My Lectio Divina never happens in a vacuum. In the process of seeking God in my daily life, where I am and as I am, certain events impact my consciousness and I takes those experiences with me as I try to focus on my only Lectio Divina I have had since 1962, Philippians 2:5. As an example, may I share with you one such incident in a recent Lectio session that impacted the outcome of my meditation.
It came to my attention that one of my dear relatives was exhibiting symptoms of paranoia. Having only a cursory familiarity with this condition, I usually don’t say anything and let it slide off to other topics. In this case, the person in question was a very devout Catholic, who, up to this time, did not experience anything radical about their belief. It turns out that this person is in a great deal of pain, both physically, mentally, and spiritually. The condition is one that afflicts many Catholics these days, the realization that the Church is imperfect and that you have placed all of your hope on the Church is the way, the truth, and the light. What happens when your world collapses? It must be the fault of the Church, being so hypocritical and imperfect. The Church betrayed you with all it lofty and high expectations that you be perfect and yet it is so imperfect. As a result, you leave the very Church that has the answers to all your vexing problems. You are not prepared to receive grace from God. You are spiritually depressed and don’t know where to find peace and security of mind and spirit.
In this context, I began my Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5) and, sure enough, this situation somehow worked its way into my Meditatio (Meditation). Instead of trying to banish these disturbing thoughts, I decided to embrase them as part of my Lectio and see where the Holy Spirit would take me.
What follows are my ideas stemming from that encounter with Christ on a park bench in the middle of winter.
Although I don’t subscribe to the notion that all life is but a series of problems to be solved, in this case, I thought about what was behind all of this pain and anguish with the Church being the focal point of the hatred, mistrust, and anger. There are three dimensions to this so called problem.
First, in the physical universe, the one in which we share with all other matter, energy, time, rocks, and those who have life, there is both resonance and dissonance. These qualities are part of the natural order of reality which we call the natural law. For example, if animals would, all of a sudden stop procreating, that would not be a part of the natural order of things. It would be dissonance. Keeping the natural expectations of reality is called resonance. All things living are a part of the physical universe and subject to its Laws. It is the object of study and inquiry of the next universe, one in which only humans live.
The mental universe are those gifted with human reasoning and the ability to choose what they reason. Only humans are part of this universe. They can act outside the Laws of Nature if they choose. In this universe, the individual is the center of all reality. The languages of Science, Mathematics, Chemistry, and Logic helps humans to discover the physical universe and find out what makes it tick, why it ticks, and how it ticks. Humans, as well as all reality, has a beginning and an end, 70 or 80 years, if we are strong as humans, then we die. We hand off what we have learned to the next generation. In doing so, we humans try to find meaning and purpose for why we are here at this particular time, in this particular space. Individual persons try to find security and stability by adopting various ways to see reality and answer the six questions each person must ask and answer before they die (these are my six questions):
Granted these are the six question each of us must ask and answer, but where do you find the answers? This is a big challenge for humans. They try to answer questions with different philosophies or no ideas at all. This is the reason you have reason and the ability to choose something or someone that is invisible to your usual pattern of thinking. Where do you go for the truth? Science and the empirical way of thinking, to its credit, has tried to objectify the answers to questions of Why, Where, When, How, and What. It looks at the physical universe of matter, time, and energy and proposes solutions using the languages of Science. What is real is where you find ourselves and what you have learned from the past.
The mental universe (reason and the ability to choose) allows humans to ask questions about who we are. The answers come from science, logic, deduction, probability, historical precedent. Each individual must address what is real according to certain criteria that they, themselves, choose as being true. Collectively, these individuals form tribes, gangs, groups of like-minded thinkers, such as churches, societies, nations, and ethnic attachments that form who they are.
The problem that I have with just a physical and mental universe is that is does not provide me with the answers that answer these six questions. Like the presence of dark matter in the universe, there is part of the equation that is missing. When I use my reasoning and freedom to choose what I reasoned, I look back on reality, both present and in the past to inform me of what is true. I use the languages and tools that we have developed so far to separate fact from fantasy. Is this all there is? Are we just condemned to live for seventy or eighty years, then die?
WHY ARE WE?
The Church Universal is a collection of those marked with the sign of Faith and who are alive. Those in Heaven are called Saints or saints, those on earth still practicing what is means to love others as Christ loves us are called by the name Church Militant, and those who have been judged by God to need purification before they enter the kingdom of heaven are the Church Purgative. All are alive. Christ is the head and we sinful members make up the Mystical Body of Christ. There is a danger that Christ warned us about and St. Paul confirmed, when the Church becomes keeping rules alone (the Law) without using The Law to allow us to love others as Christ loves us, then we have a group of people with the Church as their center. As humans, we all have the ability to reason, then to choose to do what we have reasoned is true.
The Spiritual Universe. We humans have always been an inquisitive lot. Perhaps why we evolved physically, mentally as well as spiritually is to be aware of a reality larger than our physical and mental universes, which St. Paul termed The Spirit. As good as reason is to make sense out of the World in which we live, it alone is not enough to approach the next universe, that of the Spirit. We must choose to enter the spiritual universe freely and we need to be lifted up to do that. By lifted up I mean God lifts us up from the Garden of Eden to the Kingdom of Heaven through Baptism. We become adopted sons and daughters of the Father through Faith (God’s energy to gather all things to Himself). The reality now becomes what it was intended to be before the Fall of Adam and Eve from grace (Original Sin). These three universes complete the cycle for all humans and answer the question, Who are we? Why are we? What is our future? What is our purpose? How does love fulfill the longing heart? and We know we are going to die, now what? To inherit the kingdom, God’s playground, we must use what He taught us through His only begotten Son, Jesus the Christ, And what was that? Simply put, it is to love one another as He has loved us. The spiritual universe uses the opposite of what the World says is good to provide us with a path to walk through the minefields of life without getting blown up. We must renounce our false selves (the World) to have in us the mind of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5). We must make room for Christ in our hearts by using the Tools for Good Works listed in Chapter 4 of St. Benedict’s Rule. Each day, we must seek God where we are, and as we are, taking up whatever cross we bear that day as Christ carried his cross for the sins of the World.
Remember the example I gave at the beginning of his reflection, the person who was exhibiting symptoms of being paranoid because all they could see is the Church with bad priests, the Pope or Bishops calling them to love one another as Christ loves them and seeming to be false prophets? When someone displays the signs of dysfunction and hatred about the Church then it is a sign that they have a center that will lead them to spiritual anxiety and possible loss of the Faith. Satan uses the vulnerability of the Faithful to test them against what is going on around them. You may not see this temptation coming. When people criticize the Church, some of this may be justified, but some of it only leads to substituting something for your present center. False centers lead to the death of the Spirit. (Galatians 5) There is only one Center that produces grace, that has the energy to lift us up when we have sinned and gone off the path of righteousness. The Church becomes the living member who helps the individual to transform themselves from their sinful selves to being an adopted son or daughter. This is a struggle that is a daily occurrence because of the effects of Original Sin. Thanks be to God we have THE REAL PRESENCE of Christ in the Eucharist to be THE WAY for us in the same way he spoke to the Apostles in the Upper Room. Thanks be to God we have Real Presence of the Holy Spirit to make all things new in penance so we can transform our poor life daily to that of THE LIFE of an adopted son or daughter. Thanks be to God we have the Real Presence of the Father in Baptism, revealed through the Son, to be our North on the Compass of Life and THE TRUTH against which we measure what is meaningful.
When you put your hope in the Church, you are bound to be dissapointed. When you place your hope in Christ alone, you are bound to see the sins and failings of the Church Universal in each age as exactly what you yourself are now.
Blessed are you who hear the word of God and keep it. Blessed are you who say Jesus is Lord, for you cannot do so without the Holy Spirit. Blessed are you who put your trust in God’s mercy.
Read Chapter 4 of the Rule of St. Benedict every day. Pray that you become what you read. https://christdesert.org/prayer/rule-of-st-benedict/chapter-4-the-tools-for-good-works/
Blessed are you who let God be the judge of those outside the Church Universal. You must not judge anyone in the Church.
Praise and Blessing be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, now and forever. The God who is, who was, and who is to come at the end of the ages. Amen and Amen. –Cistercian doxology