Thursday, January 13, 2011

What we must never lose sight of...

Following on the heels of yesterday's appeal by Fr. Zvěřina to Christians in the West, written forty years ago, appealing for us not to forfeit an authentic, that is, Christian anthropology, for a revolutionary view of the human person that ultimately smacks of gnosticism and in accordance with what I am experiencing right now in my own life, I am posting some reflections from Eugene Peterson's invaluable book, Five Smooth Stones for Pastoral Ministry, in which he touches on this same problem, but in a different context.

"Pastoral work, Peterson insists, "takes Dame Religion by the hand and drags her into the everyday world." You see, given her exalted nature, Dame Religion, "is shy, retiring, and private; or else she is decorative and proud - a prima donna." Indeed, "[p]astoral work is that aspect of Christian ministry" that "specializes in the ordinary." However, for several decades now "perspectives generated by [the] "behavioral sciences have dominated the literature directed to" those of us engaged in pastoral ministry.

It is the rationale behind this much pushed for change in perspective that makes it so troubling and it is also what links it directly to Zvěřina's prophetic warning. This rationale insists that since we live in a time of such rapid change and "so much of what we encounter is unprecedented," add to this our quantum leaps in knowledge and technology," it is easy to see "anything that worked in an earlier age won't work now." It is precisely this erroneous and illogical assumption that Peterson seeks to correct. As this attitude prevails more and more "we are charmed into forgetting the very wisdom that we are called upon to share with others: the reality of God and the immediate significance of each personal and local detail in the story of redemption."

"We are told," Peterson continues, "that we must be [up-to-date] in the ways of looking at, studying, and working with persons, and that psychology and sociology will revolutionize our capabilities, putting us in the vanguard of those who will achieve a new human potential." This is, indeed, a lie, a subtle one, but a lie nonetheless because "the work which has to do with the [human being's] relation to God and God's will for [him/her] does not come from knowing more about the times but from knowing about humanity - and God." This, as Peterson points out, "has to do with continuities, not novelties; with what is essential in the human condition, not with what is accidental." His point is that what is essential about our humanity, namely that we are created in the imago dei with God as our origin and our destiny, never changes. Even more, to forget this, to deny this, to ignore this distorts everything and corrupts us.

God's way of reminding me of all this through these days is by putting the words of St. Augustine in my heart and on my lips: "You have made us for Yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You." This is the Truth to which we must come to know through experience, meaning what happens to us every day, all day long.


  1. I think that what we have today, began with the enlightenment. Rapid advances in technology have only accelerated the natural evolution in the re-evaluation of the premises we bring to the question if the human condition.

    Indeed, it is a subtle lue, but the lie's genesis comes from the shifting paradigm of God that came about from those in the enlightenment who questioned God and divine revelation as authentic.
    The premise that we are created in the image of God is a minority position now. It is not taken as the starting point.
    I think this is the fundamental problem for today, the premises that we accept when we consider the human person.
    Truly, we need a new evangelization.

  2. I agree with your excellent analysis, Dan. Things that are pretty obvious are now all open questions.


Heeding the most important call of all

Readings: Amos 7:12-15; Ps 8:9-14; Eph 1:3-14; Mark 6:7-13 Like Amos in our first reading, "the Twelve," as the inspired author...