In the School of Mary, the idea is to remain faithful to one simple line: presenting and explaining “Spiritual Theology”.
“Spiritual Theology” being a fundamental tool at the service of our “spiritual life”, a fundamental place in the Church for a deeper understanding of the Gospel. We won’t wonder out of this “frame” or out of this “line”. The contents of the teaching is huge: there is a lot to be done. Practical topics are in huge number.
Another point: Even if knowledge doesn’t make us saints (that would be “gnosticism”), study, done under the Light and Love of God, can be source of many graces, especially if we do care to put it into practice.
Despite many good and positive things in the earthly side of the Church, there is an ongoing deep crisis coming from many factors. One main positive one (that very few do mention) is that the “modern” (I should say: “post modern”, or “sand age time”) the human being is really very demanding, much more than his ancestors. His capacities are bigger. Bigger than his grand parents… or his great grand parents. He needs more, requires more from God, from Jesus, from the Church, from the Priest, from the Monk, and mainly from the “Spiritual Master”. He wants proofs, he wants experience, he can’t be fooled with two or three good words, he can’t be fooled with just a “moral law”, or “good will”. This is why bombarding him with words that start with: “you have to believe”, “you have to attend this service”, “you have to act this way”, “you have to go and do this” don’t really work today. They did work in a more traditional christian world. It is not the case today. He needs experience. He wants to try God. There is a deep thirst for experience. On top of that, the market is very challenging: not only we are not the centre of the “civilised world”, we are simply a minority. Plus, how many meditation classes or gurus are around today? They got the point, we (catholics) didn’t really yet. In a way it is a bit late. But, never mind, the work is still here, in front of us, but just hugely accumulated. Piles and piles and piles. Just: let us work.
I love the challenge that “sand man” offers to Jesus’ Message. I feel that much more can come out, and slightly different. The “capacity”, the “container” is just bigger.
The starting point
Our starting point is simple, but huge: there are tons of Graces that Jesus wants to pour in us.
This is not “a philosophy”, or “an abstract concept”, or “a fashion”. It is a reality. Jesus wants to give Himself to us. But we sort of:
1- don’t really know that enough
2- and, mostly, we are sort of lost when it comes to practicality: how can we receive of that amount of Love and Graces? What are we supposed to do in order to receive it?
So, this is our starting point, and this our “my philosophy”. By the grace of God, we won’t get sidetracked from that line.
Remember the grace that saint Thérèse received the 9th of June 1895: God makes her discover how much He wants to love her, how much He still wants to give her. “This year, the 9th of Jun, feast of the Holy Trinity, I received the grace of understanding more than ever how much Jesus desires to be loved.” (“Cette année le 9 Juin fête de la Sainte Trinité, j’ai reçu la grâce de comprendre plus que jamais combien Jésus désire être aimé.”) (saint Thérèse, Autobiography, Manuscript A, end)
Or, if you prefer, we are standing beside the Apostles (hiding behind the curtains) during the moment they are gathered in the Upper-room with Mary, and they receive the Holy Spirit. Weare watching the effects of the Action of the Holy Spirit, and trying to follow the trail of the Holy Spirit during 20 centuries. The Torrents of Love, that God wants to give us, and how we received them in the past, and what we learned (an accumulated huge experience, knowledge and wisdom).
Too much of a violent preaching
Would we try to understand why is he speaking so violently, and condemning his fellow brothers? Can’t he just speak about the Love of God and His Mercy, and stop condemning people? A bit rough. But monks can sometimes be rough. Especially if they are the kind of “spiritual” ones.
Can’t this preaching be coming out of love? Well, you would say: “well rightly so, but he should speak more about the Love of God”. – Well he is rightly saying that people are not making any effort to receive that Love.
Well I’ll get you out of your misery because you must be wondering: – what is he trying to say? – Well, frankly I find today’s Gospel (Matthew 8:5-17) very “politically incorrect” or, if you prefer, I find that the world we live in is simply dying out of “political correctness”.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus, has just finished his great Sermon of the Mountain, and just healed one man from his leper and now is healing a non-jewish person. Like, if you prefer, put in today’s terms: healing a Hindu, or a Muslim or an Atheist. He finds that this “Atheist” (a Roman soldier of some sort) has more faith than the catholics (just to put it into perspective). So, with no warning at all: Jesus starts to send all the Catholics to Hell. So you wonder: why? What happened? No warning?
This is too violent! Please don’t try to turn a blind eye onto that. It is too obvious, and please just: face it. Jesus is extremely violent with Catholics. Just imagine Him saying the same today: “Amen, I say to you, in no one in the Catholic Church have I found such faith. I say to you, many will come from the east and the west, and will recline with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob at the banquet in the kingdom of heaven, but the children of the kingdom (the Catholics) will be driven out into the outer darkness, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.” (see Mt 8:5-17)
Put this way: it is a bit too much, isn’t it?
We are very calmly sure that “all is fine” and, suddenly, a huge final storm comes and sends us to Hell (the “outer darkness”). You can’t dilute this violent statement, and its violent contents. Please don’t try to find excuses. The matter is serious. Jesus’ contemporary Jews were what we are today: people who received everything: all the Promises, all the Prophets, all the Graces in order to receive their Messiah. Well, we are worse: we have Him amongst us. So our condemnation should be immensely bigger.
Are Jesus’ contemporary Jews worse than us? Not sure about that. Why would God treat people worse than others? Is He unjust?
But the thing is that you’ll read today’s Gospel, and feel fine, untouched, (you are the “caste of the untouchables”) and you’ll sleep well. Amazing isn’t it? You’ll continue to go to Sunday Mass, and feel fine.
Now, how this relates to “Spiritual Theology”?
“Spiritual Theology” tells us about the “tons and tons” of graces Jesus wants to pour in us. It shows us what to do in order to receive them. It explains to us what will happen, the transformation that will occur in us. Great no?
In today’s Gospel Jesus is commenting on the quality and characteristics of the faith of a non-jewish Roman soldier.
“When he entered Capernaum, a Centurion approached him and appealed to him, saying, “Lord, my servant is lying at home paralysed, suffering dreadfully.” He said to him, “I will come and cure him.” The centurion said in reply, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof; only say the word and my servant will be healed. For I too am a person subject to authority, with soldiers subject to me. And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come here,’ and he comes; and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”
When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, “Amen, I say to you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith. I say to you, many will come from the east and the west, and will recline with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob at the banquet in the kingdom of heaven, but the children of the kingdom will be driven out into the outer darkness, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.”
And Jesus said to the centurion, “You may go; as you have believed, let it be done for you.” And at that very hour (his) servant was healed.” (Mt 8:5-17)
The soldier is actually a Centurion, he has subalterns under his orders. He explains to Jesus how he understands order and execution. And in God, “order” and “execution” are immediate. There is no distance in God between “saying something” and “having the capacity to realise it”. When God says something, He can do it, immediately. The soldier said to Jesus that he believes that it works like that for Jesus. The soldier is totally opened to the fact that Jesus is capable of “saying/wanting something” and “putting it into practice” immediately.
The act of faith is not about just a mere general concept of the existence of God (Like: “I believe in God”). The act of faith here is about the fact that Jesus is capable of doing what He wants; that if He wants it now, He can do it. He has the capacity to do it.
The Centurion is opened to the Power that is enclosed in Jesus. He is opened to the Action of this Power.
One must add: it is a Power of Healing, a power orientated toward Salvation, toward changing the human being body, soul and spirit. Or if you prefer: spirit, soul, and body.
I like the Pope John Paul IIs definition of faith: “faith, in its deepest essence, is the openness of the human heart to the gift: to God’s self-communication in the Holy Spirit.” (“Dominum et vivificantem”, 51). If you wonder what is “Dominum et vivificantem”? well it is Pope John Paul II Encyclical Letter on the Holy Spirit. (You can find it here)
“the openness of the human heart to the […] Holy Spirit”.
Jesus praises the quality of the faith of that Centurion. The quality. The openness of that man to the Action of the Holy Spirit. Jesus gives the Holy Spirit. He is called: “Messiah” because He is full of the Holy Spirit, and He is the Giver of the Holy Spirit (“He breathed on them” (John 20:22)). When you see a picture like the following one, please do think that these Rays that come out of Jesus’ Heart are nothing but the Holy Spirit Himself. (remember to ask for the Holy Spirit)
The mission of “Spiritual Theology” is to understand the transformative Action of the Holy Spirit in us.
So, when you say: “I do believe in such and such”, or, “I don’t believe in such and such”, just remember that believing means: to open my heart, to open myself (and ask for it) to the Action of the Holy Spirit. Our main study should be: understanding, according to the Mystics, what He wants to realise in us. Step by step.
Back to square one
Now, back to that “violence”. Why would one has to be violent when he preaches the Kingdom of God?
You can have all the interpretations you want, the nice soft ones, and the rought and tough ones. In the end of the day, when you visit your dear friend for his/her birthday, and offer your gift that you carefully prepared from weeks and he or she rejects your gift, and loves his other friends ones, what would you do?? I leave you free to express your feelings in that very moment, to understand your feelings. But remember: that was Jesus’ Case… He prepared His Gift, He came to give it to you… and you went after other people’s gifts.
Today, His violence wouldn’t work in our “correct world”. Would that change anything to our final destination (the “outer darkness”)? The person who doesn’t receive the Gift of God, as the mystics describe it, aren’t they politically, correctly, in the “outer”, correct, political, “darkness”? Hell….
Let us be fair, He tries all the tools in the box and people don’t want. He didn’t put them in Hell… By not receiving His Gift, they are out of the reach of His Action. They don’t want to receive his Gift, so, as a consequence: they don’t know what is His Gift… they have no experience of it. Heaven or Hell are not God’s arbitrary last minute decision: they are simply ours, during our lifetime on earth. You don’t want His Gift? He won’t force you to have it (as dramatic as it sounds). As a consequence: you don’t have it. He won’t impose it on you last minute. It can’t even be imposed, it requires your will, your desire.
Simple physics! “Simple…!”
(How many christians today don’t have a clue of “what is the Holy Spirit?”, “what is His Action in us”, “what are the graces that saint Theresa of Avila describes”, for instance… they just put their conscience in sleep mode, thinking that “Sunday Mass is enough”. Hell… no. Many pastors do lead them as well to this conclusion. (well, sprinkled with a bit of a moral theology, or of some biblical lucubrations)
In today’s Gospel, Jesus used the word “hell”… he called it: the “outer darkness”…
Let us leave the “outer darkness” and learn about His Gift and what we are supposed to do in order to receive it. “Spiritual Theology”…. yes please…