In Acts 17, St. Paul confronts the Athenians, particularly the Epicureans, Stoics, and visiting people, who seek novelty, on the Ares Hill about his teaching on Christ. St. Paul starts with this statement in verses 22-23: Ἄνδρες, Ἀθηναῖοι, κατὰ πάντα ὡς δεισιδαιμονεστέρους ὑμᾶς θεωρῶ διερόμενος γάρ καὶ ἀναθεωρῶν τὰ σεβάσματα ὑμῶν εὗρον καὶ βωμὸν ἐν ᾧ ἐπεγέγραπτο Ἀγνώστῳ Θεῷ ὃ οὖν ἀγνοοῦντες εὐεβεῖτε τοῦτο ἐγὼ καταγγέλλω ὑμῖν (Men, Athenians, I behold you in all things more religious than others.
In 1 Peter 3:15, St. Peter writes to us: Κύριον δὲ τὸν Χριστὸν ἁγιάσατε ἐν ταῖς καρδίαις ὑμῶν ἕτοιμοι ἀεὶ πρὸς ἀπολογίαν παντὶ τῷ αἰτοῦντι ὑμᾶς λόγον περὶ τῆς ἐν ὑμῖν ἐλπίδος ἀλλὰ μετὰ πραΰητος καὶ φόβου (Now you all set apart Lord Christ in your hearts, prepared on every occasion for a defense to all demanding from you a reason concerning the hope in you, but with mildness and respect)
When a Pharisee asked Jesus what the greatest commandment in the law is, Jesus responded with the two greatest commandments: loving God and loving neighbor (see Mt 22:34-40). The two greatest commandments of God center on love (Greek: ἀγάπη). Naturally, readers of this passage might wonder, how do I love God and my neighbor? Loving anything (or anyone) requires two steps: (1) choosing the object of one's love and (2) going out to the object loved and uniting with it.
When Jesus comes before Pontius Pilate in the Gospel of John, Jesus shows us what truth is (a Person), and each person needs to have truth in the heart to hear Jesus's voice and be led to Him, who is Truth. When Pilate first brings Jesus into the praetorium, Pilate asks Jesus whether he is the King of the Jews. Jesus immediately answers him, asking whether Pilate's question came from within himself or he (Pilate) simply wanted to confirm what others were saying about Jesus being or claiming to be the King of the Jews.
St. John of the Cross’s doctrine on union with God demonstrates that when we remove what is contrary to God in ourselves, God will unite to us closer and closer in love. The nature of this union is not one of essence; we do not become God. Rather, we are so close to God in this union that we, by participation, become like God. To understand how we retain our identities as human persons when we unite with God, we need to understand the distinction between essence and existence and its relationship to God’s primary mode of presence in all existents.
During the time of Jesus’s birth, all subjects and citizens of the Empire had to submit to census by decree of Caesar Augustus, who was the nephew of Julius Caesar and was considered the first emperor of the Roman Empire. He was referred to as Princeps Civitatis (First Citizen). The census showed off Augustus’s greatness: the number of people in his Empire and under his rule quantified his power. Big numbers represent money and power, both of which allowed him to enact his own will on others.
Most people are cognizant of their ability to use their gifts or talents in life. But they often don’t consider the origin of those gifts and the necessity of that origin to maintain those gifts if they are going to use them. The origin of their gifts provides a foundation of borrowed being. People should be more cognizant of their borrowed being because they wouldn’t be able to use their gifts if they didn’t have that existence.
All knowledge begins with sense wonder. The human person encounters something that is unknown, and wonder, as a species of fear, acts as the origin of the human person's journey to understand what that something is by nature. Wonder engages with sense experience but with an openness to this previously unknown something. The human person has different types of knowledge: on the one hand, a person may rest after discovering why 2+2=4; on the other hand, a person may rest after choosing to love another person.
Carmelite spirituality is known for contemplation and prayer, but less is said about the type of actions that are fitting for a person who follows the Carmelite way of perfection. What I’m about to tell you may sound painfully unwitty at first, but stay with me for a moment: the type of actions that are fitting for Carmelites are good actions. Refusing to love or conform to God’s will defeats the purpose of prayer.
When you think of spiritual perfection, do you ever consider where your journey toward perfection begins? I mean in terms of the human person—you know, the body and soul and all that constitutes them—where does the journey begin? You might be surprised when I tell you this, but the journey actually begins through the senses. Why the senses? Because the senses are the place where all human persons begin their interaction with being (reality).
Attaining spiritual perfection and union with God requires doing things we at first don't want to do. One of these things is letting go of attachments that keep us from doing what God calls us to. We often don't recognize what we are attached to, but the spiritual life requires identifying these attachments as we strive for spiritual perfection and union with God. This is sort of a silly example, but maybe you discern that God is calling you to learn how to paint, but you really like watching TV in your free time even when nothing particularly edifying is on.
I recently posted the following question in our community: what is the number one thing you could do today to show mercy toward someone who hurt you? What surprised me was not the answers I read from other members, but my own. I had to think about this question for a minute. Not only was I feeling that the possibilities were restricted by physical distance, like living in different places, but I also wanted to choose something I would actually do; otherwise, the question-and-answer process would be a waste of time.
Suffering is supposed to be redemptive, but we often fail to think of its redemptive nature when we're in the midst of suffering. We concentrate on the physical, emotional, or mental pain, sometimes crumble under the weight of the pain (either physically or spiritually), and ultimately, if the pain continues for long enough, break. St. John of the Cross wisely advises us on how to suffer: In tribulation, immediately draw near to God with trust, and you will receive strength, enlightenment, and instruction.
A few days ago, I learned that a friend of mine passed away. I was devastated when I heard the news, and I didn’t believe it at first. It must have been a mistake, I thought. He was too good to die; the world needs him. Grief is a natural process that all people go through when a loved one passes away. Christians go through the stages of grief. They don’t stop being sad just because they’re Christian.