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Saturday, 6 September 2014

Ideas Have Consequences

Catholics have always known this-that bad ideas have bad consequences and good ideas have good consequences. Teaching and preaching have been, from the time of Christ, the basis of evangelization. We have a rational religion, as we believe that man in made in the image and likeness of God and, therefore, endowed with reason, free will and an immortal soul.

Through-out history, we see how ideas inspired men's imaginations and fueled their actions. The beautiful stained glass window to the left is a result of many good and worthy ideas, one being the putting into action of the desire to praise God. Another would be the idea of putting into beauty the truths of the Gospel, thus glorifying God, as well as teaching. The Proclamation of the Good News, one of the Luminous Mysteries, needs to be seen in the mystery of the Holy Spirit inspiring men through Christ to teach, preach, change men's lives, create Catholic culture. We peaked a long time ago with the idea of Christendom. No longer do the ideas of Christianity inform governments, art, music, education, even work.

Ideas have consequences. When we teach our children through actions, they look at the reasons behind the actions. Then, they imitate, and learn to reason. For example, Daddy buys classical music CDs, so Daddy must like classical music. I love Daddy and want to be like Daddy, therefore, I shall listen to his music.

The age of reason in Catholic teaching is seven. Having taught Montessori in the past, I can say from experience that many children can use reason earlier, as early as five. My own son made his First Confession at an earlier age than most because the priest could see that he could reason good and evil, personal sin and consequences. Most children can reason by seven, but their reason may be bent, twisted by either bad training in the home or the lack of training.

There is much discussion on the Net regarding violence as coming from poverty or illiteracy. But, ideas can be the main impetus for some types of violence. One does not have to be poor or deprived to entertain bad ideas.

Father Ripperger's book on mental health begins with the Catholic teaching on what it means to be a human. To be a human is to use the gift of reason. When people are unreasonable, one must ask the question as to why they cannot think clearly. Many times the answer is that these people have an idea which is not based on reality, or natural law, or the Commandments or the Beatitudes. Sometimes, a person has sinned for such a long time that they lose the use of reason. Some mental illness is caused by sin. Father Ripperger proves this convincingly.

Ideas have consequences. One acts as one believes. If one is in love with Christ and loves His Church, one will try to act in love. If one hates Christ and hates His Church, one will act against God and His plan for salvation.

All heresies began with bad ideas, bent wills, stubborn blockages of the Truth and rebellion. Too often in today's world, we make excuses for bad ideas, bent wills, stubborn blockages and rebellion.

We have psychoanalyzed away sin. The psyche is the Greek word for soul. We know the soul to be immortal, and therefore, not only affected by physical realities, such as nature and nurture, but spiritual realities, such as the virtues, and the vices, prayer or the lack of prayer, responses to grace, or the turning away from grace.

The ideas we put into our heads affect our souls directly and some theologians have thought through-out the ages that the soul is the seat of the mind, of thinking, not the brain, which modern science wants us to hold as a truth, denying the fact that a brain-dead person may still be alive, that is, that the soul has not left the body because some doctors are only looking at the brain, ignoring the soul which is manifested in other ways in the body. The rational capacity in humans is the thing which separates us from the animals, who do not have immortal souls and which cannot think like we do.

Remembering that the soul is the form of the body, one is responsible for feeding the soul with good ideas which have good consequences. This happens in the best of Catholic homes with the training of the virtues in children, as I wrote about last summer in that long series.

What we read, listen to, watch, observe, reflect upon, goes into our imaginations and minds possibly until we die. Part of the Dark Night of the spirit is the purgation of those thoughts and images stored in our spiritual database. I know from experience that God is taking away my memory in certain areas, especially in the sins of my past, so that I can be free in my imagination, so that my imagination is cleansed of evil memories. Those who have never sinned seriously do not have this problem.

It is imperative that we guard what goes in, and what goes in is what comes out.

Christ, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, makes it clear that ideas have consequences. He also makes it clear that we are not bound to act on some bad ideas. We have free will. We make choices. We are not slaves to circumstances, nurture, or nature. We choose to believe, to assent to certain ideas which have consequences.

For example, if one has a bent will, an uninformed conscience, one will make different choices than a person who does. How one person decides on priorities in life depends on their idea of life. Why am I here? Where am I going? What do I want?

In Mark 7, we read Christ's words on sin. For the Jew at this time, the heart was the place of reason, not the psyche. (See my other posts on this point from over a year ago). Whether one wants to place reason in the heart or in the soul does not affect this discussion. God allowed Christians to be influenced by Greek thought. The Jews gave us Revelation and the Greeks gave us the examination of reason. Reason and Revelation form Catholic Tradition.

Now, what is significant in this passage is not merely the words of Christ concerning our responsibility in dealing with sin, but the miracles which follow. There are connections here.

The woman's daughter has an unclean spirit. This is not explained, but it could be an oppression, or obsession, which are demonic influences bearing down upon the soul, usually from sin, or possession, which God allows to show forth His glory and power. From the words, it seems like possession, which can come about without a person willing it, such as in very young children being given to the devil. We do not know the details, but we do know that Christ spoke of evil and then met evil straight on in this miracle. Perhaps the girl lived a horrible life, made bad choices, became possessed. Christ freed her from this bondage of the demon whatever the source, showing all His power over evil and evil consequences.

The second miracle is related not to any sin of a parent or someone contemporary to the deaf and dumb man, but to the Sin of Adam. The man was in physical bondage as a result of Original Sin, as no person would ever had experience illnesses or impediments if there had been no Fall.

Again, Christ is showing His power over the consequences of sin, in this case, the sin we all bear from birth until baptism. That God allows suffering to show forth His glory and His love has been referred to in the posts on Providence early this summer.

The point of these pericopes is that Christ undoes the consequences of sin, of evil influences, of bad ideas, bad choices. Only in Christ can one find freedom and regain the type of personal responsibility which leads to holiness, to which we are all called.

Following on the teaching of Christ on sin as coming from the heart of man, one can extrapolate that the heart, in reasoning badly, chooses sin and corruption.

In Mark 7, we read this:

[14] And calling again the multitude unto him, he said to them: Hear ye me all, and understand. [15] There is nothing from without a man that entering into him, can defile him. But the things which come from a man, those are they that defile a man. 

[16] If any man have ears to hear, let him hear. [17] And when he was come into the house from the multitude, his disciples asked him the parable. [18] And he saith to them: So are you also without knowledge? understand you not that every thing from without, entering into a man cannot defile him: [19] Because it entereth not into his heart, but goeth into the belly, and goeth out into the privy, purging all meats? [20] But he said that the things which come out from a man, they defile a man.
[21] For from within out of the heart of men proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, [22] Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. [23] All these evil things come from within, and defile a man.

 [24] And rising from thence he went into the coasts of Tyre and Sidon: and entering into a house, he would that no man should know it, and he could not be hid. [25] For a woman as soon as she heard of him, whose daughter had an unclean spirit, came in and fell down at his feet.
[26] For the woman was a Gentile, a Syrophenician born. And she besought him that he would cast forth the devil out of her daughter. [27] Who said to her: Suffer first the children to be filled: for it is not good to take the bread of the children, and cast it to the dogs. [28] But she answered and said to him: Yea, Lord; for the whelps also eat under the table of the crumbs of the children. [29] And he said to her: For this saying go thy way, the devil is gone out of thy daughter. [30] And when she was come into her house, she found the girl lying upon the bed, and that the devil was gone out. 

[31] And again going out of the coasts of Tyre, he came by Sidon to the sea of Galilee, through the midst of the coasts of Decapolis. [32] And they bring to him one deaf and dumb; and they besought him that he would lay his hand upon him. [33] And taking him from the multitude apart, he put his fingers into his ears, and spitting, he touched his tongue: [34] And looking up to heaven, he groaned, and said to him: Ephpheta, which is, Be thou opened. [35] And immediately his ears were opened, and the string of his tongue was loosed, and he spoke right. 

We see Christ teaching us about the consequences of bad thoughts, bad ideas, which "defile" a man. We see Christ using His Divine power to cast out a demon and to heal a Son of Adam, two bondages from bad ideas, bad choices.

Adam could have said no. Eve could have said no. We can say no to bad ideas which have consequences. Pray for God to purged your imagination, memory, understanding and will

Here is a good prayer with which to start:
Suscipe (St. Ignatius of Loyola)
Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty,
my memory, my understanding
and my entire will,
All I have and call my own.

You have given all to me.
To you, Lord, I return it.

Everything is yours; do with it what you will.
Give me only your love and your grace.
That is enough for me.