Summary: Father, I ask this in the name of Jesus, and I also ask that if my request does not conform with Thy plan, please tell me “no.”
Thursday of first week in Lent 2017
Joy of the Gospel
The first Hitler was a fellow named Haman, a member of a tribe that had almost been wiped out by the Hebrews maybe a thousand years before Haman. Haman hatched a plot to kill all the Jews in Persia, and even got the king to order their destruction. The king’s prime wife was Esther, a Jew, and so a classic confrontation between the idea of genocide solving all problems and the reality of Esther’s love for her people was set up. The Greek version of the Book of Esther records the prayers that rose up from all the Jews. God heard and answered and Haman was hanged on the gallows he had set up for uncle Mordecai and the other Jews. Isn’t it true that so many of our self-centered ideas have come into conflict with divine reality and God has in His mercy preserved us from evil by saying “no” to our plans?
The Pope comments on this conflict meme: ‘There also exists a constant tension between ideas and realities. Realities simply are, whereas ideas are worked out. There has to be continuous dialogue between the two, lest ideas become detached from realities. It is dangerous to dwell in the realm of words alone, of images and rhetoric. So a third principle comes into play: realities are greater than ideas. This calls for rejecting the various means of masking reality: angelic forms of purity, dictatorships of relativism, empty rhetoric, objectives more ideal than real, brands of ahistorical fundamentalism, ethical systems bereft of kindness, intellectual discourse bereft of wisdom.
‘Ideas – conceptual elaborations – are at the service of communication, understanding, and praxis. Ideas disconnected from realities give rise to ineffectual forms of idealism and nominalism, capable at most of classifying and defining, but certainly not calling to action. What calls us to action are realities illuminated by reason. Formal nominalism has to give way to harmonious objectivity. Otherwise, the truth is manipulated, cosmetics take the place of real care for our bodies. We have politicians – and even religious leaders – who wonder why people do not understand and follow them, since their proposals are so clear and logical. Perhaps it is because they are stuck in the realm of pure ideas and end up reducing politics or faith to rhetoric. Others have left simplicity behind and have imported a rationality foreign to most people.
‘Realities are greater than ideas. This principle has to do with incarnation of the word and its being put into practice: “By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is from God” (1 Jn 4:2). The principle of reality, of a word already made flesh and constantly striving to take flesh anew, is essential to evangelization. It helps us to see that the Church’s history is a history of salvation, to be mindful of those saints who inculturated the Gospel in the life of our peoples and to reap the fruits of the Church’s rich bimillennial tradition, without pretending to come up with a system of thought detached from this treasury, as if we wanted to reinvent the Gospel. At the same time, this principle impels us to put the word into practice, to perform works of justice and charity which make that word fruitful. Not to put the word into practice, not to make it reality, is to build on sand, to remain in the realm of pure ideas and to end up in a lifeless and unfruitful self-centredness and gnosticism.’
As we continue in Lent, we should be mindful of the words we are about to pray: to the Father we ask for help so that His will is done in our lives. A valuable prayer to use at the end of every petition is this: Father, I ask this in the name of Jesus, and I also ask that if my request does not conform with Thy plan, please tell me “no.”