Wednesday, September 16, 2015
Laws, Feelings, and Truth
Meditation #175 in the book The Better Part (on Luke 7:36-50) is titled: “Humble Pie”. I had to read the Biblical passage and associated meditation, think on it, pray on it, and even read another book before coming back to those words, and then finally understanding the appropriateness of that “Humble Pie” title.
The passage from Luke concerns Jesus’ dinner at the house of Simon, a Pharisee. Now most Pharisees were so rigid in the law that they couldn’t stand Jesus’ behavior; it was contrary to the law, period. But this Simon appears to be an exception; he invited Jesus to his home and listened to Him --- and he finds he has much to learn. A deeply sinful woman comes in and washes Jesus’ feet with her tears and ointment. And Simon thinks: “I wonder if Jesus knows who is washing His feet.” (Surprise -- He does!) And Jesus responds to Simon by explaining how pleased God is when the deeply sinful humbly seek God’s forgiveness --- and then Jesus forgives the woman her sins.
The commentary to this passage notes that the woman’s soul had been touched by Jesus: “She finally found someone who truly knew her, who truly valued her the way she had yearned to be valued, and who wanted nothing from her except trust and friendship. She had been searching for her self – her true self, her true worth – all these years, in all the wrong places.”
She was searching for herself in laws and feelings and others’ opinions and along came Jesus and He opened her to the truth of her being: She is valued by God; she is loved. Living in Him and His Truth is the path to being who she was created to be.
After reading these meditations on Luke, I immediately began reading the book: Remaining in the Truth of Christ --- Marriage and Communion in the Catholic Church. This book is the response of five Cardinals and four other scholars to German Cardinal Kasper’s book The Gospel of the Family, in which he proposed that, in some cases, divorced and civilly remarried Catholics be admitted to receiving Eucharistic Communion --- the subject of an upcoming conference of cardinals in Rome.
I only read the opening chapter of this book which says in summary (in my own words): “Well, dem’s the rules, and there ain’t any exceptions.”
My initial reaction to that chapter was to think on arguments and justifications for and against one side or the other. I thought about laws and I thought about feelings. I thought about Justice and I thought about Mercy. And then I thought that at the heart of the discussion there were not two groups of Cardinals arguing law, which the book seems to be about, but the fact that those two books were written for the laity --- many of whom will not be swayed by the letter of the law, but by only their feelings.
And then I thought back to the meditation on Luke I had read, and the Pharisee and the sinful woman. Jesus showed Simon He is God; He can forgive sins, despite the Mosaic Laws, written by men.
I wonder what all of these Cardinals would have said about this woman and Jesus’ actions, were they there then? There were no Bibles to quote nor were there Canon Laws written, nor any historical Church decrees to turn to. How would they react to Truth, when they saw it?
Oh, I’m not saying any of these Cardinals are wrong for trying to find the Truth; it is their duty as shepherds to lead us. But like Simon, I think they might learn more talking to Jesus, than trying to justify legal thoughts to us sheep.
I won’t bother reading the rest of the book.
And as for myself, I think my eyes were opened a bit to my own legalistic analytical thinking. I bought the Cardinal’s books to try to understand their logic --- but to what end? Their deliberations on these matters are their duties, not mine. I think I would be better served acting like the woman, doing good, listening to Jesus’ word, and trusting in Him.
And eating Humble Pie.