Thursday, April 3, 2008

Living lives of love

"To be a Christian is to be called to a life of love, but that calling is a lifelong task that requires our willingness to be surprised by what love turns out to be" (Hauerwas, Matthew, pg. 194). It might be good to also add that we must be willing to be surprised by what love turns out not to be. "In particular," Hauerwas continues, "the separation of love from the one who has come to teach us what it means to be loved by God by making us disciples tempts [us] to sentimental accounts of love. As a result, accounts of Christian morality are often hard to distinguish from utilitarianism." To wit: When we "make love a relatively unspecified ideal," a touchy, feely account of what Msgr. M. Francis Mannion might call wheat fields and waterfalls, we "are tempted, if not willing, to do great evils that good may come because [we] have lost the skills necessary to discern good from evil" (Matthew, pg. 193). It might also be the case, at least individually, that we have never acquired the necessary skills because we are too often jonesing for an emotional fix, wanting to be affirmed in behavior that needs to change.

I know that in pastoral ministry, when people seek advice and counsel, most often the last thing they are looking for is to be challenged in their lives by the Gospel, by the life and teaching of Jesus Christ. Hence, too often, what counts for pastoral ministry is what most counsellors would call enabling behavior, amounting to nothing more than telling people what they want to hear, watering down Jesus' call to discipleship. It is important to keep in mind that the Good Shepherd does not and never has pastored his sheep in this way. Now, lest I be misunderstood, I am not proposing the opposite extreme, namely that pastoral ministry consists of beating up on people who are already down, for whatever reason(s), in the belief that what people always need is a kick in the pants. I am proposing the development of the skills necessary to discern good from evil, which, in the immortal words of Boston, is more than a feeling. It actually involves the use of reason. Using our reason in such acts of discernment, thinking with Christ, which is thinking with the Church, is an act of love (Matt. 22,37). Far from always being an affirmation, such a discernment can lead us to conclude that we must do what we do not necessarily want to do, what is the difficult and not the easy thing.

The internet broadcast of the Mass for the Second Sunday of Easter from The Cathedral of the Madeleine, at which I had the privilege of preaching in the presence of Bishop Wester, despite the fact that it has Bishop Wester as the homilst, is now available for viewing. Thanks Fred!

2 comments:

  1. Hi! This post reminds me of something that happened to me. While reading "Friends, that is Witnesses," I wanted to understand better what Father Carron meant when he said that we must correct each other constantly. It took me the longest time to recognize what was already there, on the page -- that the kind of correction he's talking about is the constant reminder that we need that all the hairs on our head are counted. We don't make ourselves, we don't decide our destiny, and we don't keep ourselves in existence. Love that comes from any other place besides the realization that I was loved first is pretty much sentimental and self-serving. Thanks very much for this post, and for the reminder!

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  2. Thanks, Suzanne. I, too, had very rich experience with Friends, that is, witnesses. SO, thanks for your witness. Indeed, to live in the awarness of fact of God's love, revealed in the Incarnation, which is necessary for the Paschal mystery.

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