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Theological Tidbits

…archives…

June 2
We are called to love others as God loves them. We are called to give ourselves to others through a choice (will-act) that is permanent and without limit. In other words, we are called to form a communion of persons with others. First and foremost, we are invited to form a familial communion of persons. Both fornication and adultery are acts that violate the familial communion of persons. In fornication, the couple tries to give themselves in and through their bodies without first choosing to give themselves to each other in and through their wills— i.e., they have not publicly exchanged the marriage vows. Since love is primarily an act of the will—i.e., a choice to give oneself to another, the pre-marital couple does not love each other. Since they are not loving each other, they are using each other. They are treating each other as things to be used. An adulterer also treats his spouse as a thing to be used because he does not love the spouse. The adulterer does not love his spouse because he takes back his supposedly—or initially intended—permanent and limitless self-donation and presumes to bestow this self-donation on someone else. Since the adulterer does not love his spouse, the spouse is treated as a thing.
May 26
Since human beings are enfleshed spirits or spiritualized bodies, loving them includes a love and respect for their bodies. Thus, love of self includes an appreciation of the body as the expression of the self—i.e., of the person. If we love ourselves as God loves Himself, we will not use or manipulate our own bodies. We will not treat them as things because to treat them as things is to treat ourselves as things. For example, prostitution and surrogate motherhood treat the body as something to be rented. We rent things, not people. Thus, those who engage in prostitution and surrogate motherhood treat themselves as things. They do not love themselves as images of God should. Other acts are attempts to achieve pleasure by stimulating the body. In other words, in these acts, we use our bodies to achieve pleasure. The body becomes a kind of mechanism, almost like a drug, to achieve a certain “high.” Clearly, such acts involve a use of our bodies. These acts are not God-like because through them we treat our bodies as things to be used. Through these acts, we do not love ourselves as we should. In the expression of love between husband and wife, the couple does not use their bodies because they are not primarily seeking pleasure. Rather, they seek to give themselves to each other. If a couple were to seek only pleasure, they would indeed be using their bodies.
May 19
The sixth commandment reads: “You shall not commit adultery” (Ex. 20:14). In this commandment, God reveals that He does not treat people as things to be used. Rather, He reveals that He loves all people. Not only does God love all created people, He also loves Himself as a personal being. Thus, this commandment reveals that we, as images of God, are called to love others as well as ourselves. Thus, we should not treat others or ourselves as things to be used, manipulated, or owned.
May 12
The fifth commandment, “You shall not kill” (Ex. 20:13), invites us to care for our bodies and the bodies of others. In inviting us to take care of ourselves, the fifth commandment also asks us to come to know ourselves. We know ourselves by studying our bodies, the expression of our persons. Each living, human body reveals a unique human person. The body fully expresses the person when it participates in the most proper—God-like— activity of the human being: love. The bodily expression of love occurs through our sexual powers. Thus, the study of our own sexual powers allows us to come to know ourselves. This study is undertaken by the teachers and students in the Natural Family Planning movement (NFP). NFP is far more than simply a natural method for spacing children. It should reveal the mysterious being of each human being who engages in the study of it.
May 5
There are some medical procedures that harm the body but also have beneficial bodily effects. Such procedures may be done if they conform to the principle of the double effect. The double-effect principle has four necessary conditions: (1) the act contemplated must be morally good or indifferent; (2) the acting person intends only the good effect and foresees, but does not intend, the evil; (3) the evil effect cannot be the means of achieving the good effect—the end does not justify the means; and (4) there must be proportionately grave reason for permitting the evil effect. Thus, applying the principle of the double effect, doctors may remove a cancerous uterus and do many other similar procedures. The double-effect principle is sometimes applied to the just-war question.
May 5
There are some medical procedures that harm the body but also have beneficial bodily effects. Such procedures may be done if they conform to the principle of the double effect. The double-effect principle has four necessary conditions: (1) the act contemplated must be morally good or indifferent; (2) the acting person intends only the good effect and foresees, but does not intend, the evil; (3) the evil effect cannot be the means of achieving the good effect—the end does not justify the means; and (4) there must be proportionately grave reason for permitting the evil effect. Thus, applying the principle of the double effect, doctors may remove a cancerous uterus and do many other similar procedures. The double-effect principle is sometimes applied to the just-war question.
April 28
Positively, the fifth commandment invites us to care for our bodies and the bodies of others. However, we cannot care for the human body without a knowledge of it. Thus, it is the fifth commandment that asks us to develop a knowledge about ourselves and to apply that knowledge to benefit ourselves and others. Therefore, medical science and medical care fall under the fifth commandment. On occasion, difficulties arise in the application of medical knowledge to individual situations. Doctors may legitimately decide not to treat a particular problem if the person is expected to die from another much more serious health problem. Yet every reasonable effort should be made to make patients comfortable. Since food and drink are not medicine, they should not be withheld even if the means of giving these is medical. Competent patients and the guardian(s) of incompetent patients are sometimes faced with decisions on extraordinary medical procedures. We are never compelled to undergo a high-risk, expensive procedure with doubtful results that involves much discomfort or even bodily disfigurement. We may choose to undergo such treatment, but we are not obliged to submit to it.
April 21
While the fifth commandment does ask us to love other people and to have a respect for their lives, it does not envision a totally pacifist stance. If someone attacks us, we have a right, even a duty, to defend ourselves. Self-defense is an expression of the proper respect we should have for our own lives. Thus, we may use adequate measures to defend ourselves and those who depend on us (spouses, children). By extension, a nation has a right to defend its citizens. Clearly, a nation may fight an aggressor. In such a war, soldiers may take the lives of the enemy soldiers. However, the war must be just—i.e., the nation fighting the war must be in the position of defending its citizenry against an aggressor or defending a friendly nation’s people against an aggressor. In any event, the lives of non-combatants may never be taken or even threatened. A nation has the right to defend itself and to possess the means to defend itself.
April 14
The human body is the expression of the human person. Our bodies are part of the gift of life from God. Our bodies are not machines that we own and use. Rather, as life itself, they are a gift from God that we are invited to care for and to protect as God cares for and protects all our lives. Clearly, “no man ever hates his own flesh, but nourishes it and cherishes it” (Eph 5:29). It is our own care and concern for our own flesh and blood that should help us realize that every other human body has the same dignity and value that our own bodies have.
April 7
The fifth commandment, “You shall not kill” (Ex. 20:13), invites us to care for ourselves and others especially by respecting and caring for the human body: our own bodies and the bodies of others. Since every human is immortal, one’s total destruction is impossible. Who would ask another to refrain from doing the impossible? It would be a meaningless request. The fifth commandment is not meaningless. Thus, “You shall not kill” cannot refer to the total destruction of the human person. Rather, the fifth commandment must ask us not to do something that we, in fact, could do. Human beings do die—i.e., their bodies cease to have life while their souls continue to live. Therefore, it is possible for us to inflict death—i.e., to take the life of the body. Obviously, the fifth commandment is an invitation to us not to impose death—the taking of the life of the body—on any innocent human being. Positively, the fifth commandment invites every human to respect and to care for all living human beings.
March 31
“The Easter Triduum or Paschal Triduum, commencing on the evening of Holy Thursday and culminating in the Easter Vigil of Holy Saturday, is the feast of all feasts, the climax of the Church’s liturgical year. When we celebrate the mystery of salvation in which our Lord Jesus Christ passes through suffering and death to the new life of the resurrection, it is to enact our participation, individually and collectively, in his paschal mystery. The Church’s sense of Jesus’ passage to new life through suffering and death emerged very early in the Christian proclamation, prayer and worship, long before the development of doctrine. Faith recognizes the deep structure of the Paschal Triduum liturgies: the resurrection is celebrated not just as a moment of triumph and vindication “after” Jesus’ suffering and quite separate from it, but as a mystery born in and of his suffering. We celebrate the one paschal mystery of Jesus’ death and resurrection. It is not simply a matter of progression from one stage to another, but a passage or passing over in which both death and resurrection are preserved in the dynamism of the one mystery. This mystery is tangibly expressed in the very body of the risen and glorified Christ who bears for all eternity the wounds of his suffering love. Two thousand years later, the inextricable connection between death and resurrection in the one paschal mystery – so strong and perduring an instinct of the Church – continues to undergird and shape the liturgies of the Great Paschal Triduum and indeed every celebration of the Eucharist” (Anne Hunt).
March 24
The fifth commandment reads: “You shall not kill” (Ex. 20:13). In this commandment, God reveals that He cares for all the persons He has created. In the words of Pope St. John Paul II, God reveals that when He gives life, “it is forever.” As noted above, the gift of life and the gift of love cannot be separated. Clearly, God loves—i.e., cares for and protects, all the persons He has created. As the book of Wisdom reveals, “For you [God] love all things that exist, and detest none of the things that you have made” (Wis 11:24). God’s protective love shields created persons from true and lasting harm. Christ confirmed God’s protective care revealed in the fifth commandment when He assured His disciples that they were worth more than the birds of the air (Mt 6:26) and when He promised them that not a hair on their heads would be harmed (Lk 21:18). Through this commandment, God invites each of us to protect and to care for ourselves and for all other human beings. The fifth commandment does not pertain to angels because angels, lacking a body, cannot die. Thus, they cannot be killed.
Mar. 17
Since love is always a mutual relationship between at least two persons and “honor” implies love, the fourth commandment, “Honor your father and your mother” (Ex 20:12), presumes that parents love their children. In other words, this commandment invites parents to care for their children by providing the physical, educational, and spiritual necessities of life. If parents love their children, they will never ask their children to do something that is not God-like or that is harmful to them. Further, as their children grow and become adults, loving parents will rejoice that their children are able to make decisions on their own and no longer expect the parents to tell them what to do. With adult children, loving parents will allow their children to make their own choices and to take responsibility for these decisions. Thus, for example, loving Catholics should not feel guilty if one or more of their adult children do not practice the Catholic faith. Parents of adult children have a role similar to the parent par excellence, God Himself. God is our loving parent Who reveals the truth to us and yet allows us to think and to choose for ourselves. Even when we sin, He does not interfere. He is a true parent, a parent Who allows His mature children to act on their own and to take responsibility for their actions even when He realizes the actions are harmful in some way.
Mar. 10
The fourth commandment reads: “Honor your father and your mother” (Ex 20:12). Quite simply, this commandment clearly invites all of us to do what our parents ask while we are growing up. It also asks adult children to “honor” their parents—i.e., to give respect to those who gave them life and who raised them. As children mature and become adults, they are no longer expected to do everything their parents ask. However, adult children are asked to love their parents—i.e., to give themselves to their parents by taking care of their physical and spiritual needs. Children should  love their parents even after the parents have died. The love of children for deceased parents is expressed in many ways, but especially by praying for them.
Mar. 3
The fourth commandment reads: “Honor your father and your mother” (Ex 20:12). In this commandment and the six that follow it, God reveals how He loves us and others. He invites us to love ourselves and others the way He loves us and others. The fourth commandment reveals that God loves those who give life to new persons and/or who care for them. Through the fourth commandment, God invites us to love those who gave us life as He loves them.
Feb. 25
The third commandment reads: “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy” (Ex. 20:8). We fulfill the third commandment by attending Mass on Sunday and by avoiding work. Sunday should indeed be a day of rest—i.e., difficult, tiring physical labor should be avoided. However, if cutting the grass is recreation for someone who works forty hours or more a week in an office, it would hardly seem against the third commandment to mow the lawn. On the other hand, unless it were absolutely necessary, he should avoid going to the office on Sunday because he would be doing his usual work on the day set aside to do the work of God (Mass and other prayers) and to relax. Of course, those whose jobs are vital to society (e.g., police, firefighters, etc.) may work on Sunday. Others may work at their normal jobs if they have no alternative other than to lose their jobs (e.g., sales personnel in shopping malls, etc.). Still, everything must be done to keep Sunday as the Lord’s day both by individuals and by society.
Feb. 18
The third commandment reads: “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy” (Ex. 20:8). Since holy means transcendent and God is the One Who is transcendent, to keep something holy means to give it to God. In this commandment, God reveals that He is Lord of time. He, as the Creator, has legitimate dominion over time. He asks us to recognize the same reality by dedicating one day to Him. This dedication of one day symbolizes our recognition of His legitimate governance over all time. Clearly, it also gives us a chance to fulfill the first commandment by worshipping God.
Feb. 11
The second commandment reads: “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain” (Ex. 20:7).  A personal name designates the person. It stands for the person. The way we use a personal name indicates what we think of that person. Thus, the second commandment, by revealing that God regards His own name as holy and sacred, shows that God recognizes that He is holy—i.e., transcendent and perfect, deserving of adoration and reverence. The second commandment invites all human beings to recognize the sacredness of the divine name because God Himself is all-perfect and all-transcendent.
Feb. 4
The first commandment reads: “I am the Lord your God…. You shall have no other gods before me.” By inviting all human beings to worship only Him, God shows us that He knows Himself as the only being deserving of worship. Since worship implies a knowledge of God and a choice to offer prayer, sacrifice, and adoration to God, the first commandment asks us to love God—i.e., to give ourselves to Him through an act of our wills founded on our knowledge of Him. In other words, this commandment invites us to enter a communion with God. Of course, such a communion with God Who is transcendent would be impossible without His grace. We are then invited to express this act of love through bodily acts—i.e., prayers, liturgies, and rituals. In these practices, we make use of the things God has created—e.g., candles and incense—as aids in our worship. We also employ works of human art—e.g., statues, vestments, music, and paintings—to give expression to our worship—i.e., our love of God.
Jan. 21
God gave Moses the ten commandments on Mount Sinai (Ex. 20:2-17; Deut. 5:6-21). The first three commandments show us how God loves Himself and therefore how we should love God. The other seven commandments reveal what God does do and what God does not do towards us and others. Thus, they show us how we should love ourselves and others. Through the ten commandments, God invites us, as His images, to act as He acts.

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