Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Because he wished to justify himself...

Pictured, "The Good Samaritan" - Hungarian artist, Henrik Stefan. (The painting reminds me of St. Martin of Tours clothing the beggar.)

Yesterday's Gospel continues to resonate within me. The most disturbing line at the outset was concerning the scholar continuing to press Jesus; the Gospel says, "But because he wished to justify himself" he asked Jesus "Who is my neighbor." And of course, Jesus goes on to relate the parable of the Good Samaritan.

The priests and teachers of the law always were testing Jesus, looking for a way to catch him, while seeking to justify themselves. It seems everyone one in the world today is eager to justify himself as well - gosh, I always do it in my examination of conscience - until I'm convicted by the Holy Spirit otherwise.

We today are perhaps the most educated people to have walked the face of the earth. Many people in the pew may even be more highly educated than the priest who is giving the homily. Reading our blogs, one might get the impression that bloggers are the new scholars of the law and the prophets, looking for the chinks in the Church and her ministers, and ready to criticize, if not condemn whenever we uncover something.

It makes me wonder if many bloggers pray. I hear it is a maxim at the Angelicum in Rome that to study is to pray. Which reminds me of the maxim dubiously attributed to Augustine, to sing is to pray twice. Many people may be substituting knowledge and study, or, God forbid, blogging, for prayer. Having the form of religion, yet without an interior life.

"Wishing to justify himself..." We all do it. The conflict between Catholic progressives and traditionalists has many scholarly spokesman seeking to justify their positions; along with the less broadly educated who seem to know a lot about a little; as well as the not so highly educated, yet intelligent, passionately speaking their convictions. (I obviously fall into the last category.)

The story of the Good Samaritan reminds me of what some of the opponents of Megjugorje (An apparition I have little affinity for) who insist the Virgin cannot be appearing there because of the way she answered a question once. She was asked who the holiest person was in the vicinity, and to the scandal of some, she cited a Muslim woman nearby. I expect the Muslim woman was devout as well as being humble, kind and charitable. Every uber-Catholic I know brings this up as proof that Our Lady could not possibly say such a thing. Really?

Yet her Son, when asked who one's neighbor was, illustrated his point by telling the story of the Good Samaritan. As everyone knows, Samaritans were outcasts, little better than pagans. Not unlike our idea of Islam today. Yet Jesus held this man up as an example of holiness. What was our Lord saying?

There really are people outside the Church who are holy and will be saved, and have been saved. I think of Betsy Ten-boom, who in the Nazi death camp was a source of light and spirituality to women of mixed races and religions. In death her face radiated a mystical light, such as witnessed in the deaths of many Catholic saints. I also think of the girl from Columbine who died for the faith. And more recently, the little Amish girls who were shot to death, laying down their lives in the hope to save the others, while forgiving their executioner. Afterwards, the entire Amish community quietly and peacefully forgave the murderer, while consoling his family.

What did St. Paul write? "If any man thinks he is wise, let him become ignorant." Or something like that.

(Thanks to The Penitent Blogger, who always writes well, with his recent post on the same subject. His commentary reminded me to post my own thoughts on yesterday's Gospel. The Penitent obviously prays; his commentary never fails to be rich, insightful, and full of wisdom. I recommend that you read his posts everyday - especially if you can't get to daily Mass - he normally has a fine lectio on the daily readings.)


  1. Anonymous12:39 PM

    I am not worthy.

  2. I seriously hope you're not trying to use our Lord's words to justify people remaining outside the Catholic Church.

    Medj. is evil because of it's doctrines. They aren't Catholic regardless of the external things going on.

    There are good people in this world but that doesn't mean that the good they do is equal to that done by a daughter or son of the Church in the state of grace. Such an act is infused with supernatural grace and merits Heaven. Natural virtue is good and God sees that but it remains on the natural level.
    Our Lord points to "good pagans" to show that the law is written on our hearts not because He was okay with them being outside His Church; and to convict those within to act in a manner even higher than the natural virtue and goodness displayed by the children of the world.
    Many times I've noticed you mentioning the ongoing debate between trads and other Catholics. I find this curious. Do you not think there is anything of substance that needs discussing? Or do you think that we just harp about nonessentials? The issues are critical most of the time and regards things necc. to believe in order to call oneself a Catholic. Sometimes, I'll admit things can get tedious but that's more intellectual sparing to sharpen our minds and what not. No harm in that. (:

  3. Lady Fett,
    I'll just first admit I'm not religious nor have I studied any religious books. -99% credibility for me, haha. On top of that I'm (in name) an orthodox christian.

    My superficial impression has been that if God 'wants' to open a person's heart, he'll find a way to do so. If someone is in the dark then only something at least semi-extraordinary can bring them to the light. Didn't God harden Pharaoh's heart or something? And that showed the extent of his control. Even Pharaoh couldn't unharden his own heart and wasn't acting of his own volition, and though he felt like the fate of the hebrews/israelites (?) were in his hands, even his own heart was being manipulated by God. God was influencing him then too. Or thats what I heard, I'm not too sure.

    So if there are virtuous people outside the church, and even if they haven't been brought to the church, their good deeds are equal to any Christian. The only way they could be considered lesser is if they saw God's light and turned away from it. Otherwise a Muslim or Jew who has 'natural virtue' or practices virtuous behavior are all equal to a virtuous Christian simply because they are acting with God as the first priority in their hearts. If God guides them to Christ, or however that works, then they are simply truly blessed to have known that truth on earth.

    And as far as I know the Catholic and Orthodox church only differ in certain technicalities...you may see them as being of the utmost importance but I really don't think its a sin to be outside of either church, so long as the heart is right, the rest is just fine print really, in the grand scheme of things it doesn't matter. Ethics, right heart, right mind. The Pharisees and Sadducee and scholars as the new testament presents them were so focused on technicalities they seemed to have missed the message. As Abbey-Roads said they were focusing on justifying theirselves....I think what I'm saying is secular and popular opinion but perhaps unless/until I study all this theology I'll think like this.

    I'd extend the same idea to other religions but its kinda difficult to phrase when you get to religions like Buddhism haha, with the sort of atheism and the whole 'anatman' thing, haha, but the same basic idea for anyone with pure intent and a philanthropic spirit and deep love and respect for people and life. I probably don't understand Buddhism that well but I've felt like there's a sort of intuitive love for God, but I think most if not all forms of the religion clearly refutes his existence, but I'm not sure, I haven't studied it much.

    I wasn't looking for an argument or anything I just randomly found my way here from Tumblr, hehe....good post.


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