Sunday, June 10, 2007

Fearsome, Faithful Living +

From today's New York Times, what you need to know about what the Koran teaches regarding killing another human being, entitled Permission – The Guidebook for Taking a Life.

In a post, below, Monk from The Wacky Wannabee Musical Monk and I discussed what constitutes legitimate "security". It's only normal if one is exercising any concern for oneself and one's loved ones that we try to size up potential areas of danger ahead, and avoid them (walking in Central Park or on the Washington Mall in deserted, shadowy places sans visible people, etc.). But in reality, it is nearly impossible to take into account all such contingencies.

In C. S. Lewis's second book of his Space Trilogy, Ransom is on Perelandra (Venus, in the Massketeers' Guide to the Galaxy). Lewis tells how his hero made his way through the treacherous caverns of Perelandra: at one moment taking what would appear (if watched by an observer) overmuch caution, at another extreme risks, because he himself could not see but was climbing by feel alone.

In my opinion (in the same way that Saint Paul will occasionally step aside in the Epistles and say, "Now this is my opinion -- Paul" when not proclaiming the Gospel) -- this is Athos speaking now -- we must do three things in the face of such realistic threats:

(1) Not succumb to hate. We must pray for our enemies, as Our Lord commands [Mtt 5,44], and never willingly give in to "righteous" anger. Love [caritas, agape] is a decision. Like top-spin in ping-pong, it takes all the side-spin of evil off the ball served to us. Through God's grace, we choose not to return evil for evil. I will suggest a method for such prayer in the first comment (below).
(2) Exercise legitimate defense. The Catechism of the Catholic Church is clear: "Love toward oneself remains a fundamental principle of morality ..." (Remember, "Love your neighbor as yourself?") and "The defense of the common good requires that an unjust aggressor be rendered unable to cause harm." (Nos. 2264, 2265) This is posited on justice as Saint Thomas Aquinas understood it: to give what is due to God and to our neighbor; namely, what is right for the common good. This is perfectly in keeping with honoring and loving our aggressive "enemy" -- one wants to keep the enemy from carrying out unjust evil and violence, even if the enemy is accidentally injured or even killed in so doing (No. 2264).
(3) And, perhaps the most important point, do not provoke a potential enemy into aggressive and sinful behavior. This is scandal, and constitutes grave sin. Again, the Catechism:
Scandal is an attitude or behavior which leads another to do evil. The person who gives scandal becomes his neighbor's tempter. He damages virtue and integrity; he may even draw his brother into spiritual death. Scandal is a grave offense if by deed or omission another is deliberately led into a grave offense. (No. 2284) "Temptations to sin are sure to come; but woe to him by whom they come!" (Lk 17,1 in No. 2287).
So, as difficult as these days are, Our Lord gives us a viable path through them to Heaven by His grace: in seven wonderful words, prudence, justice, fortitude, temperance (the Cardinal Virtues), faith, hope, and love (the Theological virtues).

And keep your eyes on Jesus! As the old Gospel chorus said: Turn your eyes upon Jesus, Look full in His wonderful face. And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, In the light of His glory and grace. +

1 comment:

Athos said...

Prayer for enemies, like forgiveness, must be a "7 X 70" spiritual discipline. The practicing Christian knows that the old feelings of confusion, hate, etc. will "bubble up" again and again. That is why Our Lord gave us the gift of forgiveness and prayer; so we will not rot from within.

Have you known people who held grudges for decades? I do.

Why not try the Eastern prayer called the Jesus Prayer? It comes from Jesus' parable of the pharisee and publican who went up to the Temple to pray (Lk 18, 10f).

It goes, "Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on (me/or _______ ), a sinner." Start with yourself, acknowledging your own sinfulness and need of grace. Then insert whoever needs this prayer: loved one, enemy, et al.

Keep it handy, especially at 2:30 am when the old resentment returns ...