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...

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Calling and Creation

There are two extreme religious-philosophical concepts that have come with humanity down through the ages and are still very much with us in our modern world today: one holds an extreme idea of the unity of all things that exist, the other holds an extreme view of a duality in all things that exist.

One extreme holds for the existential unity of God and all things: not only is God everywhere, but everything IS god.

The other extreme holds for an absolute dualism between spirit and matter, corresponding to an existential dualism between good and evil.

Both extremes have been present in religions and philosophies from the dawn of time and both extremes can be found in various New Age philosophies today.

Even when these extremes are not articulated as philosophies, they are often present in the practical attitudes and approaches of our everyday lives, such as in a hyper-veneration of the natural world on the one hand or in a reckless disregard for nature on the other.

Even Christians are not immune from these extremist attitudes: from liberals whose theological and ritualistic tendencies are virtually pantheistic to conservatives apathetic about environmental destruction “because Jesus is coming back soon.”

Between these two extremes, we have today’s beautiful first reading (Wisdom 11:22-12:2), weaving together hymn-like acclamations about God, existence, and mercy.

It begins by affirming an existential difference between God and the universe: God is infinite and the universe is not.

Before the LORD
the whole universe is as a grain from a balance
or a drop of morning dew come down upon the earth.

Then the writer turns to sing of the mercy of Almighty God.

But you have mercy on all,
because you can do all things;
and you overlook people's sins

that they may repent.

This mercy is closely tied to the love out of which God created the world and sustains all things in being.

For you love all things that are
and loathe nothing that you have made;
for what you hated,

you would not have fashioned.

And how could a thing remain,

unless you willed it;
or be preserved,

had it not been called forth by you?

But you spare all things,

because they are yours,
O LORD and lover of souls,
for your imperishable spirit is in all things!

Again, this is not to say that God IS all things, but that he is present everywhere. Moreover, one must be very careful not to confuse things as they are in this world with God's intention ("I was born a paranoid schizophrenic therefore God created me that way and wants me to act that way"). God sustains all things by his permissive will, but by his mercy he calls us all to repentance.

Therefore you rebuke offenders little by little,
warn them and remind them

of the sins they are committing,
that they may abandon their wickedness

and believe in you, O LORD!

We should indeed be respectful of the environment and of all things created by God, yet we must not confuse the Creator with the created.

Above all, we must remember that God’s sustaining presence within his creation has given us opportunity for repentance, as he gently yet insistently calls us away from selfishness and calls us to truth, faith, and love in him.

As St. Paul says in today’s second reading (2 Thessalonians 1:11-2:2):

We always pray for you,
that our God may make you
worthy of his calling
and powerfully bring to fulfillment
every good purpose and every effort of faith,
that the name of our Lord Jesus
may be glorified in you,
and you in him,
in accord with the grace

of our God and Lord Jesus Christ.