Greetings on this the Memorial of Saint Ambrose, Bishop and Doctor of the Church
Readings: IS 35:1-10; PS 85:9AB AND 10, 11-12, 13-14; LK 5:17-26
Salvation is a journey
In Isaiah/Psalms we read: It is for those with a journey to make, and on it the redeemed will walk. And during the journey, They will meet with joy and gladness, sorrow and mourning will flee. Kindness and truth shall meet; justice and peace shall kiss. Along the way.
Continued Dialog of Law versus Mercy
Like I so often say, we agree on most of this but I fail to communicate where the emphasis should be or if I have not failed then simply you disagree that Law, as you are so confident of, is the final determinant of the actions of our just society.
I cannot seem to convince you that Jesus taught otherwise.
Let me just give a brief reply to a few critical responses to your major points.
1. God’s law concerning sexual sin is pretty clear and consistent. His law is a growing and changing process of encounter where the overall movement is to treat the problems with mercy. I haven’t seen anyone stoned in a while nor forcing a woman to wear a scarlet letter A on her dress. Man has placed many overlays to the divine law regarding sexuality and sexual acts. There is a distinct difference between what is wrong and how it is handled. Mercy doesn’t approve of sin. Mercy looks through and beyond the sin to the managing of the consequences and the pathway forward to the organic growth of habit to the avoidance of sin – spiritual conversion.
2. Go and sin no more. Here is a perfect example. Jesus prescribes the perfect solution for her of course (John 8). Do you realize that it is quite likely she did again anyway. Each time he healed he gave similar admonishment giving the proper spiritual care yet knowing the powerful draw of concupiscence.
3. Laws are important. Yes, secondary to mercy. My argument remains that the emphasis of the effort should be on mercy. You seem to want to argue that I oppose the CCC. No, I am applying the law within the CCC.
4. Actions under the guise of love, mercy and grace that ENCOURGE additional sinful behavior. This is an opinion that I find most troubling. I suppose you are abstracting some of the wild things people say and do that are out of bounds of my scope. At least that is my hope. I am not defending the infinite number of crazy things people say and do. So this comment is just your waxing on along a line of reasoning that moves toward other beliefs beyond Christian beliefs. More of a cultural slant.
5. So all of this mess is from following the laws of the Church? Here you are on the attack because of your closely held beliefs. I am talking on how to apply the law. Did you not read Pope John Paul II opinion of canon law (Sacrae Disciplinae Leges)? He, fully opposed to abortion, also feared the pharasitic dangers of the use of the canon on this moral issues. This knowing full well the clear and unambiguous canons regarding abortion. He is speaking of application thereof.
6. Single motherhood. Not sure what to say. Single motherhood is a problem of long duration beginning in ancient times, i.e., the beginning. Do you think every reference to Widows and Orphans used in scripture is simply about widows and orphans? It is polite description of abandoned women. This is a well understood literary technique in scripture. From now on when you read widow and orphan read instead ‘and all the women abandoned in their pregnancy and with their children’. And if you can allow, even for a moment, the woman in radical contradiction to herself and her unborn, i.e., Wisdom of Solomon.
7. Prescriptions. I provided prescriptions below that you ignored except to say bundled within the idea that they bring more harm than good and more tragically that until you get the precise law you want (because no there is not an exact understanding of perfect civil law) no actions in this regard should be done or frankly not likely to even be done given the parallel thoughts on social policy. Eek!
Law/Mercy – I am perfectly OK that my arguments do not penetrate. I can see how Law brings a certain clarity that is a very attractive framework within to resolve the issue intellectually with clear and precise boundaries. My frame of reference is different and holds to the other Church tradition of storytelling and reconciliation.
The two approaches often clash in miscommunication.
So let us go back to the application of divine law again in the Gospel of Matthew 1:18ff.
Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: when His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit.
Two Basic questions
How do you read this: she was found to be with a child? No EPT sticks. No gynecologists. She told Joseph. She wasn’t discovered. She submitted herself to the law and its consequences. Returning to your woman in the Gospel of John it is a similar venue – Now the scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman caught in the act of adultery, and after placing her in the center of the courtyard, they said…
In your opinion was she, Mary, at risk under the divine law/natural law/positive law? Were both women subject to the penalty of death?
You may be surprised to know that stoning a pregnant woman kills the fetus as well. The Romans, pagans all, at least waited for the baby to be born then killed the woman.
How do you understand the subjection of Law in Mercy? And Joseph, her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly. Where is this secret place? A sanctuary city? Does she now qualify as a widow?
Do you think as noted earlier in the Widows and Orphans reply that the only reason Mary was to be kept was because the baby was of the Holy Spirit? Really? Mercy is reserved for God alone?
But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.
Devolved to Law
The Church has devolved the discussion to law and not mercy (repeating myself). We’ve let the modern day Pied Piper of Hamelin take the high ground. Do you remember the story? He lured away the problem mice but when he didn’t get what he wanted he lured away the children too.
Francis and Ambrose
Pope Francis has been begging the American Church to reimagine how we approach the problem of radical contradiction of woman and child.
His pleas are falling on deaf ears.
Perhaps we can look to Saint Ambrose this morning together.
This ancient, pre-Christian era theology is well known in the Old Testament. Moses, Job and Isaiah all looked to take on the displeasure of God in order to win favor for the one who sinned.
Saint Paul, Col 1:24, rejoiced in his suffering, in himself, for the expiation of others.
In his letter to Timothy, and in my letter to you, I am even now ready to be sacrificed.
Saint Ambrose wrote on the importance of consecrated virginity as the vicarious merits attained for those who fall. Women helping women.
We are talking past each other but yes we are talking!
Love you Brother and I know you love Christ too!! I’ll serve anywhere in the world with you in Christ. We are going through a purgation of thought and a refinement of spirit is all that is happening.
Deacon Gerry Palermo