QotD – Art is Elemental – 05.22.2016

Yes, art is elemental.  Reason alone as it’s expressed in the sciences can’t be man’s complete answer to reality, and it can’t express everything man can, wants to, and has to express.  I think God built this into man.  Art along with science is the highest gift God has given him. (Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Salt of the Earth, 47)


Unembarrassed Joy

Saturday of the Seventh Week in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

41SHFgwWc0L._SX314_BO1,204,203,200_I was feeling like a real go-getter this week.  Days before writing this reflection I had read the passages and knew I was going to write on the section where James talks about going after those who stray.  Then I randomly picked up a book that I bought exactly one year before I got married, mind you I’ve been married for nearly three years now.  The book is called Salt of the Earth and it is an interview between Peter Seewald and Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger.  As I read one of Ratzinger’s responses I found a line from today’s first reading ringing through my mind, “Is anyone in good spirits?  He should sing a song of praise.”  That is such good advice!  But are we bad at following it?

Here is the line that released that train of thought from the station:

Something I constantly notice is that unembarrassed joy has become rare.  Joy today is increasingly saddled with moral and ideological burdens, so to speak.  When someone rejoices, he is afraid of offending against solidarity with the many people who suffer.  I don’t have any right to rejoice, people think, in a world where there is so much misery, so much injustice. (36)

I want to spend our time reflecting on the two keys that James and Jesus give us for unlocking unembarrassed joy.

The first key is from James and is one of action.  It is worth noting that James does not possess the same dilemma that Ratzinger suggests we do.  For immediately before addressing the one in good spirits James wrote, “Is anyone among you suffering?  He should pray.”  James is not ignorant to suffering in the world.  As a matter of fact, if you read all of James, there is a strong call for us to do something about the suffering of the world!  We find lines such as

  • “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained by the world” (1:27)
  • “However, if you fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself,’ you are doing well.  But if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors” (2:8-9)
  • “If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,’ but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it?  So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (2:15-17)
  • “For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every foul practice.  But the wisdom from above is first of all pure, then peaceable, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, without inconstancy or insincerity” (3:16-17)

This cornucopia of citations from James is to express that there seems to be a presumption that the person expressing unembarrassed joy, is already cooperating with God in trying to do something about these present trials and sufferings.  When we strive to follow James’ call to bear sorrow and suffering together, we do not hesitate to share our joy.  Instead, it is when we isolate the alleviation of suffering to the afflicted that we become ashamed of joy.

The second key is from Jesus in the gospel and is one of attitude or being.  Today’s gospel possess the famous line, “whoever does not accept the Kingdom of God like a child will not enter it.”  When we become childlike we can be joyful without shame.  I recall the great joy my nephew had as he shot baskets.  To the pragmatic adult, he was just throwing the ball up and his dad and I were actually sinking the ball through the hoop.  For the child, though, he was doing it and there was only joy in making the baskets.  And that joy was contagious.  It was inviting.

51DoPBMXXOL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_That is the kind of joy that Pope Francis called us to in The Joy of the Gospel (Evangelii Gaudium).  Not something with a shrill, uneasy laugh trying to cover up the reality of suffering.  But a joy like a child’s.  A joy that penetrates hardship and overcomes suffering as it lifts someone’s spirit to the kingdom.

When Ratzinger, in 1996, noted a rarity in unembarrassed joy, I believe he was referring to a rarity in active childlike joy.  It is to this same impoverishment that Pope Francis responded with The Joy of the Gospel.

May the Gospel compel us to action and fill us with a contagious joy.

Both photos from www.amazon.com

Revolution of Grace

Remember, remember the 5th of November,
The gunpowder treason and plot,
I can think of no reason, the gunpowder treason,
Should ever be forgot.

I don’t give weight to the revolutionary that sneaks under the places of authority, but is raised above them.
Nor do I follow a revolutionary that calculates the right time to destroy, instead I follow one who sought the right time to fulfill and restore.
I reject the revolutionary that factors how many to kill, but follow the revolutionary that held back his whole host.
I turn from the revolutionary that views death as an instrument, and pursue the revolutionary that sees death as the enemy.

In remembering the Gunpowder Treason, I don’t see merely Guy Fawkes, but our human revolutions and they stand in stark contrast with the revolution of the Incarnation, Divine Love become Flesh; a revolution not merely from the bottom up, but from the top down to the bottom and back up again.  This was a revolution that didn’t result in victory through death, but victory over death!

There have been so many revolutions in history, many indeed.  Yet none of them has had the force of this revolution that brought Jesus to us: a revolution to transform history, a revolution that changes the human heart in depth.  The revolutions of history have changed political and economic systems, but none has changed the human heart.  True revolution, the revolution that radically transforms life, was brought about by Jesus Christ through his resurrection.  Benedict XVI said of this revolution that “it is the greatest mutation in the history of humanity.” … In this day and age, unless Christians are revolutionaries, they are not Christians.  They must be revolutionaries through grace! (Papa Frank, Address to the Participants in the Ecclesial Convention of the Diocese of Rome, 17 June 2013).

The Danger of Pharisees

Reflection on the readings for October 31, 2015.

Today’s opening words in the Gospel resonate with a cultural, societal, and human truth.  Here is the text, “Jesus went to dine at the home of one of the leading Pharisees, and the people there were observing him carefully.”  Those words, “the people there were observing him carefully,” makes me think that they wanted to know how Jesus was going to handle this Pharisee.  Was he going to put him in his place? Or pat him on the back?  Continue reading “The Danger of Pharisees”