Sunday, October 26, 2014

Neighbors, Love, and Upping the Ante

When a scholar of the law asked Jesus for the greatest Commandment, my Lord gave two:
"He said to him, 22 'You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.

"This is the greatest and the first commandment.

"The second is like it: 23 You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

"24 The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.' "
(Matthew 22:37-40)
Those two 'first' Commandments show up in Luke's Gospel, too. That time, the conversation's followed by the 'good Samaritan' story.

The Samaritan: An Unexpected 'Good Guy'

After two millennia, the shock of a Samaritan being the 'good guy' in this sort of story has worn off. Jews and Samaritans did not get along: at all.

These days, it'd be like telling a story in a redneck bar: where a coal miner, poor farmer, and truck driver wouldn't help the accident victim: but an east Asian immigrant did.

"Love your neighbor" wasn't a new idea:
"1 Take no revenge and cherish no grudge against your fellow countrymen. You shall love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD."
(Leviticus 19:18)
Jesus raised the ante, by redefining "neighbor." No, that's not quite right. What Jesus did was remind us that humanity is a single — sadly dysfunctional — family. Again, that's not a new idea: Genesis 10:1-32, and all that.

Genesis?! What with odd notions about faith, poetry, and science that have been ricocheting off the walls for the last few centuries —

Reality and Reason: a Rant

I'm a Christian, a Catholic. As far as I'm concerned, God is large and in charge. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 268)

Since God's God, and I'm not: I don't try forcing reality into some box I made.

God made, and is making, everything. God makes us "in the image of God." (Catechism, 31, 279-301)

God gave us brains, and expects us to use them. (Catechism, 1730-1742)

God made us stewards of this creation. Stewards, not owners. We're in charge of this world, and responsible for its maintenance — to future generations and to God. No pressure. (Catechism, 373, 2415, 2456)

Ancient Mesopotamians didn't know everything about how the universe works. I'm okay with that. I'm also okay with the idea that God doesn't conform to what some Europeans wanted to be so, a few centuries back. (July 15, 2014)

We're supposed to be curious about this creation, it's order and beauty: learning more about how it works, and using that knowledge in our capacity as stewards. Science and technology are part of being human. (Catechism, 27, 31-35, 282-289, 355-361, 2292-2296)

Basic Principles - - -

Okay: I've had a cup of coffee, walked around a bit, and calmed down. Let's see, where was I? The greatest Commandment, the good Samaritan. Right.

The rules are simple, but not easy. (October 12, 2014)

The basic principles are:
Those principles made sense when Hammurabi's law code set up penalties for slander, theft, and other offenses.

They make sense today, and will when the Code of Hammurabi, United Nations Charter, and whatever comes next, are seen as roughly contemporary. (August 31, 2014)

How we apply those principles: that keeps changing.

I talked about positive law, human-made rules; and natural law, universal principles; two months back. (August 29, 2014)

Knowing what's right and what's not is important: so is acting as if that knowledge means something.

I'm responsible for what I can do as an individual, and as a member of my culture. (Catechism, 1928-1942)

I'd like to end world hunger, establish a lasting peace, and cure the common cold. That's not gonna happen. For starters, I don't have the connections or power to get any of that done. Helping the local Knights of Columbus council raise money for charities is about my limit.

Besides, when it comes to solving the big problems: things take time.

- - - and the Long Haul

Slavery became illegal in several countries — after 19 centuries of teaching that we should love God, love our neighbors, and see everybody as neighbors. Even more remarkably, a sizable number of folks in those countries started thinking that owning other people is wrong.

Maybe, after another 19 centuries of passing along these principles, we'll have an "international authority with the necessary competence and power" to resolve conflicts without war. (Catechism, 2307-2317; "Gaudium et Spes," 79 § 4)

And maybe, sometime around the 38th century, a sizable number of folks will think that's a good idea.

(From aaronsimscompany, via, used w/o permission.)

Meanwhile, we have work to do:


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What's That Doing in a Nice Catholic Blog?

From time to time, a service that I use will display links to - odd - services and retailers.

I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.