuring reason to suffer in taking up our cross to follow Jesus along His narrow way to heaven: to suffer to spare others from suffering or to mitigate the suffering of others. How many times do we hear the words "for your tomorrow we gave our today".

 
 

 

In war a serviceman understands that he may have to suffer and die for others so why should it be an exception for non-servicemen? God has no other way, if we are to retain our freedom, except for us to accept, as His Son had to, our cross on behalf of others whether in war, sickness or caring. This why assisted suicide is so wrong and can be viewed as an act of extreme selfishness, for it denies or removes the right to suffer and die to spare others from suffering or to mitigate their suffering. Therefore in Christ's world all suffering has a noble purpose and the reward is heavenly glory as it was for Him. However, we must, like Jesus, abhor all suffering and do all we can, including suffering ourselves, to prevent or alleviate it; this especially includes the Devil's imposition of suffering by absorbing it rather than passing it on to others.

 

 

 

Reference: The Two-Edged Sword, Fr J H Mckenzie SJ, Geoffrey Chapman, London, 1955.

Friday, 11 April 2014

Beatitudes of the Merciful III Loss of God's Compassion


"Blessed are the Merciful for they shall obtain Mercy" Mt 5:7
"I have not come to call the virtuous , but sinners to repentance" Lk 5:32
 
We are today shunning the words of Isaiah 10:5 who anticipated the impact of losing God's compassion: "Assyria the rod of the Lord's anger and staff of His indignation for the Hebrews" in their day.
 

 
We now scorn and ignore this fundamental truth: that war and the elements of nature may be used by God to chastise us to repentance and to pay for the sins of the world or are a direct consequence of our evil, and abandonment by God to our own devices. Irrespective we will all suffer in our different ways.
Who forms God's rod and staff today? Will we not heed this Lent the cry of Our Lady of Fatima or Jonah to repent and maybe God will show us His mercy as he wants to do? Or will we force Him to leave us to our own devices rather than chastise us?
 
 
 
If we don't think that in World War I we were left to our own devices, then why the 4 years madness of mass killing, breakthroughs that could never be followed through, stalemate after stalemate and the gross stupidity of leaders on both sides? Yet in this hell God administered His mercy to individuals and groups.
 
 
 
To drive this point home Piers Brendon's book "The Dark Valley, a panorama of the 1930s" includes chapters on the roots of Fascism, the bane of capitalism, depression, decadence of France, slump in Britain, Japan's imperialism, Stalin's revolution , Mussolini's Abyssinian adventure and the Spanish Civil War. In it Beatrice Webb warned us then: "The USA with its cancerous growth of crime and uncounted but destitute unemployed, Germany hanging on the precipice of nationalist dictatorship, Italy boasting of military preparedness, France in dread of a new combination of Italy, Germany and Austria against her, Spain on the brink of a revolution, Balkan states snarling at each other, the Far East in a state of anarchic ferment, the African continent uncertain whether its paramount interest and cultural power will be black or white, South American states forcibly replacing pseudo-democracies by military dictatorship and finally the Russian revolution that would shake the world."
 
 
 
The stage and plots remain the same, only the names have been changed, and should the actors be allowed to come on and begin, we will have only ourselves to blame. A future World War would result in indescribable horrors. 
 
 
 

 
 
Have we really learned to repent and mend our ways? Far from it, quite the opposite, with God's Church emptying, schisms everywhere, His forgiving hand rejected by those who believe that they have no sins to repent and accordingly we bring the global consequences of global sinning onto ourselves.
 
 
 
McKenzie writes (the itallicised words in brackets introduce modernists/ post-modernists): "It should not be difficult for us to empathise with the Hebrews and reiterate, as they did: 'It is not the Lord (who does not exist), it is not and cannot be (non-existing) He. It is somebody else who brings this evil upon us, but not the Lord (who does not exist), who we worship (or don't) and serve (or don't). It is not the bitter fruits of our evil deeds (global immorality, violence, corruption and lies) that we taste, not the breath of His (non-existing) anger that we sense: a loving (non-existing) Lord could never do this!' "
 

It must be a breakdown in diplomacy, a failure of strategy, a collapse of the defence forces, climate change, natural disasters, the Russians, Chinese, Americans and so on. If the wicked and godless afflict us the "righteous" or sinless, it cannot be the paralysing stroke of His (non-existing) hand, which Isaiah saw then raised against His people. 
 


We are facing this situation today. "National guilt is a terrifying idea and its terror is magnified because it is accompanied by national, today global, blindness", permitted by God. We often " learn wisdom from defeat but to see that defeat would be justified before it comes is rare indeed", impossible for those who arrogantly
 
 
 
 believe that God either does not exist, is powerless, or does not interfere in world events. Let us use this Lent wisely to be merciful to all so that God will be merciful to us and heed the call by Our Lady of Fatima to repent, repent and repent now.
 
 
 
 
 
References:
"The Dark Valley, a panorama of the 1930s", Piers Brendon, Jonathan Cape, London 2000
"The Two Edged Sword, an interpretation of the Old Testament", John L McKenzie SJ, Geoffrey Chapman, London 1959
"A Catechism of Christian Doctrine", Revised 1985, Catholic Truth Society.
"The Preaching of the Beatitudes", Henry James Coleridge SJ, Burns & Oates, London 1876

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

LMS Video on The Manner of Receiving Holy Communion

 
The latest LMS video is on The Manner of Receiving Holy Communion, and briefly covers the history and reasons behind the traditional practice of receiving on the tongue and kneeling. At a time when, in the Ordinary Form, obstacles are still often placed in the way of Catholics wishing to receive in the normative way, it is good to be aware of the facts behind the centuries-old practice of the Latin Church.
 
 
The simple link is: http://youtu.be/aql5wEwsY3A

Blessed are the Merciful Part 2


What is Mercy?
 
"Blessed are the Merciful for they shall obtain Mercy" Mt 5:7

"I have not come to call the virtuous , but sinners to repentance" Lk 5:32


So what is mercy? The next words of the "Our Father" give us a clearer idea: "give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us". These requests for bread and forgiveness form the bedrock of mercy and lead directly to the two Great Works of Mercy (CTS):






a. The Seven Corporal Works of Mercy

1. To feed the hungry. 2. To give drink to the thirsty.

3. To clothe the naked. 4. To harbour the harbourless.

5. To visit the sick. 6. To visit the imprisoned.

7. To bury the dead.




 

b The Seven Spiritual Works of Mercy

1. To convert sinners. 2. To instruct the ignorant.

3. To counsel the doubtful. 4. To comfort the sorrowful.

5. To bear wrongs patiently. 6. To forgive injuries.

7. To pray for the living and the dead.


It is very doubtful that we at any time in our lives have not had to be grateful for one or more of these Works of Mercy, especially in experiencing the joy of forgiveness. It is important to note that nowhere are we expected to remove any punishment justly due for any sin, and the Bible is full of accounts of God forgiving but requiring the penitent to accept the due penalties, and this includes the purification of Purgatory. Jesus warned us of having to pay every last penny for our offences and meant it: remission or removal of punishment can be achieved by us practicing the Great Works of Mercy. This leads to us understanding the true meaning of mercy.





The Oxford Dictionary is succinct in defining mercy as "Compassion shown by one to another who is in his power and has no claim to kindness". God through His love and compassion for us forgives us our repented sins, but this desire is matched by His desire for us to become holy so that we can join Him in Heaven and this requires the rubbing off of our rough and unsightly edges and marks by suffering, willingly accepted, and the Great Acts of Mercy we perform. We need to be holy and shine like the bright stars in the heavens, and to gain Heaven we must have become pure and meek like little children, as perfect as God is.

God does not wish to lose any of us and will chastise us if it becomes necessary to awaken us from our stupor and evil ways. Where does this fit in with a loving God's mercy? Pope Benedict XVI put this quite simply: love without truth is not love.






God will not and cannot hide from us or Himself our evil ways and the consequences. We can even try God's hand to raise His Divine Wrath as happened many times in the past. The most terrible thing He could do to us is to abandon us to our evil ways, and this He does when He sees that no chastisement, including war or devastation, will change us or we find excuses why not to change.

 
 
 

We are now living in a world which is becoming cold in love as demonstrated by the lack of charity in parts of the NHS and more generally by the so-called mercy killing of the unborn, terminally ill and elderly, the perversion of God's laws which leads to increasing crimes of violence, corruption and degenerative human behaviour including the loss of manners. There are many such parallels today and the period before and between the World Wars.







Women are being commercially exploited and financially coerced to forsake their family life and become mere cogs in a relentless, insatiable, military industrial commercial machine, to become consumerists, be consumed or recycled, to act and be equal to men including mastering all the many different acts of killing others.

 
 
 

Women are no longer considered peacemakers protecting the vulnerable, encouraging gentleness. goodness and love in all situations and above all tempering man's natural aggressiveness. As a consequence of the associated social engineering of ourselves and our children, parts of the world have embraced godless secularism in living out "we don't do God". Therefore, like Belgium, they cycle downwards into the abyss.





 
Worse still in our developed world we have fallen asleep, rarely hearing the whimpering cries of mercy unless some great disaster awakes us from our stupor. Pope Francis in Evangelii Gaudium says with great passion about the developed world driven by market economics:

"Almost without being aware of it, we end up being incapable of feeling compassion at the outcry of the poor, weeping for other people’s pain, and feeling a need to help them, as though all this were someone else’s responsibility and not our own. The culture of prosperity deadens us; we are thrilled if the market offers us something new to purchase; and in the meantime all those lives stunted for lack of opportunity seem a mere spectacle; they fail to move us."


In the final part we will examine the consequences of losing God's compassion.