This is a blog that I post to several times a week although not necessarily daily. These reflections are triggered by the scripture found in the lectionary used by many Christian denominations. While I am part of the Catholic tradition, these posts are not --or rarely--sectarian. I try to put myself in the space of a of Jesus Christ and listen to words that come to me as I read and pray the scriptures. Each post also includes a photograph. These rarely have any connection to the content of the post but are simply pleasing images that I capture as I make my pilgrimage through life.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Maybe I learned too many things

Cancun Sunrise
As for you,the anointing that you received from him remains in you,so that you do not need anyone to teach you. But his anointing teaches you about everything and is true and not false; just as it taught you, remain in him.  1 John 2:27
The Message renders the last line with a bit more impact:  "Live deeply in what you were taught....Live deeply in Christ."  The practice of infant baptism sometimes can make it more difficult to get to the core of the message of Christ.  John is writing to those who as adults heard the Good News and experienced the conversion of soul brought about by faith in the Son of God.  He cautions them about those who would purport to "teach" them about that faith and spirit.  His warning should not be taken to mean that we should not use our human intelligence in the search for deeper understanding but rather that we have to be on our guard lest that search for understanding obscure the core reality of our anointing by and into the Son of the Divine One.

For most of us, however, this anointing took place in the sacrament of baptism which we received when we were infants.  Religious education seeks to form us in Christian values and life style as we proceed from childhood into adulthood.  Sometime this formation is interrupted and stopped before adulthood and we can be left with a childish understanding that fails us when confronted with the realities and challenges of adult life.  My difficulty was not that but rather a different issue.  I was taught so many different things about my faith that it was easy to lose sight of the core truth and become focused on peripheral practices and understandings.

Robert Michels, a German sociologist of the 19th century wrote of "goal displacement" as an all too frequent danger of modern organizations.  I think it is also applicable to individuals.  We begin with a goal that is important and one that we very much want to achieve.  As human beings we create or adopt policies and practices that seem to help us achieve this goal and, in fact, they very often do.  But since change is an essential part of human life, over time the goal or at least our understanding of it changes.  More likely the means which we have used to achieve the goal are less and less effective and it is necessary to adjust or even jettison them in favor of new approaches.  However, human being can very easily become committed to the the various means and lose sight of the over all goal that generated the means in the first place.

As a social endeavor, Christianity developed a culture that included a church--and later various churches and denominations--and a elaborate set of personal and group practices, i.e., prayer, sacraments, liturgies, education, etc.   All of these were developed to achieve the goal of living a Christian life but it too often happened that the means became the much too important focus of the Christian life.  As long as I said my prayers, went to church, and generally engaged in a set of cultural practices, I would be saved...somehow.  What was often lost is exactly what John is describing in this passage.

When we received the spirit of the Divine One through the Son, we entered into the very life of the Trinity in a real if yet incomplete way.  We are to live deeply in that reality, deeply in Christ.  Nothing that can be taught to us can change that reality although what we are taught can distract and misled us.  The test is always not what we say or even what we do as much as it is who we are and how we live out the reality of Christ within us.  Jesus gave us a simple path to follow:  love the Divine One before all else and love all others, even our enemies, as ourselves.  That is what will naturally follow from our living deeply in Christ.

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