Tuesday, January 24, 2012


Yesterday as I preached at our Day of Penance Mass marking the anniversary of Roe V. Wade, I had to wonder if the people to whom I was preaching really give a flip about offending God. There were a goodly number of high school students at the Mass.

It seems to me we try to persuade people not to do wrong things because of the secular or emotional or physical consequences to certain action. We want abortion to be illegal and people punished if they break the law.

While all of these are good reasons to not only protect the innocent unborn and those who might choose an abortion or enable one, I still think we need to recover the sense of gravity and the solemn offense God takes when we commit grievous acts of evil and mortal sin. That alone should be sufficient motivation for Catholics and Christians to avoid evil and do good.

How do we recover the sense of sin, the fear of God we should have when offending Him through willful acts of sin and evil? Can we recover that, especially with our young?


Anonymous said...

We misunderstand forgiveness.

People who call themselves Christian think of forgiveness as a push button event. God promises to forgive no matter how bad I am, so why stop now?. We have traded contrition in our hearts with tolerance for each others sins. There is a pact we have in our society that we can treat each other as objects as long as there is some sort of balance sheet where everyone gets screwed about the same. So empathy is not needed because I can get my satisfaction when it's my turn.

I have to fire people on occasion. They always look bewildered. You can have a completely rational discussion about their actions and yet they want to continue under performing, even after many, many corrective actions. I finally end with the the statement they didn't really want this job or they would have treated it better.

We are all just a mass of cells that need stimulation to be happy.


Templar said...

Oh boy. You keep asking these questions Father.

We restore a sense of Gravity when the Church starts acting like it matters. Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi

Give us a Mass that is serious not simple; give us a Mass that is regal not relaxed; give us a Mass where it appears that what is Happening matters, not where where being happy matters.

I know I'm a broken record but for me it really is just that simple. The Church will continue to slide towards irrelevance until she picks up her cross and follows Christ. The way is wide and the gate is narrow, it is supposed to be hard.

pinanv525 said...

We first must recover some sense of the Sovreignty of God, of the discontinuity between man and God, of the limits of reason before the mystery and majesty of the Almighty. A return to the TLM and ad orientum would be a great beginning...but, I digress...Augustine's strength, and later Calvin's, was this deep awareness of God's Sovreignty and our unworthiness before Him. I don't know how we recover that. Maybe the earth will have to open and swallow a whole bunch of people...

Pater Ignotus said...

We can have a sense of offending God only if we have a sense of offending others. I don't think you can have one without the other.

One of the driving forces in our Western Culture is extreme individualism. While the Enlightenment gave us a much better understanding of individual rights, it has also given us a destructive sense of individualism.

For those who have no sense of obligation toward others, I suspect there is little sense of offending God.

The same individualistic thinking is, I think, the root cause of the decline in the number of those entering the priesthood or religious life. If a person does not grow up understanding his/her responsibility to family members, that person cannot feel any obligation to serve others, even beyond his/her own family members.

The beginning is restoring the sacredness of marriage - helping couples prepare well for marriage, then helping them stay married, even through the hardest of times.

William Meyer said...

In my own parish, I think what is needed is a return to teaching from the Catechism. Yes, there are CCD classes, and RCIA, and Adult Ed (which last I have not sampled), but in two years attending RCIA, not once were we referred to the CCC.

If religious education is permitted to ignore the Catechism, then how will children learn the faith? Surely they can't be expected to find it in experience, or in introspection, or even in reading scripture.

My understanding (informed through recent reading of excellent volumes by Msgr. Wrenn) is that, as with so many things, religious education methods were altered willy-nilly, and perhaps for the sake of change in the years immediately following the close of the Council.

While I was not referred by any of our catechists to the CCC, I did hear repeatedly from the writings of their "favorite theologian", Fr. Richard Rohr.

If nothing is to be taught of doctrine, and lessons are instead offered from the writings of dissidents, how on earth can we expect better than the current state of affairs?

The Little Way said...

I agree with most of the previous comments.

If people only realized how much God loves them, they would never want to offend Him again. That is the key - to enable people to see that love which He yearns to give us but so many do not want to give Him in return. That is because we have lost sight of what love means and have confused it the emotion of sentimentality. God loves us unconditionally. To love Him in return is a conscious decision which many people choose simply not to make, putting their own self-worth above Him.

A liturgy which tries to drag God down to our level, rather than lifting us to His, is largely responsible for why the world increasingly disregards Him.

pinanv525 said...

Ignotus, "We can have a sense of offending God only if we have a sense of offending others..." You are predicating theology on anthropology again. You just can't help it, can you? In the Garden, the sense of shame and guilt was primary:"How did you know you were naked?" In the wanderings of the Israelites, it is always God's sovreignty and righteousness that is primary; it is God who is offended. It is the fear of offending God's majesty that is the reason for the exacting details of the sacrifices, the measurements of the ark, the tabernacle, the altar, Aaron's garments. Nothing, nothing is predicated on offending anyone else but God.
In NT Theology, sin is an offense against the holiness and righteousness of God. Sinning against one's neighbor is only a sin because it insults the justice of God and is disobedience.
Your social work theology is the very problem we are discussing. Everything is based upon humanistic thinking, "if I am just nice to everybody and don't offend anyone I'm a good person."
Certainly, it is possible to offend God without reference to others at all...unbelief. I define unbelief, in part, as turning Christology and theology on its head by predicating it all upon human determinations...just like you are doing.

pinanv525 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Pater Ignotus, I see where you are coming from with that, but I think you are assuming that the will of God can be found in the the satisfaction of men. I am no theologian, certainly not a priest, nor a guide for others. But I can tell you from experience that if you try at all to seek and comply with the will of God you will earn the immediate and most harsh enmity of men. so that is what I would call a bad parametric. You might cal that the Golgotha Paradox.


Jenny said...

Excellent question, Father!
I have long believed what Priests For Life expounds: "America will not reject abortion until America SEES abortion.".
We humans are so blinded that we must SEE the effects of sin. Sin starts out as a very personal choice; its effects spread like an overflowing toilet with communal consequences. When I sin and try to cover it up or rationalize by saying that it is my business and it is only between me and God, I commit further sin: I have effectively minimalized the power of God to heal me and I have ignored sin's effect on those around me (family, friends, community).
Abortion has wiped out 30% of the current generation under age 40... That is horrendous, and should be enough reason to stop it--but even this statistic pales when compared to the consequence of choosing to deny God's power to save me from myself!
One simply cannot rely on human intelligence/education/good will to correct evil; free will being what it is, it takes humans freely cooperating with an all-powerful God. Barring miracles, that usually requires me SEEING the effects of my sin. Remember the plight of St. Peter our first Pope: He denied Jesus. Then over the next few hours he lived his life without God and SAW the consequences. Fortunately for us, he then said: "Forgive me, Lord, for I am a sinful man...".

Pater Ignotus said...

rcg - I do not assume that "the will of God can be found in the satisfaction of men."

I understand that, as a result of the Incarnation, there cannot be a division between loving God and loving neighbor. Conversely, there can be no division between offending neighbor and offending God.

The theology of the Incarnation, and its implications, are the predicates on which a Catholic understanding of sin and forgiveness is based.

pinanv525 said...

Ignotus, There is a division between loving God and loving one's neighbor. There is an order of epistemoligical priority in theology, Catholic or protestant...right belief, right worship, right behavior (or service). That is why in most systematic theologies, doctrine of God comes first and doctrine of reconciliation comes last. I cannot love my neighbor until I love God, and I cannot love God until He is revealed to me.
In Mark's Gospel, Jesus comes saying, "Repent and believe the Gospel." His actions thereafter have to do with establishing his power over evil and his authority to forgive sin, in a word, His sovreignty. In John, we hear,"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God," then to sum it all up in Jn 11:25, "I am the Resurrection and the life, whosoever believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live...." Sovreignty is primary. The Incarnation is God's sovreignty manifest in human form. It is convenient for modernist Christians to forget that this same Jesus who went around healing the sick and preaching love towards our neighbor is also the Righteous Judge, the one with power over Satan and his minions, He who stalked through the fires of Hell to free the souls there. You want to make him a social worker.
Certainly, one can love one's neighbor without loving God. There are plenty of humanistic ethical systems and non-Christian religions that counsel the same thing...some of them far more logical and consistent, as ethical systems, than any "Christian ethic" that can be cut and pasted together from Christ's teachings. There is no "Christian ethic" other than obedience to God's will, which may or may not include pleasing one's neighbor.
Everything else in the Christian life follows from right belief and obedience...and, yes, obedience includes loving one's neighbor. But, there is a discontinuity between loving man and loving God.
Your theology is basically, "all you need is love." That is nonsense and the very basis for the decline in the Faith among Catholic and protestant Christians everywhere. They have no understanding of the sovreignty of God and where Christian priorities lie. I mean, what idiot, who truly understood the majesty and power of God and our sinfulness and need for repentance would bring clowns into Mass, or dance down the aisles of the Church whirling and jiving, or ask for rock music, for God's sake, or do any of the other outlandish things we have heard about? Who would not want to kneel for Communion? What kind of arrogant people believe they are worthy to stand face to face with God and receive the Body of Christ? It is humanism, secularism that has been shaping the Mass and our view of it for these many years. We had damned well better be lifting chausables, wearing fiddlebacks, chanting Latin, and kneeling, not because God needs it but because we need to be reminded of who we are...and aren't. (end rant)

Pater Ignotus said...

Pin - Quite the rant, but unrelated to Good Father McDonald's question or my posts... Do try again!

pinanv525 said...

Ignotus, seems pretty related to me. What were you reading?

Anonymous said...

Pater Ignotus, I am incredulous. If it offends your neighbour that you Love God, is He also offended?


Pater Ignotus said...

rcg - I don't understand your Q...?

Anonymous said...

My point is that your post seems to imply that offenses of God and man are the same. I'm going out on a limb and rejecting that notion. I see where you are saying by treating people justly and fairly is what God wants. But I am saying they may not like it at all, even when it is good for them. I also agree with what I sense is your point about individualism, yet I think we need another term, as individualism is necessary for acceptance of Christ.


Templar said...

PIN, and rcg: Do either of you know the best thing about banging your head against a wall? It feels really good when you stop.

Stop feeding the Troll ;)

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with Pater Ignotus's first comment here.
It is the egg that hatches the other chickens.

We are created to live in comunion with other people.
Didn't Jesus point blank tell us how we can know we are offending God?
As you did to the least of these (forgive the paraphrase)
When we hurt other we offend God. this is a way in our limited human expistence we can know an element of our status with God.
Those who don't recognize that their smallest of actions have the power to deeply hurt or help others, are also not recognizing God.
It seems to me that Jesus boiled it all down to the essential basic.

pinanv525 said...

Squeeker, You and Ignotus have it backwards. We can have a sense of offending others only if we have a sense of offending God, not the other way around. Knowledge of God and belief in Him make us aware of our sinfulness before Him and of our failure to love one another. One cannot begin with man (our offending one another) and get to an awareness of offending God. Otherwise, Christ would never have needed to be born. This is an important theological issue. This humanistic standing ofd things on their head is the root of our current problem. Everything is defined in terms of the relationship between man and man. "Love" is the most cliched word in the language; it has become so trite as to mean nothing other than some vague feeling of good will or some amorphous idea of being nice to everybody. Faith is about obedience and openness to God. Anything to do with our relationships to each other is predicated upon that.
That isolated and selective quote about "forasmuch as ye have done it unto these the least, etc." is Mt.25:36. It is spoken in the context of parables of the Kingdom and the glorious coming of Christ the righteous Judge. It is all about the sovreignty of God and Christ in His Risen majesty. Hippie Christians have turned it into the Coca Cola song, and modernist theologians have cheapened it by making it an "all you need is love" mantra.
When Jesus was asked the greatest commandments, He said: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart...and your neighbor as yourself..." Notice the order of those statements?

Jenny said...

Squeeker, I was trying to say the same thing yesterday. You summed it succinctly and beautifully.
Sometimes, we all need to just "KISS" (Keep It Simple Stupid)! None of the long-winded theological opinings (?-is that a word?) addressed Father McD's original question: "How do we recover the sense of sin, the fear of God we should have when offending Him through willful acts of sin and evil?". -Meaning no offense to anyone, but just sayin'...

pinanv525 said...

Jenny, Theology is important. It is bad theology that has brought us to the deplorable place we are today. If you don't like it, don't read it. But, quit snipping about it like a wife...

Anonymous said...

How does an atheist know he has offended God? How can one have a sense of God when God is off the mental radar?
Through others, that's how.

To say that one has to have a sense of God in order to have a sense of hurting others just isn't true.
I am referring to cognizant awareness...not the innate sense of God that is planted in every human whether they realize it or not.
Sometimes the path of the awareness of offending others may be the path that brings a person to an awareness of God....and then the enormity of offending God can sink in...as it should.

The richest people are aware of BOTH...an awe of God and knowledge that how they treat others is how they treat God.

So if one thinks one is good standings with God, well just ask your spouse, coworkers, boss, friends...and then one can get a clearer picture of if one has offended God.

Most folks separate the two things: their relationship to God and their relationship to humans:
Two separate non-connected aspects of life.
Jesus taught us differently.

As humans who learn about God from other humans, I say that the human to human interaction is the egg that hatches the other aspects mentioned here and leads one to fully understand, with the awareness that a human mind can have, the gravity of offending God.

If someone is never told and taught aabout God and the fact that one can seriously offend Him...then one will not know. God it seems has decided to use us weakling humans to do His work (paricipate in the divine enterprise)
Jesus is proof of that, is He not?


Anonymous said...

OK, how about this: Peace to men of good will. Not to everyone, because some folks are self-centered jerks. I don't WANT to hack them off, but neither am I going to tip toe around their childish feelings. *I* am not offending them. They are holding *themselves* hostage to their desires. I bet it P-Os Satan to no end when I pray the Our Father. Poor Soul.


pinanv525 said...

Squeeker, You are missing my point. First, I did not say that one has to have a sense of offending God to have a sense of offending others. What I said was that you cannot get from a sense of offending others to an awareness of offending God.
Now, an atheist can have a deep awareness of kindness to his fellow man without ever bringing God or revealed truth into the equation. If someone tells an atheist about Christ and the atheist then confesses Christ and believes, it is only because God, moving in the Holy Spirit, turns him. God is still the primary cause. On the other hand, one may witness to an atheist all day long with no effect. Our witness is only effective if God chooses to work through it.
There is no necessary connection between human secular morality and Revealed Truth; there are manmy human ethical systems with a deep sense of right and wrong that work just fine, as human things go, without any theological connection at all. So, my awareness of having offended a neighbor will never, by itself, bring any awareness of Christ or revealed truth. Is that so difficult? And, why do folks have so much trouble with the Sovreignty of God and the primacy of Revelation for knowledge of Him? That is Augustine...that is Aquinas...and that is Biblical. Granted, it is a theological point, but an important one. It places limits upon our utopianism, upon our willfulness, and it counsels humility and obedience.