Posted by: Thomas Richard | December 3, 2019

A Serious Fault in the Wall

Yes, there is a fault in the wall. Through the breach, into the Church, are entering many flawed programs, ideas, projects, renovations-du-jour offered to “fix” and rejuvenate the holy work of God which has fallen into disrepair. I see many imperfections flowing from one major fault. I’ll try to express it below.

The Ultimate Idolatry: Disordered Self-Love

Mt 22:35 And one of them tested him by asking,
36 “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?”
37 He said to him, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.
38 This is the greatest and the first commandment.
39 The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
40 The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”

It is essential – crucial – that the “greatest and first” be greatest and first in one’s heart and soul and mind. If the holy love of God does not fill wholly the heart and soul and mind, then what results? If heart and soul and mind are not filled with the holy love of God, then love for lesser things instead of God – apart from God – without God – has found place in the heart and soul and mind of the person. In other words, in such a human person – in his heart and soul and mind – dwells love for God, yes, but the heart and soul and mind of the person are wrongly reserving space for what is not God but idols, gods of the self, gods of self-pleasures, self-satisfactions, self-gratifying things that will not last. Lesser gods are kept within, lesser gods in service of self, in service of me above any other, even above the only God who IS. Idolatry is not a relic of past ages. Idolatry has persevered since the first fall into sin: the idolatry of love of self to the exclusion of God who is worthy of all our love.

Such a mixture in the heart and soul and mind of a human person – in particular, of a Catholic Christian – is not as unusual or uncommon as we would hope. St. James wrote of such believers:

James 1:5 But if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and he will be given it.
6 But he should ask in faith, not doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed about by the wind.
7 For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord,
8 since he is a man of two minds, unstable in all his ways.

Where does that “doubt” come from? It is rooted in the lack of oneness – of integrity – of heart and mind and soul. “He is a man of two minds, unstable in all his ways.” James takes up this problem again:

James 4:8 Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you of two minds.
9 Begin to lament, to mourn, to weep. Let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy into dejection.
10 Humble yourselves before the Lord and he will exalt you.

We need pure heart and soul and mind. The inner life within us, the inner spiritual life, is created for and demands of us wholeness – integrity – purity – absence of contradiction. God deserves all from us! He calls us to holiness! Is He not right to tell us to cleanse and purify our hearts, to “Begin to lament, to mourn, to weep. Let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy into dejection. Humble yourselves before the Lord and he will exalt you.”

We will not attain the heights of holiness – our calling in Christ – until we attain that full self-gift in love for the Lord our God. We will not be able to fully love others, and serve others – that is, be obedient to love for neighbor as self – until we love God completely, with our whole heart and mind and soul. We will not be able to love ourselves rightly, until we come to love God completely. Until we love God completely, fully, in the wholeness of heart and soul and mind, then our love for others – any others – any neighbors – any brothers and sisters – will be disordered along with a disordered love for self.

Jesus is pointing us to this radical demand in the Christian Faith – the ancient “greatest and the first commandment” – in the familiar episode in the home of Martha and Mary.

Revisiting Martha and Mary

Luke 10:38 As they continued their journey he entered a village where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him.
39 She had a sister named Mary [who] sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak.
40 Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me.”
41 The Lord said to her in reply, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things.
42 There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.”

Many Christians today are living their Christian Faith as Martha was, that day. She is a Christian: she calls Him “Lord.” She received Him, she “welcomed Him,” into her house – into her life. She was quick to seek to serve Him, as Christians do, in love. Many Christians today are hearing in our Church of the importance of serving our Lord! We ought to serve him in evangelization! We ought to be witnessing to Jesus to friends and neighbors, inviting them to our local church; we ought to be exercising spiritual gifts – charisms such as healing, or tongues, or other scriptural gifts of the Spirit – to better serve others as the early Church did! We ought to serve Him in the local parish through our “time, talent and treasure”! And so on. But – but what about “the one thing” that is necessary, needed, indeed essential – crucial, “greatest and first”?

What about the purity of intention that makes a work of love holy and true? What about the love of God with the wholeness of heart and soul and mind, that makes our gift to another also a gift to Him, beautiful and true? What about the witness and example of Martha’s sister Mary, seated at His feet listening to His words of life? No, the work – the gift – of Martha for the Lord was soiled by the mixture in her heart: loving desire to serve Him, yes, but mixed with the mercenary self-interest that revealed itself in her words to Him: “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me.” Where is her faith! “Lord, do you not care?” Where is her concern? “My sister has left me by myself to do the serving”. We can see, if we look, the self-interest – the “what about ME?” – that pollutes her gift, betraying disordered self-love that is unworthy of our vocation to serve Him in pure love, with whole heart and soul and mind.

His Work Requires His Power

“You can’t give what you don’t have.” That proverb may not be explicitly in Scripture, but it is true. Before Jesus sent out His Church with the burden of being light for this dark world, and with the mission of making disciples in His name, He first formed them into true “sent ones” – apostles. He worked with and in them for three years, and even after that, and after His Self-sacrifice on the Cross, and after His glorious resurrection, He came to teach them one last Truth. He insisted that they wait for one more Gift, and an essential work in them: that of the Spirit, with His “power from on high”:

Lk 24:45  He said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the law of Moses and in the prophets and psalms must be fulfilled.”
45 Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures.
46 And he said to them, “Thus it is written that the Messiah would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day
47 and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.
48 You are witnesses of these things.
49 And [behold] I am sending the promise of my Father upon you; but stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

Conclusion

We need to realize our impoverishment. We lack power from on high. We lack unction. We lack spiritual maturity, and all the Gifts of the Spirit that describe maturity in Him:
We lack wisdom,
We lack understanding,
We lack counsel and of strength,
We lack knowledge, piety and holy fear of the LORD.

What is that one serious fault in the wall I wanted to write of in this essay? We need to do, as Mary our Mother directed to the servers (Jn 2:5): “Do whatever He tells you.”
We need to pray to God in our poverty, that He open our minds “to understand the scriptures”.
We are not listening to Him!
We need to wait for His promise.
We need to pray for His promise: “power from on high.”


Responses

  1. Dear Thomas,

    Thanks so much for addressing this “Serious Fault in the Wall” — especially as we begin the holy season of Advent. Many saints have encouraged us to seek “true self knowledge”, which is necessary to possess true, rightly ordered self-love in Christ. Certainly St. Teresa of Avila did so in writing her “Interior Castle” and also St. Louis de Montfort, in his “True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin”. Writing to those preparing to consecrate themselves totally to Jesus through Mary. St. Louis wrote:

    They will ask our Lord and the Holy Spirit to enlighten them saying, “Lord, that I may see,” or “Lord, let me know myself,” or the “Come, Holy Spirit”…

    …They will turn to our Blessed Lady and beg her to obtain for them that great grace which is the foundation of all others, the grace of self-knowledge…

    May we listen to all Jesus said as Mary did, pondering all in her heart, by the power of His Holy Spirit, that we may welcome Him as Mary did when He comes.

  2. Thomas, your words remind me to pray to God to create in me a clean heart. A clean heart so that His words can remain in me and to grow allowing His love to grow. Nothing else in this life matters too much, except for my relationship with God.

  3. By knowing & understanding scripture, that is the only path to Jesus. As Mary said, do whatever he tells you.


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