Summary: If we are to be living stones in the Church built on Christ, we must have the attitude of surrender to God’s will that infused Mary and Jesus.

Dedication of St. John Lateran Basilica 2017

Revolution and Reformation

“Today the liturgy celebrates the dedication of the Lateran Basilica, called “mother and head of all the churches of the city and the world.” In fact, this basilica was the first to be built after Emperor Constantine’s edict, in 313, granted Christians freedom to practice their religion. The emperor himself gave Pope Miltiades the ancient palace of the Laterani family, and the basilica, the baptistery, and the patriarchate, that is, the Bishop of Rome’s residence — where the Popes lived until the Avignon period — were all built there. The basilica’s dedication was celebrated by Pope Sylvester around 324 and was named Most Holy Savior, and later after St. John. This is, then, the Pope’s cathedral.”

But the Church is not a building of stones. The Church is a structure of living stones with Christ the cornerstone, and Peter and the Apostles as her foundation course. The Church is attractive to those who are not in Christ to the extent that each of us successfully images Jesus and Mary. And, conversely, the Church is offensive to men and women inasmuch as each of us shows our selfish and self-centered nature to those we meet. If we don’t drive the money-changers and ugliness out of our house, Jesus will mercifully, but forcefully, whip them out Himself. That’s another way to say what St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians: “If any one destroys God's temple, God will destroy him.”

We in the 21st century delude ourselves by thinking we are the first to discover that our destiny is to let the Holy Spirit restore us to being the image and likeness of God. We might be surprised to realize that there were authentic currents of piety in the early sixteenth century that helped Catholics to aspire to union with God and imaging of Christ. And as they developed, the Internet of that age, the printing press, sped their diffusion through various areas of Europe. In Germany, one of these currents was expounded in the little book named German Theology. “It demands that the Christian should surrender his or her will utterly” to God, allowing oneself to become totally possessed by the spirit of God. “The individual whose will has become merged with that of God thus becomes. . .vergöttlicht,” like unto God.

Now there’s nothing inherently wrong with this, is there? It is exactly the attitude that St. Paul describes of the Son of God in chapter 2 of Philippians. If we are to be living stones in the Church built on Christ, we must have the attitude of surrender to God’s will that infused Mary and Jesus. As one author says, “the experience of giving up one’s will is a process of renunciation, of letting go–the relaxation of all that is individual.”

But there are a couple of problems with this approach, which some describe with a German word, gelassenheit. For one, it tends to cause one to stop trying to do those things that most imitate Jesus and Mary–specifically service to the poor. External works are not what pleases God, so does striving to know and do His will count as that kind of work, or not?

The other problem is that this approach is a kind of “me and Jesus” way to sanctity. It seems to discount the value of the Church and Her sacraments. This theology was “enormously attractive to those who aimed to spiritualize religion and wanted no truck with an established Church.” You begin to believe that since God dwells in you, you have an inner and infallible source of authority and don’t need a Church. Ultimately, of course, spiritual direction with a wise confessor and knowing and following the guidance of the Church becomes a guard against this kind of spiritual pride. We must always be careful about trusting our own minds and wills too much, and especially not to trust ourselves more than Christ and the Church.

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