A Penitent Blogger

Mindful of my imperfections, seeking to know Truth more deeply and to live Love more fully.

Quid sum miser tunc dicturus? Quem patronum rogaturus? Cum vix iustus sit securus?
Recordare, Iesu pie, Quod sum causa tuae viae: Ne me perdas illa die...

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Like straw

Near the end of his life, one of the greatest theologians who ever lived had a special vision of God.

He never wrote again, saying that everything he had written was "like straw."

We hear something similar from another wise and holy man in today's first reading (from the last chapter of the book of Job).

I know that you can do all things,
and that no purpose of yours can be hindered.

I have dealt with great things that I do not understand;
things too wonderful for me, which I cannot know.

I had heard of you by word of mouth,
but now my eye has seen you.

Therefore I disown what I have said,
and repent in dust and ashes.

That is not to say that Job was absolutely wrong in what he had said. Indeed, in a verse from this chapter not included in today's selection (42:7), the Lord himself says that Job has "spoken rightly concerning me."

Yet even the greatest and most perfect of human words fall infinitely short of the full majesty and wonder of God in himself.

We should continue to seek greater knowledge of God and his ways, relying upon the grace and revelation that he himself extends to us, and we should continue to spread that knowledge to others, responding to his grace and his command, yet we must always remain humble, which is to say realistic about who we are and who God is.

Pope Benedict spoke about this in a homily yesterday before the International Theological Commission (translation by Teresa Benedicta; hat tip Amy):

"Job had cried out to God, he had even struggled with God in the face of the evident injustices he had to deal with. And then he is confronted with the greatness of God. And he understands that in the face of the true greatness of God, our words are mere poverty and cannot even remotely approach the greatness of God, and so he says: 'I have spoken twice, I will say no more.'

"Silence before the greatness of God, because our words become too puny. It remainds me of the last weeks of St. Thomas (Aquinas)'s life - when he stopped writing, he stopped speaking. His friends asked him: 'Master, why don't you speak, why don't you write?" And he says, "Before what I have seen, all my words seem to me like straw.'

"The great expert on St.Thomas, Fr. Jean-Pierre Torrel, tells us not to misunderstand these words. Straw is not nothing. Straw carries the grain, and that is its great value. It carries the grain. So even the straw of words remains valid as a bearer of the grain.

"This, I would say, even for us, is a relativization of our work as well as a valuation of it. It is also an indication to us so that the straw of our work should truly carry the grain of God's Word.

"The Gospel (yesterday) ends with, 'Whoever listens to you, listens to me.' What an admonition, what an examination of conscience these words require! Is it true that whoever hears me really hears the Lord?

"Let us pray and work that it may always be true that whoever listens to us, listens to Christ. Amen!"