Tag Archives: Commonweal

Temptations are Teachers

There are two wonderful posts in the blogs from Commonweal Magazine for March 22,

One by  Fr. Joseph Komonchak, “Finding  out who you are,” the other by J.Peter Nixon “Spiritual Excercises.”

The first is a quote from St. Augustine on temptation. I hope Fr. Komonchak wont mind if  I give in to the temptation to steal from him:

“Is God so ignorant of things, does he know so little about the human heart, that he can find what a man is only by testing him? Of course not, the testing is so that the man can find himself….

“You should recognize that God does not need to test in order to learn something he did not know before; it’s so that by his testing, by his investigating, what is hidden in someone might come out. A person is not as well known to himself as he is to his Creator, an ill person doesn’t know himself as well as his doctor. Someone becomes ill, and he’s the one suffering, not the doctor, but it’s from the one not suffering that the sufferer expects to hear what’s wrong.

“The Psalmist cries out: “Cleanse me, Lord, from my hidden things” (Ps 18:13). In any person there are things hidden to the very one in whom they exist. They don’t come out, aren’t laid open, aren’t discovered, except by his being tested. If God ceases to test, the teacher ceases to teach….

“Why do I say this? Because a person is ignorant of himself until he learns who he is by being tested. But once he has learned who he is, let him not be careless about himself. If he was careless when he lay hidden from himself, let him not be careless now that he knows himself.” (Augustine, Sermon 2, 2-3; PL 38-28-29)

St. Paul of the Cross has a similar view of temptation, as far as my reading of him teaches me. He tells people not to be afraid of temptations, or be ashamed of them; they’re teachers of humility and messengers to remind us who we are.  They lead us to God, our teacher, our doctor, the One who makes us whole.

J.Peter Nixon’s blog is about taking care of your body. See what he says for yourself.


Beauty every ancient, ever new

The recent blogs from America and Commonweal magazines mention Pope Benedict’s new book, Jesus of Nazareth, Part 2, which is due out next week and which devotes a great deal of attention to the gospel narratives of the Passion. The bloggers, like the New York Times yesterday, seem interested mostly in what the pope says about Jewish responsibility for the death of Jesus. Following Nostra Aetate from the Second Vatican Council, Benedict says the Jewish people were not responsible for putting Jesus to death; the Romans and a few Jewish leaders were the primary culprits.

Yet, it would be regrettable to see the pope’s treatment of the Passion narratives only as a lengthy statement about this issue, important as it is. From what I read, he’s doing more. He’s looking at the Passion of Jesus like other believers before have done: as a book that reveals in those harsh and heroic moments the wisdom of God.

He seems to be using insights from modern scholars, new tools that can add to the way we reflect on this great story. The Passion of Jesus has always been “the well-trained tongue” that God uses to speak to us, but we may not hear it so well today, and the pope is reminding us of its power and glory.

We tend to say “I’ve heard that already. I know the story.” But it’s a revelation of God and humanity;  “a Beauty ever ancient, ever new.”

Nearing his death, Paul of the Cross was supposed to have pointed to the crucifix over his bed and said to the brother caring for him, “Give me my book.” That seems to be what the pope is doing also.