Meditation is an ideal way to pray. Using God's word (Lectio Divina) allows me to hear, listen and reflect on what the Lord wants to say to me - to one of his disciples - just like He did two thousand years ago.
The best time to reflect is at the beginning of the day and for at least 15 to 30 minutes.
Prior to going to sleep, read the Mass readings for the next day and then, in the morning, reflect on the Meditation offered on this website.
I hope these daily meditations allow you to know, love and imitate the Lord in a more meaningful way.
God bless you!


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

1 Cor 12:31-13:13 Loving like a Christian


Wednesday of the Twenty-Fourth Week in Ordinary Time
 
By BENEDICT AUGUSTINE

“When I was a child, I used to talk as a child,
think as a child, reason as a child;
when I became a man, I put aside childish things.
At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror,
but then face to face.
At present I know partially;
then I shall know fully, as I am fully known.”


 
This passage of Corinthians probably ranks among the most well-known in Bible; it is certainly the most famous words Paul ever wrote. Christians and non-Christian can recognize these words since nearly every wedding ceremony includes them. As they hear it read, the groom and bride can look at one another, meditate over the meaning of love and apply it to their own relationship: their love is patient, kind, humble, trusting, hopeful, strong. Although context of the passage frames love in a theological sense, not necessarily a nuptial sense, the newly weds will insist on treating Paul's love as a worthy description of the love they have for each other. While this may aptly serve the occasion of a wedding, understanding Paul's words as some schmaltzy ode to love ultimately cheapens its meaning.

 
First, one must consider Paul's audience. He writes this chapter on love in his letter to the Corinthians, a group of believers having problems working together because of their passions and jealousies. Far from exalting passions or the married life, Paul actually hopes to quell the passions and caution against married life (see 1 Corinthians Ch. 7). He reprimands the Corinthians for having cliques and division among themselves and for mishandling the Eucharist. Thus, when he speaks about love, he means love in the Church, between members, and love for God, which should unite all members. Marriage applies to this passage insofar as the couple intends to serve the Church together, raise their children in the faith, and have their relationship reflect Christ and His Church.

 
In order to make his logic of love apparent, Paul couples his discussion of love with his discussion of maturity. His mention of putting “aside childish things” sounds nice on its own, but it does not make as much sense when coupled with his discussion of love. Paul wants to make the point that children grow out of their ignorance, their silliness, and their overall helplessness; in other words, the “partial” life of a child passes away and the completeness of an adult sets in. In the same fashion, a person may know God partially as a child partially knows the world, yet he will eventually mature into a complete knowledge of God. Paul himself admits to knowing God only somewhat:  “At present I know partially; then I shall know fully, as I am fully known.”

 
This still does not resolve the question of why Paul juxtaposes these two ideas, love and knowing God, until we realize that love helps us to know God because God is love. Love serves as the foundation of the other two theological virtues, faith and hope, because love “believes all things” (faith) and “hopes all things” (hope). This love finally enables one “to endure all things” like sin, hardship, and even death so that one can finally experience God “face to face.” At the point that we experience God in heaven, hope and faith become unnecessary: we see the God we trusted and believed in, and we finally join with the God we always hoped for.

 
Until we love as Paul explains so eloquently, we remain children, ignorant and self-indulgent.  Love helps people mature out of their childish notions of God to a much richer and more resilient understanding of God. Jesus compares his generation to “children who sit in the marketplace” who complain that the world does not meet their expectations and, what is worse, does not even pay attention to them. They do not love the messiah or his prophet, but choose rather to contradict them out of pride. As a result, they never learn to love, but only to desire—which they mistakenly regard as “love.” Needless to say, this selfish love, that prevailed in the Roman empire as it does today, does not endure but fades into irrationality. Like a child, the man who loves falsely cannot recognize himself, let alone God and His Son.

 
Therefore, let us love as Paul tells us to love. It will not only make us strong and happy, but it will make us wise. In love, we may come to know ourselves,  our neighbors, and the Holy Trinity. With such knowledge, our lives will finally be complete and Heaven will have arrived.

 

14 comments:

  1. "At the point that we experience God in heaven, hope and faith become unnecessary: we see the God we trusted and believed in, and we finally join with the God we always hoped for."

    Thank you for this insight. It makes sense to me that we would need hope and faith because we live in a fallen world. Once we are united with Christ, we are in perfect communion with the one who is Love and no longer need the others. Thanks for the excellent thoughts as usual!

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  2. But why are hope and faith necessary in this life? Is there a reason why God could not make it undeniably, unquestionably clear that he exists? Any doubt in this finite lifetime is exactly zero compared to the knowledge we would have in an infinite time in heaven.

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    1. On a certain level, that question is unanswerable because we can only know why God does certain things when we're united with Him in heaven. I'll offer a few possible reasons though.

      Knowing God without any kind of doubt, in the same way we know a tree that sits in our front yard, would eliminate free will. We could not deny Him nor fail to obey Him. It's like giving the answer to a question along with doing all the work to answer it; it leaves nothing for the student to do except accept it. God obviously wants an active, freely performed faith. Knowing God as we know the tree or worked-out answer would not change us or bring out any individual virtue, but would actually make us complacent and childlike.

      I also heard a pretty good analogy for knowing God in this life: God courts us here on earth before we either choose to commit to him in a spiritual union in Heaven at the point of our death or remain single in Hell. This isn't some kind of arranged marriage, with a predetermined courtship, but a free one in which we must strive to act virtuously.

      To extend this metaphor a bit, you can also say that God wants us to know Him as a person, not as some natural law or random object in the universe. Consider someone dating someone else. If I'm on a date with someone, I do see them, and there's little doubt that this other person exists. Still, I want to learn more about this person whom I see before me. Therefore, I have to trust her (faith) and hope in a relationship with her (hope) to better know her. This means I have to talk with her and go out with her regularly. In life, we go out with God and talk with Him regularly through the sacraments and prayer. Our knowledge develops through our love and vice versa: the more I know, the more I love; the more I love, the more I know. And God doesn't only want to be known, but also to be loved, so He hides Himself so that we may pursue Him and be grateful for Him.

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  3. "Knowing God without any kind of doubt, in the same way we know a tree that sits in our front yard, would eliminate free will. "

    Except that it wouldn't. The Bible is full of stories of people who interacted with God, yet they still chose to disobey. Adam and Eve were without sin, and they disobeyed God. From Catholic teachings: "The devil and the other demons were indeed created naturally good by God, but they became evil by their own doing." Angels disobeyed God. Having knowledge of something does not preclude the ability to not worship or obey that something.

    If it did eliminate free will, that simply means we will not have free will in heaven. If we are in heaven, we will obviously know God without any doubt, then "We could not deny Him nor fail to obey Him." So what is the point of having to have faith in something the majority of the people on earth question for a handful of years just to be unable to do anything about it for infinite time afterwards?

    "God courts us here on earth..."

    Are our souls uncreated before we exist here on earth? Would he not know what we are going to do even before he puts us here?

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    1. True. I thought about the example of Adam and Even after posting my comment. Knowledge alone does not override one's will. Even though we know better, we still do things that hurt us. Even though Adam knew God, or at least saw God and walked with God, he disobeyed his command. Let's consider the reason.

      Adam was tempted by the Serpent to disobey God and eat the fruit. He thought he could become like God by eating the fruit, knowing the difference between good and evil. He already knew the good since he knew God, so all he found out was evil by eating the fruit. Once could argue that he saw his disobedience, his pride, his shame, after eating the fruit. What was once perfect, he marred through his sin, his turning away from God. Now all men have this tendency through Original Sin. So, you're right, it is a problem of will; hence, the need for love.

      Then again, I'd argue with the idea that Adam or any biblical figure knew God in the same way a person in Heaven would know God. Seeing a pillar, seeing Him in a dream, or even “walking with God” can assure you that He's there, but you would have to have faith and love, supported by love, to know His actual nature.

      All the same, this leads us back to the same dilemma: why doesn't God just reveal Himself to all and eliminate our doubts? As I ask this, I'm not sure how the infinite eternal becomes finite and limited. God cannot be known by the eyes, or even through reason, but through the heart. We have Jesus who proved He was God. We have quite a few miracles from the saints and their testimony. We have our own souls which respond to God if we allow it. We have the universe that manifests an intelligent design and seems to rest on a metaphysical cause. What more does a person need? You may say he needs more to go on, but all this would do is make him a deist, which doesn't really mean much. God wants us to love Him, not just assent to His existence. He wants us to know Him as a person, and this requires the conformity of our will to His. It become a matter of love again.

      To your other questions:Are our souls created before conception in the womb? No, we are created at conception. Life, both spiritual and physical, starts at conception, in time. We are not eternal, nor are we sempiternal (a term Augustine used for angels). All men have a starting point and continue from that point forever onward.

      Does God know our will and our action before we do? In other words, are we ultimately predestined for Heaven or Hell, like the Calvinists maintain? I again say no. The future does not exist; therefore it cannot be known, not even by an omniscient being. In this way, we are free here on Earth. We have a choice to be with God, or not, and God knows this perfectly in the present. He can make predictions about our behavior, but He cannot make predeterminations.

      Again, I'll say that our love and knowledge of God are linked. The analogy, which I still think is apt, about courtship follows from Jimmy Aiken's talk about Heaven and how to think about it. Here's the article (it's short) that discusses it pretty succinctly: http://www.strangenotions.com/will-we-have-free-will-in-heaven/

      These are good questions. They really don't bother me at all, but make me want to understand all this more clearly. St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas have great things to say on free will and knowing God. I'm trying my best, but I'm not an expert apologist. Thinking about this is part of the faith journey. It would be worse to not think about it.

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  4. "Adam was tempted by the Serpent to disobey God and eat the fruit."

    So who or what tempted Lucifer? Would Adam have eventually succumbed without any outside temptation?

    "He already knew the good since he knew God, so all he found out was evil by eating the fruit."

    So they knew good, but not evil, and God punishes all of mankind because a fully formed decision could not be made? No warning?

    "As I ask this, I'm not sure how the infinite eternal becomes finite and limited."

    Who says infinite has to become finite? If God is truly omnipotent, he can find a way to convince us.

    "God cannot be known by the eyes, or even through reason, but through the heart."

    I have been told that God cannot be shown by science, here you say he cannot be know through reason, but by heart, which I take to mean by feeling (correct me if I am mistaken). How many others feel their God is the true one? They cannot be disproven by science or reason, what makes them wrong?

    "God wants us to love Him, not just assent to His existence."

    A good first step would be proof of that existence. People could choose from there.

    "We have Jesus who proved He was God."

    Actually, we have assertions that Jesus proved he was God, we have no actual proof ourselves.

    "The future does not exist; therefore it cannot be known, not even by an omniscient being. "

    Wow. I have never heard any Christian of any kind state that God cannot know the future because it does not exist yet. Makes prophecy kind of difficult. Every source I have looked at says that God has perfect knowledge of all events; past, present and future.

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  5. Again, you're asking many questions that can't be answered so simply. But again, I'll try my best.
     
    Who tempted Lucifer? No one. He willfully acted against God. Would Adam have succumbed without temptation? No. He was fine before the serpent tempted him.
     
    Does the absence of knowing of evil prevent a person from making a fully formed decision? No. You can make a fully formed decision with a knowledge of good. You answer a math problem correctly without considering every incorrect answer. Evil, the absence of good, actually leads to less informed, more deluded decision. Hence, Adam sinned when confronted with evil. Was there any warning? Yes, God warned them not to eat from the the tree.
     
    Why does the infinite need to become finite? Because humans are finite. We can't conceive of the infinite, but only refer to it. Our minds are conditioned by the finite, so we can only refer to the infinite analogously. God is not an object; He is the basis of all being. We can't see Him like we see the tree in our yard. Does this mean he can't conform to our finitude and prove his existence? Sure, He does this in his Son. That may not be enough, but then, what would be enough? I think the bigger question becomes: can we allow ourselves to see Him, to accept the proof He gives us? Or will we continue to prove why these proofs and God Himself is not enough? For more on this topic, if you are truly genuine in your question and not merely captious, read through these 20 proofs of God: http://www.strangenotions.com/god-exists/

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    1. "For more on this topic, if you are truly genuine in your question and not merely captious, read through these 20 proofs of God: http://www.strangenotions.com/god-exists/"

      May have forgotten in my reply, I'll give it a go. May be a good topic for you to write on in the future

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  6. (Part II)

    How is God known? (And here's why I hate this quote stuff; you took this out of context.) I said there's two ways of knowing a person. We can know God as an object (an idea, a cause, a purpose, etc.) or we can know God as a subject (a person with intelligence). A deist cannot know God as a person because he believes in God like he believes in the Big Bang. As Pascal says, he is as far from knowing God as the atheist. Christianity involves the heart. That's not merely feeling, but a spiritual capacity of love, self-giving. Love includes feelings, but it also includes one's will, reason, and spiritual orientation. When you say that you love your parents, is that a feeling? Not quite. You have a certain orientation towards them that involves all sorts of feelings, thoughts, experiences, perspectives, etc.
     
    Would God proving His own existence make people love Him more? Not if you don't accept His proofs. Did Adam love God, or merely obey Him as his creator? True love requires true freedom. If God prove Himself beyond the ability to doubt, I'm not sure we could even be free to love Him. Consider God coming down in some form and demanding, "I am God! See?!! Here I am! Now love me, or else!" This seems to be what people want, but this love does not transform us into free virtuous adopted children, but compliant slaves. That might work for Islam, but this is far from the Christian understanding.
     
    Jesus proved He was God to the people He was with. We believe in those people's testimony. If you want to get technical, you can claim they were assertions. In that case, 90% of what we know are assertions, not actual proofs. 
     

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  7. (Part III)

    You haven't heard a Christian say that God doesn't live in the Present? Well, I do, and I’ve heard others say the same. There are different schools of thought about this topic. Frankly, much of it is beyond me, so I’ll go with what Augustine says about Time in the Confessions, which is that the future does not exist. We can make predictions; God's predictions, made with perfect knowledge of the present, are prophecies. It doesn’t stop there. Some prophecies seem to change, as Jonah's prophecy of Nineveh's destruction, which finally doesn't actually happen. Or prophecies are uttered in ways that have multiple meanings that go beyond events in simple events, like the ones related to the messiah—who is God’s Son, which He can certainly predict since it’s His Son. If you can cite actual Christians that disagree with this idea, you're free to do so. However, I have to draw the line at predestination in which God creates a preset path for people that will take away their ability to choose good or evil.
     
    And here, I stop. What started as a post on love has now spiraled into commentary on Genesis, Time, the heart, prophecies, and epistemology. I had to separate my response into three parts to not break the comment character limit. I’m an amateur with a day job and a graduate thesis to complete. If you are truly interested in knowing more, and I hope you are, please consult with sites that specialize in these questions: Strange Notions and Catholic Answers. I now have to write another post for this week. Keep reading.

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    1. (Replying to all posts, thanks for the conversation)

      "Who tempted Lucifer? No one. He willfully acted against God. Would Adam have succumbed without temptation? No. He was fine before the serpent tempted him."

      I don't see how you can come to that conclusion. Lucifer acted willful against God, why couldn't Adam? Lucifer succumbed without temptation, why not Adam? God created angels, they disobeyed. God created man, he disobeyed. 0-2, not a good record.

      "Consider God coming down in some form and demanding, "I am God! See?!! Here I am! Now love me, or else!""

      I would think it would be "I am God! See?!! Here I am! I ask you to love me, your choice"

      "You haven't heard a Christian say that God doesn't live in the Present? Well, I do, and I’ve heard others say the same."

      I usually hear God is outside of time (and often space), so past, present, and future are all the same to him.

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  8. Dear Anonymous: So let me ask you a question. What exactly would God solve by showing himself to everyone in the world? Do you think that by knowing God in a direct, measureable and quantifiable way (as you enjoy saying and I enjoy ridiculing), that that would resolve your problem? I am interested in knowing why, and I will show you how rudimentary your assessment is.

    "Actually, we have assertions that Jesus proved he was God, we have no actual proof ourselves"

    What exactly do you gain by proofs? Proofs are meaningless if you are prideful; for I still hold the proof of your own error (Remember? Mandela was a member of the South AMERICAN - [not AFRICAN] - Communist Party). I have yet to receive an acknowledgement of YOUR MISTAKE!

    You see? Direct, measurable, and quantifiable data means nothing to you because you are an atheist, and atheists have no commandments or beatitudes or moral code to hold them back. They will do whatever it takes to win an argument! They will even claim “psychological harm” at the sight of a 9/11 Memorial Cross! Proofs are meaningless, unless the heart is in the right place – and I don’t mean feelings! LOL!

    You're problem isn't that there are no proofs of Christ's divinity. It's that you are UNWILLING (and maybe even UNABLE) to accept the proofs of Christ's divinity, just like you're unwilling to admit your own blatant and obvious mistake. And now you think that God popping in front of you will solve your problem? Hardly!

    This is the "heart" of your problem.

    By the way…do you realize that not one single Catholic scholar, saint, philosopher and/or theologian has ever considered the “heart” as synonymous with “feelings?” My goodness! Have you ever read anything from a Catholic scholar or do you find all your stuff off the internet or from atheists?

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    1. "What exactly would God solve by showing himself to everyone in the world?"

      Well, for starters, it would simplify things. How many evils are caused by people fighting over whose version of religion is right?

      "as you enjoy saying and I enjoy ridiculing"

      I wasn't aware I enjoyed saying it, or even have ever said it. And ridicule, how Christian and mature of you.

      "for I still hold the proof of your own error"

      I have no idea what this means. I have read this post several times and I see no mention of Mandela. Am I missing something?

      "do you realize that not one single Catholic scholar, saint, philosopher and/or theologian has ever considered the “heart” as synonymous with “feelings?”"

      Which is why I asked if that is what he meant. Are you this rude to everyone you respond to?

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  9. "Well, for starters, it would simplify things. How many evils are caused by people fighting over whose version of religion is right?"

    Probably fewer than those fighting over power, money, land, oil and resources.

    Oh, how foolish you are, anonymous. You fell right into my hands.

    "For Starters..." And then you offer nothing more. Why? Because you haven't thought through your naïve thoughts, that's why. And your starter is a foolish start. Let me explain.

    So God reveals himself in a BIG SHOW. HERE I AM FOLKS. IT'S ALL TRUE! I AM GOD. LISTEN TO ME. I AM THE GOD OF MOHAMMAD. ISLAM IS MY RELIGION. GO NOW AND BEHEAD ALL THE INFIDELS!

    Okay...Now what? I'm sure all the atheists would join in immediately, for they are the ones most attracted to powerful and ruthless rulers.

    But what about others? I can't speak for them, but I can speak for myself. I can't see myself beheading anyone. I don't want to. I would prefer to fight against god and I would still claim Jesus as my Lord. I would prefer to go to the gates of hell than to fight for a god who forces others to convert or beheads them.

    Would the evils of the world diminish? Would the world be simplified?

    How naïve and ingenious you are in your thoughts. No wonder you remain anonymous. You want God to reveal himself to the world. What stops you from revealing yourself to the world?

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