📖(22 min. read) Tough-minded, Tender-hearted (On ideology,blindness and sin)

Written at a previous time of confusion and uncertainty -  the height of the cold war and just after the Toxteth riots in Liverpool - Tom emphasises that the kingdom of God is already here and not dependent on our efforts.  He counsels us to pay attention to the social realities of our time so that we set our agenda for understanding the 'hope that is in us'. May 1985, Ince Benet (5952 words)

When I was thirteen our R.K. master explained to us that the gravity of sin depended on three things. It depended on how Serious was the matter, how much one Intended to do it, and how much one kNew what one was doing. And we could remember that, as I still do, don’t I, by the letters S.I.N. (a slight wobble allowed on the third one).

That was, for the time being, excellent instruction and I still remember joining in suggested examples to illustrate each element. If one stole half a crown from someone who had money it could not be gravely sinful because the matter was not serious enough really to engage one’s whole person – but what about stealing ten pounds? Or stealing half a crown from someone who was poor?

It was not nit-picking casuistry but, at that age, a wise release from a lurking fear of falling into serious sin all over the place (in fact one could not fall into sin, only jump, want to be pushed, or slide. (That was the ‘I’ bit and the ‘N’ bit).

After five more school years and two more in the navy, I found myself as a novice beginning to get to know the psalms. And as time went on it dawned on me that the psalmist like the prophets, had a different idea about sin and sinners. The ‘wicked’, the ‘sinners’, the ‘fools’, were not those who worked evil in the world knowingly but those who worked evil, oppressed others, were pompous and go-getting as a social fact. It didn’t seem to matter much whether or not they knew what they were doing, whether they felt guilty or not. If anything, their ignorance and lack of answerability made things worse for them, not better – at least as the psalmist saw things.

Later on another doubt assailed my childhood S.I.N. In the gospels Jesus seemed to manage much better among people who did not behave very well than he did among those who behaved impeccably. Maybe what he was on about was not simply to get people to behave well? Maybe the good news in Jesus Christ was something much more than ethics and moral virtue? Maybe there is a good beyond the ethical good, and an evil beyond the ethical bad? Maybe Mary of Magdala did have something which Simon the pharisee had missed?

And finally I found myself wondering why, on a number of occasions in the gospels, those who are sick or afflicted are assumed also to be in sin. At first I thought that it was a long out-dated primitive way of thinking – to assume that material or mental affliction was a curse from God and must be the outcome of sin. Wasn’t the whole book of Job trying to get away with that infantile attitude?

But then in unguarded moments I caught myself thinking like that. I’d meet someone afflicted in some way and find myself, almost subconsciously, saying ‘of course if they pulled themselves together…’ or ‘if they were more like me…’ It was a defence mechanism deep in my psyche in the presence of a really wounded brother or sister, a technique for keeping my own self image intact, of distancing myself from their woundedness which would otherwise have to be mine also.

For years these thoughts floated around in my head and my heart, and only recently – as is the way if we live with ambiguities long enough – some light dawned while pondering chapter 9 in John’s gospel, his beautiful and wittily told story of the man born blind. Read it if you can, before we go on.

-//-

The story unfolds thus:

1. Jesus covers the man’s eyes with a poultice and sends him to recover his sight in the pool. (As usual Jesus demands an action of faith to enable the cure.)

2. The man is summoned to the authorities, some of whom can see nothing in Jesus’ action except that it should not have been done on the Sabbath.

3. The man’s parents are summoned, but dodge getting involved in the issue.

4. The authorities again summon the man, who by this time has discovered a freedom and vigour that must have amazed even himself. At one point he taunts them by asking; why are you so fascinated by Jesus? Are you going to join him? (A little bit like someone asking a Minister of Defence: why are you so fascinated by C.N.D. ? are you signing on?) They eventually drive him out, saying that he is a sinner through and through, because of his blindness since birth.

5. Jesus goes in search of the man, who until then had never seen Jesus. And a typically Johannine dialogue ensues, each phrase reflecting our own call to faith:

Do you believe in the Son of Man?

Tell me who he is.

You are looking at him and he is speaking to you

I do believe.

-//-

Now this story is told by John between an opening and a closing question and answer. They are crucial to the story:

Q. Did this man or his parents sin that he should be born blind?

A. Neither he nor his parents sinned.

Q. (the authorities) We are not blind surely?

A. Since you say “We see” your guilt remains.

These opening and closing brackets to the story highlight its central theme – that in the actions of Jesus the accepted norms of who is OK and who is not OK are reversed, i.e. he becomes a judgement on accepted norms. “It is for judgement that I have come… so that those without sight may see and those with sight turn blind.”

-//-

In order to grasp in a more contemporary way what was going on in John chapter 9 it may be easiest to reflect on our modern understanding of ideology.

The word was coined at the beginning of the last century by a French philosopher, and has been used in a variety of ways since then. Marx, for instance, used it to support his theses that all our ideas are socially conditioned by class structures. Others have used ideology to describe that set of ideas we have to interpret life but which in fact cover for our emotional insecurity. Ideology defines what is true, for our own interests, and prevents us perceiving truth in a disinterested, even threatening, way.

Today the word is used either in a neutral sense to describe that set of ideas or symbols which each of us has to enable us to understand ourselves and what is going on in our world or it is used in a pejorative sense to refer to a dominant ideology in society – dominant in that it belongs to a certain set of people who make their ideology normative for everyone else, and dominant also in that the ideas embedded in the ideology are more important than the people and events they are seeking to understand.

In Jesus’ day the dominant ideology was the Law. In our day the dominant ideologies are: Russian-style Marxism; Western-individualist-capitalism, when legitimised by theories of the New Right, or baptised by Born Again Christian moralism; Islamic Fundamentalism.

Christian faith is not in itself an ideology, being centred in a person rather than a set of ideas – though Christians have been, and are, adept at reducing it to an ideology. (Apparently Dubcek was encouraged to embark on his liberalising of communism in Czechoslovakia by meeting Catholic student friends at university and realising how the Church was seeking to recover its authentic faith and life from the grip of ideology.)

There are common characteristics in dominant ideologies. And to clarify these may help us to appreciate both what Jesus was confronting in his day and also clarify where our confrontations should lie today.

-//-

1) An ideology is born out of high-minded, well intentioned and often long cherished thinking.

The Law, in itself, was a beautiful portrayal of how human affairs should mirror the affairs of God.

Western individualism, in so far as it seeks to express the unique dignity and freedom of every person, can hardly be questioned.

Marx’s insight into the political and economic interdependence of different classes was a re-emergence of what everyone claims to believe: that we are members one of another.

Ideologies are plausible, mentally attractive, even addictive, because they are born of high-minded truth.

2) Ideology reduces the fulness of life to limited criteria.

The language of an ideology is limited to certain criteria, goes round and round within those limited criteria and becomes ever more competent within its own tunnel. In so doing it forces life into its own mould, so that instead of thought enabling us to understand experience and life, it dominates them.

The law was made for man, not man for the law. Again and again in the Gospels and in St Paul one hears that cardinal message of freedom: that the Law cannot deliver, of itself, that which the Law is all about.

We live in an equally reductionist age. For the sake of coherence life is reduced to politics, politics to economics, economics to finances. Man is made for cash, not cash for man. And anyone who questions that is assumed to be a dreamer with feet a mile off the ground.

3) Because the language and vision are tunnelled, ideology is able to be extremely forthright and persuasive.

Just as there is forthrightness that comes from breadth of vision, love of truth, and unconcern for self, so there is a forthrightness that comes from narrowness of vision, a love of being right, and a great concern for self. The latter is especially dangerous when people at large feel lost or fearful. It then becomes highly persuasive because people long to be in the hands of someone who is sure of himself or herself.

4) For those who subscribe to a dominant ideology, it provides a total rationalisation for their own righteous self-image. It relieves them of any moral guilt, any sense of being counted among the sinners.

There is, of course, in each of us a deep desire to keep our self-image intact. We use all sorts of defence mechanisms to remain whole and complete in our own eyes (and hopefully in the eyes of others). Even before God, Thomas tries to remain upright, treating him as a partner who is lucky to have me around; “I am Thomas, Lord; who are you?”

This intactness is superbly retained by high-minded ideas about law keeping and good behaviour (the occupational hazard of scribes and pharisees), it is superbly retained by fundamentalist and moralistic forms of Christian faith. Yet it is precisely that desire to keep oneself whole and O.K. which has to be abandoned, has to be humbled, before we can be set free to perceive and pursue reality – what is really happening to people – even if it shatters our public and private ‘persona’.

5) Those who cannot or choose not to subscribe are, conversely, set up not only as mis-fits but as guilty. As often as not this makes victims into culprits.

In Jesus’ time it was in fact impossible for any but a few to be educated enough to know the law and have sufficient freedom to keep it. Most people were not only second class but seen to be under a sort of curse. This was especially true of those whose disabilities could be clearly named, the lepers, the blind, the mentally sick, or whose home region as a whole made them despised as not being the real thing, the Galileans for instance. All these were somehow ‘accursed and outside the law’, ‘in sin from birth’.

Our present equivalents are no less vicious, even if we are careful not to admit them. In a dominant regime which values self-improvement, getting on in the world, and competition as the only evidence of loyalty, those who cannot cope or choose not to, are set up as misfits and guilty. There is an unvoiced assumption that those who cannot find work could do so if they tried harder or were more ‘like us’. Recent shifts in housing regulations imply that our thousands of homeless families could in fact find homes if they tried harder. The constant reference to inflation being caused by excessive wage demands creates the impression that wage earners are the disloyal wreckers, leaving those on salaries (maybe complete with expense accounts and company cars) as loyal and innocent.

The victims become the culprits.

For Jesus such victimisation was abhorrent. It was not that he subscribed to a contemporary version of what a friend of mine calls ‘the assumption that everything working class is good and middle class is bad’. I don’t think Jesus subscribed to any simplistic ideas that any group as such was morally innocent. But he was adamant that the Father is the ultimate source of life for all people and that to divide them into the just and the unjust (which ideology always does) fails to acknowledge that God’s sun and rain (the ultimate sources of life) fall on the fits and misfits and unfits alike. All are dependent.

When Paul says that Jesus was ‘made sin’, or the gospels reflect on how he took our sins on himself, and was counted among the sinners and outcasts, are they not referring to his option for, and being counted among, the victims-seen-as-culprits? And what are the social and theological implications of that for those who seek to follow him?

6) Those who cannot make it are not only seen to be but see themselves to be guilty.

Because a dominant ideology sets a norm to which everyone is expected to aspire, those who cannot do so come to see themselves as inadequate, somehow accursed, somehow under a bondage of sin.

When Jesus heals the man in John’s story he liberates him from far more than blindness. The man discovers himself to have a place in the world for the first time ever. And at the same time he discovers God to be one who sets him free from that fatalistic bondage and empowers him with amazing confidence: he is not the God who imposes fate. Jesus spent much of his time calling those with a deflated self-image to enter life and history through faith and fearlessness, and those with an inflated self-image to enter life and history through a wholesome fear of God and awareness of their common humanity.

In our society the dominant culture presents a high standard of material well-being, aided by every latest fashion from clothing to electronic devices, as mandatory on everyone. And it is the very nature of advertising to present as mandatory and normative that which is just beyond the experience and reach of most people. The result is a permanent sense of being inadequate, of never quite making it, of being under a sort of curse, never quite to belong. In a local housing estate the word gets round among teenagers that to be ‘in’ this season one must have the latest design in Italian trainer shoes. In order to cope, Mum has three part time jobs to raise the cash to buy off her teenage son, with said trainers – to buy him off partly because she is out of the house so much. We speak of freedom, but the psychological pressures and control mechanisms on people are immense, while all the time being presented as freedom.

We cannot, of course, destroy such domination, but as fools for Christ’s sake it is surely possible to dance free, to live cheerfully by alternatives, to laugh at the moral seriousness of the ideology, to evolve bit by bit and in detail a consumer asceticism, to discover the joy of being at home to ourselves, at home to people and at home to God.

7) “Who is not for us is against us”

A dominant ideology, because it claims to understand the totality of life and have solutions to everything, becomes a false God. It becomes an idol making that claim which God alone can make: I will be faithful to my promises.

The psalmist laughs at such totalitarian claims. Idols, he says, have eyes but cannot see, have ears but cannot hear, have hands but cannot feel. They claim omnipotence, look like the real thing but in the end cannot deliver the life they promise.

But this totalitarian tendency also inevitably sets up the world scene as two-adversary confrontations. There is no room for third parties. The whole issue of history and salvation is presented as the struggle between angels of light and angels of dark, the good and the evil. A social version of the ancient and insidious Manichean heresy. An ultimate denial of the heart of scriptural faith which will not accept the issue of personal or social history as that between a part of creation which is all good and another part all bad. God created all good, but in its historical reality all is good-yet-disordered-and-fallen. Nothing, and no-one, is beyond redemption nor free from the need of redemption.

A dominant ideology, because it is self-righteous, cannot accept this; it can only accept a two-party, good-evil, confrontation. Any third party must be in fact and perhaps unwittingly a tool of the opposite side. Any criticism is subversion, any seeking of alternatives is disloyalty. C.N.D. must be a plaything of the Kremlin. Nicaragua can in no way be a third alternative; (by definition there is no third alternative). National security is absolute, and anyone who questions that must be a traitor. Ah! Jerusalem, Jerusalem, if only you had known the way that is for your peace. But you still murder the prophets… In the face of absolute issues and absolute security it is obvious that one man, ten thousand, six million, should die for the sake of the people.

8) A dominant ideology is inherently violent and needs an enemy.

In our monastic life we often find that intellectually gifted people have a tendency to live so much in a world of ideas that they evade, or at least postpone, getting into contact with their own emotional and intuitive selves, and they tend to deny their own dark space within. Living thus by ideas rather than reality they also tend to be aggressive, judgmental and defensive. Other people become either the victims or the enemies of their own mind-set of ideas.

High-minded ideas provide the best security for one’s own in-tact-ness and the projection onto others of the dark areas ignored in oneself. (A little bit of autobiography!)

At the wider level of dominant ideologies in society the same process operates. It is not only the two paranoid bullies, the U.S. Administration and the Kremlin, who need each other as nameable enemies and who ironically become mirror images to one another. Every nation which is dominated by a single forthright ideology must have enemies. It is in fact their enemies who define their own self-image, and allow them to ignore their own failure and darkness.

9) Finally a dominant ideology, being more concerned to prove itself right (to itself and to the world) than to perceive truth, perverts language to its own ends.

It is worth pondering seriously how it was that the authorities, in John’s story, when presented with the self-evident truth of a man being released from blindness, could see in that nothing but the fact that it broke the Sabbath law and was done by the wrong person. We meet so many parallel cases today – the inability to see anything as good, anything as life-giving, if it comes from the wrong camp.

I think this is more to do with sophisticated blindness than simply malice. It is not that the action of the other camp is seen as good and then carefully re-interpreted (though that of course happens). It is rather that an ideology so dominates the interpretation of what is possible, that the other camp is incapable of goodness or truth. It is only capable, by definition, of P.R. stunts, political manipulation, bad will.

When ideas thus dominate reality, language become their plaything. The USSR has evolved a whole philosophy of the use of language as support for its ideology and not as communication of truth. But the same perversion happens in our own countries. I think of the way the word ‘communist’ is used, even by Catholics who delight to celebrate saints who today would all be called subversive communists. (A few years ago a confrère and myself published a small anthology of the Church Fathers’ teaching on the nature of ownership. Subversive stuff!)

And by what process of righteous thinking can anyone come to the point of saying, in the name of Christianity, we can only be peace makers from a position of power? Is that not the ultimate denial of the Cross?

-//-

Where, then, does such a survey of the demonic powers of ideology leave us? Perhaps if we could understand more clearly what ideologies do to people, and especially how they cast the vast majority of people, the poor, into being dispossessed and fated outcasts, then we could appreciate what liberation and hope Jesus was living for and also what we can live for today. Is it not along these lines – and not along moralistic lines – that we should see Jesus as being ‘counted among the sinners’? that we should understand ‘Lamb of God who takes sin away’?

It would help us appreciate why Jesus’ good news seemed so ambiguous to many of his contemporaries, even his own followers. And it would help us to cope with similar misunderstanding and ambiguity in our day. It would, of course, be a good news that divides the hearts of many, a good news that would confront much that is accepted uncritically, a good news that would divide us even from our own people. But he did not come to bring a peace that never divides. To live the peace that he gives is to learn the art of being vagabonds, displaced persons, fools. Can we take it? And not become self-righteous ourselves!?

-//-

As we ponder all these things in our hearts, as we pray the psalms (which speak of them all), as we re-read the gospel, as we seek to open ourselves to the great powers of death and evil in our contemporary world, as we sense that much of our privatised, spiritualised and moralised spirituality cannot interpret the scene we are in, and then as we begin to sense the futility of God and his kingdom and ourselves as part of that, - what do we do? How do we cope?

One reaction is a yearning to set up an alternative and effective programme for God.

Shortly before John Paul II left Britain he was at a large youth rally in South Wales. As he boarded the helicopter to leave, he turned, opened his arms, and said, “Young people, young people, build the kingdom, build the kingdom”.

That phrase is common enough today, it appears even in liturgical prayers. But my quizzical mind wondered at the time whether Jesus would ever have used it and if not, why not? And then I recalled that it was from near that same corner of Britain, by the river Severn, that a British monk had gone to Rome and told the loose-living Romans that they should get themselves organized, try harder, and save themselves. Was it perhaps his ghost which managed, at that last moment, to whisper into the Pope’s ear? – the ghost of Pelagius? Build the Kingdom.

Certainly the Anglo-Saxons and Celts have never needed another heresy. That one has lasted for fifteen centuries.

The Kingdom: Jesus spoke of the kingdom being near at hand, among us, yet-to-be but here already. He told people they could, or could not, enter it, but never said they were in it. (Only one man was said to be ‘not far from it’.) The kingdom was realised in history, yet was always more than history could expect; it was always experienced as gift and as grace, but was never magic. It demanded all the preparation and pre-disposition that gift-receiving does demand, (the social justice required by the year of the Lord’s favour), and yet the kingdom was never merited.

Like all love affairs, the kingdom was enigmatic, better talked of in stories and celebration than in books and theses. And like all love affairs it was recognized only by those who knew it by experience. You could know it but not know about it.

I have come to think that the main thrust of all Jesus’ preaching was to persuade people to accept this antecedent reality of God’s presence and creativity. It is the love of God in people’s lives, his antecedent kingdom, which urges us. It is not the building of something on his behalf, this spectator-God, waiting for us to do great things in his name. This is beautifully expressed by a Masai elder speaking to Vincent Donovan in Tanzania:

He said: “For a man really to believe is like a lion going after it prey. His nose and eyes and ears pick up the prey. His legs give him the speed to catch it. All the power of his body is involved in the terrible death leap and single blow to the neck with the front paw, the blow that actually kills. And as the animal goes down, the lion envelops it in his arms (Masai refer to the front legs of an animal as its arms), pulls it to himself, and makes it part of himself. This is the way a lion kills. This is the way a man believes. This is what faith is.”

I looked at the elder in silence and amazement. Faith understood like that would explain why, when my own faith was gone, I ached in every fibre of my being. But my wise old teacher was not finished yet.

“We did not search you out, Padre”, he said to me. “We did not even want you to come to us. You searched us out. You followed us away from your house into the bush, into the plains, into the steppes where our cattle are, into the hills where we take our cattle for water, into our villages, into our home. You told us of the High God, how we must search for him, even leave our land and our people to find him. But we have not done this. We have not left our land. We have not searched for him. He has searched for us. He has searched us out and found us. All the time we think we are the lion. In the end the lion is God.”

The lion is God. Of course. Goodness and kindness and holiness and grace and divine presence and creating power and salvation were here before I got here. Even the fuller understanding of God’s revelation to man, of the salvific act that had been accomplished once and for all for the human race, was here before I got here. My role as a herald of that gospel, as messenger of the news of what had already happened in the world, as the person whose task it was to point to “the one who had stood in their midst whom they did not recognize” was only a small part of the mission of God to the world. It was a mysterious part; a demanded part: “Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel”.

It was a role that would require every talent and insight and skill and gift and strength I had, to be spent without question, without stint, and yet in the humbling knowledge that only that part of it would be made use of which fits into the immeasurably greater plan of the relentless, pursuing God whose will on the world will not be thwarted. The lion is God.” Vincent Donovan in ‘Christianity Rediscovered’. (Orbis Books. 1978.)

-//-

When we first find ourselves ‘hungering and thirsting for what is right’, the chances are that we are more or less Pelagian and have a reasonably clear ideology. We set out ‘to do God’s will’, and he is indeed lucky to have us around to do it. We the actors, he the spectator.

For some, that state of affairs lasts until middle age tempers it and they move sedately into mediocrity and compromise.

But what should happen, and I believe is the normal progress for Christians in any walk of life who have remained alert, seeking and prayerful, is a transition from being in dialogue with God as neighbour (with all the demarcation disputes that it involves) to being in union with God. The mystics talk much to us about this, but we should not think of it as proper to a privileged few. Mission in areas of conflict, or crises in life which remove any clarity about what we can or ought to do, imprisonment, the destruction of all we have given our lives for, serious illness, even being present to scenes of irrational violence (as in our riots in Liverpool three years ago), - all these moments are demands from God to step into quite a new type of presence and communion.

It is a conversion which we cannot programme or achieve, but which God’s Spirit will work in us if we are open to it and persevering. We recognize it by hind-sight. It is, I believe, the transition:

-from ‘coming to do God’s will’ (Psalmist) to really seeking ‘that God’s will be done in us’ (Mary)

-from moral endeavour for God to contemplative union with him.

This conversion should, I think, happen in all our lives, this conversion from active endeavour to contemplative union. It may happen dramatically, it may creep up on us softly, softly, but it is not an oddity for a mystical few. On the other hand it can easily be missed because it feels like a loss of certainty, a loss of faith, a leap into the dark. It is like a ship leaving the security of navigation lights and finding itself in open sea. There is need for mutual encouragement in this. When you are afraid of ‘going round the bend’, friends to go round the bend with, are precious – or even guidance from those who have already gone round.

Five final thoughts to share with you:

1) This conversion ushers in an intense solitude of communion.

We discover that the heart of ourself is not in the end an ultimate aloneness but a radical solidarity and communion with all God’s beloved people.

This communion is a living conversation with the poor, the forgotten, the voiceless, the wounded, the dispossessed. So we carry in ourselves, wherever we are, a deep suffering, (perhaps the social equivalent of that wound of love that St Teresa and other mystics speak of). We bear wounds of love which never heal, the wounds of the risen Lord.

2) But we also carry an intense joy, because the Christian is not merely a striver for liberation yet to come but a bearer of a liberation of which the down-payment, the pledge, has already been made. It is an enigmatic co-existence of suffering and joy which makes our lives, especially our community lives, into living signs: it is a transition: from being patrons of the Kingdom, to being instruments of the Kingdom (Today we have a thousand patrons of peace to every one instrument of peace): from Jesus’ initial ‘follow me’ to Peter by the lakeside calling him to work for and preach the kingdom – to his second ‘follow me’ by the lakeside after Peter had lost any self-assurance other than loving the Lord: ‘When you were young you girded yourself and went where you would; but the time comes when you will be girded by others and not go where you choose. Follow me. (Domine, quo vadis?)

3) It is a conversion, - from living out of duty and thereby keeping our self-image intact, our autarchic ego respectable, to abandoning that entire game of ‘being somebody’ before God and others. It is the conversion which Paul talks of so often in Romans, and is beautifully worked out in Chapter 8. God’s Spirit releases us from loving through moral endeavour, to being able to love freely, as it were, naturally.

The conversion always involves a death; indeed, this side of the grave, it involves a constant dying, but only that a new life and freedom may be released in us. We learn what it is to constantly carry in the Body (our community of faith) the dying of Jesus so that his risen life may be manifest. And, surprise, surprise, this freedom from fear makes us invincible: you cannot kill me for I have died already. Or as Paul sings at the end of that chapter: I am now sure that neither death nor life… no ‘power’… can come between us and the love of God.

4) But it is not a conversion from serious good-think to amateurish good will.

How do we remain tough-minded as well as being tender-hearted? The conversion I talk of is not to an anti-intellectual sentimentality, nor to an indifferent liberalism. There is no escape, for instance, from the need for serious social analysis, nor from what is now called contextual theology – the arduous task of taking the actual social realities we are in as the contemporary agenda for understanding the ‘hope that is within us’.

Ideology is intellectual idolatry and like most idols is not coped with by smashing! If work is my idol I do not cope with it by laziness. If ideas are, I do not cope with it by sentimentalism.

I have mentioned Paul’s autobiographic account in Romans. He had been trapped in the strong, all-embracing ideology of The Law, and had then had to face the humility of recognising that that ideology was incapable of delivering the very life of which it spoke. He came to see that intelligence without love is demonic, that single-mindedness without compassion deals death. And it is my belief that the criteria of love which he lists in 1 Corinthians 13 are his own autobiographic check-list to discern whether or not our tough-mindedness is truly tender-hearted, whether we are seeking and loving truth or merely to be right. 1 Corinthians 13 asks all the crucial questions raised by the characteristics of ideology which I surveyed above. Why not have a go?

5) Living in the present – one final comment to end with: all our work and endeavour is surely, in the end, to enable the daily things of people’s lives to give glory to God. It is the experience of a number of people I know that the conversion I have tried to speak of enables us to live far more fully in the present, and to savour all things.

“In practice the way to contemplation is an obscurity so obscure that it is no longer even dramatic. There is nothing left in it that can be grasped and cherished as heroic or even usual – And so… there is a supreme value in the ordinary routine of work and poverty and hardship and monotony that characterise the lives of all the poor and uninteresting and forgotten people in the world.” (Thomas Merton in ‘Seeds of Contemplation’)

We are not really artisans in God’s world, are we! We are “God’s work of art” (Ephesians). All the time we think we are the lion. In the end, the lion is God!

Prophetic Trajectories of Hope from San Salvador to Liverpool: A Celebration of the ministries of Oscar Romero, Austin Smith, Tom Cullinan and Kevin Kelly.

 

A talk by David McLoughlin,
Emeritus Fellow of Christian Theology
Newman University 

Contact Us