While preparing for tonight's catechism discussion on the first half of 1 Corinthians (by browsing through various books on topics relating to our reading) I found this post starting to write itself. I'm sure there's a lot more to be said on this topic, but here, I think, is an interesting start.
First I wanted to mention that these tidbits reminded me of last Sunday's gospel on the Talents (Mt 25:14-30), which Pope Benedict recently commented on:
"The mistaken attitude is that of fear," the Bishop of Rome stated. "The servant who fears his master and fears his return, hides the coin in the ground and it does not produce any fruit. This happens, for example, to those who, having received baptism, Communion, and confirmation bury such gifts beneath prejudices, a false image of God that paralyzes faith and works, so as to betray the Lord's expectations."
"But," Benedict XVI continued, "the parable puts greater emphasis on the good fruits born by the disciples who, happy at the gift received, did not hide it with fear and jealously, but made it fruitful, sharing it, participating in it. Indeed, what Christ gives us is multiplied when we give it away! It is a treasure that is made to be spent, invested, shared with all, as the Apostle Paul, that great administrator of Jesus' talents, has taught us."
Read the rest here
In Cardinal Ratzinger's book What It Means to be a Christian (in a chapter entitled "The Law of Superabundance"), he provides a very helpful exposition of what it really means to be a Christian...
But first a little connected piece from the previous chapter...
...everything we encounter in dogma is, ultimately, just interpretation: interpretation of the one truly sufficient and decisive fundamental reality of the love between God and men. And it remains true, consequently, that those people who are truly loving, who are as such also believers, may be called Christians.Then, in the context of this quote from the Sermon on the Mount, "You have heard that it was said to the men of old, 'You shall not kill; and whoever kills shall be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother shall be liable to the council, and whoever says 'You fool!' shall be liable to the hell of fire." has this to say:
Whenever we read this passage, it weighs on us; it crushes us. Yet there is a verse just before that gives the passage its whole meaning when it says, "I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven" (Mt 5:20). The key word in this verse is "exceeds". The original Greek is still more strongly expressed, and only that really shows the basic intention here. In literal translation, it says, "Unless your righteousness has more superabundance than that of the scribes and Pharisees..."
Here we meet with a theme that runs through the whole of Christ's message. The Christian is the person who does not calculate; rather, he does something extra. He is in fact the lover, who does not ask, "How much farther can I go and still remain within the realm of venial sin, stopping short of mortal sin?" Rather, the Christian is the one who simply seeks what is good, without any calculation. A merely righteous man, the one who is only concerned with doing what is correct, is a Pharisee; only he who is not merely righteous is beginning to be a Christian. Of course, that does not, by a long way, mean that a Christian is a person who does nothing wrong and has no failings. On the contrary, he is the person who knows that he does have failings and who is generous with God and with other people because he knows how much he depends on the generosity of God and of his fellowmen.
Finally, I haven't read this book, yet but did a little browsing in Archbishop Chaput's Living the Catholic Faith: Rediscovering the Basics and stumbled upon this lovely and challenging tidbit:
"Go, make disciples of all nations" was the last command Jesus gave to us before returning to His Father. It's a big one. How can simple people like us convert the world? That brings us back to Mary, and to the apostles at Pentecost. They changed the world by letting God change them and work through them. We don't need to be afraid. We need to be confident in the promise made by Christ Himself: "I am with you always, to the close of the age."
Don't be afraid of the world. The poet Percy Bysshe Shelley once sneered that "I could believe in Christ if He did not drag along behind Him that leprous bride of His, the Church." Yet Shelley is long dead, and the Church is still here, still alive and young, still bringing life to the world. Don't be afraid of the world. The Holy Spirit is on your side. Charles Spurgeon once said, "The way you defend the Bible is the same way you defend a lion. You just let it loose."
Understand your purpose in life. C.S. Lewis once said that "Christianity, if false, is of no importance; and if true, of infinite importance. The one thing it cannot be is moderately important."