Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The culmination of Christian morality; love of the Lord

I have been insisting for awhile now that the Church has nothing to say to people about morality until "our listeners have glimpsed God's delight in their existence" (Radcliffe, What Is the Point of Being a Christian, pg. 59). I was both surprised and gratified to stumble on a great passage by Don Giussani in Is It Possible to Live This Way?: An Unusual Approach to Christian Existence, Vol. 1. In the second chapter of this book Giussani comments on a passage from the last chapter of St. John's Gospel in which Peter (i.e., Simon), James, John, Andrew, Thomas, and Nathaniel had been fishing all night and caught nothing. At dawn, as they approached the shore, they saw a charcoal fire and a man. The man asked them if they had caught anything to eat. They answered that they had not. The man told them to cast the net on the right side of the boat, which they did. They caught so many fish that they were not able to pull the net back in the boat. It was then that Peter realized it was the Lord. So, Peter, true to his character (which I love), jumped out of the boat and swam to shore (Jn 21,9-17).

Here is where Don Gius' commentary picks up:

The Lord "is near Simon and He says to him, very softly, without the others realizing, He says quietly, 'Simon, do you love me more than these?' This is the culmination of Christian morality: the beginning and the end of Christian morality. He didn't tell him, 'Simon, you betrayed me. Simon, think how many mistakes you made. Simon, how many betrayals! Simon, just think that you can make the same mistake tomorrow and the day after . . .Think about how fragile you are, what a coward you are in front of me.' No! 'Simon, do you love me more than these?' He went to the depths of everything, to the bottom of everything; so this bottom of everything pulls everything along with it" (pg. 77- red-lettering of our Lord's words mine).
After this brief commentary on the Gospel, Giussani quotes the Angelic Doctor to the effect that "every living thing gives proof of its life by that operation which is most proper to it, and to which it is most inclined" (Summa Theologica Secunda Secundae Partis, q. 179, a. 1). What is most proper to the life of human beings, according to Aquinas, is "acting in accord with reason" (ibid). Taking a bit of a leap, we can conclude with Msgr. Giussani that "nothing is more intelligent than following . . . the companionship in which the Lord, who calls us, has placed us" (Is It Possible to Live This Way p. 76). Of course, for us the companionships in which the Lord has placed us are our families, our Schools of Community, and our parishes. I think in terms of a companionship dedicated to following the Lord, which is a companionship that challenges us, that corrects us, that is, having companions on the way to whom we are accountable because of our mutual love for the Lord, which makes possible our love for each other, our genuine concern for each other- these are our families and then our Schools of Community. Ideally, yes, our parishes. This is precisely where as participants in SoC we can act as leaven.

While on this subject, my homily and the entire Mass of which it was a part is now available to watch, courtesy of our fantastic diocesan newspaper, The Intermountain Catholic. Tomorrow, the necessity of mortification (a.k.a. self-control) to realizing destiny, that is, true freedom, which, as it turns out, is not freedom of choice.

(Thanks to Suzanne for the graphic, which I pulled off Venite a vedere)

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