Father Michael's Number Four Rule for the Interior Life: Never Be Afraid to Be Different.
Lessons from cycle II of the feria, according to the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite:
I Corinthians 2: 10-16.
Psalm 145: 8-14.
Luke 4: 31-37.
The Twenty-Second Tuesday of Ordinary Time.
"A Jedi craves not these things!"
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3:02 PM 9/2/2014 — For those tuning in late, we've been focusing on the Apostolic lessons of Holy Mass taken from those Epistles of the Blessed Apostle Paul that had their genesis in his second missionary journey through Greece. We began in Thessalonica, where the Apostle had to intervene in a dispute about when the Second Coming of Christ was to occur; and his admonition to the disputants was as practical and down-to-earth as it could possibly be, reminding them that, as long as one is in the state of Grace, what difference does it make? Nor is it seemly, he tells them, that a Christian be the kind of person who is attracted to discussions about controversies or intrigue or esoteric speculations about the end times. In his best Yoda impersonation, he tells them, “A Jedi craves not these things.” When Christ comes again is his affair; as long as our souls are prepared, we don't need to worry about it; or, to put it another way, a Christian should learn to mind his own soul and his own business.
Even so, he didn't make a whole lot of converts in Thessalonica, and even less in Philippi and Athens, at least not while he was in those places; but, it seems the seeds of the Faith which he planted bore fruit later, reminding him—and us—that we shouldn't always look for the results of our efforts to manifest themselves. Athens, in particular, was where he had hoped to have the greatest success, given that the city was already steeped in philosophy, and where he thought the spiritual realities of the Gospel would find a welcomed audience; but, he makes the mistake of trying too hard to accommodate the Faith to that philosophical mindset, which results in the Faith being held up to ridicule.
Ironically, his greatest success comes in what should have been, by all rights, the toughest nut to crack: the depraved and debauched city of Corinth; and, his success there is precisely because he doesn't try to accommodate the Faith to the culture he finds there; he presents himself and the Gospel in a simple and straight-forward manner—or, has he puts it, without relying on worldly wisdom—and makes scores of converts. The lesson there, of course, was the necessity of being oneself. He reminds his converts in Corinth, writing to them afterward, of how and why he had failed in Athens, impressing upon them the need to resist the temptation of always trying to fit in, of being with the “in” crowd, and always trying to appear relevant, current and vital in the secular sense by addressing every issue of the day.
Today's lesson kind of sums all this up by reminding the Christians in Corinth that, if they stick to this plan, they are going to be regarded as different. He goes on a little bit more about the difference between worldly wisdom and spiritual realities;—that's because he's still smarting about how he was treated in Athens—but, his real point today is how important it is for the Christian to not be concerned with how he is perceived by others. We have to tread lightly here because the Christian whose behavior is too odd, too esoteric, too bizarre, is going to hold the Faith up the ridicule; but, at the same time, if the Christian is truly committed to his Faith, he can't avoid being perceived by others as just a little bit odd because his view of life and the world around him is going to be different:
Mere man with his natural gifts cannot take in the thoughts of God’s Spirit; they seem mere folly to him, and he cannot grasp them, because they demand a scrutiny which is spiritual. Whereas the man who has spiritual gifts can scrutinize everything, without being subject, himself, to any other man’s scrutiny (I Cor. 2: 14-15 Knox).
I like the way Msgr. Knox has translated that passage: he “cannot take in the thoughts of God's Spirit....” He can't take it in because his brain can't process spiritual realities. It's like trying to feed numbers into a computer that doesn't have a math program installed on it; it doesn't know what to do with the numbers, so it just crashes.
Professor Alice Von Hilderbrand wrote a text book on the Philosophy of Religion which I read in college, and in the Introduction she comments on the encounter between our Lord and the man born blind, whom she reminds us is different from someone who looses his sight later in life. The person who could once see but now can't can at least form a mental picture from memory of whatever is described to him, but the person who has never seen … how does he do that? She asks the question: how would you describe to someone who has never seen what a color is? Here is something that doesn't change the shape or texture of a thing, but still makes it somehow different. A person who has never had the gift of sight can't process that; there's nothing in his experience that could possibly make that intelligible to him. This, she says, is precisely what happens when you try to explain the spiritual life to someone who has never received the gift of faith: the brain simply doesn't have the program it needs to process the information.
So, the Apostle is explaining to his friends back in Corinth that they need to simply accept the fact that, to a certain extent, they're never really going to fit in. Being a Christian gives one a perspective on life that those who do not share the faith are incapable of understanding, and that this will, by necessity, result in a certain degree of loneliness and isolation. The Christian deals with this, of course, by means of his deep, personal friendship with his Lord.
So, Father Michael's Number Four Rule of the Interior Life:—which is just an amplification of the Number Three Rule—never be afraid to be different.