TUESDAY
May 9, 2000
volume 11, no. 89

Pat Ludwa's VIEW FROM THE PEW         INTRODUCTION

    Pat Ludwa, a committed lay Catholic from Cleveland, has been asked to contribute, on a regular basis, a lay person's point of view on the Church today. We have been impressed with his insight and the clear logic he brings to the table from his "view from the pew." In all humility, by his own admission, he feels he has very little to offer, but we're sure you'll agree with us that his viewpoint is exactly what millions of the silent majority of Catholics believe and have been trying to say as well. Pat puts it in words that help all of us better understand and convey to others what the Church teaches and we must believe.

    Today Pat prompts all to understand the method God sometimes uses to bring man back to Him. He shows how through sin a man can be converted from his evil ways just as Saint Paul and Saint Augustine were to name but a few of the countless souls who walked in darkness before seeing the light. Pat shows how God allows evil for good. By that he means God allows man to do of his free will, to be tempted, to pursue activities that are in direct confrontation against the Almighty. He does so that to show man the emptiness, the void that still exists no matter how rich one might be or secure in their profession for without God, there is nothing. That is the gist of his column today, Sin has value!!! This will be his last column until early June during this "May Mode" month.

    For past columns by Pat Ludwa, click on VIEW FROM THE PEW Archives   If you want to send him ideas or feedback, you can reach him at ludwa@core.com


Sin has value!!!

        Sin has value? Ok, right now I'm sure you all think I've fallen off the deep end, finally succumbed to delusions. But let me show you. "Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him; and the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. And as they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, 'Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.' And he knelt down and cried with a loud voice, 'Lord, do not hold this sin against them...And Saul was consenting to his death...But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem" (Acts 7: 58-60;8:1; 9: 1-2)

        Saul went about openly persecuting Christians. So much so that his reputation preceded him. "Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, 'Ananias.' And he said, 'Here I am, Lord.' And the Lord said to him, 'Rise and go to the street called Straight, and inquire in the house of Judas for a man of Tarsus named Saul; for behold, he is praying, and he has seen a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.' But Ananias answered, 'Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to thy saints at Jerusalem; and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call upon thy name...' And when he had come to Jerusalem he attempted to join the disciples; and they were all afraid of him, for they did not believe that he was a disciple" (Acts 9:10-14; 26)

        But it was precisely because he was a grievous sinner, that his testimony became so powerful. "For several days he was with the disciples at Damascus. And in the synagogues immediately he proclaimed Jesus, saying, 'He is the Son of God.' And all who heard him were amazed, and said, 'Is not this the man who made havoc in Jerusalem of those who called on this name? And he has come here for this purpose, to bring them bound before the chief priests.; But Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus was the Christ" (Acts 9: 19-22)

        Let's recall St. Peter. St. Peter, who denied Christ three times, who tried to talk Jesus out of going to Jerusalem. Didn't Peter ask Jesus to leave him because he was a sinful man?

        St. Augustine was member of the Manicheas, a sect of Gnostics. He was with them for at nine years. So entrenched in their philosophy was he that he once wrote that he prayed to be converted, but just not quite yet. But it was simply because of his association with these people that, again, he became a powerful preacher for the faith. "It is then my purpose to prove to you, if I can, that the Manichees profanely and rashly inveigh against those, who, following the authority of the Catholic Faith. before that they are able to gaze upon that Truth, which the pure mind beholds, are by believing forearmed, and prepared for God Who is about to give them light. For you know, Honoratus, that for no other reason we fell in with such men, than because they used to say, that, apart from all terror of authority, by pure and simple reason, they would lead within to God, and set free from all error those who were willing to be their hearers….. Who would not be enticed by such promises, especially the mind of a young man desirous of the truth, and further a proud and talkative mind by discussions of certain learned men in the school? such as they then found me, disdainful forsooth as of old wives' fables, and desirous to grasp and drink in, what they promised, the open and pure Truth? But what reason, on the other hand, recalled me, not to be altogether joined to them, so that I continued in that rank which they call of Hearers…. For you well know that the Manichees move the unlearned by finding fault with the Catholic Faith, and chiefly by rending in pieces and tearing the Old Testament: and they are utterly ignorant, how far these things are to be taken, and how drawn out they descend with profit into the veins and marrows of souls as yet as it were but able to cry. And because there are in them certain things which are some slight offense to minds ignorant and careless of themselves, (and there are very many such,) they admit of being accused in a popular way: but defended in a popular way they cannot be, by any great number of persons, by reason of the mysteries that are contained in them." (ST. AUGUSTINE ON THE PROFIT OF BELIEVING; #2 and 4)

        One of the most beloved saints was a rather modern sort of sinner. "He was a spendthrift, and all that he earned went into eating and carousing with his friends…. Soon after Francis had returned to Assisi, his companions elected him king of the revels, and gave him a free hand to spend what he liked in the preparation of a sumptuous banquet as he had often done on other occasions." (St. Francis of Assisi; Omnibus of Sources; "Legend of the Three Companions"; Chap I, #2, Chap. III, #7)

        These aren't the only testimonies we can read, we have modern ones as well such as the following from David Morrison on his conversion from a sinful life:

      "Homosexual orientation and the life I had built around it were so central to my primary identity that I could not understand how anyone could object to what I was doing. Disapproval, doubts, objections of all kinds could only be the result of either confusion about what Scripture says about homosexuality or outright bigotry. After all, I was living proof that homosexual people could live a sexually active life which was both spiritually and temporally satisfying. I had a lover of five years, a condominium in a major urban area, a satisfying job, and a church life as an Episcopalian which, while not perfect, was still a treasure. What more could I want? Yet, in prayer and in quiet times of reflection, I could not avoid noticing some thistles which sneaked into my 'gaily'-modeled life.

      As committed an activist as I was, I had to admit the shallowness and sheer improbability of many gay-friendly theologians and scholars when it came to Scripture and homosexual acts. Beyond the solid observation that Scripture does not discuss homosexual orientation per se-which is not surprising considering that even now there is no universally accepted definition of 'sexual orientation,' much less what causes it and whether or not it may be changed-authors as diverse as John McNeill (formerly S.J.), Sylvia Pennington, John Boswell, and Virginia Molenkott went wandering into scriptural speculations which, while creative, really asked their audience to suspend belief about the clear meaning of the original text.

      When discussing what the apostle Paul 'really' meant when he condemned homosexual acts in Romans 1:18-23 and 1 Corinthians 6:8-11, these authors alleged that Paul must have been condemning something other than the homosexual relationship of today since he could not have known anyone of confessed homosexual orientation. An argument for blessing homosexual acts was based on this reasoning, and it asked me to conclude that, had Paul known of the participants' orientation, he would have approved of the acts, even though nothing in his other letters indicated this would be so.

      Likewise, the condemnations against homosexual acts in Leviticus were dismissed with the suggestion that the acts condemned there had more to do with ritual prostitution than with 'loving' homosexuality. Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed (Genesis 19:1-25), these authors allege, not because of homosexual offense, but because the people of the towns were greedy, corrupt, and inhospitable to strangers.

      Each of these, while claiming fidelity to traditional scriptural exegesis, took interpretation in a radically new direction and ignored the strong possibility that greed, corruption, and inhospitality might have gone hand-in-hand with homosexual offense. Was it reasonable to assume that homosexual acts had nothing to do with the cities being destroyed, in view of the large part they played in the drama of Lot's departure?

      So, there were little cracks in the theoretical foundation upon which I had built my life. There were also problems with how I saw "gay theology" lived out around me. Most gay Christians I knew differed little in their lives from gay pagans, agnostics, and atheists. Gay Christian worship services, while sometimes worshipful, were also often as sexually charged and "cruisy" as most bars I visited (cruising is a practice among sexually active gay men of seeking out partners for sex; a 'cruisy; place or event is one where a lot of 'cruising' takes place)." (Out of the Closet and into Chastity by DAVID C. MORRISON)

        Their early lives acted as testimonies to the power and love of God. Each had an encounter, subtle and profound, with God, which changed their lives. For those looking for hope, for strength, for truth, their stories give that all those things. As if to say, "As you are now, I was. As I am now, you can be." For those not seeking the truth, and/or seeking justification instead, their testimonies are sources of attack. Paul could be called a hypocrite, a traitor. A man who persecuted on one hand, then went fanatical on the other extreme. Peter could, and has, been derided for his weakness. "How can he be the rock, the good shepherd on earth, when it was he who denied Christ three times, and Christ called satan?" St. Francis of Assisi was called mad for his turn around. And I have no doubt that David Morrison has been accused of living in denial or of never really being gay.

        This is one of the values of sin, that those who lived lives contrary to what God calls us to, can, and have, returned to Him, making Him the center of their lives instead of themselves. Each of us have one or more 'sin' we are trying to control, eliminate, etc. We aren't perfect, but we are called to at least try to be. Let's say sin is gravity, and we are called to climb this mountain called life because a flood as heading down the valley which will sweep all away in death. High above us is the City of God, where safety awaits We may see three sorts of 'climbers'. There are those who climb and struggle all the way to the top. Trying to help and encourage others around them. It isn't that they've reached the top yet, but want to try and help others reach it. There are climbers who go so far, then stop. "Well, I'm on the mountain. That's good enough." They are far from their goal, their safe haven. They risk being swept along by the flood. When someone comes along trying to help urging them higher, they accuse them of judging them, of meddling in their business. Then there are those who do not climb at all. "We're perfectly safe here, there is no need to try and climb the mountain of God. No doubt He will divert the water (if it's really coming) and save us anyway." They may even ridicule those climbing at all, and encourage them to come back down and join them. These testimonies give hope to everyone, regardless of how small or great their sin is.

        But the greatest value of sin is that it gives God the opportunity to show His magnanimous love and mercy for us. He loves us all, those climbing on the mountain, those stopped along it's sides, and those refusing to climb. He waits for us to turn to Him, and His Divine Mercy, so He can uphold us, bring us to Him, help us on our journey. But many refuse and reject His love, His mercy. That is how St. Paul can write, "Ever since the creation of the world His invisible nature, namely, His eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse; for although they knew God they did not honor Him as God or give thanks to Him, but they became futile in their thinking and their senseless minds were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man or birds or animals or reptiles. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator, Who is blessed for ever! Amen" (Rom. 1:20-25)

        It isn't that God 'abandoned' them to their sin, but rather let's them do as they please, rejecting God, His commands, and mercy. This is dangerous to those who do this, because what they reject isn't just a philosophy or a relative truth, just another rock, but the corner stone. "The very stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner? Every one who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces; but when it falls on any one it will crush him" (Luke 20: 17-18).

        Cardinal Giacomo Biffi of Bologna, speaking on "Christocentrism in Contemporary Theology" noted that God allows evil "to demonstrate [His] merciful love, able to overcome every rebellion and defeat, any stubbornness." Of course God 'could' have made a world free of evil and sin, but "in it there would not be room for the value of a creature who humbly recognizes its faults, nor the penitent love which only a soul which has sinned can bestow on the Father, nor above all the redemptive affection of Christ, who dies for our salvation." (Christocentrism in Contemporary Theology, Cardinal Giacomo Biffi)

        "You are My friends if you do what I command you" (John 15:14). "Obedience is what distinguishes Christianity; for example, from Gnosticism, a religious and philosophical doctrine stating that it is possible to obtain salvation through the sole avenue of knowledge. Today we have many Christianities that become a kind of gnosticism, because they are satisfied with academic knowledge, and want nothing to do with obedience." (Homily of Cardinal Ratzinger, April 13, 2000)

        "Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man or birds or animals or reptiles" (Romans 1:22-23). "I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus Who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word, be urgent in season and out of season, convince, rebuke, and exhort, be unfailing in patience and in teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own likings, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander into myths" (2 Timothy 4:1-4)

        While the rest of the world scoffs and ridicules us for our obedience, the testimonies of sinners shows the truth of Christ's words. "Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me; for I am gentle and humble of heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light" (Matthew 11: 28-30).

        And "What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. So it is not the will of My Father who is in Heaven that one of these little ones should perish" (Matthew 18:12-14).

        He who is forgiven much, loves the most. (ref. Luke 7:47)

    Pax Christi, Pat

          

may 9, 2000
volume 11, no. 89
VIEW FROM THE PEW


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