Verbum reconciliationis – a conference on compassion

Transcript of the Domestic Church conference broadcast LIVE on Tuesday November 22 on the Old Roman TV YouTube channel.

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So, lets recap briefly…

Beate mundo corde blest are the pure in heart

God is love and that love which binds the Trinity in Unity is made manifest in Creation

Thus, we are extensions of God’s love – created in His love, to share in His love and to become His love

His love should reside in our hearts, influence our minds, and direct our behavior

Sal terrae salt of the earth

That rather than judging others in sin we are to have compassion for them, loving them to righteousness

Just as Jesus, having compassion for our human condition, loved us to death on the Cross for our redemption – not losing our “savor” for the sake of our Savior!

So then should we love one another as Jesus loves us

Vos estis lux mundi you are the light of the world

By radiating the brightness of Christ’s Truth into our world of confusion and ignorance

Living CHRISTIAN lives bearing testimony to the restoration to perfection begun in our salvation

Proving that CHANGE – even radical change – IS possible and true happiness

verbum reconciliationis the word of reconciliation 2 Cor 5:17-20

[17] If then any be in Christ a new creature, the old things are passed away, behold all things are made new. Si qua ergo in Christo nova creatura, vetera transierunt: ecce facta sunt omnia nova.

[18] But all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Christ; and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation. Omnia autem ex Deo, qui nos reconciliavit sibi per Christum: et dedit nobis ministerium reconciliationis,

[19] For God indeed was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, not imputing to them their sins; and he hath placed in us the word of reconciliation. quoniam quidem Deus erat in Christo mundum reconcilians sibi, non reputans illis delicta ipsorum, et posuit in nobis verbum reconciliationis.

[20] For Christ therefore we are ambassadors, God as it were exhorting by us. For Christ, we beseech you, be reconciled to God. Pro Christo ergo legatione fungimur, tamquam Deo exhortante per nos. Obsecramus pro Christo, reconciliamini Deo.

You may have noticed, particularly regarding last week’s episode, I have not yet used any of the words or phrases commonly associated with the alternative lifestyles and opinions that orthodox Catholic Christians regard as sinful – why not? Because an individual should not be defined by “what they are” or “by their inclination” or “predilection” or even by necessarily what they do – but rather by “who they are” – which as we covered in the first episode of this series is someone who is either destined to become or – by virtue of having been baptized – IS a “Child of God”. I should add – that these talks are about how we interact as individuals with others – not about political campaigning nor activism – different tactics are required for public debate – but that said, these thoughts should help to frame our participation in those debates.

For us as the “pure in heart” i.e. of God, to be the “salt of the earth” by our way of living and be a “light of the world” radiating God’s Truth about us; it’s necessary that we  remember we have placed in us the “word of reconciliation” and that we have a “ministry of reconciliation” to strive to be “ambassadors of Christ” to the world around us. We have a duty NOT to judge and condemn, but to “reconcile” through sharing true knowledge, those who would be the children of God by bringing them to baptism having shared with them the Truth. In other words, we must enlighten those who dwell in the darkness of ignorance and who are enslaved to sin. Compassion means for us to help those who are unable or incapable of helping themselves out of the misery that is their earthly existence, to rise with us toward that heavenly existence in which we share and are destined to.

So in our dealings with others – the “unchurched” both those who have never known and those who have walked away from the body of Christ – our approach should be one of compassion toward reconciliation – we should in our interactions always be conscious of our responsibility as representative of Christ – to manifest God’s love and example to them the way to know the Truth and so come to have true life. The crisis in the Church has led to an even greater crisis in our world – where once in the west certainly, so influenced by Judaeo-Christian ethics and values – there is now almost complete ignorance – so few today have any knowledge about God as He has revealed Himself in the Scriptures and in Christ – they have snippets, soundbites, “ideas” but not the whole and complete picture of the Gospel. From kindergarten so-called Nativity plays to fundamental concepts of morality – most people today have little or no idea of “why” they exist, “who they are” really and why their lives lack meaning and purpose other than what they think pleases themselves.

For us them to be effective ambassadors of the Gospel, we have to know and understand ourselves what others do not! It is not enough simply to say, “go to church” and think that a) you are saved or b) you are spared from the task the Great Commission challenges us with! We ALL have a responsibility – simply by being Christians by virtue of our baptism – to engage and evangelize with everyone around us. And this should not be the daunting task that everyone likes to make out it is – if we truly believe in God and the Gospel and truly appreciate and understand the difference living as a Child of God should be – we should desire with all our heart for everyone we know to experience and enjoy what we do! And that does mean that WE ALL have a responsibility to know and be able to communicate i.e., to explain that “hope which is in” us.

Much is made in our contemporary politics of “self-identity” so-called “identity politics” which is all about how one’s understanding of oneself should determine how society should perceive, relate and interact with oneself. Though often presented as a “radical” or even “anarchic” concept – supposedly breaking “societal stereotypes” – in fact this ideology relies on both existing societal norms with which to compare itself in radical contrast to – AND it’s about creating a “new normal” ie  establishing new societal norms that will allow these new varieties of self-identification to be accepted or treated in the same way as pre-existing social concepts – ref gender, sex, gender stereotyped behaviors, attitudes, etc. but have the benefit of law. The whole matter is very confused because of course, some of those advocating for this new normal – wish to present themselves as “normal” clearly adopting pre-conceived stereotypes of behavior and identification – for example, those who are physiologically and biologically of one sex, wishing to be regarded and treated as the opposite sex, tend to adopt stereotypical behaviors and attitudes of their elected sex!

But such a heightened understanding of “self” is antithetical to the Gospel – where in fact the denial of self through humility is the suggested “norm” for those who would follow Christ and mirror His incarnation to become that restoration and perfection of humanity that the Cross enables us to realise through salvation i.e., the pursuit of holiness and communion with God. That after all IS the purpose of our existence – to become “children of God” which means to realise through Christ the restoration of humanity to its original state and condition as God had originally conceived and intended before the Fall.

Here too, in this modern phenomenon of “self-identity” and determination – is the heresy of “dualism” implied – the suggestion that “the self” is somehow distinct and separate from “one’s body” or mode of existence. In contemporary and sometimes progressive Christianity this is revealed by those who separate the “spiritual” from the “physical” – forgetting that the restoration of salvation is about achieving once more the balance exampled in the Incarnation of the material WITH the physical – God made man – should be mirrored in us who strive to become “man made god”- i.e. who were conceived and created in His image and destined to be one with Him for eternity.

This dualistic heresy is seen in contemporary identity politics and ideologies, which suggest the “self” is distinct from the body such that the body can and ought to be manipulated to reflect the “self” image that the individual conceives or perceives themselves to be. The whole concept of “gender fluidity” for example, separates the biological self from the conceptual self and tries to create a new physiological self – but which of course is doomed to failure and largely disappointing and doesn’t achieve the sense of “happiness” with oneself that its protagonists would like – hence the higher rates of suicidal ideation in those suffering from gender dysphoria or body dysmorphia.

The Latin word persona was originally used to denote the mask worn by an actor. From this it was applied to the role he assumed, and, finally, to any character on the stage of life, i.e., to any individual. But this individual, this person – who did not will his own existence – is to be properly understood as a creature Divinely willed into existence, for a purpose and will not his own – but which through discernment can become his own – and through that bring about true knowledge of oneself that will best achieve in this life, some real happiness and fulfilment. A person who understands himself in relation to God, who recognizes his skills, talents and abilities came from God to be realized for God’s Will, who applies himself and all that he is and has to the realization of that purpose, will realize in this life something of the next i.e., union with God. One who does not understand himself – who has no appreciation of where he came from or why he exists – is doomed to pursue his own sense of happiness and fulfilment which will ultimately be disappointing and end, probably, with little to show for all his energy and effort and without God, be utterly pointless and end in annihilation.

So, we need to begin first by understanding “who we are” in order that we can tell others “Who they are” in order that they can understand themselves to become truly themselves as they were conceived by God from all eternity to be…

A man’s personality is that of which he has cognizance under the concept of “self”. It is that entity, substantial, permanent, unitary, which is the subject of all the states and acts that constitute his complete life. An appeal to self-consciousness shows us that there is such a subject (entity) – of which thought, will, and feeling are modifications. It is substantial, i.e., not one or all the changing states but the reality underlying them, for our self-consciousness testifies that, besides perceiving the thought, it has immediate perception in the same act of the subject to whom the thought belongs.

Every act of intellectual memory implies a recognition of the fact that I, thinking now, am the “self” as the one who had the experience which is being recalled. My former experiences are referred to as something which has not passed as they have passed, but to my own self or personality. From this permanence springs the consciousness of self as a unitary principle. The one to whom all the variations of state belong is perceived as an entity complete and distinguished from all others. Unity of consciousness does not constitute but manifests unity of being. The physical principle of this permanence and unity is the simple, spiritual, unchanging substance of the rational soul. This does not mean, however, that the soul is identical with the personal self. There are recognized as modifications of the self not merely acts of thought and volition, but also sensations, of which the immediate subject is the animated body. Even in its own peculiar sphere the soul works in conjunction with the body; intellectual reasoning is accompanied and conditioned by sensory images. A man’s personality, then, consists physically of soul and body. Of these the body is what is termed in scholastic language the “matter” the determinable principle, the soul is the “form”, the determining principle. The soul is not merely the seat of the chief functions of man — thought and will; it also determines the nature and functioning of the body. To its permanence is due the abiding unity of the whole personality despite the constant disintegration and rebuilding of the body. Though not therefore the only constituent of personality, the soul is its formal principle.

In other words – our thoughts that we perceive with our consciousness i.e. our mind, – and our sensory experiences which we perceive and experience through our bodies, – make up together our “personality” which relates to our “soul” – meaning that our soul is not something separate from our physiology but intrinsic to it – it is that “self” that has being despite and in spite of – all the various ways in which we may or may not experience “being” i.e. consciousness, sensation, body and mind, will and action, etc.

Now the modern contention – and it is modern in the sense of theories around the makeup of personality – have only been considered since the so-called Enlightenment and formulated through intellectual speculation and observation of abnormal behavior – none of which have proven the existence of actual multiple personalities within one physiology, only abnormal consciousness and unusual behaviors exhibited by individuals. But the speculations of these intellectuals have been taken to form the basis of contemporary ideas about “personality” and “identity” etc. and formed the pseudo-science now prevalent among some practitioners both clinical and psychological that fuel the confusion endured by those suffering from dysmorphia, dysphoria, and severe mental health disorders. The unfortunate development of which has been the influence such ideas have been taken up with by those, even less qualified, seeking to diagnose or understand the predicament of their confusion. That is without reference to the “soul” or only in as much as their ignorance allows them to conceive of their “self” as something separate from themselves!

Now here, it is necessary to explain once again – and as Scripture attests – that no one is “perfect” – we are all laboring under some disorder or another by virtue of the imperfection that creation experiences due to sin and evil. No one is born “normal” – whether by appearance or not – we all of us have some propensity toward sin and evil – whether we call this “original sin” or “ancestral sin” it is an “inclination towards sin, a heritage from the sin of our progenitors”. For in theology, we understand all humanity to derive from Adam and Eve – and thus we are all tainted by the effects of Adam and Eve’s sin – for we are all united to one another by virtue of our created human condition and our spiritual state as having been created and conceived by God to become His children. There is no room here for understanding distinct human persons from the whole of created humanity – except for those Divine Revelation tells us were preserved from the effects of this disorder by God’s grace e.g., the Blessed Virgin Mary and St John the Baptist. Bear in mind, that this concept of humanity as being commonly derived is borne out in biology, genetics, DNA analysis, etc. – we are all – one way or another – irrespective of place, time, and space – and by varying degrees – related to each other!

Now remember in “sal terrae” episode 2, we reflected that “no man is an island” – they are foolish who think that what they think, do or say has little or no effect on another – for sure, by varying degrees of proximity, influence and tangibility – but no one exists without effecting another in some way, shape or form. So, it is then in understanding ourselves – our sense of “self” is not constrained to nor limited to our own appreciation of ourself – but influenced by our perception of the perceptions and interactions of others with us – so that, even those who claim to want to baulk against “the norm” are in fact just as socialized and dependent upon “society” as anyone else. Only God sees us objectively and uniquely for who we are – nobody else is capable of doing so, however well they know us – for only God can know and read our hearts, perceiving that which we can never perceive of each other – which is why Our Lord tells “do not judge” for we cannot judge!

So often people living alternative lifestyles will say “it doesn’t affect anyone else” but truthfully of course, it does. Its impossible for their existence not to affect anyone else. It effects their neighbors, those they meet, the people who see them, their family, friends, anyone in fact with whom they will interact with in the ordinary course of their lives. It effects “society.” Most especially when, such lifestyles require public approbation i.e., legality, legal protections, legal concessions, or advantages, etc. In the present situation for example, the clamor for so-called “civil rights” demanding the protection of the State for all sorts of unconscionable behaviors and life options – unconscionable that is to the authentic Christian.

Now here is the rub – and something we’ve got to appreciate whether we like it or not – such has been the demise of the Church’s witness today – and by the Church I mean us – secularism has been able to control and influence the nature of our society in ways that are – by historical standards in the west and the Gospel – deplorable and tragic for the lives of those who succumb to the prevalent ideologies. But there is no point us raging and as it were “beating against the goad” when all we must do – the simplest solution – is to be more faithful ourselves to Christ, His way, truth and life.

As we noted earlier, most people today have no idea what the Gospel actually teaches and the great shame of it is, that their ignorance is due in large part to the diminished witness of Christians who have themselves succumbed to and adopted worldly values.

I said earlier, I have not and still will not – for the avoidance of the censors – mention using the usual references for all the myriad different alternative lifestyles etc. abounding in the world today. And I would suggest that neither do you in your interactions – in your attempt at compassionating with – those who live them. To do so play into the polemics and polarizing ideologies that plague our public discourses and debates – and achieve nothing. We have no need to mention them by name – if we instead focus on the Gospel and what is righteous.

For example, let us take the concept of Marriage and the family. We do not need to discuss alternative forms of so-called “family” – whilst recognizing that the ideal is not the experience of many, we do not have to concede that therefore alternatives are equitable – we have only to point out that all of creation as well as the Scripture points to the right ordering of our natures and behaviors.

Let me quickly here remind you that not everything that is “natural” is necessarily commendable i.e. we may well have inclinations that appear “natural” to us i.e. that we seem to have a propensity toward certain behaviors with no conscience acquiescence on our part – we haven’t consciously sought them, they just occur to us – but not everything that our mind prompts us to is necessarily right just because its “natural”. Most of us have the capacity for example to murder – to take another life – consider the hundreds of insects you have killed over the years – and sometimes intentionally, willfully even – with not a moment’s consideration of the impact of that action – not thought to the insect’s life, family etc.! Now I am not going to go all Buddhist on you here! But just think for a moment – is it always necessary to kill an insect just because it is in our way? Some insects we kill for a justifiable need e.g., mosquitos that might cause harm to us or another in spreading disease etc., that is “justifiable” – but a little ant crossing our path in the middle of a forest? Do we really need to kill it? So not everything that is seemingly “natural” or that nature would seem to make us capable of – is necessarily right.

Many today argue for the justification of all sorts of activities, behaviors and attitudes using these very arguments – “it’s only natural” or “it’s not effecting anyone else” – consider promiscuity for example especially among the young – just because young adults have the capacity to be physically intimate with each other, does that justify such behavior? Of course not! Just as we do not say because it is an observable “natural” trait in monkeys for them to have more than one mate, so we should copy their behavior! Imagine if we took the example of lions as a model for our family and societal norms – male lions killing the offspring of their predecessors in a pride! Most especially because as humans we have the ability – a much higher ability than most other creatures on the planet – to rationalize and think conceptually outside the limitations of our experience and even knowledge – just as we control the behavior of our pet dogs, so we should control our own.

God in His infinite wisdom – knowing the predicament of our human condition – set for us a pattern for our living, Divine Revelation i.e., the Old and New Testaments – and coming as a man in Christ, He exampled and explained to us further “the way, the truth and the life” so that we might live happier lives.

When we look at marriage – what is better is surely, that biologically suited couples able to procreate, are monogamous in order to protect, provide and nurture their children? The sexes – male and female – compliment each other and as Scripture teaches us – including Our Lord Who references Genesis – the man and the woman becoming one unit, cooperating in the living of their lives and their children. What could be more “natural” but at the same time “ordered” toward the benefit of the couple, their children and by extension, society? For sure, we could just let chaos reign and let everybody do just what they want with whoever they want – but the truth is, such would benefit nobody – we know all too well the result of excessive behaviors that end in tragedy, sadness, loneliness, and isolation – that’s not happiness.

When we think of our young people for example – do we really mean that we would be happy for them to run around sharing intimate experiences, breaking hearts, spreading diseases, causing unwanted pregnancies, increasing abortions, and generally upsetting themselves and everyone else around them? Of course not! And what is good for them of course is generally good for adults too! Imagine then if we as Christians did not then acquiesce to political pressure and held our ground? We have as much right as anyone else to our opinions and preferred lifestyle – to its protection and advantage – as anyone else! The difference is, however, our way – God’s way – is ultimately ordered to the benefit and betterment of everyone in society – if only we’d example it better ourselves!

Another trap to be wary of is the “legal” argument – there are laws enacted in various countries now that are not in sympathy with God’s law – and it’s interesting how many equate morality with legality – after all, those pushing for the societal concessions required for alternative lifestyles, campaign for laws to be changed in order to effect the societal approbation they seek. But just because something is legal does not mean it is ethical – look at Tax laws for example – just because loopholes in the law allow certain ingenious business accounting practices – that doesn’t make them ethically “ok”! Likewise, just because something is legal doesn’t make it right and certainly not if it is ultimately contrary to God’s law.

Hence why it is necessary for us as ambassadors of the Gospel charged with a ministry of reconciling people to their creator God for their ultimate good and the benefit of all – to be ourselves witnesses to the Gospel in our own lives. WE should not only example the ideal in our lives, and in our communities – but with compassion assist those who have – whether by fault or ignorance – fallen along the way – demonstrating compassion, understanding the human condition, knowing no one is perfect – showing them the mercy and love of God that they may be reconciled to Him. There’s no need for condemnation nor judgement – God ultimately will decide all that – but there is a need for us to demonstrate the goodness and rightness of His Will and appeal to the higher reasoning ability of our interlocutors that the truth may set them free!

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