Gospel values

The Second Vatican Council gives the Christian laity a mandate: to carry the Gospel into the world, into the marketplace and neighborhoods where priests and religious have no access, and to infuse the world with Gospel values.

It’s a massive task – a massive responsibility… and I must say, I don’t think we’re doing a very good job of it. The reasons why are many, but the fact remains – as Keith Green said, years ago, “This generation of believers is responsible for this generation of souls.” We need to wake up and do our job – because we will be held acountable for it, on the Day of Judgment.

So – what is this Gospel we’re supposed to be carrying into the world? It’s neatly summed up in the Credo – “I believe in One God….” and one doesn’t have to have a doctorate in Systematic Theology to get the gist of the Creed. It’s simple, basic, practical. It’s Theology For Beginners in a nutshell. It gives us a clear idea of Who God Is and what our relationship to Him is.

Furthermore, we ought not to be reluctant to speak of Him – particularly when we hear people who have a misguided sense of Who God Is. After all, instructing the ignorant is one of the Spiritual Works of Mercy.

What may be a bit trickier is this business of infusing the world with gospel values. Just what does that mean? And what difference does it make?

Well, because of Who God Is – the basic truths laid out in the Creed – there are things we are obligated to do. There are values and morals we are supposed to live. Yes, it really matters what we do in this world. While it is true that God wants us to be happy, it is not true that means we can pursue “happiness” without regard to His commands. In order to be God’s kind of happy – eternally happy with Him in the Beatific Vision – we have to live according to His blueprint.

Looking at the Old Testament, particularly in the Books of Exodus and Leviticus, we see a strange thing. Again and again, we see Commandments being introduced with words like these: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt….”  and then a rule or command follows. It is as if God is laying out for us a basic cause-and-effect proposition: Because of Who I am, you will behave in thus-and-such manner to reflect that you belong to ME, and not to some other god.”

Let’s face it – those other gods were not nice. We got a glimpse of this in our basic mythology lessons, back in our school days. Those Greek myths we were subjected to actually reflected the whole of the ancient pagan world. The gods were licentious, murderous, vindictive, manipulative, calculating, deceitful… utterly selfish. Self-serving. And the cultures that considered themselves governed by these gods were governed by the same self-serving qualities of the deities they had invented for themselves.

The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, on the other hand, was a very different character. He demanded a certain ethos from his people – an ethos very different from the pagan cultures that dominated the world – because He was a very different God.

Those values were obedience, honesty, kindness, hospitality, respect for life, due reverence to Him, sexual morality, respect for others’ self and property. The Ten Commandments is the same in-a-nutshell blueprint of the morality required of the people of God – but what we don’t often think of is that those Commandments stand in stark contrast to the rest of the world’s values.

The world we now live in has been infused – saturated! – with what are actually pagan values: sexual license, the treatment of people as utilitarian objects, acquisitiveness, and so on.

To infuse the world with gospel values requires two things of us – First, we must become familiar with what gospel values are. NO, GOSPEL VALUES DO NOT EQUAL WHAT THE WORLD CALLS “SOCIAL JUSTICE!” Often gospel values require us to stand up and say, “No, this thing you are doing is immoral and dangerous to society,” and we must say this even while the world insists we are wrong for saying it.

And that leads to the second thing – we must be willing to have God re-arrange us, to be, truly, our Lord. When Paul wrote to the Romans, “Be transformed… by the renewing of your minds,” he was speaking to a people who had converted to Christ out of one of the wildest, most depraved pagan cultures recorded in history. Paul realized that these people, in order to be truly converted to Christ, had to undergo a total paradigm shift. Their minds – their attitudes, their sensibilities – had to be transformed from their old pagan identity (what! did you think the gentiles were “Protestant Jews”?) to a completely different identity, an identity that reflected the integrity of this One they had given themselves to in Conversion.

And so must we. I believe we are obligated, as Christians, to hold each of our opinions and attitudes up to God and to ask Him, “does this please You?” – We have to embrace Gospel Values in order to be able to bring those into the world we inhabit.

Political Post #1

I used to have an aversion to politics. Oh, I enjoyed watching the election returns coming in, especially when my Daddy was home (he was a long-distance trucker). He’d let me go with him to the local newspaper office, where the returns would be written in wax pencil or soap on the plate glass windows – local returns on one side of the center door, national returns on the other.

But I didn’t like the debates, the negative tactics, and so on. I couldn’t keep up with issues; I was more inclined to parrot what I heard other people saying.

In the past four years, however, I have begun to be very interested in politics. Having some idea what is happening in our dear Nation, knowing how my elected representatives are representing ME, and having an idea of their intentions while they’re campaigning – it’s all part of good citizenship.

It’s also part of being a good Christian. In the Second Vatican Council, the role of the Christian laity was laid out:

First, to carry the Gospel into the world, into the marketplace, into the highways and byways of society where priests and religious do not frequent, or may not have access at all.

Second, to infuse this world with Gospel values.

Taking a basic interest in politics is very much a part of the latter.

But what are Gospel values? – (to be continued)

In the cultural crisis

Had a good chat with my friend Linda H. this morning. Linda’s active in politics in one of the states south of me, here, and we talked about the corruption and exclusivity that has come to mark the political parties controlling county and state process.

She made what I think was an astute observation, which is the point of this post. We both agree that we MUST have a solid and assertive set of candidates to choose from in the primary, next year. President Obama has already begun campaigning for his second term – and God knows, we cannot survive another four years of this incompetence.

She said, and I agree, that the nation could be heading toward another civil war if things aren’t turned around. BUT – she stressed the spiritual nature of the combat at hand.

And she’s right. The coming battles are those of character and principle and not of personality cults or even agendas. The current political arena is an exclusive old-boys’ club where too often the people with the concerns and the intelligence to DO something about them are locked out. Nepotism abounds – and that’s bad for the nation and for our communities.

We must prepare. We must begin with prayer, with regular, disciplined prayer that transforms us and leads us where we need to go – not the sort of prayer that attempts to dictate to God what we will and won’t have from Him, thank you very much.

And we must understand. Our public schools have been depriving us of understanding for more than forty years, now; we must educate OURSELVES to understand what the principles are, what they mean, how they affect us.

We have a tremendous responsibility. Privileges carry with them responsibility; I believe our rights carry even greater responsibilities. We are, we will be accountable for how we have lived as citizens and sojourners in this world.

After all – it is our mandate as Christians to bring true Gospel values into the world. True ones, not the politically correct ones that ignorant people have been persuaded they have to embrace – ones that even a rudimentary understanding of the Scriptures would show are soul-damaging. To take the Gospel into the world, to infuse the world with gospel values…

We have to begin with prayer.

(to be continued)

Final word on death: Prayer of the Faithful

I think (hope!) this will be my final observation on the deaths of Nora and Uncle Theo, but it is a story I think others would profit from reading.

I mentioned in my reflection on Nora’s death how people were changed by the caring for her. I am seeing in Uncle Theo a similar change – and from people who never heard of him until last week, and who never laid eyes on him in this world.

News of Uncle Theo’s situation spread through the internet rapidly. Several bloggers picked up the cry, and I myself shared the need for prayer with the 150 or so people on my email prayer group, some of whom also posted on their blogs, on Facebook, on other venues. The outpouring of prayer was immense.

Several of us have found renewed vigor in standing firm for the sanctity of human life as consequence of this.

But one of the most beautiful things I found – I’ve got to share this with you.

I’m a member of the Catholic Writers Guild,  This past week was our very exciting Writers Conference Online – begun each morning at 8:30, half an hour before the first chat conference, with Morning Prayer, led by… yours truly.

I mentioned the need for Uncle Theo on the very first morning after I found out his plight. It is the only time during the conference I initiated any mention of him – because thereafter, conference participants were intitiating the queries – “What’s the word from Uncle Theo?” – “Have you heard anything?” –

Chats were interrupted when I would sign in late – “Laura, have you heard anything?” followed by an explanation to the Presenter and those participants who had missed prior word. Others initiated prayer for Uncle Theo before I could have time to mention him, myself.

Even after his death, Friday, by legal euthanasia (he was in Holland, remember), the Guild members continued to hold his soul – and the souls of family and the medical personnel responsible for promoting this heinous act – in prayer.

We ended the conference last night with a “party,” of sorts – an open chat room. And one of our leaders said, “We need to take a moment to pray…” and it began with prayer for Uncle Theo.

The Communion of Saints – and saints-in-the-making – is a mighty powerful force.

In life we are in death… and in our unity of prayer, then we are very strong.

Amen.

Tria munera

Literally, Three Gifts –

And those gifts are our sharing with Christ His identity as Prophet, Priest and King. These gifts are given to us at the time of our Baptism and Chrismation, whether we’re infants or adults.

Now, the thing is, we don’t hear an awful lot about these gifts except in the context of the Baptismal Rite, but we need to give them some thought –

They’re not just a nice idea, or some other-worldly notion. They’re our mandate.

This is what is holding me up on my work on Pray, Study, Work: doing research on what this identity means, and how we’re supposed to live out these roles in the living of our common priesthood.

Quite the challenge, yes?

Mortal v. Venial

Mortal sin is like a bomb blast: the damage to one’s soul is immediate and catastrophic.

Venial sin is like a termite infestation. It may not seem like much at first, but if you don’t deal with it quickly and decisively, that one or two wee little bugs you almost don’t even notice are going to multiply, and become a colony; and that colony has the capability of doing some serious long-term damage to the structure it inhabits: your soul.

When someone we love is in mortal sin –

It doesn’t matter who it is, or how much we love them, or how “good” that person is:

Our affection doesn’t sanctify that person’s sin.

Okay – it’s understandable that people want to minimize and whitewash their loved one’s flaws. But when someone we love is engaged in acts of mortal sin, we must have the courage to look at those acts and to name them for what they are. I don’t care what your son or daughter or nephew or best friend is doing – if you can’t recognize that their mortal sin is just that, then you’re not loving their immortal soul.

This is called cooperation with grave matter, and it’s also a sin, by the way.

One of the most courageous couples I know did something incredibly hard and risky: they sat their lesbian daughter down and told her in no uncertain terms, “As long as you are involved in the lifestyle, you aren’t welcome here. We cannot, we will not tolerate your engaging in sin as if it were of no consequence.”

It might have been horrible – the daughter might have rebelled, she might have chosen her partner over her family, she might have estranged herself from her family for years and years. Instead, she chose her family – and because they loved her enough to tell her that sin is sin, she is now out of the lifestyle and able to look back objectively and with admirable honesty at what she left behind. At the ugly and manipulative community she escaped.

In any event, she told me, some time later, her parents had made sure that there would be someone who loved her enough to tell her the truth – that what she was doing was morally wrong, unacceptable in a Christian, and dangerous. If she ever struggled or vacillated in her choice, she had the truth echoing in her mind the whole time.

Love cannot – must not! lose sight of the fact that those we love possess a soul that is immortal, that we all will face a particular Judgment and pay the penalties – the just penalties – for our sins. And when we ourselves prevaricate, rather than facing head-on our duty to the Truth, then we compound the wrong; we take guilt to ourselves and we prolong and deepen our loved one’s slavery to sin.